This article is copyrighted © 2006 Geifodd ap Pwyll.
It has come to my attention that the subject of Devil Worship has once again become a heated debate in some corners of the Satanist scene. I would like to take this time to voice my thoughts on just what I consider Devil Worship to be, and what my position in this long-standing debate actually is.
Author's Note: I would SIN-cerely like to thank Boboroshi, SOD of the COE, for the great deal of help given in revising and improving the clarity of this document.
Now I consider myself a Satanist, for a variety of reasons -- I agree with a bit of Crowley, a bit of LaVey, a bit of Aquino, and even a bit of King Diamond -- but I identify with the term first and foremost because I believe in a supernatural being named Satan, and I religiously worship Him as my god. To be true, this definition of the term "Satanist" is not entertained by the majority of Satanists, as most would seem to have a problem with the tricky subjects of theism and "worship." Hence, in this context, I am perhaps more specifically described as a Theistic Satanist (theistic meaning "to believe in a deity"). But even though I accept the term "Theistic Satanist", I actually prefer the term "Devil Worshiper." This automatically brings up two very important questions:
(A) Who/what is the Devil, and
First, I will explain my understanding of what the word "Devil" means. Naturally the word can have many possible meanings and is often used to refer to any number of things. The word itself is etymlogically derived from the Greek "diabolos," which means "One who throws across," describing a person or thing that creates obstruction for someone or something else. When it is spelled with a lowercase "d," it can be used to describe more than one mythological character (e.g., the Egyptian Set, the Persian Ahriman and the Buddhist Mara can all be called "devils"). However, when the word is spelled with a capital "D," then more often than not it is being used to refer specifically to the spiritual entity that Christians have traditionally referred to as Satan, Lucifer, the Prince of Darkness, the God of this World, and the Devil.
Now many people involved in modern alternative religions (and even some who are not involved in such) will distinguish between such names as "Satan" and "Lucifer" as belonging to entirely separate entities or concepts. "Satan," it is said, is simply the Jewish concept of an adversarial angel that works for Yahweh (as in the book of Job), while "Lucifer" is merely a Latin name for the planet Venus in its role as the morning star. While it is true that these are the original meanings behind these two terms, the fact remains that both names have been adopted by the Christian tradition -- along with such titles as "Prince of Darkness," "God of this World" and "Devil" -- as names for a single entity. And despite whatever arguments about the historical origins of these terms, this is indeed how the terms are most generally used in modern Western culture -- whether the historical purists like it or not.
Disregarding whatever original meanings and implications these various terms might once have possessed, Christians have traditionally used them to describe a single supernatural being who is essentially described in their theology as being (1) the instigator of all differentiation from and obstruction against "the Word of God," and (2) the ruler over the terrestrial world in which we live. More simply, this entity is most often described as a "God of Evil." However, I consider the term "Evil" here to be far too simplistic and subjective. It is not a noun, but an adjective which expresses a subjective value judgement imposed upon something that is really neither "good" nor "evil" in and of itself, but beyond such moral terminology. However, I would say that I view this entity as being "good" in the sense that it continually entices the subjective mind into determining "good" and "evil" -- i.e., truth and error -- by and for itself, as a functioning individual entity. This, rather than the alternative: allowing the subjective mind to be pressured or "bullied" into accepting externally-imposed determinations of truth and error (e.g., "the Word of God," etc.) which may run contrary to objective reality.
I would also describe this entity as "good" in that it tempts us to entertain a healthy appreciation of the carnal, mundane world in which we live, as well as of our very own flesh and blood (rather than seeing such things as obstacles to "spiritual enlightenment" or "salvation"). However, I recognize that even though I see these things as "good," I am just as guilty of imposing my own subjective value judgment upon these things as Christians are of imposing theirs. The value judgments are opposite to one another; (1) placing emphasis on self-determined morality, or moral/intellectual independence, rather than upon divine revelation of a prescribed morality, is considered sinful by Christians; and likewise, (2) placing emphasis on living for this world and one's life in the flesh over any concept of life after death is also considered to be a wayward path. Both are "of the Devil," and on this I would happen to agree. Rather than "re-defining" the Devil, I am simply re-evaluating Him -- re-interpreting what He is and what He does as being "good" rather than "evil." Indeed, just looking at the Christian Bible itself, one can find plenty of things that Jehovah does that can be described as evil in a modern context, and even some things that Satan does that can be considered either good or ambiguous at best in a modern context.
Regardless of the original usage of the terms "Satan," "Lucifer" or "Devil," these terms are used synonymously by Christians for the very same entity, and it is this entity that I worship -- even though I believe that this entity will also answer to other, non-Christian names (including the names Apep and Set).
