On Forfeiting the Word “Atheist”

Since my Christian deconstruction I’ve started to try on various labels for size. Among these labels have been: post-Christian, nontheistic Christian, esoteric Christian, nontheist, Satanist, and, of course, atheist.

(Some annoying hippie in the back will, at this point, ask “why do you have to have a label, man? Why can’t you just be yourself?” Suffice it to say, I like identities, and I am pro-label. That other people are less comfortable with that is fine.)

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The Satanic Conversion

I’ve spent a great deal of time explaining why Satanism works for me, and you can find that trove of information here. But, as I continue to explore my Satanism and receive questions from bemused readers, I’m starting to realize that there is an essential component of my Satanism that I’ve left out. So essential, perhaps, that it feels impossible to articulate. I feel intimidated trying to put this to words, but I will do my best in this post.

Reader and Patron David got to the heart of this essential element of my Satanism when he asked the following question:

However, if I may, why not something more conventional like Buddhism? I always thought it would be nice to reach the ultimate state of nirvana. You really don’t have to believe in anything supernatural with that. Of course no one can tell you what you should do. It’s only that there might be a tendency for people to be put off by the notion of Satan, because they might think you actually are worshipping evil or whatever.

I can’t help but feel that my readers are going about this far more rationally than I am. People looking in on my Satanism assume that, because I’m a nontheist, I surveyed the vast array of religious options and deliberately and calmly chose the most inflammatory, offensive, and misunderstood path possible. Nothing could be further from the truth.

If I were going about this rationally, I would be a boring Unitarian Universalist, or a milquetoast Episcopalian. If I wanted to be the most palatable, approachable person I could manage, I’d be a Buddhist. Because I’m a nontheist, people assume that I don’t have any trace of intuition, mysticism, or religious passion. It makes sense, then, that they would wonder why I chose the most obviously controversial religion in the Western Hemisphere.

But something deeper than “choice” happened here. Something deeply inconvenient and confusing happened. I can only call it a Satanic conversion.

Against my better judgement I fell headfirst in love with the symbol of the Romantic Satan. When I first encountered The Satanic Temple in 2017 something inside me sang. This was deeper than choice or strategy, but was intuition, passion, and romance. G.K. Chesterton wrote, “let your religion be less of a theory and more of a love affair.” My Satanism is all love affair.

The only other thing I can compare it to is my love of Christ when I was a Christian. Christ felt like a living being, and the object of my most earnest adoration and affection. Christ permeated my life. I couldn’t help it. Now, even though I’m a nontheist who does not believe in the supernatural, God, or an afterlife, I feel a similar passion. In the same way I fell in love with Christ, I have fallen in love with Satan. Not by cold, calculated choice, not out of a sense of what’s most politically expedient, not out of a desire to troll conservative Christians, and not because it makes my life easier.

My Satanism does make my life more difficult. Why lose friends, and be an object of fear or confusion? Why would I endanger my work and livelihood? Why would I jeopardize my relationship with my family? It’s irrational, you might say, and I agree. It is deeply inconvenient, and deeply irrational. In fact, when I first joined The Satanic Temple, I resolved to keep it a secret and to live and practice quietly as a Satanist, because I knew there would be repercussions.

But, as I started my journey as a Satanist, my passion for the symbol of Satan grew and grew. It flourished; it filled my soul. I found myself possessed of what I can only call, uncomfortably, a religious fervor, an overwhelming love.

I reached out to some prominent Satanists on twitter to get their comments on this experience. Satanic Temple International Council member Chalice Blythe had this to say:

Calling it a “love affair” hits really close to my own view of it and I agree that, though based in rationalism, being a Satanist didn’t come about from a hard, cold place. It’s an almost instantaneous, deeply connected passion that you just “know”. It’s coming home. And like most intense loves, the more you learn the deeper it solidifies within you.

When I expressed that the more it solidifies the more impossible it feels to communicate this love to those outside it, Satanic Temple founder Lucien Greaves agreed:

That’s exactly the problem I have. I can try to articulate it, but there’s no way I can make people feel it if it doesn’t really speak to them.

This is why I insist on calling my Satanism a religion. Religion touches our whole being — it envelopes us in a way nothing else can. My Satanism connects with me on a deep, irrational, intuitive level, while also engaging my mind and reason. It is a full body, mind-and-heart experience. It is also a shared communion, existing not just individually but in the space between other practitioners of this path. While it might make the more rational among us uncomfortable, I don’t know how to describe this journey as anything other than a path of physicalist mysticism which started with a Satanic conversion. In essence a living, religious fictionalism.

This might leave you with questions: how is it possible to feel such love and fervor for a mythic being who has no objective reality? How is it possible to be religious and nontheistic? How is it possible to be a physicalist and a mystic? (I’m open to using terms other than “mystic”, but it was the word that came most readily to me while I was writing this piece.) Satanism requires a profound paradigm shift into a different space: a place of wonderment and rationalism, religion and atheism. It breaks down these false binaries, ultimately with the goal of living a more fulfilled and joyful life.


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Union With All Things

Night sky

For my entire life, I’ve been driven by success. I measured success by the number of eyes that were watching me, by the number of mouths who sang my praises, by the number of laurels I collected. This blind, obsessive drive for success ranks as one of the top silent torturers of my psyche. It didn’t matter how many people read my work – it was never enough. It didn’t matter how perfected my vocal technique was when I was a lyric baritone, I was always more aware of the microscopic flaw than my general improvement.

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What is Esoteric Christianity?

For over a year now I’ve been describing myself as an Esoteric Christian. I adopted this terms before I fully understood what it meant, but I also knew that it was the best description of where I am in my faith journey. Whenever people ask me what an Esoteric Christian is, I jokingly respond, “it means I’m a Christian who’s into weird shit.”

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Three Concepts I Wish I Understood in College

A reader of mine recently tweeted at me asking how, especially when in the midst of deppression, one can do little things to reach larger goals. I thought his question was a good one, particularly because I’ve spent the past 4 years trying to discover an answer. I’ve already written a post about my tools to stave off depression, and this post can be read as a sequel to that one.

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