Most of the pages on this site assume that you already known something about the history of modern Satanism and a little about the landscape of modern Satanic organizations. This Satanism 101 page summarizes the key points about modern Satanism and the briefly lists and describes the currently established Satanic organizations.
For more in-depth details about the points made on this page, refer to the Satanism 102 page.
Satanic belief and practice is diverse
As with most religions, there is no one single type of “Satanism”, so it can be difficult at first to figure out who’s who and what’s what. Church of Satan, The Satanic Temple, Temple of Set, First Satanic Church, Sect of the Horned God, United Aspects of Satan, Modern Church of Satan… Just to name a few of the better-known organizations.
What’s the difference among these? And new Satanic organizations are constantly appearing (and disappearing) as well. What makes them different from the short list above?
Then there are a few other organizations who identify as “Luciferian”. Aren’t Satan and Lucifer the same thing? What makes Luciferian organizations different?
All of these organizations (even the Luciferian ones) fall under the general description of modern Satanism, which most Satanists agree started in the late 1960s with Anton Szander LaVey and his Church of Satan, based on his book The Satanic Bible. Yes, there were a very few groups running around in the 1930s, 1940s, and late 1800s who self-identified as “Satanic”, but these were all gone by the time LaVey (with the help of media interest and reach) managed to establish the notion of Satanism as a religion on the cultural landscape.
As happens with these things, it wasn’t very long at all before schisms occurred within the COS, for political or ideological reasons, and members left to form new, different Satanic organizations. Also, “copy-cat” organizations popped up, taking this new idea of Satanism as a religion and running with it.
This process has continued, and with even greater speed since the appearance of the World Wide Web. Any person can dream up a new flavor of Satanism, declare themself the founder or “high priest” or whatever, create a website for their new organization, and then promote it through social media and word of mouth.
Despite this diversity in Satanic organizations, there are a few key attributes that nearly all modern Satanic organizations have in common with each other. The differences, however, can be very significant, and unfortunately there is a degree of political rivalry between some organizations, so an interested newcomer to Satanism should research carefully and choose wisely, or your early affiliations might affect your ability to later ally with a different organization that you decide you like better.
What most modern Satanic organizations share in common
Modern Satanism is a religion with a distinct philosophy and ideology based mostly on the literary Satan of the Romantic Era. Writers like Milton, Blake, Shelly, Anatole France, (and more recently even Mark Twain and Phillip Pullman, to name just two) have explored the Gnostic idea that the Abrahamic “God” of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam is not the true Source of creation, but is instead a demiurge and authoritarian tyrant. In the works of these writers from The Satanic School, Lucifer (as he was named before the fall) was a hero for leading a rebellion of angels against God, and Satan (as he was named after the fall) along with the other fallen angels have been the true benefactors and mentors of humankind throughout our evolution and history.
To modern Satanists, this metaphor of Satan represents desirable ideals such as individualism, rational thought and learning, enjoyment of worldly things and human nature, and rebellion against tyrannical authority. As The Satanic Temple puts it in our FAQ:
Satan is symbolic of the Eternal Rebel in opposition to arbitrary authority, forever defending personal sovereignty even in the face of insurmountable odds. Satan is an icon for the unbowed will of the unsilenced inquirer… the heretic who questions sacred laws and rejects all tyrannical impositions.
Nearly all modern Satanic organizations share these key ideals.
How modern Satanic organizations differ from each other
The ways in which most modern Satanic organizations differ from each other is broadly categorized by the following three dimensions, which we explore further in Satanism 102.
- Atheistic vs. theistic vs. non-theistic
- Non-supernatural vs. supernatural
- Cooperative/egalitarian/activist vs. Darwinist/objectivist/elitist
Finding the Satanic organization that suits you best
Most of the modern Satanic organizations define themselves by a written set of principles. For example, Church of Satan calls these their Nine Satanic Statements and Eleven Satanic Rules of the Earth, while The Satanic Temple calls these their Seven Fundamental Tenets. These principles are usually in the form of short, concise bullet points, and they tell you a lot about the fundamental tone and culture of the organization.
Some of the modern Satanic organizations also have a canon, which in the religious sense means “an approved selection of scriptures”. This canon can also give you much insight into the tone and culture of the organization. For example, Church of Satan’s canon is The Satanic Bible by Anton LaVey, whereas The Satanic Temple’s canon is The Revolt of Angels by Anatole France.
Some organizations charge a membership fee and/or require membership dues. For example, Church of Satan requires a membership fee, but membership in The Satanic Temple is entirely free.
Finally, most organizations are online-only with a central website, forums, Facebook page, and so on. Very few organizations have regional or city-specific chapters and physical headquarters. For example, The Satanic Temple has a physical headquarters in Salem, Massachusetts and 22 local chapters (and growing) at the time this page was written.
A short list of notable Satanic organizations
The constantly evolving landscape of Satanic organizations makes it impossible to list all of them.
By far, the two largest and most stable organizations are Church of Satan and The Satanic Temple. These represent the two “major flavors” of modern Satanism, and most self-identified Satanists will be strongly attracted to one of them and strongly repelled by the other, for reasons we’ll explore in Satanism 102.
Other notable Satanic organizations might be close analogs to one of these “Big Two” with one or two small differences, or they might comprise a blend of principles from these Big Two, or they might have an entirely different set of principles. These include (in no particular order):
- United Aspects of Satan
- Sect of the Horned God
- Church of Rational Satanism
- Temple of Set
- Modern Church of Satan
- First Satanic Church
- Greater Church of Lucifer