By Clete Hux

Say the word “Satan” to the average person and other images come to mind. For some, he is viewed as an actual devilish creature with horns on his head, wearing a red suit and carrying a pitchfork which he uses to throw bad people into a fiery hell. Such images have instilled fear and paranoia in some, while causing others to downplay the existence of such a creature with comical popular sayings like “speak of the devil” or “the devil made me do it” or referring to Satan as “the boogie man.” Thus, the belief that Satan actually exists is viewed by many in our culture today as ridiculous, politically incorrect, and just “not cool.” Many would hold that only narrow-minded religious fundamentalists would believe in such a concept.

However, for the Christian and most theists, Satan or the devil is a reality. Years ago, evangelist Billy Sunday gave an appropriate answer to those who asked why he believed in the devil. He said there are two reasons that believers acknowledge the existence of Satan. One, the Bible says so; and two, because he had done business with the devil! In other words, since followers of Christ believe the Bible is the Word of God and therefore true, because it tells of Satan’s existence, his existence is factual truth. And because of the believer’s experience with spiritual warfare, his existence is confirmed.

Of course, it’s not just Christians and other traditional theistic religions that believe in Satan. There are also those who actually worship and serve Satan. In this article we will examine the history, beliefs and practices of Satanism, concluding with an apologetic response.

Who is Satan?
According to Scripture, Satan had his beginning as a high angel created by God to guard the throne of God. We find a likely reference to the origins of the creature in Ezekiel 28:11-15. This text, though it is introduced as a lament for the king of Tyre, uses language that many biblical scholars believe is descriptive of the angelic being who became Satan:

Son of man, take up a lamentation over the king of Tyre and say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord God, you had the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone was your covering: The ruby, the topaz, and the diamond; the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper; the lapis lazuli; the turquoise, and the emerald; and the gold, the workmanship of your settings and sockets was in you. On the day that you were created they were prepared. You were the anointed cherub who covers; and I placed you there. You were on the holy mountain of God; you walked in the midst of the stones of fire. You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created, until unrighteousness was found in you. (Ezek. 28:11-15, NASB)

From this passage we see that this being was created by God a good creature and given many great privileges until unrighteousness was found in him. Another pivotal text on the rebellion of Satan is recorded by the prophet Isaiah:

How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, “I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds: I will be like the Most High. (Isaiah 14:12-14, KJV)

In this text we see not only where the name “Lucifer” comes from,1 but also the reason for Satan’s fall. He fell because of pride; specifically from the desire to supplant God.

After Satan’s fall came the fall of man; subsequently Satan is God’s adversary (the name “Satan” means “adversary”) and the “god of this (fallen) world” (2 Cor. 4:3, 4). He is also given other names in Scripture that are, more or less, synonymous with his sinister character. These include: (1) ruler of this world (John 14:30), (2) prince of the power of the air (Eph. 2:1, 2), (3) devil (John 8:44), which means “accuser and slanderer,” (4) tempter (Matt. 4:3), (5) father of lies (John 8:44), (6) lord of death (Heb. 2:14), (7) evil one (1 John 2:13), (8) Beelzebub (Mark 3:22, 23) which means “lord of the dunghill” or “lord of the flies,” and (9) Belial (2 Cor. 6:15) meaning “worthlessness.”

In all of this we see that Satan or the devil is the determined enemy of God who desires to ascend to God’s throne and is wickedly opposed to all of God’s plans and purposes. As such, he is the enemy of God’s people as well. This is the being who is worshiped by Satanists.

History and Types of Satanism
Although the U.S. government recognizes Satanism as a religion2 (the U.S. Army includes Satanism in a handbook for chaplains), its history has been more that of a diverse movement than a unified religion per se. In the last five hundred years or so, various expressions of it have emerged. Most researchers or historians of Satanism usually distinguish between two types of Satanism: traditional Satanism and secular Satanism.3

Traditional Satanism would be the oldest form and is characterized by the worship of the Satan of the Christian Bible. It is an inversion of Christian beliefs and practices. For instance, J. Gordon Melton records that Satanism has been associated with a variety of practices which often parody Roman Catholic Christianity. He writes,

The major ritual is the black mass, the essence of which is the profaning of the central acts of worship, and might include the repeating of the Lord’s Prayer backwards, the use of a host which has been dyed black, the slaughter of an animal (usually a cat or dog) to parody the crucifixion, or the rape of a woman upon the altar. The climax of the worship is the invocation of Satan for the working of malevolent magic.4

Historians believe this type of Satanism, with its parody of Roman Catholicism, appeared in the fifteenth century as a response to the Catholic Inquisition, a move against “witchcraft” which the Roman church had redefined as Satanism. It is believed to have come about historically as a strong reaction to this labeling, because of the differences in beliefs and practices between Satanism and witchcraft of which most Christians were ignorant.

