The Thinly Veiled ‘Satanism’ in Our Culture
A federal court in Texas recently threw out a petition filed by The Satanic Temple (TST) to allow abortions as a religious ritual protected by the right to religious liberty. Although the case was rejected due to lack of standing and not on the merits of the case itself, the subject does raise an interesting question: Is Satanism a religion? Yes and no. The nominal satanism practiced by TST and others of the same sort is not a religion, but there is (as Christians are well aware) a very real sect that, although eschewing the name “Satanism,” does indeed worship and obey demons.
There are, in the United States, two major branches of nominal or “atheistic” Satanism: The Satanic Temple and the Church of Satan. Neither professes belief in a literal or supernatural Satan, nor do they claim to worship him. Instead, the literary Satan (perhaps best exemplified in John Milton’s epic “Paradise Lost”) is for them a symbol, a banner to march under.
On its website, the Church of Satan clarifies that, for its members, “Satan is the symbol that best suits the nature of we who are carnal by birth — people who feel no battles raging between our thoughts and feelings, we who do not embrace the concept of a soul imprisoned in a body. He represents pride, liberty, and individualism …” The group continues to explain, “Since the Satanist understands that all Gods are fiction, instead of bending a knee in worship to — or seeking friendship or unity with — such mythical entities, he places himself at the center of his own subjective universe as his own highest value.” In other words, atheistic Satanists don’t worship Satan; they instead, whether they realize it or not, follow in Satan’s own footsteps and worship themselves.
TST also views Satan as no more than a symbol. To the question “Do you worship Satan?” on its FAQ page, TST responds, “No, nor do we believe in the existence of Satan or the supernatural. The Satanic Temple believes that religion can, and should, be divorced from superstition. … To embrace the name Satan is to embrace rational inquiry removed from supernaturalism and archaic tradition-based superstitions.” In philosophical and theological terms, supernaturalism is the belief that God is superior to and orders nature, including morals; in other words, there is a Creator responsible for creation. True to atheistic form, TST insists, “The idea that religion belongs to supernaturalists is ignorant, backward, and offensive.”
In short, nominal Satanism is not a religion: there is no belief in any god, there is no supernaturalism, there is no worship (other than worship of the self, which would be better termed narcissism or hedonism than religion), there is no similarity between nominal Satanism and any actual religion, other than the fact that each is organized. Nominal Satanism is simply organized atheism, an actual absence of religion. Lucien Greaves, the co-founder of TST, told The New York Times in 2015 that “he no more believes in a literal Satan than he does in a literal God,” but he “finds special meaning in Satanism, which represents to him the solidarity of outsiders, those judged and excluded by the mainstream.”
These words are strikingly similar to words penned by infamous atheist and early pioneer of leftism Saul Alinsky. When asked in 1966 whether — if, after death, he found his atheism proved false — he would choose to go to Heaven or to Hell, Alinsky, responded, “Given a choice, I think I would pick Hell. The reason I’d pick Hell is because that’s where all the have-nots are.” Alinsky also dedicated his seminal 1971 book “Rules for Radicals” to “the first radical known to man who rebelled against the establishment and did it so effectively that he at least won his own kingdom — Lucifer.”
Despite the irreligious atheism of groups like TST and the Church of Satan, there is a real sect of those who do not call themselves Satanists but nonetheless worship and serve demons. While it’s convenient to believe that the actual worship of demons died out in the early Medieval Ages or else is relegated to dark jungles deep in Africa or remote arctic-adjacent wastelands, the practice is alive and well and firmly entrenched in liberal, Western corporations and governments. How else does one explain the rabid promotion of abortion by nearly every individual or organization with any semblance of political, financial, or cultural power?
Last year, for example, U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen insisted abortions are good for the economy, shortly before the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. Earlier this year, conservative journalist and commentator Tucker Carlson observed that arguments in favor of abortion previously consisted of claiming that abortion is “sometimes necessary,” but that these arguments have now devolved to something resembling pre-Christian pagan worship. On Yellen’s abortion advocacy, Carlson quipped, “If you’re telling me that abortion is a positive good … you’re arguing for child sacrifice…. That’s like an Aztec principle, actually.”
In the Old Testament, the Israelites turned for a time (on more than one occasion) to worshipping a god known commonly as Baal, but sometimes called Moloch. Moloch is thought to be an Old Testament spelling of a Phoenician word meaning “king,” which is also what the name Baal means. As the name Moloch appears nowhere outside Scripture, scholars have theorized that Moloch and Baal are one and the same. Of note, Baal is associated with the demon Beelzebub: just as the name Baal means “king” or “lord,” the name Beelzebub is often translated as “lord of the flies,” a pejorative title indicating Baal as the ruler of filth. Beelzebub is thought to be another name for Satan or, at the very least, among the chief of his demons. A common practice amongst Baal- or Moloch-worshippers was child sacrifice — namely, the burning of live infants. Scripture recounts that those bowing to the bloodthirsty god would make their infant children “pass through the fire to Moloch” (2 Kings 23:10) in exchange for fertility or good weather or other such “goods.”
This practice is far from dead. At the 2020 Golden Globe awards, actress Michelle Williams famously boasted of sacrificing her unborn child in order to win her award. Clutching her golden idol, she declared, “I wouldn’t have been able to do this without employing a woman’s right to choose.” As if the literal golden idol weren’t telling enough, she continued to clarify that abortion is a part of her faith, saying, “I know my choices might look different but thank God or whomever you pray to that we live in a country founded on the principle that I am free to live by my faith and you are free to live by yours.”
Satanism, then, is a real religion that is practiced in the United States, but not by the likes of TST and the Church of Satan. These organizations are blatantly atheistic and would undoubtedly fail any “sincerely held religious beliefs” tests that came their way — not least of all because they have no religious beliefs, much less sincerely held ones. TST’s abortion advocacy is based on little more than a hedonistic desire to have sex without responsibilities, coupled with a childishly-perverse pleasure in mocking Christianity. But there are those today for whom abortion really is a religious sacrifice: just as in the days of old, children are still slaughtered and sacrificed at the altar of Baal or Moloch or Beelzebub, the ruler of this world of filth.
S.A. McCarthy serves as a news writer at The Washington Stand.