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Our readers asked:

Is Satanism or devil worship a religion?

Thomas Ryan, CSP Answers:

This is weird but is Satanism or devil worship a religion?  Or is it just some kind of weird cult?

“Satanism” is a term that refers to a number of related beliefs and social phenomena. Their commonality is that they all feature the veneration or admiration of  Satan or similar figures.

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.

The Author : Thomas Ryan, CSP
Fr. Tom Ryan, CSP, directs the Paulist North American Office for Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations in Washington, D.C.
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Please note that the editorial staff reserves the right to not post comments it deems to be inappropriate and/or malicious in nature, as well as edit comments for length, clarity and fairness.
  • steph

    the problem of satanism isnt as small as this. it is widespread and has been in existance for much longer. although the worship of the devil seems to be a relatively new fad, Witchcraft has been in existance for thousands of years. It is seen in the African spirit religions voodoo and hoodoo, now spread to the caribbean ie haiti jamaica among others, as well as in britian as wicca-(2 types, one using power from nature and the other the power of demons and the bad guy himself in some cases ).
    they all use similar rituals but because of how old witchcraft is they have developed their different styles.

    apart from this , the satanism today seems to preach one main idea- that the person is the highest power and he or she can do whatever whenever they want.
    put on your tevevision set .wou will see how widespread this has become

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