Under the heading of traditional Satanism is the concept of “religious Satanism” a term which is sometimes for belief in Satan as a deity, although not necessarily an evil or oppositional one. In fact, the majority of Satanists view Satan as a Promethean or Gnostic deity – a liberator, or one who encourages mankind to rebel against its state of imprisonment. In some of these traditions, the Old Testament God is seen as an evil tyrant, an oppressive and cruel deity, which correlates with similar Gnostic beliefs.5

Traditional Satanism has few historical ties to the modern era of Satanism which lives by the mantra, “Do what thou wilt.” This phrase seems to be the motto of secular Satanism today. Those who have espoused this philosophy in history and which have contributed to the rise of secular Satanism include:

Francois Rabelais (1483-1553), a French Benedictine priest who wrote of a fictional place called the Abbey of Theleme which could be described as “anti-monastery.” His characters at this “abbey” were free to make their own rules, believing it unnecessary to be governed by the church. They purposefully lived in a manner opposite to ordinary monks. The Thelemites, as Rabelais called them, were not Satanists since they did not worship a literal or even a symbolic Satan. But their “do what thou wilt” rule proved to be an anti-Christian and anti-conventional morality.

Sir Francis Dashwood (1708-1781) founded The Order of the Friars of St. of Francis of Wycombe. Although little is known about the Order, it does appear that some of what members did parodied Christianity. The very name of the Order shows this in that it parodied the name of Saint Francis. Their meeting place was an Elizabethan manor house at Medmenham by the Thames and “Do what thou wilt” was carved over its doorway.

Aleister Crowley (1875-1947), notorious for adopting the phrase “Do what thou wilt,” made Rabelais’ fiction into a reality by founding a literal Abbey of Thelema. According to Crowley, “Do what thou wilt” was the whole of the Law. There have been stories that the Beatles promoted Crowley’s anti-Christian worldview. At the very least, there is a picture of Crowley on their Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club album cover (But there is also a picture of Mae West!).

Anton Szandor LaVey (1930-1997) ushered in the modern era of secular Satanism. Many believe him to be the most important figure in the history of Satanism. He founded the Church of Satan on April 30, 1966, at his home in San Francisco, California. His church, also known as the “Black House,” received notoriety in 1967 due to a Satanic wedding, baptism, and funeral, all conducted by LaVey.

Michael Aquino was a former member of LaVey’s COS and editor of its newsletter, The Cloven Hoof. Falling out of favor with LaVey, Aquino left the COS. On June 21, 1975, in a ritual, he summoned the Prince of Darkness, resulting in an automatic writing entitled the Book of Coming Forth by Night. Aquino identified the being that appeared to him as the ancient Egyptian deity Set. He then founded the Temple of Set which continues today.

John Dewey Allee (also known as Lord Egan) is the High Priest of the First Church of Satan, founded by him on October 31, 1996. Around 1970 Egan left Christianity and joined the Church of Satan. After leaving Satanism for many years, he returned and founded the FCOS to recapture the original legacy of the COS and establish free thought Satanism.6

All the above historical figures have played a part in the evolution of secular or modern Satanism. Again, Anton LaVey is seen as the embodiment of the modern Satanism movement. It is his influence that most Satanists acknowledge no matter what kind of Satanist one espouses.

Satanist Beliefs
LaVey used the word “Satan,” not because he believed in a literal being of that name (he did not), but as a representative of the ideals he was proposing. When asked why LaVey used the term Satan, one Satanist replied,

It’s a very potent, shocking term—LaVey was right about that. But, as I got older I realized Satan was the perfect term because He embodies ideas of freedom and individuality you don’t find in other concepts of religion or God. Satan represents liberty in its utmost form. There’s no guilt involved in being who you are, standing up for what you believe in, even if it is contradictory to social mores.7

It is not difficult to see that Satanism embraces the ideals of antinomianism, self-determinism, and indulgence. This mentality is expressed by Anton LaVey in his Satanic Bible which contains his “Nine Satanic Statements”: (1) Satan represents indulgence, instead of abstinence! (2) Satan represents vital existence, instead of spiritual pipe dreams! (3) Satan represents undefiled wisdom, instead of hypocritical self-deceit! (4) Satan represents kindness  to those who deserve it, instead of love wasted on ingrates! (5) Satan represents vengeance, instead of turning the other cheek! (6) Satan represents responsibility to the responsible, instead of concern for psychic vampires! (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 all these years!8

Symbols and Holidays

Many, especially Christians, have believed widespread rumors that for every Christian holiday celebrated, Satanists counter with some sort of perversion of the holiday. This is not necessarily true. There are ritual or “magick” oriented Satanists who often recognize traditional solar feast days and equinoxes. However, most Satanists celebrate their own birthdates as holidays more than any other holiday. This is because Satanism is admittedly narcissistic and individualistic. Again, there may be some in ritual magic who celebrate other holidays, but the vast majority do not.