Now that I have explained what I mean by "Devil," I will go on to explain what I mean by "worship." To me, the word worship means simply "to express ardent love and devotion to someone or something." This is the definition that can be found in Webster's dictionary. Other people might have other definitions for the word worship, but when I describe myself as a Devil Worshiper, I mean that I am:
A person who expresses ardent love and devotion to the supernatural being who is maligned and feared by Christians as (1) the author of all heresy and unorthodoxy and (2) the ruler of the terrestrial world.(As differentiated from someone who simply "grovels before the God of Evil" -- whatever "Evil" is supposed to mean herein).
This is to say that "Devil Worshiper" and "Theistic Satanist" are really synonyms. They mean the same thing. If you're not comfortable with the term "Devil Worshiper," you don't have to use it -- but you should indeed respect the persons who do decide to identify with this term, for the simple fact that they DO worship the Devil, and what they do IS a kind of Satanism.
Some people in Satanism have gotten into this ugly habit of using the term "Devil Worshiper" as a scapegoat term. Many Satanists, in attempting to defend their religion, will claim that the crazy people in Satanism are not really Satanists, but "Devil Worshipers." They further claim that Devil Worship is something completely separate from Satanism and even un-Satanic.
Most of the crazy people in Satanism call themselves Satanists, not Devil Worshipers. In fact even the Norwegian Black Metal Circle, which is perhaps the most notorious criminal Satanist organization in history thus far, officially identified themselves as "Satanists" and NOT as "Devil Worshipers." (Some of them later identified as Odinists and Neo-Nazis.) Not all of the crazy people in Satanism even believe that Satan is an actual being, much less a being to be worshiped; thus, scapegoating such people as these with the term "Devil Worshiper" does not make any consistent sense.
It also makes the people in our subculture look extremely ridiculous when Satanists make public statements such as "Satanism is not Devil Worship, and Devil Worship is un-Satanic." As far as most people outside of our religion are concerned, Satanism and Devil Worship are synonyms. To a Satanist like myself, they ARE synonyms. I have actually spent a great deal of time talking to some Christian apologists over the past several months, and even they think this "Satanism vs. Devil Worship" debate is absolutely hilarious. As far as they are concerned, the Devil Worshipers are the "true" Satanists because we are the only ones who admit to worshiping the Devil. When Satanists try to say that Devil Worship is NOT Satanism but something else, it makes us come across as sounding very stupid and naive to outsiders.
Another problem is that, by attempting to isolate the crazy people in Satanism and glue a new term onto them and say that "They aren't really Satanists, they're this new term we've glued onto them," we actually make things worse for ourselves in terms of public relations. Every religion has its share of crazy and irresponsible people who cause trouble. Satanism is no exception, although a great many Satanists these days seem to think that Satanists are somehow "morally superior" to people in other religions, to such a degree that anybody who commits a crime or a wrong cannot possibly be a Satanist. (!) When we Satanists say such things and use such reasoning with the public, we are not only making ourselves look more ridiculous, but we are also making it look like we're trying to hide something from the public. A better strategy would be for us to admit that such people ARE Satanists (or at least that they identify as such) and that we Satanists, like other religions, have our fair share of rotten vegetables. Naturally it is important for us sane Satanists to distance ourselves from the insane Satanists and to point out the differences, but we cannot prevent the insane Satanists from calling themselves Satanists. We don't own a copyright on the word.
It always strikes me as funny that so many Satanists are more than happy to point out the various horrible things that have been done in the names of Christianity and Islam and to use such things as "evidence" that all people in these religions are psychopathic monsters; yet at the same time, Satanists generally do not want to admit that such psychopathic monsters can exist even in OUR religion. Just as a Christian will say that the Inquisitors were not really Christians, a Satanist will say that the members of the Black Metal Circle "weren't Satanists." The Satanist of course expects that his wish for the Black Metal Circle to NOT be considered Satanism will be well-met, but at the same time he continues to drag out the Inquisitors as a prime example of "what Christianity stands for." This hypocrisy is absolutely revolting, and using the term "Devil Worshiper" as a scapegoat term for the psychopathic monsters in our midst is EQUALLY as revolting.
Now of course, when you are an atheistic Satanist, it makes perfect sense that you would want to differentiate between atheistic Satanism and Devil Worship. Naturally, an atheistic Satanist is truly NOT a Devil Worshiper. But atheistic Satanists also do not own a copyright on the term Satanism, and there are plenty of Theistic Satanists willing to argue with them if such a claim is ever made. It is not only wrong, but flat-out detrimental for Satanists to claim that "Devil worship is NOT Satanism." It would be much better and more truthful to say that "There are many kinds of Satanism and Devil Worship is just one of them."
