Satanism is not a Congregational Religion
The 6/6/06 High Mass in Los Angeles was a most extraordinary event that I shall always remember. In the weeks that followed, some had asked me why the Church of Satan doesn't hold these sort of official, large-scale events more often. Some would even ask, "So when's the next event?" Well, our Church doesn’t work like that. This isn’t to say that Church of Satan members never get together in person. As a member myself, I have been to more than my fair share of not just Satanic group rituals, but also Satanic weddings, Satanic funerals, screenings of films created by Satanists, Church of Satan affiliated art shows, music performances, parties for Radio Free Satan, members’ birthday celebrations, and numerous other gatherings. But I know that when it comes to such meet-ups, I’m more of the exception than the rule. Most other Church of Satan members hardly ever meet with other members in person, usually by choice. Here are some of the reasons why you don't see the Church of Satan throwing large, official, public gatherings all the time:
- First and foremost, Satanism as a religion does not require group gatherings. Satanism is simply not one of those religions where adherents regularly congregate for services every week, or collectively have specific traditions for particular holidays. Obviously the Church of Satan is not a “church” in the sense of a physical building, but rather with the more general meaning of that word: a body of people who all share adherence to the same religion (Satanism). There’s no need for the Church of Satan to have municipal churches for Satanists to go to, or different regional branches. Satanists know that if they want to conduct a Satanic ritual, whether as solitary or with a group of other Satanists, then The Satanic Bible contains all of the information they need. No special conducting ministers, special buildings, or official sacred relics are required.
- Likewise, Satanism acknowledges that the desire and frequency of Satanic ritual is going to be different for different Satanists. It would be silly to expect the Church of Satan’s administration go through the hassle of scheduling and holding services worldwide for members who may or may not want to show up. More importantly, Satanism isn’t a religion for people who need to be led by the hand to do the things they want to go out and do as individuals, so it makes sense that the effort of pursuing and scheduling such activities should be upon the individual members who wish to do so, not the Church of Satan’s central office. As the old saying goes, you get out of membership what you put into it.
Satanism isn’t a religion for people who need to be led by the hand to do the things they want to go out and do…”
It’s worth mentioning however that for Satanists who do wish to network and meet up with other Satanists, membership in the Church of Satan still offers some enormous privileges. Like any organization, it helps facilitate the meeting of like-minded people, and the filtering out of most of the rest. For example, our members know that by restricting a gathering to only fellow Church of Satan members, you greatly filter out the clueless devil worshipers, Illuminati conspiracy theorists, dangerous Christian zealots, and other undesirables who would likely respond to some Craigslist ad asking for “Satanic ritual” participants. This membership privilege even extends to on-line interaction, as Church of Satan members know that private, members-only internet forums have an overwhelmingly higher quality of content and discussion than that of Satanism forums open to the public. The latter often attract proselytizers, spammers, anti-Satanism trolls, those with questions already answered in the www.churchofsatan.com FAQ documents, full-blown lunatics, and so on.
- Many Satanists want to keep their religious affiliation a secret. Satanists take no shame in being Satanists, but we know the reality of the prejudice many people can and do hold against anybody known to be a Satanist. We learned that all too well during the Satanic Panic hysteria of the 1980s. While there are many Satanists who have careers and lifestyles that allow themselves to be out-of-the-closet as Satanists, not all Satanists do. Some would thus like to keep their affiliation a secret, to help secure their career, relationships with family members, and personal safety in their local communities. So it may be in a Satanist’s best interest to avoid going to any Satanism-affiliated events with high media exposure, or at the very least those with lots of guests taking and uploading photographs with their smart phones. The Church of Satan respects the privacy of its members, especially in light of the Satanic virtue of self-preservation and awareness of the Satanic Sin of counter-productive pride.
- Security is a valid concern. This is in line with the choice to keep affiliation secret, and it's probably the most important reason of all for discouraging large, frequent, public gatherings. Advertising such large Satanist gatherings may eventually motivate some religious nut to show up with a bomb strapped to the chest, just to show us that "explosive" love Jesus has for us. I know we made sure we had no shortage of cops and bomb-sniffers on the night of 6/6/06, not to mention a maximum allowed number of attendees and other precautions.
- Many Satanists, by their nature, are not very social creatures anyway. Some even say they simply hate leaving town, or hate collaborations or social gatherings of almost any type. In fact, it's not unheard of for a Church of Satan member to possibly go through his or her entire life without ever meeting another fellow member in person. These members have their own reasons for having joined the Church of Satan, but social networking simply wasn't one of them.
