Most religions contain an enemy of the system; a being that questions why things are the way they are, who challenges the supreme powers, and who leads mankind away from cosmic ideals. In Christianity, it is the Devil, in Islam it is Shaitan and in Buddhism it is Mara. All these beings promote the materialism of this world, rather than abstaining from stuff in order to obtain the next world.
Aside from Satan, Christianity and Islam say that hosts of beings fell from heaven. In Islam these are Jinn - sometimes spelt "Djin", "Jinn" or even "Genies" in some popular myths. In many polytheistic religions many gods have dark and evil sides as well as good ones, and those sides are given individual names and personified. These types of beings represent the parts of the natural world that people found it hard to explain - pain, disease, natural disasters, mental instability and other evil and scary things. Because their "good" gods can't have crested these things, there must be other being responsible for them. God forbid that such things are merely the results of impartial natural laws of physics - unthinkable! Because the simple and ignorant people of the past could not fathom the basis of life in chemistry, the basis of natural disasters in geology and physics, and the basis of disease in biology and genetics, the representations of the evil forces in nature seemed to them to be perfectly natural. So they perceive demons, devils, the jinn, and many others. They all result from ignorance and fear, and they all oppose the supreme creator and what is "good". Through these scapegoats the supreme creator, through the existence of these horrid beings, is excused responsibility for creating death, pain and suffering.
“The word jinn probably means covert or darkness. Jinns are the personifications of what is uncanny in nature, or perhaps the hostile and unsubdued aspects of it.”
By trying to separate the "evil" side of the natural world from the "good", these religious beliefs make it very hard to understand the natural world. In reality there is no good and evil, and natural forces are simply impartial, amoral and blind. It is a great boost to the ego to believe that cosmic forces are fighting over you, but reality is much more boring. By creating hosts of demons and devils to represent the evil, and then trying to blot them out, these religionists lose grip of reality. This is why scientists - who study the truth - have very frequently come into battle with religious institutions!
Many religions, typically Eastern religions such as Buddhism2 and Hinduism3, assert that everyone lives through a long succession of lives and that the material world and all conscious beings are separated from Nirvana. The cycle of rebirth (samsara) is a cycle of angst and pain, and only escape from the whole system can end suffering. To escape you need to attain enlightenment, and it is your desires, wants and carnal side that prevents this from happening, in Buddhism the being that represents the distractions of the real world is called Mara.
The type of religion that denounces the real world and instructs its followers to reject it is called world-rejecting, but Satanism is not only world-affirming, but heartily world-embracing. See "Satanism is a World-Affirming Religion, not a World-Renouncing One" by Vexen Crabtree (2007) for more:
“There are not many religions that embrace the world as it is, that are materialistic and hedonistic: Satanism is definitely one of them. The first of the nine Satanic Statements is that "Satan represents indulgence, instead of abstinence!". Anton LaVey, the founder of the Church of Satan, explained "the difference between indulgence and compulsion. Indulgence can be controlled, compulsion controls." and hence argued that a Satanist, although indulgent, is not controlled by the passions4.
Clearly such a hedonistic approach places Satanism squarely within the world-affirming category of religions. Other doctrines accord with this too; the emphasis on this world and the denial of any other spiritual realms, and the focus on science and intelligence. The scholar Asbjørn Dyrendal surveyed Satanism and agrees that "both rationalist and esoteric Satanisms are primarily world-affirming forms of self-spirituality. They see success in society and the world as it is as a valid and desirable goal"5. So, from The Satanic Bible:
“Life is the one great indulgence; death the one great abstinence. To a person who is satisfied with his earthly existence, life is like a party; and no one likes to leave a good party. By the same token, if a person is enjoying himself here on earth he will not so readily give up this life for the promise of an afterlife about which he knows nothing.”
Satan, then, represents our ties to this world, our ego, successes, the things we want to do in this world. Satan is the things that keep us tied to this world, not wanting to escape it. It represents the fact that we're not willing to give up worldly things for spiritual goals ('Spiritual pipe dreams') attained for an afterlife. Suicide is never an option for Satanists - we fight to the end, we do not want to escape from reality!”
Also in ancient gnostic religions it was generally held that the world was evil, and that a union of the self-eidolon and self-daemon resulted in escape, which is antinomy to Satanists. (< click for more.)
When Shaitan raised a challenge against God before the creation of the Universe, the Jinn are those angels who believed that Satan was correct in his challenge. They were not "cast down" for any immorality or action, but for their understandable questioning of the status quo laid down by God, which they felt was not entirely correct. Freethought, intelligence, truth-seeking and doubt are all strictly forbidden: this has parallels with the Christian concept of the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden: Believe the wrong things, or, be tricked, and you will be punished severely and eternally! The God of Islam and Christianity is a true monster.
