Religious Satanism recognizes Satan generally as a life principle of philosophy. Its followers are usually serious adults, although some maybe mature teenagers. Of the established traditions that exist, the largest and longest surviving is the Church of Satan. Other traditions have come and gone, most having a very short life.

According to the Canadian census in 1991, only 335 citizens claimed to be Satanists, which would create an estimate of about 3500 Satanists in the United States. The actual total is probably significantly larger. An accurate count is impossible because the Church of Satan, as the largest group, does not release its membership totals.

Local groups of Satanists may be called grottos, pylons, temples, or by a similar name. They correspond to Christian congregations and Wiccan covens. Many Satanists feel that Wiccans are hypocrites, because the latter restrict their work to positive, healing activities. Satanists use Magic and other rituals to benefit themselves and their friends, but also use these same rituals to harm their enemies. Some have incorporated some anti-Wiccan elements in their rituals.

Satanists tend to be highly critical of all other faiths. They are particularly opposed to Christianity, because of its paramount position in Western society and the historical persecution of Satanists and other religious minorities by Christians.


Many consider Aleister Crowley to be the man responsible for the founding of Satanism as a religion. Although he was a former member of the Order of the Golden Dawn, and later founded his own religion, The Law of Thelema, he in fact had no part in Satanism. His own practices were a combination of Ceremonial magick, sex magick and Freemasonry. He based his rituals upon Judeo-Christian principles.

Although Crowley did not consider himself a Satanist, many Satanists have incorporated elements from his writings into their own rituals. Many authors and TV personalities have stated that Crowley was the first Satanist, even though evidence points to the contrary. He passed through a Satanic phase, and did identify his guardian angel with Satan. But a number of nineteenth century literary greats such as Baudelaire, Byron, and Shelley should more properly be regarded as the first Satanists.

Religious Satanists existed well before the 1950s, although the term did not come into mass consciousness until the much publicized foundation of the Church of Satan, by Anton Szandor LaVey. This took place on April 30, 1966, and many Satanists, especially members of the Church of Satan consider 1966 as 1 Anno Satanas. The truth of the matter is, that although LaVey founded the largest collective group of Satanists in the world, and was very public about his beliefs and practices, he was not the founder of the religion. He did write many books on the subject that have essentially been the only books on Satanism readily available in most bookstores and libraries, which may have contributed to the the theory that he invented Satanism.

A number of Satanic periodicals, newsletters, and communities both online and offline exist. The are also several other established groups besides the Church of Satan. Most of these are found in North America and Europe.

Beliefs and Practices

The Satan recognized by most religious Satanists has little or nothing to do with the conservative Muslim or Christian view of Satan. Their concept is pre-Christian, taken from Pagan images symbolic of power, virility, sexuality, and sensuality. This Satan is more of a life-force, as opposed to a living quasi-deity, and has nothing to do with Hell (another Christian concept), pitchforks, demons, torture, bargaining with people's souls, cannibalism, sacrifices, or other profoundly evil deeds. The following tenets are commonly accepted by all traditions of religious Satanism.

* Satan is respected as a principle rather than a deity. Followers do not worhsip him, just as Buddhists do not worship Buddha.

* Emphasis is placed in the power of the individual, rather than in a god or goddess.

* Each person is their own redeemer, and fully responsible for all actions and consequences.

* Satanists respect life and view children and animals to be the purest form of life-force. Therefore, children and animals are not abused nor killed.

* Those who believe in Satan or Set, as a living entity do not worship him, but engage in a working partnership with him. (Unlike Christians, who worship and pray to their God.)

* Satanists believe that one should live life to the fullest, and encourage the individual to explore his lusts and desires.

* Satanists follow many rules, beliefs, and practices that contradict Christianity and most other religions.

* Uniqueness and creativity are encouraged.

* Many Satanists use as their main symbol the Sigil of Baphomet. It is a goat's head, drawn within an inverted pentacle (a five-pointed star with one point downward and two up, enclosed by a circle). Some sources say that it is a registered trademark of the Church of Satan. It is not; it first was used in the nineteenth century.

Satanists have occasionally engaged in a Black Mass for publicity purposes, in which the Roman Catholic Mass is ridiculed. But, otherwise, their rituals have no connection to those of Christianity.