Most names of religions (like Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, etc.) have well defined meanings. One exception is Satanism: Some people feels that all non-Christian religions and all Christian denominations other than there own are forms of Satanism. This would imply that all Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims - in fact at least 75% of the world's population are Satanists. Others feel that all religions other than Judaism or Christianity are inspired by Satan and are thus forms of Satanism. Large numbers of people feel that a wide variety of unrelated, benign religions (such as Santeria and other Caribbean religions, Druids, New Age, Wicca, etc.) are forms of Satanism. Such definitions create great confusion. The following are recommended terms and descriptions for four essentially unrelated religions that have been called Satanism:
Religious Satanism: This faith includes the recognition of Satan, either as a deity or as a principle. Followers are usually serious adults, although a few are teenagers. Three main traditions exist: the Church of Satan, the Temple of Set and the Church of Satanic Liberation. Other short-lived Satanic groups currently exist and have existed in the recent past. According to Statistic Canada, the 1991 census found 335 Canadians who identified themselves as Satanists. The actual number is probably significantly larger. A US Department of the Army pamphlet #165-13 (1) estimated that there were 10 to 20 thousand members of the Church of Satan in the US during the late 1970's. Accurate data for this movement is impossible to estimate, since the largest group (the Church of Satan) does not release its membership totals.
It is important to realize that the Satan that they recognize has few if any points of similarity with the Christian concept of Satan. The Satanists' concept of Satan is pre-Christian, and derived from the Pagan image of power, virility, sexuality and sensuality. To most Satanists, Satan is a force of nature, not a living quasi-deity. Their Satan has nothing to do with Hell, demons, pitchforks and profound evil. They have occasionally engaged in a Black Mass for publicity purposes, in which the Roman Catholic Mass is ridiculed. But, otherwise, their rituals have no connection to Christian rituals.
Gothic Satanism: It is a largely imaginary, profoundly evil religion that was invented during the late Middle Ages. Concepts included ritual killing of children, selling their soul to the devil, breaking crucifixes, conducting black masses, etc. It has never existed in the past on any organized level, and does not exist today, except in the imagination of the public. It was an invention of the Christian Church. A very small number of anti-Christian believers do exist who have taken their rituals from Christian literature. They picked up the idea of the inverted cross symbol from anti-Satanic writings; they do worship Satan, etc. However, they do not commit criminal acts, and do not abuse other people.
Satanic Dabblers: A syncretistic religion which blend of elements taken from Religious Satanism, Gothic Satanism, ceremonial Magick, and any other useful sources of ritual that they can find. It is typically practiced by rebellious teenagers or young adults- typically for a short interval. They probably number in the tens or hundreds of thousands at any one time in North America. An exact estimate is impossible to obtain, since they are totally devoid of any central organization. They occasionally engage in minor criminal activities such as vandalizing cemeteries and graffiti involving Satanic symbols. In very rare instances, a few have been known to sacrifice animals.
Other types of Satanism: Occasionally, serial murderers will claim
to be Satanists in order to justify their horrendous activities.
Police investigation reveals that they know little about the religion.
A small percentage of child molesters will abuse children in a
Satanic setting as a means of controlling the victims. The molesters
are not actual Satanists; they are simply using the facade of Satanism
to further their criminal acts. Some heavy metal rock bands pretend
to be associated with Satanism. Their main reason is to gain notoriety
in order to sell more records. These three quasi-Satanic groups
will not be dealt with further in this information sheet.