Anton LaVey once remarked that "Satanists are born, not made." And as much as I might disagree with some of his teachings, I have to admit that there is great wisdom in this statement. But I prefer to phrase it somewhat differently. I would say that the Devil chooses His own, and only He can decide who will bear His Mark and who will not.
When I refer to the Devil's Mark, I am not referring to that which is called the "number of the Beast" in the Christian book of Revelation. Instead, I am referring to something more like the medieval belief that the Devil physically places a special Mark upon the bodies of His servants. This Mark was believed to be insensitive to pain, and it was one of the things that witchhunters looked for on the bodies of suspected witches. Even the slightest mole or birthmark could be seen as the Mark of the Devil, and anyone who had one would be imprisoned and tortured.
It is a fact that most of the people who were tortured during that time were not witches or Devil worshipers at all, but just normal Christians who ended up as the victims of cultural paranoia. If any of the people who were executed as witches at that time really did serve the Devil, it has yet to be proven.
Regardless of this, I do believe that the Devil places a Mark upon those who are destined to serve Him. But instead of thinking of this Mark as a physical thing that actually appears on one's body, I think of it as a spiritual Mark that is placed upon one's spirit or soul.
Now some of my readers may already know this, but I have never been a practitioner of any other religion than Satanism. My parents did not raise me to be a Satanist by any means, but they did give me an agnostic upbringing. I was never instructed to believe in any particular religion.
And yet, during my entire life as a child, I always felt drawn to darkness, the Devil, and the occult. I did not begin to understand this as an actual religious persuasion until I reached high school, but I nevertheless felt drawn to these things before I ever knew anything about them. Because of this, I believe the Devil has been in my life since at least the time when I was born, if not longer. And I believe He has always intended for me to be one of His children. You might say that I've been "groomed" for Devil worship, so to speak, but without anybody realizing it! In this sense, I believe that I have - and have always had - the Mark of the Devil upon my soul.
Set receives those who receive Him, and He doesn't exactly solicit membership from people. Unlike some other gods who seem to prefer being worshiped by entire multitudes of human sheep, I think the Prince of Darkness would rather keep His fan base down to a minimum. But He does have a habit of "surprising" people. Before recognizing themselves as Satanists, many Devil folk would not even dream of following Satan, either literally or symbolically. Even a person who has been a fundamentalist Christian their entire life can wake up one morning and suddenly realize they've been Marked by Set from the very beginning. The very same thing could suddenly happen to a fanatical Goddess-worshiping feminazi, right out of the blue! It's just a matter of them discovering this when Set wants them to.
I say "recognizing themselves as Satanists" because nobody really "becomes" a Satanist. Those of us who are chosen - who have been given the Mark - have always been Devil folk deep down. It's just a matter of realizing it. This is why Anton LaVey said, "Satanists are born, not made." When it comes down to it, you can't fake being a Child of Set. It's not just a religious persuasion, but a spiritual orientation. Devil folk can't help loving the Devil anymore than gay folks can help being attracted to members of the same sex!
And when an individual receives the call and recognizes the Mark that they have been given, it is never a matter of "conversion." It is simply a matter of waking up to a part of yourself that has always been there, and which has only been dormant until now.
Now some folks, usually teenagers, become involved in Satanism more out of rebellion than out of any true spiritual calling. Some of them will eventually leave Satanism as they get older, and embark upon other ideas and worldviews. Such dabblers have not really been Marked, but their temporary involvement in Satanism might nevertheless be an important stage of their initiations. So although it may be tempting for those of us who are Marked to belittle and make fun of these dabblers, we really shouldn't. For some people, Satanism is not intended as a spiritual calling, but more as a vehicle of transition through which they can arrive at wherever their initiation is meant to lead them. Many young'uns who were once Satanic dabblers grow up to become practitioners of other minority religions, like Wicca or Thelema. In this sense, Satanism is something like a "midwife" for these other minority religions.
On the other hand, some people who are Marked might feel a calling to leave Satanism and investigate other religions. And then, somewhere down the road, the Dark Lord will call them back and they will see themselves as Satanists again. Is it truthful to say that these people really "left" Satanism in the first place? I believe not. If you've been Marked, you'll always come back home. But just because you're Marked does not mean you will never feel like exploring other paths. And indeed, it is good for Devil folk to do just that. In some cases, I believe Set purposely incites His children to temporarily leave Satanism and investigate other paths, for the sake of expanding their horizons.
This is also why many of us are so strongly against the idea of evangelism. If a person is meant to be a Satanist, then I believe that Set Himself will reveal it to them eventually. He is the only being in the entire universe who can administer His Mark; no human has any right to try and administer it for Him. The Devil has no need for any human representatives to "recruit new members" or to otherwise "talk people into joining Satanism." In fact, if you really think about it, attempting to do this would actually be going against our Master's designs.