- Just because two people are Satanists is no guarantee that they'll get along. In fact, members are not required or even expected to all get along with each other. This is a natural byproduct of having so many strong-willed individuals who, despite embracing the same core philosophy, personally manifest Satanism in vastly different ways. If two Satanists have personal conflicts with each other, it is suggested that they simply behave like adults and not associate with each other. The implications of this with social event organizers, let alone attendees, should be obvious. Which brings up another point:
- What's fun to one Satanist may be a burden to another. Assuming you can get a large number of Satanists together, and get them together periodically, it begs the question of what form the proposed gathering should take. We have our standard ceremonies in The Satanic Bible and The Satanic Rituals, but what about other activities? With so many strong individuals in the Church of Satan, it's ridiculous to think that there's some type of social event that everybody would consider personally enjoyable.
- Satanism is not a cause, and we’re not media whores. In recent years click-bait internet articles about alleged Satanists protesting in public or doing other publicity stunts to enrage Christian fundamentalists have proliferated. Some of these people don’t even consider themselves to be Satanists, but rather were just self-described atheists jokingly dressed as cartoonish “Satanists” for the sake of protesting, not unlike how some atheist protestors pretend to embrace the “Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster” parody religion to challenge creationists. Others do call themselves Satanists, but their actions show that they're missing the boat when it comes to Satanism (see the essay “Mirror, Mirror” by Magus Peter H. Gilmore).
… the Church of Satan has no official political position, as it leaves political stances up to the individual members.”
The Church of Satan is not a lobby group, and as such we don’t go out of our way to stage demonstrations together. In fact, the idea of a Satanism lobbying group is rather contradictory. First of all, the Church of Satan has no official political position, as it leaves political stances up to the individual members. Also, as it has been said, Satanists view Satanism as a tool, not a cause. Satanism is one of the few religions that state quite clearly that it’s not for everybody. We know there’s no real point in attempting to get “equal time” for Satanic nativity scenes, make Satanism palatable to the masses, or try to turn Satanism into a civil rights issue. Over the decades, we’ve seen self-labeled “Satanic” groups attempt to do these sorts of things, and not surprisingly they never end up accomplishing much of anything but noise. The bottom line here is that a protest gathering is the last sort of public gathering you should expect the Church of Satan to be doing.
- You don't need an "official event" to get together anyway. As mentioned near the start of this essay, the opportunity to hook up with fellow Satanists is always there. And although the Church of Satan isn't a social club, many Satanists through their affiliation have invariably met others with common interests and ended up developing incredible friendships. I know I certainly have. But many like myself simply don't have the desire to plug every road trip or birthday party as some "official Church of Satan conclave" open to others. Some of the other reasons listed above help you understand why.
In summary, it doesn’t make any sense for the Church of Satan to try to have large, frequent congregations of its members. The reasons listed above range from aspects that are impractical to things being contrary to the principles of Satanism. Still, no matter how many times it’s explained what the Church of Satan is and isn’t, some people remain willfully ignorant. This is particularly true for people who compulsively bash Anton LaVey or the Church of Satan. They erroneously think that the Church of Satan should be actively holding rituals for its members all the time. They can't seem to grasp the idea that the one-time membership fee is a membership fee, not a transaction for services. They mistakenly think that we have an obligation to play the victim card and act as public pests for the media circus. When they don't see the Church of Satan doing these things, they ignorantly conclude that we don't "do" anything as an organization.
As already stated, the Church of Satan is not a "church" in the sense of a building where people go to worship weekly. It is a cabal of individuals, and a mutual admiration society of real-life do-ers who commonly embrace and apply the principles outlined in The Satanic Bible. If you want to see what the Church of Satan is “doing,” you should look at what its members are doing. The official news feed shows great examples every week of members knowingly applying the principles of Satanism in their lives in different ways towards tangible ends. And these are just the ones who decided to keep the Church of Satan posted! Many members are out there moving the world in ways that would be hindered if their audiences knew of their affiliation. We’re not wasting our time just trying to think up new ways to piss off Christians. And while events like 6/6/06 and other official “conclaves” can make life-long impressions for fellow Satanists, we also know the strengths of working in the shadows. We are operating in the real world, applying Satanism to our careers and life passions, in order to advance ourselves as individuals. We create music as musicians, write and publish books as authors, advance technology as engineers, create artwork as artists, serve in law enforcement and the military, affect justice as lawyers, create our own films and radio shows, raise children, work for animal welfare, professionally conduct scientific research, and so much more. Church of Satan members are especially aware of this when they do get to meet other fellow members in person and hear their stories about what they do in life. I know I am. That’s why we call it a “mutual admiration society”. Like any other religion, organized group ceremony has its place and purpose, and other large social events certainly have their benefits and rewards. But just as the herd is foolish to mistake sensationalist news story headlines as the only activities of “Satanists” (or more generally, take the media as reality), members of the Church of Satan know that the real strengths lie in individual and collaborative action, not congregation.
So enjoy the rare and enriching gatherings with other fellow Church of Satan members, should you choose to attend. Appreciate them for what they are: special gatherings meant to mark significant dates in aptly chosen locations, kept secret from the outsiders until they have been safely enjoyed by the members of our cabal!
Magister in the Church of Satan
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