Criticisms of LaVeyan Satanism

By Vexen Crabtree 2017

#church_of_satan #satan #satanism #satanism_criticism

Since I stole a copy of "The Secret Life of a Satanist" by Blanche Barton1 in 1995, I have conducted a long and personal analysis of LaVeyan Satanism. Here's my summary of the weakest points of modern LaVey Satanism, including theological and sociological concerns.

1. Superficiality

#christianity #judaism

One of the weakest points of modern Satanism is that the "theological" content is quite shallow; this is especially true once you've got beyond a few statements such as the infamous Satanic Bible passage:

There is no heaven of glory bright, and no hell where sinners roast. Here and now is our day of torment! Here and now is our day of joy! Here and now is our opportunity! Choose ye this day, this hour, for no redeemer liveth!

"The Satanic Bible" by Anton LaVey (1969)2"The Satanic Bible" by Anton LaVey (1969)2
The Book of Satan IV:2

Compared to Judaism, Christianity and Paganism, there is not much to study, no verses to learn off by heart, no sprawling astrological charts of orders of angels to drool over. The theology that does exist, for example the Four Crown Princes of Hell, the Infernal Names, Self Worship: These are to a large extent more of a matter of linguistics and terminology than real theological statements. Even the demonology is allegorical post-modern, counterculture sociology.

LaVeyan doctrine ends very early with the conclusion that now you should go live your own life. This is a refreshing lack of nonsense, but, at some point the question becomes: What was the point of Satanism in the first place? There is something lacking in self-worship... something a bit too low-key-self-help-and-not-much-else. It doesn't lend itself to serious or technical attention.

In Deinsen's essay Why I'm not a Satanist, her second point against Satanism covers this non-aspect of Satanism:

Related to Satanism being reactionary, Satanism is “philosophy light” and “rhetoric heavy.” Anton LaVey´s greatest skill was that of a rhetorician. Satanism, if one scratches much beyond the surface, proves to be intellectually shallow. There´s just not a lot to it. My gut reaction to the SB was, “It´s Dale Carnegie´s How to Win Friends and Influence People with an `evil´ twist and a large dose of Friedrich Nietzsche thrown in. Satanism gets people motivated, excited, and impassioned…like all good rhetoric. But in the end, it´s not intellectually satisfying as a philosophy in its own right.

Why I'm Not a Satanist

2. Anton LaVey & Women!

#anton_lavey #church_of_satan #satanism #satanism_criticism

At the time, Anton LaVey's writing on women were groundbreaking; he broke through in some areas such as in women's empowerment. But he couldn't separate his tastes from his work. The Satanic Witch contains radical and unheard-of advice, 20 years ahead of its time, but some of the underlying sentiments have not passed the test of time.

Book CoverIncluded in LaVey's works are personal opinions, jokes, fun, entertainment and then more personal opinions. His opinions on women are akin to that of Nietzsche; a weak area where there was little he could do to break away from 1940s and 1950s conventions, and like Nietzsche, it's best to consider Lavey's texts on women to be a facet of his personality. His writings on womankind are personal, unlike the doctrinal statements that he makes about Satanism itself.

Book CoverPredictably LaVey was labelled a misogynist - a mantle he willingly accepted, going so far as to publish an essay entitled "Confessions of a closet misogynist" in his 1992 collection The Devil's Notebook. As ever with this ingeniously provocative thinker, there was a twist in the tail: LaVey didn't hate women but was in awe of their power, treating them with the blend of suspicion, fear and respect afforded to a worthy foe!

"Dissecting Marilyn Manson" by Gavin Baddeley (2000)3

Despite this, plenty of Witches in the Church of Satan have supported his writings wholeheartedly.

For more, see:

Taking LaVey's views on women and projecting them on to Satanism as a whole would be mistaken, and therefore criticism of "Satanism's view of women" in general is also mistaken. Individual Satanists decide on such matters, it is not of theological or philosophical concern to the beliefs of Satanism. What is of concern is individual thought, and an individual striving for self-attained rights.

3. Confrontational and Reactionary

Once again I quote Deinsen, a paragraph from her "Satan is an Unworthy Symbol":

When Satanism was developed in the 1950´s and 1960´s in “Christian America,” calling it Satanism had more power and punch because people´s image of Satan was more heterogeneous, ridiculous, and stereotypical. Post the 1960´s hippie movement however, people are more clued in to what Satanists are saying and the title no longer carries the same impact on people (with the possible exception of Christian fundamentalists). That which is based on shock eventually becomes mundane. The Black Mass, for example, has become expected and uninteresting…no longer the subject of newspaper articles or “scandal.” Once again we see that Satanism, by being a purely reactionary philosophy, is dependent on the weaknesses of other systems of thought, or, in the case of the name, on the ridiculous stereotypes people hold of Satan.

