When I was working on my first degree in college, I took a course in Comparative World Religions during my first semester. As it turned out, I found that I enjoyed learning about other faiths and their philosophies even though I never really found a deity that I truly believed in.
I also found that a lot of faiths that I had been told about when I was younger were highly misinterpreted and I found a measure of happiness from better understanding those that are misunderstood.
So, what I would like to do is attempt to start an occasional series here about applying various religious philosophies to everyday life for the betterment of the self as well as to dismiss the myths surrounding these faiths to encourage understanding among various peoples. I’d love to learn more about and discuss any religion you would like to suggest. But for now, I’d like to start with the most controversial religion of MY day; Satanism.
Satanism has been seeing a return to popular consciousness after the “Satanic Panic” of the 80’s and 90’s – mostly due to political activism on behalf of The Satanic Temple (they’re the ones who want to erect a statue of Baphomet next to the Ten Commandments monument in Arkansas in protest of religious favoritism). So I thought it might be a good place to start the ‘promote understanding’ part of my mission statement.
For the sake of simplicity, I think I’ll start with an analysis of a (comparatively) small section of the philosophy – the Nine Satanic Statements, as they are designed to give a general overview of the faith as a whole. What’s more, I’ll be quoting from Anton LaVey’s own Satanic Bible as that is the text my generation is most familiar with. So let’s start from the top with…
“Satan represents indulgence instead of abstinence!”
I mentioned in my revision of the seven deadly sins how I felt that so-called sins like Gluttony, Lust, and, Greed were too strict, too vague, or just plain bogus. And if the near universal image of a Satanist as a religious party animal is any indication, they would seem to agree.
Now, I’ve spoken with practicing Satanists (they’re actually very charming individuals who know how to carry on an enjoyable, friendly debate), and I can safely say that they aren’t expected to indulge in EVERY vice ALL the time. There is still an air of ‘enjoy responsibly’ among them. Really, this statement is more an affirmation to enjoy life and the finer things in it. After all, you can’t play in the middle of the street if you’ve never even seen the far curb.
“Satan represents vital existence instead of spiritual pipe dreams!”
This seems to deal with the idea in some religions of an eternal reward in some grand afterlife for following the faith to the letter – what we philosophers call ‘Transcendence’.
But as discussed in my combination argument against suicide/love letter to Albert Camus, Transcendental Thinking distracts from the now. There’s just as much proof for the lack of an afterlife as for its existence. As such, it’s a much safer game to live in the moment and use our ‘vital existence’ to do good works NOW rather than sweat over the ‘spiritual pipe dreams’ of a future we can never know.
“Satan represents undefiled wisdom instead of hypocritical self-deceit!”
Again, I’m reminded of my Deadly Sins revision. In it, I listed Delusion as one of the new sins. And in more flowery prose, this seems to agree.
Faith is important; it gives us the strength to continue some days. But it’s important – more so now in the age of social media and ‘fake news’ – to temper faith with doubt. Otherwise, being wrong will feel absolutely right.
“Satan represents kindness to those who deserve it instead of love wasted on ingrates!”
This is something my father taught me as a child and I wish I had listened to him sooner. I kept a lot of abusive ‘friends’ and manipulative people in my life for far too long out of a self-imposed obligation to be kind to everyone regardless of what they did to me and I’m still recovering from most of them.
So I’m going to tell you what my dad told me in his exact words, “If someone isn’t contributing to your overall happiness, CUT THEIR F***ING ROPE.”
“Satan represents vengeance instead of turning the other cheek!”
I’ve never enjoyed taking petty vengeance on people. However, I can say from my experience throughout high school that ‘turning the other cheek’ is just a free license to some people – a message that they can do whatever they want to you with no repercussions.
There is absolutely no shame in defending yourself (in an appropriate and equal fashion, of course) from bullies, thugs, and goons. Anyone who says otherwise is trying to get you to leave yourself open.
“Satan represents responsibility to the responsible instead of concern for psychic vampires!”
Nobody likes a leech. Some people are content to form any number of parasitic relationships with others and bleed them dry rather than try to lift themselves up to a higher standard. I shouldn’t have to tell you that those people should be avoided at all costs, but that’s why I’m saying it to you all.
Still, there had to be a less silly term than ‘psychic vampire.’ I would have gone with ’emotional parasite’ or something.
“Satan represents man as just another animal, sometimes better, more often worse than those that walk on all-fours, who, because of his ‘divine spiritual and intellectual development,’ has become the most vicious animal of all!”
My mother and I will often joke about how the beasts of the earth are often more sympathetic than people. That said, from a purely scientific and psychological standpoint, I get this.
Humans ARE animals – incredibly exceptional animals with a great capacity for intelligence, but animals all the same. And like any animal, we have our basic drives, needs, and urges. To think we are anything more than that simply by virtue of our perceived intelligence is self-delusion… and we already know how Satanists and I feel about self-deceit.
“Satan represents all of the so-called sins, as they all lead to physical, mental, or emotional gratification!”
Well… that’s pretty self-explanatory, init? The Christian Sins forbid indulgence and Satanism is the antithesis of Christianity. Ergo, Satanists embrace the sins of Christianity.
I did go into this in brief when I was pulling apart the philosophy of The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth. But combined with the rest of these statements, it paints a more vivid picture of living for your happiness and comfort rather than those of the ones who would use you.
“Satan has been the best friend the Church has ever had, as He has kept it in business all these years!”
Heh heh. Clearly, Anton knows it’s always good to end on a laugh – especially a laugh that has a grain of ironic truth to it.
So, Satanists aren’t the cruel, wicked sadists many of us were taught to think they were, are they? Turns out, they care a great deal about human welfare and happiness. And whether you personally follow the faith or not, it may be beneficial to your mental health to try to work their philosophy into your daily life.
Again, if you have a religious philosophy that you would like to see discussed and explained here, please let me know. This is as much an educational journey for me as it is intended to be for those that read this. If there’s enough interest, I’d love to continue this as a series.