Paganism vs Satanism – Learning About Tolerance

Tolerance And Unconditional Love

Wise Old WolfI have always contended that the more we learn about each other, the more we build tolerance and peace within the world. I was invited to a round table discussion on The Ænigma Project to discuss Satanism. When I shared that appearance with friends and colleagues they were turned off. A few immediately said “Why are you talking about such a dark subject?” or “I avoid that scary stuff”. This from people who claim that their purpose in life is to practice and teach “unconditional love”. Well I don’t believe in unconditional love, but interestingly enough I seem to be the one practicing it, along with the other members of the show’s panel and those who did tuned in.

I can appreciate the “ickiness” perspective from the general public. But from colleagues, I must say I was highly disappointed. Being open minded and practicing what you preach is a necessity to any spiritual leader, teacher or minister/priest/priestess. If you can’t walk your talk, who are you serving?

Learning about other religions doesn’t mean you’re going to be secretly converted into something you want no part of. It doesn’t mean your own faith will be diminished or is in jeopardy of being altered. Unless you already have a shaky view of your beliefs in the first place.

Learning about other belief systems simply means you’re taking a step to understand the perspectives of others and gain a factual approach to their faith. The more we understand about each other, the more we understand that we’re all a lot more alike than we are different. Perhaps through that exercise we can gain tolerance and achieve peace, or at least put into practice the concept of unconditional love.

De-Mystifying The Propaganda

Like Paganism, Satanism has received a bum rap and although some of that is self created, the negative propaganda over the past centuries and definitely over the past six decades have created a delusion of what the religion actually is about. I say self created because today’s modern Satanism had a big hand in promoting the dark image of its belief, even if it wasn’t true. Why? Because here in America, negativity sells!

But let’s start with some basics before we get into the controversy and commonalities. There are probably thousands of groups around the world, each one defining their approach or beliefs in slightly different ways. Some researchers (and by that I mean unbiased researchers) believe that all individual groups can be categories into one of the 3 major branches of Satanism. Here in the America that’s probably more true than not. So let’s start here in the U.S. for now.

There are basically 3 branches or categories of Satanism in existence today here in the U.S.

The first branch are the “Religious” or “True” Satanists. They are defined by as a small religious group that is unrelated to any other faith, and whose members feel free to satisfy their urges responsibly, exhibit kindness to their friends, and attack their enemies. Some have suggested, tongue in cheek, that this form of Satanism is the official religion of the corporate boardroom. The Church of Satan is the largest and most well known group of this branch. Established in 1966 by Anton Szandor LaVey, this group has a specific doctrine and set of practices which he set forth in “The Satanic Bible“.

The next well known group is a spin-off of the Church of Satan, known as the Temple of Set. This is a continuation of the Religious Satanists. In its early days the Church of Satan required training and testing for members to rise through the ranks or levels to become a High Priests of their order. In 1975, LaVey decided to change that practice and allowed individuals to “buy into” the priesthood. Some existing members strongly opposed this policy and eventually left the group to start the Temple Of Set. According to the University Of Virginia’s Religious Movements: Michael Aquino joined the Church of Satan in 1969, became one of the higher ranking priests, known as a Magister IV°, the highest level below the High Priest (the position held by LaVey). When the conflict arose, Aquino lead the exodus of 28 members and established the Temple of Set. Of the two groups, the Temple of Set is much more secluded and secretive. Even their official website is limiting in the information it provides to the public.

The second branch of Satanists are suggested by to be known as Theistic Satanist and is defined as One who worships the Christian devil. This is a group that can trace its existence to the Renaissance, but such practices and groups/individuals were rare, and remain so today. They follow “biblical” doctrine concerning Lucifer as the God of Evil, not as the fallen angel. He is a deity seemingly on the same level as Yahweh. For me, this group is not solely Christian but rather is based on Abrahamic religion, albeit the negative side of the belief system. They are NOT pagan.

Keep in mind that pagan is defined as any religious group that does not follow Abrahamic doctrine. This includes Judaism, Muslim and Christian denominations of all kinds and denominations. In order for Theistic Satanists to exist, they must first believe in the Abrahamic doctrine set forth in the Torah, Koran and/or The Bible. By their own belief system you could say they practice the negative dark side of Christianity (or Judaism or Muslim).

While I respect the attempt to distinguish the difference between Religious Satanists and Theistic Satanists by, I think that calling both groups Satanists creates unnecessary confusion. Theistic Satanists would be better served with a unique label all to their own; such Luciferarians or simply Devilites. I’m sure they can define their own label and I mean no disrespect. But it does add to the confusion.

The third branch are the Dabblers. These are people who have no real knowledge about what Satanism is in any branch and are making it up as they go. Or they base their beliefs and understandings on Hollywood’s depiction of Satanism through horror TV and movies. Similar books and other forms of entertainment certainly promote an unrealistic view of the Religious Satanist as well.

Dabblers blame their negative, antisocial or rebellious behavior on what they profess is an expression of their satanic religion. This group is typically associated with teens who are rebelling against their parents, young adults who are rebelling against authority, or the mentally unstable. Personally I think this type of generalization leaves out a large number of people, but I also think such generalizations are dangerous as it may try to explain away serious issues that may need medical or psychological attention.