And here is where I hold sympathies for Satanists. When “Satan” no longer shocks, one of the most “interesting” aspects of Satanism is lost. Satanism actually needs to grow into larger boots! I think if Anton LaVey were alive today he´d realize his short sightedness. Satanism needs to have the flexibility to change with the times. As our world grows more and more secular, Satanists will be left holding yet one more tired, reactionary philosophy.

Why I'm Not a Satanist

Deinsen perhaps hit on a point here without fledging it out fully. The Alien Elite is a Satanic concept inspired by Friedrich Nietzsche's "Superman" principal. That there are born natural leaders, and these people can appear at any point in any culture. A reason d'etre is to try and develop yourself to transcend your own culture to reach a state of Alien Elite. But this can be done without Satanism... to those who it is natural. Satanism as a religion has potential to defeat itself in modern society.

As religion becomes more of a fringe, as philosophy, materialism and Quantum-Physics inspired mysticism become the only acceptable forms of faith in society, religion is becoming viewed as both out of date and irrelevant to modern ideas. The modern secular movement is not concerned with religion to such as extent that in barely pays it any attention, not enough to even oppose it. Satanism is founded on the hypocrisy and ridiculous assumptions of other religions, like the alien elite are only elite as long there exists a mass of sheep who remain on the right hand path. Without lesser religions, Satanism loses its rebellion.

There is a real risk that in modern society, Satanism can lose its edge. Superseded by the carnal materialism that in the beginning founded it!

4. Anti-religious to an Ignorant Extent

The strong anti religious feelings that are no doubt a result of having the seventy-seven infernal names on your personal roll call are sometimes overbearing to the point of ignorance. This is when Satanists attack and slander religion but fall into the trap of making increasingly sweeping statements and appearing ignorant, heavy-handed, hateful and uninformed. At which point, the automatic reaction of almost every human being is to double-down. Getting carried away with an anti-religious stance results in stupid behaviour which entreches others' positions.

5. Over-emphasis on Christian Symbolism4


Satanism sometimes seems specifically anti-Christian, and not much else. In theory Satan represents the enemies of all gods from all religions. But in practice the majority of Satanic parody is aimed at Christianity. There are reasons for this... mainly it is because mockery and parody are instinctive reactions to aggression from white light religions. Christianity is most certainly the most offensive religion. The amount of attacks Satanists receive from Christians far outnumber all attacks from adherents of other religions. I've received hundreds upon hundreds of angry, offensive and aggressive emails from Christians... but I have yet to receive one from a Hindu or a Jew... etc. (2003 Feb 22: Now, I have actually had one from the Hare Krishnas).

Pagans, Pantheists and Atheists all have the same complaint: That Christianity is their only major aggressor. So to some extent non-Christian religions are seen as allies against a common foe, a numerically superior and infantile bully. The result is that Satanism and its imagery is overly reactionary to Christianity.

6. Not All Egos Need Championing

#anton_lavey #church_of_satan

Anton LaVey, the founder of the Church of Satan, was an infamous critical thinker. One of his own criticisms of Satanism was that of insincere concocted nonconformity:

A person devoid of special ability must work harder to become "special," which often results in an abrasive pretence of infallibility. Combine the overachiever's pseudo-specialty with his hauteur of infallibility, and all that's lacking to complete the profile of contemporary "cool" is freeze-dried nonconformity. If nonconformity is Satanism's strength, planned or put-on nonconformity is its greatest weakness. The predictable antics of heavy-handed "Satanists" are quite profitably exploited by non-Satanists.

"The Devil's Notebook" by Anton LaVey (1992)5

Another word of warning from the current High Priest of the Church of Satan strikes a similar tone, warning of those who think they're greater than they are and who represent Satanism, embarrassingly and badly:

Book CoverOne of the dangers of Satanic philosophy is that it "puffs-up" some people, giving them over-inflated illusions of their own value to others. [...] These folks all take the notion that "You are your own God" and then assume that they are everyone else's God as well. And they forget, that all Gods are not of equal stature. [...] Satanism's championing of self-empowerment is used against Satanism itself when over-zealous amateurs decide that they have a mission to represent Satanism.

"The Satanic Scriptures" by Peter Gilmore (2007)6,7