The Causes of Satanism and other Alternative New Religious Movements

Some people have an inherent need for ceremony, ritual and dogma in their lives. As the modern world disposes of organized religion, the historical provider of these elements of life, people are taking up alternative religions. The instinct towards symbolism is a result of our evolution through a pre-literate phase of development both in history and as an infant. Satanism provides ritualistic and dogmatic trappings without the waffle of many other religions. This page also takes a simple look at how the growing interest in new religious movements and the New Age relates to Satanism and human nature.

1. Myths and Symbols: Connecting to Our Pre-Literate Fears1

As the modern world slowly sheds organized religion it seems that decentralized and individualist spiritualisms have ascended, including the New Age and Pagan movements. Some people just seem to have an inherent need for ceremony, ritual and dogma in their lives. Some authors have concluded that religious-like behaviour is an expression of humanity that will not go away, and that the instinct towards symbolism is a result of our evolution through a pre-literate phase of development both in history and as an infant. Karen Armstrong writes that "Human beings have always been mythmakers"2. The existence of a base, emotional and primitive instinctive connection to strange symbols and otherworldly ideas is admitted not only by the New Age movement and esoteric religious writers, but mainstream religious scholars have come to this conclusion too. Needless to say, such religious writers mostly "realize" that mankind has in innate need for their particular religion (how lucky!) but occasionally they appear more friendly towards the idea that such a Human inclination has a basis in the general Human psyche. As a result of this inclination, the Anglican academic Monica Furlong, in her book on the Church of England (2000), explains how the reformation, that reformed Christianity and placed a heavy emphasis on text, caused a backlash:

Book CoverBehind the repudiation of the ceremonial by the reformers lay a radically different conceptual world, a world in which text was everything, sign nothing. [...] It would take centuries for the Church of England to acknowledge and try to recover what it had lost [...]. In its place text ('the word') became in its own way a different sort of worshipped image, one which sometimes excluded feeling and the deep movements of the unconscious mind which ritual had faithfully fed. It is not, of course, that poetry or powerful preaching cannot express feeling, but that part of our human consciousness is pre-literate, both historically and in our personal childhood experience, and the whole of our experience cannot necessarily be captured by words. It may be important to lay wordless experiences alongside the wordy ones, as in music, colour, form, movement and smell.

"The C of E: The State It's In"
Monica Furlong (2000) [Book Review]3

This is recognition that our need for such things is based not on God-given instinct, but a subconscious biologically-based leftover from our preliterate days, and our preliterate youth. A time when symbols, as in early religion, were much more powerful and imposing because we had no words. Symbolism and ritual form part of our development, and part of our needs, in life. Furlong may not have meant to highlight such a fundamental way in which the non-religious look upon religion - as a misguided answer to some biological impulse. Science and humanism don't satisfy this impulse for some people, because of the lack of symbolism and ritual.

Myths can be debased and uprooted. All that happens is that modern myths and rituals replace the traditional ones, for myths and archetypes are an inherent part of the human psyche. Human beings appear to need a religious underpinning both to their personal and to their social lives. At the personal level, human beings need a mythology within which to frame their identities and the meaning of their lives. At the social level, some ideology is needed to give people a vision of their history, their present place in the world and their future direction, to act as a focal point of unity, an agreed framework for public policy and a justification for the public rituals that affirm social cohesion. Where formal religion no longer provides this underpinning, various alternatives have evolved. At the social level, 'pseudo-religions' such as Marxism and nationalism have been successful partly because they do provide an alternative picture - a myth of history and a direction for the future.

"The Phenomenon Of Religion: A Thematic Approach"
Moojan Momen (1999) [Book Review]4

Despite all the arguments that some people need and seek out religion, it also happens to be the case the large parts of the world do without religion. It is common sense in non-religious countries such as the UK that the purpose of our lives is connected only to personal aims and personal values, such as love or happiness, or the socially orientated "to do good". People simply like things that take their minds off the mundanity of life. Religion, football, hobbies and interests all serve similar functions. The problem was that there was no sensible and non-superstitious religion that employs powerful symbols that center on our needs and hidden desires. That is... until Anton LaVey brought forth Satanism!

2. The Fulfilling Religion of Satanism

Man needs ritual and dogma.

"The Satanic Bible"
Anton LaVey (1969)5

Anton LaVey writes on the modern materialistic and scientific insights we have into the world, in particular he emphasizes the success of psychiatry in replacing spiritualism and the priestly ministry. He then states:

Book CoverThis is all very well and good, BUT - there is one flaw in this new state of awareness. It is one thing to accept something intellectually, but to accept the same thing emotionally is an entirely different matter. The one need that psychiatry cannot fill is man's inherent need for emotionalising through dogma. Man needs ceremony and ritual, fantasy and enchantment. Psychiatry, despite all the good it has done, has robbed man of wonder and fantasy which religion, in the past, has provided.

