In the nine long years that I've recognized myself as a Satanist, I've seen more pointless and pedantic arguments over the use of labels and semantics - among Satanists - than I'd care to count. It may seem very strange to some people (it certainly does to me), but one major bone of contention between different Satanists is the use of the term "Devil worship."
In the 1960's and 1970's, Anton Szandor LaVey popularized a new idea of Satanism through his Church of Satan. This was further enhanced through the publication of his Satanic Bible. LaVey's version of Satanism - which was inspired by the writings of Ragnar Redbeard, Mark Twain, Friedrich Nietzsche and H. L. Mencken - was, at least publically, a non-theistic philosophy. That is to say, LaVey gave the image that people in his church did not actually believe in Satan as a literal entity, and therefore did not worship Him religiously. Instead, "Satanism" for them meant worshiping your own carnal ego. LaVey dismissed all gods as being "creations of man" in The Satanic Bible - including the Devil - and he further suggested that no Satanist in their right mind would ever worship or pray to any "imaginary deity."
Now it is a fact that LaVey's church was the very first public, above-ground Satanist organization ever to exist. However, some of LaVey's followers - and "followers" is exactly what they are - have gone so far as to claim that "Satanism never existed" before the Church of Satan, and that it was "invented" by Anton LaVey. They will further suggest that the very word "Satanism" itself is LaVey's intellectual property, and that anyone who disagrees with his doctrines has "no right" to call him or herself a Satanist.
That last part is blatantly false. According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the word "Satanist" first appeared in print in the year 1559. The term was applied to Protestant sects by their enemies - and it was used specifically to mean "worship of Satan." This meaning for the word has been carried over unto present day. If you go out on the street and shout the word "Satanism," most people who hear you will automatically think of "Satan worship." This is because five centuries are long enough to ingrain a specific word usage into any collective consciousness.
Furthermore, since the word "Satanist" is at least five centuries old, it exists in the public domain. Nobody owns a copyright on it, not even the Church of Satan. Anybody who claims that Satanism is LaVey's "intellectual property" is very much mistaken. Therefore, a person who believes in and worships Satan as a literal entity has every right to call him or herself a Satanist if they want to.
It's certainly true that Anton LaVey was the first self-described Satanist to write a "How To" book for other Satanists. That much is not debatable, and as long as we're talking about that, all self-described Satanists everywhere owe LaVey a tip of the hat - whether they agree with all his teachings or not. He certainly did get the ball rolling for Satanism in the twentieth century, that much is for sure.
But the idea of whether or not Satanism existed prior to LaVey depends largely upon the application of the term being used. Are we talking about whether or not Satan worshipers existed before LaVey? LaVey's followers will tell you that there is "no evidence" of such people having existed, but there is no evidence of them not having existed, either, so this argument doesn't really work. Prior to the 1960's, it makes sense that anybody who did worship the Devil would have wanted to keep a low profile, so as to avoid public persecution. Stating it as a "fact" that no Satanists existed prior to LaVey is neither realistic nor intellectually honest.
Or are we talking about whether or not Self worshipers in black robes existed before LaVey? Well if that's what we're talking about, then I guess you could say it's true that no "Satanists" existed before LaVey - but this is only paying attention to one man's definition for the term, and blatantly turning a blind eye to at least five centuries' worth of definitions. This doesn't seem very intellectually honest, either.
Even if it could somehow be proven that there were no Satan worshipers prior to LaVey - and trust me, it never will be - this still would not mean that modern Satan worshipers can't rightfully call themselves Satanists. The fact of the matter is that the idea of "Satanism as Satan worship" goes back five centuries at the very least. The idea of "Satanism as Self worship," on the other hand, only goes back forty years as of this writing. That's not even half of a century yet!
And yet, in the 1970's, Anton LaVey began to impliment a new policy within the Church of Satan that attempted to prevent Devil worshipers from being "confused" with "Satanists." Ever since that time, Church of Satan officials have continually claimed that anybody who worships the Devil "is not" and "cannot be" a true Satanist. Because supposedly, "true Satanists" only worship themselves.
This "anti-Devil worshiper" attitude has even spread among other, non-Church of Satan groups. Satanist leaders like John Allee of the First Church of Satan in Salem, MA claim that Devil worship is "often a symptom of psychosis." In his online article dealing with this subject, Allee bases his claim that Devil worshipers are "sociopaths" on only a pair of emails he's received from emotionally unstable people who seem obsessed with the Devil. Of course, Allee does not bother to point out that neither of these individuals actually called themselves Devil worshipers or used the term as a serious label anywhere in their messages. Nor does he point out that there have been more murders, genocides, and cases of child abuse committed in the names of Jesus Christ, Jehovah and Allah than there ever have been in the name of the Devil. Yet people do not typically assume that "Christ worshipers" are all sociopathic lunatics. Therefore, it makes even less sense to believe that Devil worshipers are all sociopathic lunatics!
There have indeed been some people in history who have done nasty things in the name of "Satan." But to suggest that all Devil worshipers in general are lunatic criminals is perhaps even more absurd than claiming that all Christians like to burn their women at the stake. And somehow, the idea of having to explain this to somebody who calls him or herself a Satanist seems extremely redundant and ridiculous.