The Religious Satanists

Of these 3 branches I would like to focus on the Religious Satanists, since that’s really who we are thinking of when we often refer to the true Satanists. I won’t get into a long explanation of true Satanic beliefs and practices. There are several well researched sites that have done that and I will list them at the end of this article. But I would like to cover 3 basic principles of belief that they hold to.

The Church of Satan Doctrine:
The nine Satanic statements: These form the core of the Church of Satan beliefs. They were written by Anton LaVey. In abridged form, they state that Satan represents:

  • Indulgence, not abstinence.
  • Vital existence, not spiritual pipe dreams.
  • Undefiled wisdom, not hypocritical self-deceit.
  • Kindness to those deserving of it, not love wasted on ingrates.
  • Vengeance, not turning the other cheek.
  • Responsibility to the responsible, instead of concern for psychic vampires.
  • Man as just another animal – the most vicious of all.
  • Gratification of all ones desires.
  • The best friend that the Christian Church has had as he has kept it in business for centuries.

The nine Satanic sins are:

  • Stupidity.
  • Pretentiousness.
  • Solipsism. (The theory that only the self exists, or can be proved to exist.)
  • Self-deceit.
  • Herd conformity.
  • Lack of perspective.
  • Forgetfulness of past orthodoxies.
  • Counterproductive pride.
  • Lack of aesthetics. (There is beauty in all things).

The Eleven Satanic Rules of the Earth. These are 11 rules of behavior written by Anton LaVey in 1967. They include rules governing:

  • Conversations
  • Behavior towards guests
  • Avoiding theft
  • Acknowledging the power of magick (yes there’s a reason for the spelling with a “k”)
  • Avoiding harm to children
  • Refraining from killing animals
  • Behavior towards others


  • People have created Gods in many forms; pick one that might be useful to you.
  • Heaven and Hell do not exist.
  • Satan is not closely related to the modern (post 1400 AD) concept of the Christian devil. Satanists view Satan as a pre-Christian life principle which represents the carnal, earthly, and mundane aspects of life.
  • Satan is not a being, or a living entity; he is a force of nature.
  • Human life is held in sacred regard. Children in particular and animals are not to be harmed.
  • “Satan…represents love, kindness and respect to those who deserve it.”
  • Black Masses (parodies of the Roman Catholic religious service) are not normally performed by Satanists (except on rare occasions for their entertainment or publicity value).

Much of these principles don’t sound half bad, do they? They certainly don’t hold up to the propaganda of virgin, child or animal sacrifices. Maybe one of the reasons these principles sound familiar to a point is because they are based in part on pagan principles. 

The Pagan Influences

Many books have been written about Religious Satanism. Sadly most of what you find on the bookshelves at the library and book store aren’t by Satanists, but rather Christians who vilify the practices, jump to conclusions, link doctrines that have no real apparent connection and attempt to re-write history to suit their condemnation.

Let’s get one of the obvious statements out of the way early. Religious Satanism IS pagan. Just as Hindu, Buddhism, and all the various forms of Shamanism are also pagan. None of these groups follow Abrahamic doctrine, and by definition and academically speaking, that puts us all in the category of pagan belief systems. Once again we have a confusing label to define a wide variety of unrelated and unconnected religions.

However what we know today as the nature based pagan practices and Religious Satanism are not so far apart or unrelated as some might suggest. They are connected even though the approaches to self discovery are different and varied, they do hold a great deal of similar concepts. But why?

One common misconception about this relationship involves Alister Crowley. Early ‘mews’ reports about Crowley point to his writings and activities as being the one who created the first groups of Religious Satanism and not LaVey. Crowley contributed greatly to the “magical revival,” which occurred during the first half of the 20th Century. Crowley’s teachings on magik rested between high ceremonial magik and nature based systems of neo-paganism magik. He was part of the Golden Dawn (an early high magik pagan organization). He was appointed chief of the British section of the Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO), which blended ceremonial magic, sex magic and Freemasonry into its practices and beliefs. He remained the Outer Head of the Order from 1922 to 1947. And he later established the pagan tradition of Thelema.

LaVey is known to have associated with Crowley or at the very least read his many books along with others. And while the practices of Crowley are similar, there are still differences in belief from the magikal ceremonial pagan approach of Crowley and the eclectic mishmash of beliefs established by LaVey. But the myth continues from the Christian vilification because of the many aspects that LaVey pulled from Crowley and others to establish the Church of Satan.

I think Satanists would agree that it does a disservice to LaVey and his work in creating the Church of Satan. Crowley is not credited with creating Gardnerarian Wicca which was created by Gerald Gardner. And we know for sure Gardner was a student of Crowley’s. So why lesson the credit of LaVey? Well for that you’d have to consider the source of this misinformation; the Christian’s who vilify anything that isn’t Christian.

So we know like many before him, LaVey drew from his knowledge, research and experiences and pulled pieces that fit his puzzle and created his own eclectic views and set down the foundation of Satantic doctrine. Nothing wrong with that. What makes his establishment different from neo-pagan approaches is his view of the Divine and the Divine Consciousness. This is where he separates Satanic principles from neo-pagan or Pagan Metaphysical concepts. 