Satanism, realizing the current needs of man, fills the large grey void between religion and psychiatry. The Satanic philosophy combines the fundamentals of psychology and good, honest emotionalising, or dogma. It provides man with his much needed fantasy. There is nothing wrong with dogma, providing it is not based on ideas and actions which go completely against human nature.

"The Satanic Bible" by Anton LaVey (1969)
Book of Lucifer 3, paragraphs 33-34

The increasing interest in all aspects of Paganism, Shamanism, the New Age, new religious movements, the occult and alternative religion is caused, according to multiple authors, by the lack of ritual and religious trapping of science and materialism combined with the lack of trust and truth in the major religions. Satanism, as a materialistic philosophy combined with ritual and religious imagery, satisfies the need for dogma and ritual. As Satanism is also anti-religion and pro-freethought, it allows for activism and energetic adherency which are both things that many people are drawn to. As a force for the future, Satanism is an indestructible force on the battle field where the gods of the past have all been declared dead interests, and all religions false.

Book CoverFor [the psychologist, Carl] Jung, religion could play a positive role in human life: 'Man positively needs general ideas and convictions that will give meaning to his life and enable him to find a place for himself in the universe.' Religion thus acts as a form of therapy, explaining and reconciling human beings to the pains and suffering of the world.

"The Phenomenon Of Religion: A Thematic Approach" by Moojan Momen (1999) [Book Review]6

Dogmatic statements about our place in our universe answer such questions as why am I here and what should I do with my life. Religions' contain dogmatic answers because, as of yet, science does not know how to approach such questions, and philosophy has tended to be too waffly and self-referential. Satanic answers include the will to happiness, and the settings up of personal ideals and interests which are then indulged in. It is common sense in non religious countries such as the UK, that the point of our lives is a personal aim, such as love or happiness, or the socially orientated to do good. Satanism affirms these and holds that Satan stands for and wills that you indulge in whatever your aims in life are.

3. The Causes of the Tide of Alternative Spiritualities1

There are a few general causes of the continual growth of unusual, novel, small, untraditional, often magical, seemingly counter-cultural and Earth-centered religious movements. The New Age, the Celtic revival (Druids, et. al.), neo-Paganism and Wicca all seem to share some features and often share actual practices, beliefs and members7, and all are growing in sync. Likewise, there are often similar motivations for people to get involved with these types of movements, even including Satanism despite it being somewhat different to the rest of the New Religious Movements:

Read / Write LJ Comments

By Vexen Crabtree 2014 Oct 04
Originally published 2002 Nov 13
Parent page: Satanists and Satanic Community: How many are there and what are they like?

Social Media

References: (What's this?)

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Adler, Margot
(1986) Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess-worshippers, and other Pagans in America Today. Published by Beacon Press, Boston, USA. First published 1979. In "Belief Beyond Boundaries: Wicca, Celtic Spirituality and the New Age" by Joanne Pearson (2002) Chapter 4, p137.

Armstrong, Karen
(2005) A Short History of Myth: Volume 1-4. Kindle edition 2008. First published in Great Britain in 2005 by Canongate Books Ltd.

Bowman, M
"Contemporary Celtic spirituality" (2002), chapter 2 of "Belief Beyond Boundaries: Wicca, Celtic Spirituality and the New Age" by Joanne Pearson (2002).

Bowman, Marion
(2002) Contemporary Celtic Spirituality. This essay is chapter 2 of "Belief Beyond Boundaries: Wicca, Celtic Spirituality and the New Age" by Joanne Pearson (2002) (pages p55-102).

Fenn, Richard K.
(2009) Key Thinkers in the Sociology of Religion. A look at what 11 sociologists of religion think of "the sacred". Be warned that Fenn's book contains one chapter on each sociologist of religion but that his own mystical and specific take on 'the sacrad' is heavily intermingled with his commentary - see the book review for a proper description. Published by Continuum International Publishing Group, London, UK. [Book Review]

Furlong, Monica
(2000) The C of E: The State It's In. First published in GB in 2000 by Stoughton. All quotes taken from the paperback first edition, 2000. [Book Review]

Harvey, Graham & Hardman, Charlotte
(1995) Pagan Pathways. First published by Thorsons 1995. All quotes taken from Thorsons 2000 edition. [Book Review]

Heelas, Paul
(1996) The New Age Movement: Religion, Culture and Society in the Age of Postmodernity. Blackwell Publishers Ltd, London, UK.

