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Excerpts from the original alt.satanism FAQ
plus comments by Diane Vera

The Usenet newsgroup alt.satanism has approximately ten different FAQ files, each representing a different perspective. Originally there was just one FAQ file which tried to represent all kinds of Satanists. Below are some excerpts from the original FAQ file, which seems not to have been substantially updated since the mid-1990's C.E.

First, here's a description of some of the kinds of Satanism (both theistic and atheistic/symbolic) that were around at the time the following section of the FAQ was originally written, probably in the early 1990's C.E.  The following is out-of-date but a good historical snapshot:

1. What is Satanism? At first glance this may look like a simple question to answer: "Go look it up in the dictionary." would seem to be straightforward enough. In fact, I'll do it for you: Satanism, n. 1. the worship of Satan or the powers of evil. 2. a travesty of Christian rites in which Satan is worshiped. 3. diabolical or satanic disposition, behavior, or action. [from _Webster's Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language_, (c) 1989] Unfortunately it's not that easy. Throughout history, the label of "Satanism" has been applied variably by the opposing religious factions, by the practitioners themselves, by historical revisionists some time later, and by combinations of the above. This document will focus on active modern forms of self-proclaimed Satanism, and modern religious groups of undeniably dark character. It should be considered that since dark and/or forbidden gods exist in many cultures other than European-descended Christianity, forms of Satanism other than those familiar to English-speakers do exist and in some cases flourish, but can only be alluded to here. <Exu/Pomba-Gira worship, Yezidi, etc.> Unsurprisingly, there is no one set of beliefs that comprise modern Satanism. Because there is no set of doctrines or scriptures agreed agreed upon by a majority of Satanists, would-be practitioners must define their beliefs for themselves, based upon a minimum of shared information. The issue is further confused by the fact that, historically, most records of real or imagined Satanism have been made by Satanists traditional enemies, Christians. However a few generalizations can be made: the average Satanist disagrees with much of Christianity, believes in no absolute moral code, and places emphasis on the individual and personal rights. If you think this sounds like Libertarianism, you're right; many Satanists consider themselves Libertarians or feel close to the party on social issues. The one unifying theme among the Satanisms is the last of the three dictionary definitions; one can say with some certainty that all Satanisms and Satanists have diabolical or satanic dispositions in that they are "like Satan." They possess the virtues of antinomianism, self-reliance, rebellion and adversarialism. There are several divisions one could make as to the belief systems of various "Satanic" groups. This (arbitrary) division was included to point out various currents or influences in modern day satanism rather than an attempt at categorization. 1. The Dabblers: adopt Satanic trappings for a brief period of time, usually for entertainment rather than serious purposes. Many modern youths fall into this category. 2. Churches of Satan: are patterned after the teachings of Anton LaVey. These groups believe in individualism, gratification of the ego, self-reliance and the ideal of the Nietzchean Superman. These groups use Magick as a tool for earthly power. They see Satan as the driving force behind achievement in mankind. 3. Gnostics: can be divided into two major categories 3a. Promethean Gnostics: Believe in a literal "Satan", but believe that the creator of the world (Jehovah) is the evil deity. Satan is seen as the "bringer of light"; a beneficent god. This is an old "heresy" seen in groups such as the Yezidis or the Ophites. 3b. Dark Gnostics: Worship the dark force in nature. These groups follow the whims of a capricious god, which most westerners would see as being "evil." There are a few historical Christian heresies which would fall into this category. Kali worshipers could also be categorized here as a cross cultural example of a "Satanism." 4. Secondary Satanists: follow a faith outside the Christian mainstream. Most would not consider themselves as being "Satanic" and strictly speaking should not be defined as Satanists (as per se with some of the Gnostic groups), but the ignorant often categorize them as Satanists. Voodoo and Santeria could be grouped here, as could medieval witchcraft (if it actually existed). Certain forms of Tantric Buddhism could also be placed in this category. 5. Hellfire Clubs: Were a phenomenon of the 18th century, mentioned because of historical relevance to modern Satanisms. The first of these was founded by the Duke of Wharton in the early 1700's. Most infamous was sir Francis Dashwood's Medmenham club (Often incorrectly called the Hellfire Club). Dashwood was a close friend of Benjamin Franklin, who may have been a member of this group. Franklin's description of the Medmeham club's secret chambers is one of the few we have, so his membership seems likely. In any case, Dashwood and Franklin co-authored the "Franklin Prayer Book" (often called the Book of Common Prayer) which is commonly used in America. Another famous member of the Medmenham club was the Earl of Sandwich, inventor of (guess what) the Sandwich. Hellfire clubs were exclusive groups dedicated to much political intrigue, partying, and some occasional occult activities. Other similar groups included the Irish Brimstone Boys and Blue Blazers. 6. Romantic/Promethean Satanists Literary/historical "Satanists" -William Blake, Charles Baudelaire, Maupertin, Carducci, Lautremont and Gabriele D'Annunzio. Artists and romantics with "sympathy for the devil" have a long tradition; Satan being a great patron of the arts. 7. Left-Hand Path Pagans There are several European groups, most of them consisting of small "covens" of several people, that are or could be considered Satanists. Two of the larger of these groups are The Fraternity of Baelder and the Order of Nine Angles (ONA). These groups allegedly have longer traditions, and "more authentic" origins (whatever that might mean). ONA is especially fond of calling itself the "traditional Satanists." These groups tend to have more "extreme" views than the others mentioned, and have little, if any authoritarian structure.

Second, a good general warning to all people seeking to join Satanic (or other) organizations:

3. Satanic Organizations? Some may be interested in joining some kind of organization of like minded individuals. Most Satanists will agree that organizations are best when least intrusive on the individual, and would recommend caution in joining or associating with any group, including (and perhaps especially) those mentioned in the FAQ. Some useful "common sense" cautions for the potential neophyte Satanist; Don't let anyone tell you what to believe, or what to do. Advice or recommendations are one thing; orders or commands quite another. Remember that you are a free being, not a pawn in someone's power fantasy. Trust your feelings; if you feel you may be the victim of a working of Con Artistry (oft referred to as Lesser Magick), you probably are, at least in some sense. It is important to realize that all organizations, Satanic and otherwise, are _dangerous_; by their very nature they have more available physical, economic and psychological resources than the individual who would interact with them, hence one should exercise caution in ones dealings with any organization or one could find oneself with less freedom, a destroyed reputation, legal troubles, or worse.

I would add that the above warning applies not only to formal organizations, but also to informal cliques. Alas, there are some groups, both formal and informal, that do engage in cultish behavior. But there are others that don't, fortunately. So, don't rush to get involved in any group. Spend some time learning about it first. For some important further warnings, please see On the need for caution in meeting your fellow Satanists:  Some important warnings .

Note:  Although the alt.satanism FAQ files are certainly worth reading, the alt.satanism newsgroup itself is not, in my opinion, the best place to learn about the different kinds of Satanism. The alt.satanism newsgroup, also known as "alt.sludge" or "alt.sandbox," is notoriously flame-ridden, brat-ridden, Christian-evangelist-ridden, and generally noisy. For more productive online dialogue among Satanists, I would recommend participation in a variety of different smaller forums, such as my own moderated email groups.

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