As far as symbols of Satanism, there is much misunderstanding as well. Some erroneously believe Masonic symbols, swastikas and the “peace” symbol are Satanic. For most Satanists, an inverted pentagram is the most commonly used symbol, although the pentagram has also been used by pagans, other ritual magicians, Jews and even Christians. However, the inverted pentagram, with or without a stylized goat’s head, is meant to represent the purported Templar divinity Baphomet. The precise emblem of the Church of Satan is called the Sigil of Baphomet which came out of ritual magic traditions. Lesser used symbols are a ram’s head (ouroboros) and in some traditions an ankh. The inverted Christian cross is actually used only by shock rockers and those who dabble in the occult, rather than Satanists.9

A Christian Response

There is much misinformation and confusion about Satanism and there are many that see witchcraft or paganism as Satanism and vice versa. What is not understood is that Satanism is just one of many parts of the occultic worldview. Even well-meaning Christians have a tendency to think that if someone is dabbling in any part of the occult they must be Satanists. Much of this can be attributed to ignorance, paranoia, and stereotyping.

Satanism was sensationalized in Christian circles in the 1980’s by Mike Warnke, a self-styled “former Satanist turned Christian,” whose story of excessive personal satanic involvement has more recently been discredited, and even his Christian testimony has received much criticism.10 During this time, while Warnke was making appearances across the country as a Christian celebrity, supposedly alerting the church to the practices of Satanism, public awareness was heightened on the issue of Satanic Ritual Abuse or SRA. An investigation of SRA by the FBI found that although some Satanic Ritual Abuse does exist, a widespread conspiracy of SRA does not.11

Such popular misunderstandings and stereotyping actually result in Satan getting more credit than he deserves. Don’t get me wrong, I believe from Scripture that he should and will ultimately get what he deserves. But I also believe that Satan gets blamed for many things he had nothing to do with. Sometimes a failure in human responsibility and even sin is pushed off on Satan. The Scriptures teach that Satan is just one of three enemies with which we must contend in addition to the world and the flesh.

What, then, should the Christian’s response be to Satan and Satanism? Obviously, we are not to be ignorant of his existence or his ways. We are to test all things and spiritual teachings to see if they are from God (1 John 4:1-6). Satan loves for people to think he is something other than he is. It is no wonder he disguises himself as an angel of light and his servants as ministers of righteousness (2 Cor. 1:14). This is consistent with his intention of deceiving the whole world (Rev. 12:9). This deception comes in many ways. His deception is probably the reason why there is so much confusion about this topic.

We must not forget that Scripture warns that our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places (Eph. 6:12). That is why we must “put on the full armor of God so that we may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.”

How do we offer hope to those who are involved in Satanism? How do we even know if someone is involved? Determining the answers will take engagement on the part of Christians; a willingness to put aside fear and to engage in dialogue, to employ incarnational apologetics the way Paul did (1 Cor. 9:19-23), especially as he did at the Areopagus (Acts 17:16-34). Instead of being discouraged by hearing that more people have left Christianity for Satanism than vice versa, we can be more motivated to respond to the biblical and missiological mandate to share the good news.

Perhaps the Christian’s greatest opportunity lies in the fact that the satanic ideal of indulgence points to the real human need for personal fulfillment that at best is only partially and temporarily satisfied in the pleasures of this world. We have the opportunity to bring before people that which will make them realize their deep hunger and thirst signifies a longing for an enduring and eternal source. Let’s be ready to share what will make that difference (I Peter 3:15).

Clete Hux is the counter-cult specialist for the Apologetics Resource Center.



1 The name “Lucifer” is probably a result of an unfortunate failure to translate the Hebrew in the KJV. The Hebrew word means “day star” or “morning star” and is almost certainly not meant as a proper name but a poetic title of the being described here.
2 See

3 Nevill Drury and Gregory Tillett, Other Temples, Other Gods (Sydney: Methuen, 1980), 101.

 4 J. Gordon Melton, “Satanism” in Encyclopedic Handbook of Cults in America (New York: Garland, 1992), 108.
5 See
6 Unpublished paper by John Smulo, “Christ’s Advocate: An Incarnational Apologetic to Satanism,” 2001.
7 Paul Douglas Valentine, quoted in Gavin Baddeley,
Lucifer Rising: A Book of Sin, Devil Worship and Rock ‘n’ Roll (London: Plexus, 1999), 163.

 8 Anton Szandor LaVey, The Satanic Bible (New York, New York: Avon, 1969), 25.
9 See 10 John Smulo, “Christ’s Advocate.”
11 Ibid.