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Is Satanism a "Christian heresy"? Is Satanism "Abrahamic"?

by Diane Vera

Copyright © 2003 by Diane Vera. All rights reserved.

  1. Is Satanism a "Christian heresy"?
  2. Is Satanism an "Abrahamic religion"?
  3. Some Christian opinions

  1. Is Satanism a "Christian heresy?"

    Many Pagan Witches have said, in their "We're not Satanists" disclaimers, that Satanists are "Christians" or "Christian heretics." The point is that the idea of Satan is derived from Christianity (and Judaism), whereas Neo-Paganism aims to revive more ancient religious concepts.

    While that latter point is valid, and while it is indeed true that Neo-Pagan Witches are not Satanists, it is incorrect to speak of Satanism as "Christian" or a "Christian heresy." Although the idea of Satan is derived from Christianity, Satanism is too far outside the pale of Christian belief to qualify as a "Christian heresy." Neither Satanists nor Christian theologians consider Satanism to be "Christian" or a "Christian heresy."

    A Christian heretic is a person who at least professes to be a Christian and to worship the Christian God, but holds unorthodox beliefs. Satanists, as a general rule, do not profess to be Christian and do not worship the Christian God.

    According to the Catholic Encyclopedia's article on heresy:

    Heresy differs from apostasy. The apostate a fide abandons wholly the faith of Christ either by embracing Judaism, Islamism, Paganism, or simply by falling into naturalism and complete neglect of religion; the heretic always retains faith in Christ.

    Certainly the vast majority of Satanists cannot be said to "retain faith in Christ" any more than Muslims do. (Muslims do believe that Jesus was a prophet.) So, if a former Christian who embraces Islam is an "apostate," not a "heretic," then all the more so must this be true of a former Christian who embraces Satanism and who therefore, in the vast majority of cases, has ceased to worship the Biblical God at all..

    Not all Christians distinguish between "heresy" and "apostasy." Some conservative Protestants have described even Neo-Pagan Witchcraft as "heresy." (See, for example, Heresy in the Hood: Teen Witchcraft in America and Heresy in the Hood II by Linda P. Harvey.) Perhaps the distinction between "heretics" and "apostates" simply doesn't matter to them, because, in their view, we're all going to hell anyway.

    However, among those Christians who do make a clear distinction between the two, Satanism is NOT considered a mere "heresy."

    Of course, non-Christians may use the word "Christian" more broadly than Christians themselves do, and may therefore use the term "Christian heresy" more broadly too. However, Satanists are still not "Christian" or "Christian heretics" under any reasonable definition of what it means to be "Christian." At the very least, a Christian professes to worship the Christian God. Satanists do not.

    Furthermore, most theistic Satanists derive their theology from other sources besides just the Jewish/Christian/Islamic tradition. Many are either polytheistic or pantheistic, for example. Also, it is not true that theistic Satanists necessarily believe in the existence of the JCI God (as is claimed in some Pagan "We're not Satanists" disclaimers).

    It's also not true that Satanism is "just rebellion against Christianity," although Satanism certainly does have its rebellious aspect. For those who remain Satanists for more than a few years, Satanism is much more than just rebellion. And, insofar as Satanism does involve rebellion, Satanists tend to be rebels not just against Christianity, but against other aspects of our society as well.

    Satanism certainly does have roots in Christianity, but that doesn't make Satanism "just a Christian heresy," any more than Christianity is "just a Jewish heresy" or "just a Hellenistic Mystery religion heresy."

    For more about this issue, see Satanism, Paganism, and Christianity in Is Satanism "Pagan"??

  2. Is Satanism an "Abrahamic religion"?

    Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Bahai have all been referred to as "Abrahamic religions." The category "Abrahamic religions" could also encompass other, smaller religions that are thought to be partof that same tradition.

    Some Neo-Pagans will say that Satanism is an "Abrahamic religion." They say this to drive home the point that Neo-Pagans aim to revive religious ideas more ancient than any of the religions that believe in the idea of Satan.

    But what is an "Abrahamic religion"?

    To me, an "Abrahamic religion" is a religion which (1) worships (or at least professes to worship) the God of Abraham and (2) regards Abraham as a spiritual father (e.g. by regarding Abraham as a prophet, or by regarding the religion's own adherents as heirs to the Abrahamic covenant). By this defintion, Satanism is NOT an "Abrahamic religion," because Satanists, as a general rule, neither worship the God of Abraham nor regard Abraham as a spiritual father.

    Those who call Satanism "Abrahamic" are using that term much more broadly, to refer to any religion which uses any major themes that originated in Judaism, Christianity, or Islam. But such a broad meaning of "Abrahamic" is ridiculous. For example, there are Hindus who have adopted Jesus into their pantheon and regard him as an avatar of Vishnu. Are thay "Abrahamic"?

    Still other people, e.g. some Christians, define the term "Abrahamic" more narrowly than I do.

    Let's at least limit the term "Abrahamic" to those who worship the God of Abraham and regard Abraham as a spiritual father.

    Does Satanism have roots in the Abrahamic religions? Certainly. But does that make Satanism itself an "Abrahamic religion"? No. And most forms of Satanism don't have exclusively Abrahamic roots.

  3. Some Christian opinions

    Above, I cited the Catholic Encyclopedia and a nonstandard conservative Protestant opinion.

    For more standard conservative Protestant opinions, I would recommend entering "heresy" in the search engines of major evangelical Christian websites such as and (Note: These are comparatively moderate evangelical sites, not full-fledged fundamentalist sites. But they are conservative enough for "heresy" to be an issue they are actually concerned about.) You probably won't find a definition of "heresy," but you can tell what they mean from context. Usually the word "heresy" is applied to either (1) Christian sects with unusual doctrines, such as the Jehovah's Witnesses, or (2) people (typically pastors or other public figures) who don't adhere to their own denomination's official doctrines. (For example, some denominations hold "heresy trials" to decide whether to fire a pastor for preaching unusual stuff.) In both cases, the "heretics" are people who at least claim to be Christian.

    When researching this article, I joined some theologically-literate Christian Yahoo email groups and posted questions about the definition of "heresy" and the concept of an "Abrahamic religion." For those interested, here is more info about some of the Christian forums I joined, including links to some interesting posts. They include one Catholic group and two predominantly Protestant groups.

    Of course, the vast majority of rank-and-file Christians are not theologically literate and simply don't use words like "heresy" and "apostasy," let alone have any idea what those big words might mean. And that, no doubt, is the reason why Neo-Pagan Witches have gotten away with calling Satanism a "Christian heresy" -- just as Linda P. Harvey got away with calling even Neo-Pagan Witchcraft a "heresy," even to a conservative Christian audience.

For more about Pagan not-Satanists disclaimers, see A Critique of Wiccan and Other Neo-Pagan Disclaimers About Satanism (updated here). See also Stop scapegoating Satanists! Various Pagan groups and their not-Satanists disclaimers.

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