Black Goat Cabal > Essays > Devil worship
This page formerly displayed a brief essay by Melek titled "Devil Worshippers!!! Oh Dear Lord!" Note to Melek: If you want your article to be displayed here again, please email Diane Vera.
by Diane Vera
Copyright © 2006 Diane Vera. All rights reserved.
Many public relations-minded Satanists seem to believe that the key to improving Satanism's reputation is to displace all the negative stereotypes of "Satanists" onto "Devil worshipers." For example, some Satanists will say that Devil worshipers, not Satanists, are the ones who eat babies, in much the same way that some Wiccans will say that Satanists, not Wiccans, are the ones who eat babies.
The more dogmatic LaVeyans classify all theistic Satanists as Devil worshipers, implying that we're all terrible, awful, crazy people. Even some theistic / traditional Satanists, in turn, have bought into the LaVeyan notion that "Devil worship is not Satanism" and classify themselves as "Satanists," reserving the term "Devil worshiper" for other kinds of theistic / traditional Satanists whom they regard as even less respectable than themselves for whatever reason.
In my opinion, all of this is just silly.
For one thing, the very few violent criminals who do their thing in the name of Satan are more likely to call themselves "Satanists" than to call themselves "Devil worshipers." Indeed, the most visible semi-public group that has outright advocated violent criminal activity in the name of Satan, the Order of the Nine Angles, called themselves "Satanists" and poured contempt on the idea of "worship" as fervently as any LaVeyan. Ditto for well-known individual criminals such as Russell Smith.
Newspapers too are more likely to refer to our criminal fringe as "Satanists" rather than "Devil worshipers," if only because the word "Satanist" is shorter and can fit more easily into a headline. And there isn't much that anyone can do to change this, because no one has a copyright or trademark on the word "Satanism." The word "Satanism" was in dictionaries long before any of today's public Satanists were born.
Conversely, there is no real reason to believe that those of us who identify as "Devil worshipers" are any more likely to commit crimes in the name of Satan than those who identify as "Satanists, not Devil worshipers."
Furthermore, in the eyes of most people and most of the mass media, "Satanism" and "Devil worship" are synonymous. Newspaper articles which mention "Satanism" frequently also mention "Devil worship" as a synonym. For example, "Devil worship" is used in the title of Royal Navy to allow devil worship (CNN, October 24, 2004), even though Chris Cranmer is a member of LaVey's Church of Satan, which disowns "Devil worship."
Any attempt to make a hard-and-fast distinction between "Satanism" and "Devil worship" is going to look to most people like silly, politically correct hair-splitting. It looks especially silly when it comes from theistic Satanists. In a way it makes sense for atheistic symbolic Satanists to say that they are not Devil worshipers. After all, they don't even believe in Satan as an actual being, let alone worship Him. However, theistic Satanists, by definition, do believe in Satan and hold Him in high regard. Thus, in at least some senses of the words "Devil" and "worship," all theistic Satanists do indeed worship the Devil.
Some object to the word "worship" on the grounds that it implies self-abnegation. But it doesn't really mean that. It simply means honoring one's deity, especially in a formal ceremonial way, which is something nearly all theistic Satanists do at least once in a while.
So, vilifying "Devil worship" is not a good approach to public relations for Satanists, especially theistic Satanists. For some better and more honest approaches, see my article about Satanism's real-life criminal fringe: How should law-abiding Satanists respond? on my Against Satanic Panics website.
To me, the terms "Satanism" and "Devil worshiper" are not precisely synonymous. To me a Satanist is anyone with a favorable view of Satan. A Satanist may be either theistic (believing in and revering Satan as a god) or symbolic (regarding Satan as only a symbol of human qualities that one admires). Obviously, atheistic symbolic Satanists are not Devil worshipers. On the other hand, the term "Devil worship" or at least "devil worship" (lower case 'd') can reasonably refer not just to the worship of Satan, but also to the worship of any deity that was considered a devil in some pre-Abrahamic religion, such as Apep of ancient Egypt. Even those feminist Pagans who venerate Lilith could reasonably be called "devil worshipers" - though not Satanists - because Lilith, even in her original pre-Abrahamic incarnation as Lilitu, was always a dreaded demoness, and was never widely appreciated for any positive qualities until the 1970's or so. (See The historical Lilith on Renee Rosen's Lilith Shrine.) But the terms "Satanism" and "Devil worship" do overlap heavily, and to me it seems ridiculous to think that a good public relations strategy for Satanism would hinge on a semantic distinction between "Satanism" and "Devil worship."
Some Satanists, even some theistic Satanists, confine the term "Devil worship" to "reverse Christians." This doesn't seem reasonable to me either. As mentioned earlier, a "devil worshiper" (lower case 'd') could revere a god that was a devil in some pre-Abrahamic religion. On the other hand, a Devil worshiper (upper case 'D') could worship Satan in the context of a non-Christian theology such as polytheism or pantheism. Examples of Satanist Devil worship that are far from purely "reverse Christian" include OFS Demonolatry (with a pantheistic theology rooted in Hermetics; see A Demonolatry Primer) and the Church of Azazel (with a polytheistic theology that does encompass plenty of "reverse Christian" aspects, but does so within an essentially non-Abrahamic theological and epistemological framework).
For more about Devil worship, see the following articles:
See also: What is "traditional Satanism"?