By Vexen Crabtree 2003
Why do people use words like "True Satanism", "Real Satanism" and "Traditional Satanism"? Are there really fake Satanists? Any debates where people start capitalizing the word "true" or "real" and follow it with the name of their favourite belief system, are almost invariably heated debates. Misinformation, immaturity, insecurity and ignorance are either just around the corner or have long since propelled people into pointless bickering.
When people mention the "True" or "Real" branch of their religion, they always mean themselves and by definition those who have other beliefs to the speaker are therefore "false". It is a feature of fundamentalism, intolerance, closed-mindedness, and other typical religious mentalities, that turns difference of belief into a sectarian issue. Christians do it, Muslims do it. Even educated fleas do it1. And what, exactly, are these educated fleas doing? They are sucking the life out of their beloved philosophies, falling into age-old traps of human nature and insecurity. Why not just accept that they, and you, have different beliefs but call it the same thing?
In Satanism when people talk of "True Satanism" or "Real Satanism", they normally have to use those terms to differentiate themselves from LaVey Satanism; because although the Church of Satan was the original Satanic church, there are other denominations and groups who feel they represent "true" Satanism instead of the Church of Satan. These groups, when they say "True" or "Real" Satanism, mean their version of Satanism. They all tend to follow one of the theistic righteous Satan theologies. They would be better and more balanced to refer to their own form of Satanism by name - theistic, dualistic, pantheistic, rather than try to imply that theirs is "true" while others is false. Such a combatitive mindset is one of the greatest causes of tragedy and violence in religion, and any mature rebel need not take the route of presuming "orthodoxy good, heterodoxy bad". It isn't the Satanic way.
LaVey described adherents of his own atheistic, philosophical activist Satanism as True Satanists. I think that in the case of Anton LaVey alone he was qualified to lay claim to the term "True", as he was indeed the founder of Satanism, even though some before had partially similar outlooks none claimed that term or even used it.
There are historical groups such as the Knights Templar and individuals such as Nietzsche and Aleister Crowley who are said to be Satanists. However true this may seem on reading their history and texts, they definitely did not call themselves Satanists. The Church of Satan, founded by Anton LaVey, was the first organized group to self-identify as Satanic, before then there were no others. Since the foundation of the Church of Satan two other major Satanic churches emerged, both of them founded by ex-members of the Church of Satan. The First Church of Satan, theistic Satanism, collapsed in 2003, and the Temple of Set, also theistic, remains small and has distanced itself from Satanism. Many other groups, mostly small, have come and gone.
Given this history, there is no possible meaning of the term "Traditional Satanism" unless it refers to LaVeyan Satanism or Christian Satanism. However, there are next to no Christian Satanists. Although it is historically more accurate to call LaVey Satanism Traditional Satanism, it is never called that by Satanists of any shade, therefore the term is best recognized as being pretty meaningless.
Current edition: 2010 Oct 23
Originally published 2003 Nov 11
Parent page: The Description, Philosophies and Justification of Satanism
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