Pagan vs. Satanism

In Pagan Metaphysics we believe that we are Divinely created and “part of” a larger Divine Consciousness. I alone am not the Goddess, you are not the God; but you and I and all things seen and unseen make up the entire Divine Consciousness, seen and unseen.

Religious Satanists view the Divine within. They ARE God/Goddess and that’s it. They create the “divine” world and therefore they hold domain over it. Religious Satanists in general hold neo-pagans as hypocrites specifically for the belief in the Wiccan rule of “An in it harm none”. 

That’s a misconception on their part however. Not all neo-pagans are Wiccan, and we don’t all follow the Wiccan Rede. My tradition for instance, Strega and a few other neo-pagan traditions do not follow this rule. Certainly Ceremonial Magicians don’t either. Those of us who do not put this rule into our principles believe we are all accountable and responsible for our actions.

What’s termed “negative” or “black” magik can be used, but you must accept the consequences of those actions. Additionally we don’t typically go out of our way to cast negative magik and it’s generally used in retaliation after being attacked first. Religious Satanists however would be the first to attack and not wait for an enemy to strike and then retaliate. So there is a slight difference in approach, but not much of one. 

An additional difference is the concept of indulging one’s whims and desires. Religious Satanists have made this one of their core beliefs. Where as in neo-paganism we would say there are consequences to indulging harmful whims and desires. We believe in the respect of all things, and that runs the gambit from the respect of self, partners, love to the respect of physical and mental health and happiness. So there are some indulgences that should be set aside and not indulged as they could be deemed harmful to the self or others.

Some distinctions are made, or I should say are attempts to make light of or ridicule the practices of other faiths outside of Religious Satanism. I say attempt, because once again there misconceptions held by the Satanists about neo-pagan practices. There are two examples of this that can be easily discussed:

  • One white candle is placed to the right of the altar; it symbolizes the belief of Satanists in the hypocrisy of “White Magicians” and Wiccans because of the latter’s insistence on avoiding doing harm to others.
  • At least one black candle, representing the Powers of Darkness, is placed to the left of the altar. These powers are sources of energy which are currently unknown and hidden. Additional black candles are oriented as needed to provide sufficient illumination.
  • A chalice, ideally made of silver is used for Satanic rituals. It may not be formed of gold because that is a metal that Satanists associate with Christianity. Wiccan, and other Neo-pagan religions.

In neo-paganism a white candle is used as a centerpiece to open a circle. But this isn’t always the case. Color in candle magik varies greatly depending on one’s intent and the individuals color associations. For instance here in the U.S. we associate white with purity and brides wear white for weddings. In India, white is a color associated with funerals and red is associated with weddings. Culture and personal perspectives play a big role in the correspondences of color in magik. Even so, many other pagan religions; not only neo-pagan, associate black with negative energies or to represent the unknown, unseen or hidden. 

In neo-paganism a chalice is ideally made from natural materials or metals. But this is not set in stone. Many practitioners use silver, gold, pewter, wood, ceramic and a variety of other materials. Personally I use a pewter chalice. I have a friend who creates leather mugs and cups for Renaissance Festivals and is chalice is made of leather and wood.

No matter how we each try to be different, bottom line is all religions are much more alike than we are different. We all hold rituals, we all share in celebrations, we light candles, conduct various forms of prayer, be they spells or prayers. We all hold the important things in life in respect, children, animals and personal relationships.

Instead of avoiding others based on misconceptions that come from propaganda and fear, wouldn’t it be nice if we could simply open our minds and learn about each other first. You never know, you may find a new friend and great ally that shares many of your same perspectives. And together you can spread your tolerance for each other to someone else and really make a difference in spreading peace to others in your community.


On Monday night (May 7, 2012), Paul Cagle, Sushi and I sat at our round table for The Ænigma Project and held a discussion about Satanism: Beliefs & Practices. If you missed the show you can still listen to this episode on The Ænigma Project’s Blog podcast.

© 2012 Springwolf, D.D., Ph.D. Springwolf Reflections / Spring’s Haven, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

4 thoughts on “Paganism vs Satanism – Learning About Tolerance

  1. I would love to learn more about Religious Satanism and as much pagan things I can. I already worship the earth as if it were a god, but that was before I even heard of Wicca and such. At first I wanted to follow the teachings of the Church of Satan, but more questions and thoughts began to fill my head as I continued reading this article. I was not raised religious in any way, so I guess one could say I’m searching for answers.

    • You’re mixing spiritual paths in your comment here.
      Paganism and Satanism aren’t the same path. Satanists find our path too fluff bunny for their tastes. So if you want to learn about them, you should search for the Church of Satan or the Temple of Set. I think there are links to these in the article.
      Wicca is a tradition (or denomination) within Paganism, which is what we focus on here. You might look through the A-Z page for additional topics there. You might start with: Getting Started On Your Spiritual Path

  2. !Thank you Spring Wolf.
    Intelligent, honest, un-biased, well-placed writing form…and liberating (clearing some societally placed misconceptions), as well as informative.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.