So of course it is logically consistent for atheistic Satanists to want to distance themselves from the term Devil Worshiper. But what really gets me scratching my head is when THEISTIC Satanists start yelling their heads off about how "evil" and "spooky" Devil Worship is. Some of these people, who believe in Satan and worship Him (or at least revere Him somehow), claim that the word "Devil" is "too Christian" and that by allowing yourself to be called a Devil Worshiper, you are in fact trapping yourself in a "Judeo-Christian mindset." This strikes me as being very silly, especially when one remembers that "Satan" and "Devil" are both commonly used in Western culture (which is predominantly Christian) as synonyms for the same entity. If you think that the word "Devil" is too "Christian," then why continue using the term "Satan"? Or even "Satanist" for that matter?
The Prince of Darkness, whether His followers like it or not, is an adversarial spirit who apparently enjoys creating trouble for the Judeo-Christian/Islamic paradigm. I believe, as do many other Theistic Satanists, that Satan is actually a pre-Christian pagan god of some sort, and that He transcends the limitations placed upon Him in Judeo-Christian mythology. However, this does not mean that the modern day importance of His Judeo-Christian aspects should be denied. If you ignore these aspects entirely, then you might as well just be a pagan and not a Satanist at all. This is because the Prince of Darkness, as the Devil, enjoys creating obstruction and opposition against perceived orthodoxies -- and the most prevalent orthodoxies in Western culture happen to be those of Christianity. And if you take away the part about creating obstruction and opposition against perceived orthodoxies that are relevant to modern Western culture, by trying to ESCAPE the terms that modern Western culture most generally uses for such, are you really following the same deity?
Whether you believe that Satan was originally Set or Ahriman or Prometheus or Pan, you have to admit that the names SATAN, LUCIFER and DEVIL are perhaps the three most well-known (and relevant) names for His Majesty in today's Western culture. This is inescapable. If you have an abhorrence for Judeo-Christian names for this entity, then you are defeating the entire point of calling yourself a Satanist. Satanists who complain about the term "Devil Worshiper" sounding too "Christian" ought to realize that the very word "Satanist" itself was FIRST COINED by the Christians. The term "Satanist" really does not sound any more positive or negative than the term "Devil Worshiper" as far as the general public is concerned. In fact, sensationalist news articles that report about "Satanic crime" make a point of using the word "Satanist" instead of "Devil Worshiper" -- simply because it takes up less space on a newspaper.
Some have even argued that Devil Worshipers are all just "reversed Christians" who believe that the universe is eternally divided between two supreme powers -- basically the same "Good vs. Evil" nonsense, just reversed. The truth of the matter is that the term "Devil Worshiper" really does not preclude any particular ideology or paradigm to which the individual practitioner "must" adhere. It simply describes something that one does, and makes no inherent mention of any particualar ideology or paradigm. There are many possible interpretations of who and what the Devil is and how one should worship Him, which therefore means that there are many different possibilities concerning what a Devil Worshiper can believe. Some might see the Devil as one god among many (polytheism). Some might see Him as the only god that exists (monotheism). Some might see Him as being one with all things (pantheism), and some might actually see Him as one of two gods locked in cosmic combat (duo-theism). The term "Devil Worshiper," by itself, really is not limited to either of these possible paradigms, and it should be regarded as being open to all of them. If reference to a particular paradigm is desired, it will be necessary to make use of an additional adjective in conjunction with the term "Devil Worshiper" -- e.g., "polytheistic Devil Worshiper," "pantheistic Devil Worshiper," "monotheistic Devil Worshiper," "duo-theistic Devil Worshiper," etc. Therefore, claiming that all Devil Worshipers are necessarily duo-theistic is a completely bogus claim.
In reality, there are no more justifications for the use of terms like "Witch," "Satanist," or "Devil Worshiper" as descriptions of religious rivals, whether within any single religious group or among extended siblings. The practice of such slander should be seen for the sociopolitical maneuvering that it is and eshewed as repugnant, while a reflection of self-description should be regarded with the proper respect that it deserves.
I sincerely hope that more Theistic Satanists will become interested in identifying themselves as Devil Worshipers, and that together we can become a more visible subcategory within Satanism. No more should we allow for the term "Devil Worship" to be used as a scapegoat term by our fellow Satanists.
So come on all you Devil Worshipers! Come out of the closet! Let's worship the Devil and rock and roll!