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Thomas Ryan, CSP Answers:
This is weird but is Satanism or devil worship a religion? Or is it just some kind of weird cult?
The notion of Satan arose in Jewish scripture. For example, in the Book of Job, the angel of the Lord called ‘the Satan’ (suh-tahn) was the one who challenged the followers of Yahweh. In the gospels, a character named “Satan” was described as the cosmic enemy of God and temptor of Jesus. Religions inspired by these texts (Jews, Christians and Muslims) typically regarded Satan as an adversary or enemy, a fallen angel or demon.
Modern Satanist groups (those which appeared after the 1960s) are widely diverse, but two major trends which can be seen are Theistic Satanism and Atheistic Satanism. Theistic Satanists venerate Satan as a supernatural deity (e.g. a God of sorts, but they wouldn’t use that word). In contrast, Atheistic Satanists consider themselves atheists and regard Satan as merely symbolic of certain human traits. Thus, the Church of Satan, an organization dedicated to the acceptance of the carnal self, was founded in 1966 by Anton Szandor LaVey.
Is it a religion? If you take the word “religion” in a strict sense to mean the service and worship of God, then, no, Satanism is not a religion. But if you take religion in a broader sense to mean devotion to an organized system of faith and worship or a personal set of beliefs and practices, then, yes, Satanism would seem to qualify as a religion, strange as it may seem.
Regardless, obviously the church does not consider Satanism of any kind to be in any way congruent with Catholic belief and discourages any practice of the occult or witchcraft.
Fr Thomas Ryan, CSP is the Director for the Paulist Office of Ecumenical and Interfaith Affairs.