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.
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.