Wednesday, January 26, 2011

On Atheistic Satanism-The Satanic Bible and Anton LaVey

Ever since I saw this painting (that I've completely forgotten what it's called), I've been fascinated by the idea of Satan, the Devil, Lucifer. The Devil is usually depicted as a little, black, horned man who's holding a red pitchfork and cackling manically. (Actually, that's more of the image of a demon, but...) But this painting showed a young, beautiful, dark skinned man staring at the ground in sorrow. This was a completely new representation of the draculean image that I had grown up with. Later, I learnt of John Milton and his daring tale of Lucifer as a handsome, proud, independent man who ruled the Underworld in Paradise Lost. The usual Christian story of the fall of the Devil is that Lucifer (LIghtbringer) Morningstar, God's most beautiful and favourite angel went up against him because he thought he could overthrow the Creator. Instead, he was thrown down into Hell with his minions, other fallen angels, or demons. Ever since I was young, I had always veered towards the dark side of things, so when I went to church, rather than looking at depictions of Heaven, I was instantly attracted to those of Hell. Flames, burning humans, dragons, and demons with pitchforks were more interesting to me than the green field of Elysium. But not until I started reading the Sandman series did I actually begin to be quite interested in Lucifer. In one of the volumes, he's depicted as a young man with blond hair who's the keeper of Hell. He's quite charming, actually. And extremely hot.

Anyway. So I looked up Satanism on Wikipedia and it seems that there are two types: Theistic Satanism (the worship of the Devil as a deity) and Atheistic Satanism (the practice of Satanic magic and rituals, but not the worship of the Devil as a deity). I looked into Atheistic Satanism, read the Wiki article, and decided it was an interesting enough religion to get to the basis of. The easiest and most efficient way sometimes to understand what a religion is truly about is to read the book that it is based on, in this case, The Satanic Bible. The book was written by Anton LaVey, who deemed himself the head of the Church of Satan. I just finished the book today and I want to make some points about what I noticed, what I liked, and what I didn't like.

Anton LaVey wrote The Satanic Bible primarily as an attack against Christianity. His name for the religion, Satanism, was chosen because "Satan" means "adversary, opposer", and Satan is the foe of God (aka Christianity). LaVey spends most of the book scorning other religions, not just Christianity, but Buddhism and "fake" Satanism as well, declaring they're hypocrital and untrue. I don't have an issue with a religion berating another one. After all, that's their job, especially if they're a universalizing religion. But making a religion explicitly to berate a religion seems hypocritical. LaVey points out that many "Christian" political and powerful figures are taking advantage of the lower classes through the means of money. Yet The Satanic Bible itself is a book, I believe, specifically written for commercialism because of its attack on religion (and the fact that it's basically an age-old philosophy tied with a bit of rituals and magic to make it more appreciated by the voodoo witch folk).

The main philosophy of Atheistic Satanism, LaVey style is that man is at his base a selfish, indulgent animal that has the capability to be morally "better" than animals because of their higher intellect, but usually, are not. Satanism is supposedly the only religion (according to its creator) that celebrates the indulgences of the flesh and allows everyone to do what they like, within reason, and not to be dragged down by the guilt that other religions provide them with. This sounds like a decent philosophy and on the whole, I actually agree with it, with exceptions. However, there are some further comments I'd like to make. The "Ten Commandments", if we can say, of Atheistic Satanism can be summarized in The Nine Satanic Statements:

1. Satan represents indulgence, instead of abstinence.
By this, man should not abstain from pleasures. This is basically a Hedonistic approach to life, which is all totally fine, except that Satanism has one aspect that Hedonism does not. The latter professes that the greatest good is pleasure, and that one should seek the greatest good no matter who gets hurt. Satanism doesn't condone that behaviour and says that you can do anything you'd like as long as it doesn't hurt anyone else or involve anyone that doesn't want to be involved. Later in the book, LaVey clarifies that indulgence is not compulsion. Indulgence is doing what you like within measure, whereas compulsion is doing what you like because you've been suppressed for a length of time from the action (so you act out).

2. Satan represents vital existence, instead of spiritual pipe dreams.

3. Satan represents undefiled wisdom, instead of hypocritical self-deceit.
I agree with this, but in a way, it seems to me that Atheistic Satanism is also hypocritical. LaVey seems so sure that he's the one who's right. How does he know? How can he be so sure? I don't believe in his magic mumbo jumbo and he doesn't believe in "white" magicians (who only do spells for altruistic purposes). He is just as bad as any other prophet that he berates against.

