By Scott Zielsdorf

When prompted to consider a religion with such a bold name as “Satanism,” one might conceive all sorts of mental imagery regarding horrifying rituals and blatant devil worship. However, the fact of the matter is that most people who identify as Satanists do no such thing.

Satanism is to many a strange and taboo religious movement veiled by dark symbology–but what is it really about?

Satanism, much like any other established religion, can be broken up into multiple variations or sects. The two most distinct being the differing views regarding the character of the devil. The most popular in mainstream society is atheistic Satanism; this form of belief functions on the notion that Satan does not actually exist and is merely a prominent symbol by which the organization bases its beliefs.

Hail Satan Documentary

The Satanic Temple

The other side being theistic or “Spiritual” Satanism, essentially a belief that the devil is an existing deity to be worshipped. It is essential to note the distinction between atheistic and theistic Satanism. Maddy is an openly practicing atheistic Satanist, who notes there are many misconceptions regarding her beliefs:

“I think the biggest misconception is that I worship the devil. Because I don’t. I worship myself. Satanism is more an anti-religion based on self-love and empowering one’s self.”

Atheistic Satanism can be further defined by two distinct organizations. The first being the Church of Satan, dating back to its founding on the principles of Anton LaVey’s Satanic Bible in 1966. The second is the recently established Satanic Temple, a group that considers itself to be a combined religious and political movement, as well as a “reformation” of the Satanist religion. Maddy personally identifies with this form of Satanism.

“I believe they are doing great things currently…they aren’t homophobic or misogynistic like the Church of Satan.”

Some might find it shocking that the tenets of the Satanic Temple actually promote a positive and empathetic lifestyle, made immediately evident as the first tenet on their website reads: “One should strive to act with compassion and empathy toward all creatures in accordance with reason.”

The Satanic Temple, as a political movement, gained notoriety in 2014 when it pushed to promote the secularism of the state. This was regarding a religious monument erected in a public government space and the resulting news coverage gained them increased national attention. Most recently, the organization has gained further publicity with the debut of a documentary titled “Hail Satan?” earlier this year, giving an in-depth look into the movement.

So far the group has established several chapters throughout America, along with one officially recognized chapter in Canada, located in Ottawa. Satanism as both a political movement and religion has been on the rise for the last few years.

Statistics from a 2011 Canadian Household Survey showed that 1,050 Canadians publicly identified as Satanists, a number that presumably has grown in the last eight years as the movement has gained increased exposure.

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