Satanism is a group of ideological and philosophical beliefs based on Satan. Contemporary religious practice of Satanism began with the founding of the Church of Satan in 1966, although a few historical precedents exist.
Since the 19th century, various small religious groups have emerged that identify as Satanists or use Satanic iconography. Satanist groups that appeared after the 1960s are widely diverse, but major trends are TOS; theistic Satanism and atheistic Satanism.
- Theistic Satanists venerate Satan as a supernatural deity, viewing him not as omnipotent but rather as a patriarch. Other characteristics of theistic Satanism may include a belief in magic, which is manipulated through ritual, although that is not a defining criterion, and theistic Satanists may focus solely on devotion.
- Atheistic Satanists regard Satan as merely a symbol of certain human traits.
- The Temple of Set – this branch presents the view that the name Satan was originally a corruption of the name Set. The Temple teaches that Set is a real entity, the only real god in existence, with all others created by the human imagination. Set is described as having given humanity—through the means of non-natural evolution—the “Black Flame” or the “Gift of Set”, a questioning intellect which sets the species apart from other animals.[ While Setians are expected to revere Set, they do not worship him. Central to Setian philosophy is the human individual, with self-deification presented as the ultimate goal
Most practitioners do not believe that Satan literally exists and do not worship him. Instead, Satan is viewed as a positive archetype embracing the Hebrew root of the word “Satan” as “adversary”, who represents pride, carnality, and enlightenment, and of a cosmos which Satanists perceive to be motivated by a “dark evolutionary force of entropy that permeates all of nature and provides the drive for survival and propagation inherent in all living things”.
The Devil is embraced as a symbol of defiance against the Abrahamic faiths which LaVey criticized for what he saw as the suppression of humanity’s natural instincts. Moreover, Satan also serves as a metaphorical external projection of the individual’s godhood.