4. Satan represents kindness to those who deserve it, instead of love wated on ingrates.

5. Satan represents vengeance, instead of turning the other cheek.
This is the point I have the most issue with. This is a blatant attack on Christianity, obviously. I don't completely agree with the "turn the other cheek" philosophy myself. Sometimes, you have to stand up for yourself and beat the person up. But sometimes, it irritates your enemy more if you treat them with kindness. Forgiveness is also a virtue and Satanism says nothing about that. If someone does you a wrong, you can either slice them open with a sword or you can brush it off as the stupidity it is. It seemed to me that this point advocates a bit too much violence than I'm comfortable with.

6. Satan represents responsibility to the responsible, instead of concern for psychic vampires.

Something to be said about vampires here. They exist. I know you're thinking "What the fuck is she talking about, vampires don't exist, are you crazy?" It depends on your definition of vampire. If you mean someone who drinks other people's blood, sleeps in a coffin, is extremely pale, etc...than yes. Vampires exist. Believe it or not, there are people who drink other people's blood, who do sleep in coffins, who believe that they need blood to survive, and who form communities with other vampires. This has been going around for a long time, so wake up and smell the coffee.* If you don't believe me, watch this episode of Tyra Banks's show. It's surprisingly quite good and explains quite a lot about the subculture. Anyway, to give you a head start, there are three types of vampires: blood vampires that solely feed on other people's blood (usually, the process is quite hygienic and the blood donor has been tested for STD's and HIV/AIDS); psychic vampires (who feed off of the energy of people); and a combination of both. What LaVey meant in his sixth point was to beware of those psychic vampires who are needy and who feed off of you without you being able to get rid of them because you feel so indebted to them even though they haven't done a thing for you.

7. Satan represents man as just another animal, sometimes better, more often worse than those that walk on all fours, who, because of his "divine spiritual and intellectual development", has become the most vicious animal of all.

8. Satan represents all of the so-called sins, as they all lead to physical, mental, or emotional gratification.

9. Satan has been the best friend the church has ever had, as he has kept it in business al these years.

The whole philosophy is of controlled selfishness. I do believe that humans are inherently selfish and that they made their moral code because of their selfishness. My example is that if your neighbour has a sheep and you want his sheep, you can just kill him and have his sheep (and his wife, his farm, etc). But if a natural disaster comes and you need his help, he won't be there, and you'll die. So it is better to let your neighbour live and not have the sheep (who knows, if you ask him, he may let you have it) and therefore, you profit also. This is a very basic example, but I think that this is really how morality came about. Satanism calls for man to believe in himself above all else and to believe that he is actually the god.

What I liked best about the book was the sex part. LaVey's theory is to let anyone do anything they like sexually as long as it doesn't hurt anyone that doesn't want to be hurt or involve anyone that doesn't want to be involved. This includes any kind of fetish you'd like, allows for any kind of sexuality you'd prefer, and any kind of sexual lifestyle you'd prefer (monogamy, non-monogamy). Forcing yourself to do something you don't naturally want to do is the bane of the philosophy.

Basically, atheistic satanism is a philosophy that has been around for thousands of years and stuck with several curses and rituals. These spells and curses are actually pretty useless, as useless as prayer, but whether LaVey actually believed they worked or he only stuck them in so he could get more money out of it remains a mystery to me.

Overall, it's an alright religion, though I don't recommend anyone to go sprinting into it. It's much more efficient as a philosophy and I believe, the best philosophy out there (excluding the violence).

The second point I want to make is about LaVey himself. Before I started reading the book, I went on Youtube and found some of his interviews. I was absolutely shocked.

He definitely looks like he plays the part and he's making it all up for show. But listening to his interview, I was shocked that what he said actually made sense. It was reasonable. He had logic in his brain. He wasn't stupid and he wasn't some deranged fanatic. Though that may be a tactic to get more followers, what he preaches actually makes sense. Don't deny yourself what you like. Why should you? What good will it do you? None at all. Control yourself and you'll have no issues. Of course, he didn't come up with anything new, but his whole psychodrama, as he calls it, is refreshing. He puts on a show and forces you to actually listen to what he has to say, because what he has to say may not seem as strange as you'd think.

On the same note, I realized that there was another very famous and popular man out there who's in the same situation: Marilyn Manson. He puts on a complete show and scares everyone away, but if you actually take the time to what he says, he actually is quite mature and makes sense.

In conclusion, this was an interesting read and I did appreciate the fact that there was someone out there that supports an atheistic philosophic view, as bundled with magical nonsense as it is. It didn't change my views about anything, but it allowed me to learn more about a religion that otherwise, I would have not known anything about.

*This is not to say that all of you Twilight obsessed lovers out there have any more of a right to be more irritating than you already are. Stfu.

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