Hutton, Ronald
(1996) The Stations of the Sun: A History of the Ritual Year in Britain. 2001 re-issue. Published by Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK.

LaVey, Anton. (1930-1997) Founder of the Church of Satan.
(1969) The Satanic Bible. Published by Avon Books Inc, New York, USA. Anton LaVey founded the Church of Satan in 1966.

Main, Roderick
(2002) Religion, Science and the New Age. This essay is chapter 5 of "Belief Beyond Boundaries: Wicca, Celtic Spirituality and the New Age" by Joanne Pearson (2002) (pages p173-224).

Momen, Moojan
(1999) The Phenomenon Of Religion: A Thematic Approach. Published by Oneworld Publications, Oxford, UK. [Book Review]

Mumm, Susan
"Aspirational Indians: North American indigenous religions and the New Age" (2002), chapter 3 of "Belief Beyond Boundaries: Wicca, Celtic Spirituality and the New Age" by Joanne Pearson (2002).

Partridge, Christopher
(2004, Ed.) Encyclopedia of New Religions. Hardback. Published by Lion Publishing, Oxford, UK.

Pearson, Joanne
(2002, Ed.) Belief Beyond Boundaries: Wicca, Celtic Spirituality and the New Age. Published by Ashgate, Aldershot, UK and The Open University, Milton Keynes, UK.

Russell, J.B.
(1991) A History of Witchcraft: Sorcerers, Heretics and Pagans. Published by Thames & Hudson, London, UK. Originally published in 1980. Cited in Pearson (2002) Introduction p17.

Wolffe, John
(2002, Ed.) Global Religious Movements in Regional Context. Published by Ashgate Publishing Ltd in association with the Open University. This was a religious studies textbook in the AD317 OU course.

York, Michael. Principal Lecturer in Cultural Astronomy and Astrology and Director of the Sophia Centre at Bath Spa University College, UK. Previously a post-doctoral reasearcher at the Academy for Cultural and Educational Studies in London.
(1995) The Emerging Network: A Sociology of the New Age and Neo-Pagan Movement. Published by Rowman & Littlefield, Lanham, MD, USA.


  1. Added to this page on 2014 Oct 04.^^
  2. Armstrong (2005) p1.^
  3. Furlong (2000) p48. Added to this page on 2002 Dec 04.^
  4. Momen (1999) p296.^^
  5. LaVey (1969) Book of Lucifer 2^
  6. Momen (1999) p64.^
  7. Pearson (2002) p3.^
  8. Multiple sources:
    • Bowman (2002) p60.
    • Heelas (1996) p106, 135-136.
    • Mumm (2002) p114.
    • Pearson (2002) p7.
    • York (1995) p14. In Main (2002) p187.
  9. Harvey & Hardman (1995) Introduction p.x.^
  10. H. Cox "Fire from Heaven: The Rise of Pentecostal Spirituality and the Reshaping of Religion in the Twenty-first Century" (1996) p120-1. Published by Cassell, London, UK. In "Global Religious Movements in Regional Context" by John Wolffe (2002) p97.^
  11. (1) Bowman (2002) p87. And (2), Deinsen, R. (2000-2) via personal correspondence. Deinsen has organised animal-welfare groups with the ECUSA (Anglican Communion, in the USA) and is an ordained female priest. She reports general mass support for female equality and animal rights within the ECUSA.^
  12. Hutton (1996) Ch 28.^
  13. Pearson (2002) Introduction p16-17, citing Hutton (1996) p9.^
  14. Russell, J.B. (1991) p171.^
  15. Pearson (2002) Introduction p8-9.^
  16. Multiple sources:
    1. Adler (1986) p22-23.
    2. Bowman (2002) p75.
    3. Mumm (2002) p118.
  17. Pearson (2002) p21-22, 36-38.^
  18. Adler (1986) p22-23. Adler notes the common reasons that American pagans give for their interest in Paganism.^
  19. Furlong (2000) p48.^
  20. Martin, David "On Secularization: Towards a Revised General Theory" p130. Published by Ashgate, Aldershot, UK. In "Key Thinkers in the Sociology of Religion" by Richard K. Fenn (2009) [Book Review] chapter "David Martin" p115.^
  21. Partridge (2004) p295.^
  22. Partridge (2004) p359.
  23. 2002 Dec 04-09: Added Monica Furlong quotes and commentary on cause of the need for dogma and ritual.
  24. 2002 Jan 28: Added Momen quotes.

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