Theistic Satanism: Home > Politics > The alternative religion community

Satanists and the alternative religion/spirituality community

by Diane Vera

Copyright © 2005 by Diane Vera. All rights reserved.

  1. Why theistic Satanists need to be part of a larger alternative religion community
  2. The "Pagan community" vs. the "alternative religion community"
  3. A lesson from the gay community

  1. Why theistic Satanists need to be part of a larger alternative religion community

    For way too long, Satanists have been treated as outcasts by most people of other alternative religions. In turn, many Satanists have looked down their noses at other alternative religions, lumping them all into the same mental compartment as Christianity. Worse yet, some Satanists have dismissed all people of all other alternative religions besides Satanism as "losers." Not many of us have made much effort to educate those folks about who and what we really are.

    This needs to change. Theistic Satanism NEEDS to become a better-understood and more-accepted part of the alternative religion community, for several reasons:

    1. Many of us are isolated. Many theistic Satanists don't personally know any other theistic Satanists except online. Many of us live surrounded by Christians. For those in such a situation, it would be highly desirable to have some non-Christian friends, including both athiests and people of non-Abrahamic religions. And it would be desirable to be able to be honest with at least some of those friends about one's beliefs. Not being able to be honest with them about one's beliefs does place a limit on the closeness of the friendship.
    2. There are quite a few closet theistic Satanists in the alternative religion community, especially in the Pagan and occult communities. It would be a lot easier for us to find each other - and to build our own groups - if more of the Satanists in the alternative religion community were out of the closet.
    3. Many theistic Satanists from Christian backgrounds - especially those who converted directly from Christianity to a form of Satanism - are plagued by fears left over from their background. As part of the process of overcoming those fears, it can be very helpful to explore a variety of non-Christian/non-Abrahamic worldviews, to develop a more sophisticated theological understanding of one's Satanism. For completeness, such exploration needs to occur on three levels:
      1. intellectual - in-depth study of a variety of non-Abrahamic religions and worldviews.
      2. social - personally knowing people of a variety of non-Abrahamic religions and worldviews.
      3. practical - actual practice of at least one form of spirituality involving a totally non-Abrahamic paradigm, e.g. some form of "dark Paganism" or Chaos magick.

      All of these are reasons to participate in the alternative religion community.

      (Note: Not ALL theistic Satanists are from Christian or other Abrahamic backgrounds, and, of those who do come from Christian backgrounds, not all convert directly from Christianity to a form of Satanism. Many do explore other religions and worldviews before becoming Satanists.)

    4. If you're a closet Satanist in the alternative religion community, the more powerful psychics in that community may well recognize you as such, as may people who happen to have known quite a few Satanists. We do tend to put out a distinct vibe. So, it's better to be out of the closet and thereby be in a position to answer people's questions, rather than leaving them to guess and speculate.
    5. Given the threat of creeping Christian theocracy here in the U.S.A., we need to become part of a political alliance to defend the rights of minority religions including Satanists. An alternative religion subculture in which Satanists are accepted would be a key part of the necessary social base for such a political movement. (To that end, the alternative religion subculture ALSO needs to become better organized in the first place -- and that too is something that some of us can help with. More on that later, in the section of this article on A lesson from the gay community.)

    So, more of us need to start educating people of other alternative religions. Note: Our aim should NOT be to convince them to become Satanists or "Left Hand Path," just to give them accurate information about a variety of different kinds of theistic Satanism and let them know that we aren't (for the most part) a bunch of violent criminals.

    Of course, some folks in the Satanist scene will argue that Satanists should be totally rugged individualists, utterly beyond caring what any "community" thinks of us. For more about such arguments and my response to them, see Should Satanists care about the reputation of Satanism?

    My point is not that ALL theistic Satanists should be actively involved in efforts to educate people of other alternative religions. It is up to each of us to decide, individually, what we can and will do along these lines, if anything, given our own personal situations. My aims in this article are (1) to counter those who have been preaching against any involvment by Satanists in the alternative religion community and (2) to suggest some means of public relations for theistic Satanists within the alternative religion community.

  2. The "Pagan community" vs. the "alternative religion community"

    Some Satanists have tried to win acceptance, by Pagans, of at least some kinds of Satanists as part of "the Pagan community." I think it would probably be easier to win acceptance as part of a somewhat larger "alternative religion community" instead of the "Pagan community" per se.

    The word "Pagan" (capital P) is not well-defined. Pagans (capital P) still can't agree on a definition. Therefore, no matter how much some of us may have in common with some Pagans, any Pagan group can easily find creative new ways to gerrymander its definition so to exclude us. For more about this matter, see my article Is Satanism "Pagan"?.

    On the other hand, theistic Satanism clearly does fit any reasonable definition of "alternative religion/spirituality."

    Likewise, if your particular form of Satanism happens to be either pantheistic or polytheistic in its theology, then you're not likely to get into very many arguments over whether your particular form of Satanism qualifies as a form of "pantheism"/"polytheism." These words, too, have far less debatable definitions than the word "Pagan" (capital P). Just make sure, when talking to any Pagan Reconstructionists, that you know the difference between hard polytheism and soft polytheistm. (Hard polytheists believe that the gods are distinct entities, not just facets of the One, and that the gods are not universal and cannot be equated between one culture's pantheon and another.)

    We certainly should work to educate Pagans, who are the biggest and fastest-growing sector of the alternative religion scene. But we need to distinguish between two different goals: (1) educating Pagans about Satanism and (2) arguing that Satanism - or at least some forms of Satanism - should be considered "Pagan" (capital P). We definitely should do the former. However, in many cases it would probably be easier to educate Pagans about Satanism if we don't put them on the defensive by insisting that Satanism should be considered "Pagan" (capital P) too - though we can still point out that Satanism is indeed "pagan" (lowercase p), and we can point out blatant inconsistencies in some groups' definition of "Pagan" (capital P).