Most intelligent Satanists and Devil worshipers will agree that the Prince of Darkness not only encourages us to exercise our free will, but that this is even more important to Him than convincing people to believe in or worship Him. Unlike the god of the Bible, Set is not a control freak who wants to exert power and dominion over a flock of human sheep. Instead, He is something more like an anarchic trickster spirit. He continually pokes and prods humans to become like wild animals; He wants us to be completely self-possessed and out of control!
Although it is not actually sanctioned by their scriptures, there is a good reason why Christians associate the Devil with the serpent in the Garden of Eden story. According to the story, Adam and Eve were originally docile and obedient to the biblical god, and they did exactly as they were told. In this primordial state of ignorance and subservience, the first humans lived in a kind of paradise. (For, as they say, "Ignorance is bliss.")
But then the serpent came along and tempted Eve to eat of the Tree of Knowledge, which was the only thing that the biblical god had forbidden Adam and Eve to do. Eve then convinced Adam to eat the fruit as well. And by eating the fruit, "their eyes were opened" and they "became like God, knowing good and evil." The biblical god then kicked Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden and sentenced them to painful lives of suffering and strife. It would seem that Adam and Eve's transformation from ignorance to knowledge caused their lives of bliss to become lives of pain. Indeed, knowledge and self-awareness can be very painful things, for it is much easier to be ignorant and blind than to think and reason.
But knowledge is also a key to power, and it is this key to power which many Christians believe the Devil has given to human beings. And who am I to disagree with them? For certainly I believe that the Prince of Darkness demands study rather than worship from the majority of humans, and that He only enjoys worship from those who have been Marked. Those who have not been Marked to be the Children of Set are not obliged to worship or believe in Him at all, but only to exercise their free will and expand their knowledge as far as it can possibly go.
We must also remember that those of us who are theistic Satanists have no proof with which we can convince others of His existence. I cannot demonstrate the existence of Set to a non-believer, for Set cannot be seen, heard, felt, smelled, or tasted. An individual can only arrive at a belief in Set through a leap of faith on the part of the individual, or by direct intervention on the part of Set Himself. If a Devil worshiper were to come up to a non-believer and say, "Satan is real whether you believe in Him or not, and you must accept it!" then they would be demanding that the non-believer surrender his or her reason to blind faith. And that, my friends, would be a direct insult to the invaluable gift that Set has given to all women and men in the world.
Therefore, for a person who is Marked to try and proselytize to non-believers would be to work against that for which the Prince of Darkness stands. We have a higher responsibility to encourage the exercise of knowledge and free will than to encourage any religious belief in the Devil. In fact, you might say that those who do not believe in the Devil are even more susceptible to His influence than we ourselves are - for as they say, "The greatest trick the Devil ever played was convincing us that He doesn't exist."
If Set truly wants a person to believe in Him for any reason, then He will reveal Himself to them in whatever way He sees fit. It is not for us to decide who will believe and who will not. Those who are destined to serve, worship, or otherwise follow the Devil will have the Mark. And those who do not have the Mark should be respected for their right to believe or disbelieve as they please.
As you can probably imagine, this can all become quite difficult for those of us who have children. For how is a Satanist parent to know for sure whether their child has been Marked or not? There is certainly no logical reason for someone to assume that their children will be Marked just because they themselves are Marked. If such were the case, then wouldn't that mean that their parents would have been Marked too? But most Devil folk are born into non-Satanic families and are not raised to be Satanists. And just as a non-Satanic family can have children who are meant to be Devil folk, a Satanic family can have children who are not meant to be Devil folk.
It is perhaps for this reason that most Satanist parents I've known simply do not raise their children to be Satanists. Instead, they prefer only to educate their children about non-religious subjects, and to let the children make their own inquiries about religion when they have grown up. Unlike many Christian parents who will drag their children off to church on Sunday mornings, most Satanist parents will not allow their children to participate in any rituals. Only when a child has grown old enough to think and reason for him or herself - and only if that child should recognize that they have been Marked - should they be allowed by their parents to participate in Satanic ritual.
Of course, I am probably preaching to the choir as far as most of my readers are concerned. I have not met very many self-described Satanists who want to convert anyone to their way of believing. Usually, Satanists are pretty keen on just minding their own business and not caring what other people do. Nevertheless, I feel it is good to have discussed these concepts for any Devil folk out there who have only just recently discovered that they've been Marked. For it can be very disconcerting to learn that you have the Mark, especially when you've never known what people like us usually believe.