But logic is often elusive to religious people. In the area of religion, people believe things that they cannot logically prove - and yes, even those who follow LaVey fit neatly into this category (for while LaVey might have dismissed Satan as "imaginary," he certainly did take the subject of "magic" very seriously). And it is the folly of religious people to argue and accuse others of being "wrong" and "misled," when we ourselves cannot prove that our own beliefs and values are objectively correct. This happens within all cultures of faith; it happens in Christianity, it happens in Islam, and it happens in Neopaganism. If you don't believe that it happens in Satanism, too, then you seriously need to wake up and smell the brimstone.
While they were trying to create a face of "political correctness" for themselves, many people in the Neopagan/Wiccan movements decided to make their own religions seem more socially acceptable by projecting all the sensationalism they received onto Satanists. For instance, at one time it was not uncommon to hear a Wiccan say something to the effect of, "We Wiccans are not Satanists; we don't sacrifice babies!" And of course it is true that Wiccans are not Satanists; but it is not true that Satanists sacrifice babies. Many of the Wiccans who said such things didn't seem to care about this, however. All such individuals really cared about was making sure that people stop persecuting Neopaganism. If they could achieve this by getting their persecutors to persecute other religions instead, they were more than happy to do so.
Thankfully, not as many Wiccans and Neopagans are doing this sort of thing today. But this sort of thing is being done by Satanists today! Nowadays, it is not uncommon to hear a Satanist say something to the effect of, "We Satanists are not Devil worshipers; we don't sacrifice babies!" And of course it is true that not all self-described Satanists worship the Devil; but it is not true that anyone who worships the Devil believes in sacrificing babies! Many of the Satanists who say such things as this don't really seem to care that they are misrepresenting anybody. All such individuals really care about is making sure that people stop persecuting their own kind of Satanism. If they can achieve this by getting their persecutors to persecute other kinds of Satanism instead, then they are more than happy to do so.
Just what in Hell do people who say things like this think they're doing? I know that Satanism has no general rule about having "brotherly love" for your co-religionists - but this is truly ridiculous. Not only that, it is blatant hypocrisy.
Now I try to be as logical as possible about these things. And to me, it seems logical to be respectful toward Anton LaVey for his historical role in Satanism. Therefore, you will never hear me saying that LaVey was "not a true Satanist." But when it comes to worshiping the Devil, I don't care what anybody says. I believe in the existence of the Devil, I religiously worship Him, and I am a goddamned Satanist, whether anybody in the Church of Satan or the First Church of Satan or the Global Corporate Conglomerate of Satan likes it or not.
And if they don't like it, then they can either try to think of a way to copyright the word "Satanist" so they can sue whoever else uses it, or they can shut the Hell up.
I am more than willing to accept LaVey's definition of Satanism as one kind of Satanism, and I am even willing to accept it as a valid kind thereof. If you worship your own carnal ego and think that makes you a Satanist, then so be it. But Devil worship is most certainly a valid kind of Satanism, too. I'm willing to differentiate between Self worshiping Satanists and Devil worshiping Satanists, but I am not willing to compromise with anybody who wants to try and tell me that I'm "not a Satanist" because I worship the Devil! And I sincerely hope that all other Devil worshipers who are reading this sermon will agree. We're Satanists, dammit! Raise your fists and YELL!
There are some people out there who wish Satanists could be "united as a community." (And strangely enough, some of the people who preach this are the very same ones who attack Devil worshipers.) Well, the sad fact of it is that Satanism is something like a war zone. We're all a bunch of wild and ravenous wolves who are constantly going at each other's throats. There is no "brotherly love" here. There is no "Satanic community." Just because you describe yourself as a Satanist does not mean that you're going to be treated like a human being by other Satanists. In fact, if you have "heterodox" views, you can bet your hooves that you won't be - which is very sad considering that Satanism is supposed to thrive on heterodoxy.
I say these things for the benefit of my fellow Devil worshipers, especially the ones who are young and who have not consciously recognized themselves as Devil folk for very long. I hate to say it, but Satanism as a culture of faith is very nasty. It's very easy to become discouraged with Devil worship because of all the horrible things that some Satanists will say and do to you just because you're different. The major Satanist churches all constantly preach about how individualism is a good thing - and yet if you don't conform to their party lines, they'll shit all over you.
But if the Black Flame of Set burns bright inside your heart, you'll know that you can never turn your back on the faith. You'll know it's as much a part of who and what you are as your skin color and your gender preference. You can't go against your true, inner nature - and there's absolutely no reason why you should. If you've ever felt the Devil's touch upon your soul, you'll know that what you've personally got going with Him is far, far more important than whatever some hot-shot big-wig "high priest" might think or say. You'll know that it's your lifetime initiation process that's truly important. Forget all those high priests, ipsissimi, magistri templi and spiritual gurus. We don't need them, and we never did! If you've got the Prince of Darkness in your life, then you have your own direct hotline to Hell, and that's all that matters!
If we Devil worshipers just stick together, there's absolutely no way in Hell that we won't rise above all this semantic gerrymandering bullhockey. If we just support and encourage each other in the face of our opposition, we can make sure that Devil worship will one day get the respect it really deserves. But we have to stick together, and we have to try and be the absolute best people we can be. We must not succumb to the madness, the idiocy, or the hypocrisy.
Glory be to Set, and to His servants - the Children of Darkness!