    (For an especially absurd example of the latter, see the Canadian Pagan Federation's definition, which includes "Western mysteries," including Kabbalah and even Gnosticism, as part of "the modern movement of Earth religions," yet excludes Satanism from that category! Many forms of Satanism, including LaVeyan Satanism, are in fact much closer to being "Earth religions" than are most forms of Gnosticism with their world-hating attitudes.)

    To many Pagans, especially in the Bible Belt, it's important to distinguish between Pagans and Satanists. A sharp distinction, of some sort, would still be important to many of them even if we could get them to stop saying things like "We're not Satanists; we don't kill babies" or "Satanism is just upside-down Christianity." A sharp distinction would still be important to them even if we could convince them that it's in their interests as Pagans to oppose witchhunts against Satanists too. The distinction would still be important to them both for public relations reasons and because many of them, being from Christian backgrounds, would still feel deeply uncomfortable with Satan even after they've come to realize that at least some Satanists are OK people.

    Of course, they really ought to get over it. They're a lot like the early 1970's feminists who used to feel embarrassed about lesbians, or the conservative gay rights activists who still feel embarrassed about drag queens. But perhaps we should take it one step at a time.

    Pagans (capital P) are less likely to feel threatened by Satanism being categorized as a set of "alternative religions" than by Satanism being categorized as "Pagan" (capital P). One reason is that, for many eclectic Pagans, the word "Pagan" is their primary religious identity, whereas hardly anyone uses the term "alternative religion" as one's primary religious identity.

    So, instead of arguing that Satanism is "Pagan" (capital P), it might be better for us and our friends to take the lead in helping to organize the larger alternative religion community, as I will explain below.

  3. A lesson from the gay community

    How can we win acceptance within the larger alternative religion community?

    To answer this question, let's look at another, even larger subculture which has grown rapidly over the past several decades:  the Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual/Transgender (GLBT) community.

    Every year in June, here in New York, hundreds of different groups march in the Gay Pride Parade. These groups include, among others:

    • Political groups
    • Professional groups (GLBT teachers, GLBT cops, etc.)
    • Student groups
    • Ethnic minority GLBT groups
    • Religious groups (mostly Christian)
    • Self-help/support groups, of many different kinds
    • Athletic groups
    • Hobby groups, e.g. GLBT science fiction fans
    • Other, smaller sexual subcultures, e.g. BDSM

    Thanks in part to all these many interconnected organizations, the GLBT community has become politically very powerful - though not as powerful as the Christian religious right wing, alas.

    The Pagan community too has been growing rapidly over the past several decades, though it's not nearly as big as the gay community. As the Pagan community gets bigger, it too will probably include lots of different kinds of groups that are aimed at meeting particular needs of their members. There already exist some Pagan parents' groups and a group for Pagan cops and emergency workers (Officers of Avalon), for example.

    Other alternative religions have been growing too, such as Western forms of Buddhism and Tantra.

    As all these religions continue to grow, we have a golden opportunity to help build a wide variety of groups that serve the entire alternative religion community while serving our own needs as well. To the extent that we and our friends are the people who build these groups, we are in a position to ensure that they serve the entire alternative religion scene including Satanists.

    Three of the most strategically important types of groups are:

    1. Religious tolerance and civil rights projects which defend the rights of all religious minorities, including Satanists, along with a long list of others.
    2. Satanist-friendly self-help/support groups.  Among the many groups that meet regularly at New York's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community Center, a great many are self-help/support groups of one kind or another -- not even counting all the many 12-step groups, which are listed on their own separate page.
    3. The vast majority of self-help/support groups, of whatever kind, are dominated by Christians. And the rare exceptions are typically dominated by athiests. It would be very helpful to the entire alternative religion community to have its own bunch of self-help/support groups which are not Christian-dominated and which do not use Christian-based, self-abnegating systems such as the 12-step programs, but which, instead, truly encourage their members to empower themselves.

      Moreover, it should be very easy to build such groups. Judging by the vast number of ads for psychotherapists in the typical local Pagan/New-Age periodical, there is likely to be a huge demand for self-help/support groups, of many different kinds, if and whenever anyone gets around to creating them. So, if you're a theistic Satanist with any kind of problem that you're having difficulty dealing with all by yourself, then I would suggest that you get in on the ground floor of helping to create a relevant support group. (See my article on Building Satanist-friendly self-help/support groups.) If theistic Satanists and Satanist-friendly people are the ones who create the groups, this will ensure that a good many of them welcome Satanists as well as people of other religions, spiritualities, and worldviews.

    4. Satanist-friendly professional groups,  which, obviously, could eventually make it a lot safer to be open about Satanism in one's work life.

    The three categories above do not exhaust the possibilities. Others include lifestyle-oriented groups (e.g. polyamorists in alternative religions) and hobby groups (e.g. science fiction fans in alternative religions). Should you wish to make a bunch of non-Christian friends, I would suggest that you start whatever kind of group tickles your fancy, based on your particular situation, interests, and needs.

    At the moment, self-help/support groups are probably the easiest type of group to build. Other types of groups will become easier to build later, as the network of Satanist-friendly people grows. In at least the near future, Satanist-friendly professional groups probably won't be nearly as easy to build as other kinds of groups.

    One exception: It ought to be very easy for someone to build a Satanist-friendly group for writers and aspiring writers, at least as an online forum, given that writers, as a profession, tend to be disproportionately represented online. If you decide to create such a group, please let me know.

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