In Islam a Muslim must always seek to worship the creator, Allah, and not the creation (the material world). The worship of material things is the utmost evil. Satan represents materialism, truth-seeking and intelligence, three of the greatest enemies of the Islamic God.
It is hard to find a comparison for Satan within Hinduism, Norse religion, Greek religions, etc, because in polytheistic religions many beings have good and evil sides, and there are frequently different beings representing death, hell, evil, etc, but which also had positive sides. In such complicated and loose systems it is not possible to find a being or force that represents an enemy of the entire pantheon. LaVey's answer to this was to take multiple aspects of all these beings and note them as Infernal Names in The Satanic Bible, as guidance to the types of beings that Satan is equivalent to in those religions.
Representing the enemy of God and the materialism that prevents spiritual escape from this world, Satan is the being of life, and of the enjoyment of life, and is therefore the nemesis of nearly all religious escapism. From one of the main pages on this website: "Who is Satan? The Accuser and Scapegoat" by Vexen Crabtree (2010):
“Satan is good and evil, love and hate. It is the gray; the totality of reality undivided into arbitrary dichotomies. Satan is not a real being, not a living entity, not conscious, nor a physical thing that can be interacted with. It is a symbol, something ethereal, something that exists as an emotional attachment and personal dream. Just like Buddhists do not worship Buddha, Satanists hold up Satan as an ultimate principle rather than an object of literal worship. Satan inspires and provokes people, so, like all (honest) religions the ultimate point is self-help. God-believers have a different opinion on what Satan is, but their opinion is a result of their religion, steeped in mankind's ignorant past. Satanism's Satan is much more eclectic and multicultural than to be defined by Christianity or Islam.
Satan is the dark force in nature representing the carnal nature and death of all living things. The vast majority of the Universe is cold, uninhabitable and lifeless. The only part of the Universe that we know contains life is tied to a system of predator-and-prey: the natural world is violent, desperate, bloody and amoral. If there is a god, it is surely evil. Satan, and Satan alone, best represents the harshness of reality.”
Browsing through "Norse Mythology" by Arthur Cotterell (1997) (which is a part of his larger more generic work) I noted two things, Nidhogg and Ymir, which serve as an examples of how the various belief systems generate different expressions of Satanism:
“Nidhogg. Germanic mythology, a dragon living at one of the three roots of the cosmic tree Yggdrasil. The freezing mist and darkness of Niflheim, which was the lowest of the nine worlds, was where the dragon lived, ripping corpses apart and eating them. Between mouthfulls he would send the squirrel Ratatosk up the cosmic tree on an errand of insult. [...] when momentarily tired of the taste of dead flesh Nidhogg would gnaw at the root of Yggdrasil itself.”
"Norse Mythology" by Arthur Cotterell (1997)
Satan is also later described as a dragon by Christian authors. Heathenism did not have a single "evil" god or force, nearly all the gods had darksides. But there is something appealing about Nidhogg! Depictions of the roots of Yggdrasil have snakes wrapped around the lowest roots. Such a being, feeding off of death (as life feeds from its killed prey, in turn feeding Nidhogg) constitutes the death of the cycle of life itself. If we see that all life dies, then Nidhogg will be victorious over all life, just as Satan represents death's victory over all life. Nidhogg is not listed as an Infernal Name by Anton LaVey, probably because beyond a few artistic details there is not much that can be formed in the way of a philosophy or a principal of Nidhogg.
“Ymir in Germanic mythology was the first living creature. He was a frost giant who emerged from the ice in 'the yawning emptiness'. He was evil and the mother and father of all frost giants. [When dead] his flesh became the Earth.”
"Norse Mythology" by Arthur Cotterell (1997)
Counting the Earth as good because it supports Human life (my life!), Ymir is an aspect of mythology that, like Satan, can be seen to be a mechanism by which the Earth is dependent on Satanic power. (All good is based on evil, see "Good is Derived from Evil: Satanic Theory" by Vexen Crabtree (2002)).
This ties in roughly with the Islamic view of Satan. The Earth was created because Satan wished to create a secret domain away from God in order to have power. Although Satan is evil, we consider the Earth good and without the effects of this evil force the Earth would not exist.
www.HumanReligions.info; a collection of critical writings on the psychology and sociology of world religions.
Norse Mythology (1997). "Ultimate Editions" version.
Buddhism (1995). Published as part of the TeachYourself Books series.
LaVey, Anton. (1930-1997)
The Satanic Bible (1969). Published by Avon Books Inc, New York, USA. Anton LaVey founded the Church of Satan in 1966.
The Devil's Notebook (1992). Published by Feral House, CA, USA.
McFadyen, John Edgar. (1870-1933)
Introduction to the Old Testament (1905). Amazon's Kindle digital edition.
Petersen, Jesper Aagaard
Contemporary Religious Satanism (2009). Hardback. An anthology. Published by Ashgate Publishing Limited, Surrey, UK.
Why I am not a Muslim (1995). Prometheus Books