Early Christian stories included a demon or devil figure that was the antithesis of “Christian” and by the 13th century this boogey man had become a powerful opposition used by the church to scare people into line. Satan or Lucifer became a tool, a weapon for a population that was becoming disillusioned with a Church that had become powerful and greedy.
The Inquisition across Europe saw the church being the most powerful force across the continent. The Church wasn’t interested in the truth as much as it was interested in promoting fanatical and blind obedience. Those who wanted to rebel chose an easy figure – Satan. Whether there was a lot of truth in early Satanism is questionable. Satan became an anti-messiah as people hoped and prayed from deliverance from plagues that God failed to stop. The plague, the fires, it seemed to many that if God was determined to forsake them then perhaps Satan would listen. By the 1700s Satanism was alive and well, but it had gained a romanticism missing before. By Victorian times the fascination with death brought a resurgence in the occult but Satanism was still not organized enough to be called a religion.
In 1966 Anton Szandor La Vey became the founder of the Church of Satan. He wrote the Satanic Bible in 1969. La Vey stopped Satanism being a scary thing and brought it into legitimacy. No longer was it some occultist hoo-ey to be whispered quietly but a legitimate religion with worship programs, bibles, theology, and followers.
Within 10 years Satanism gained enough legitimacy to be included in the the U.S. Army practices for chaplains. In the 1970’s the interest in occultism soared. Satanism became mainstream and the idea that the “devil” or Satan could be head of a legitimate religion was planted. TIME magazine even ran a story on how Satanism was emerging as a new legitimate religion.
The 1970s brought a split into the Satanist movement where the Satanic Temple and Church of Satan split ideologically and theologically. The Satanic temple is more skeptical, and focuses more on an ambiguous Satan figure that challenges authority. From this point on Satanism followed legitimacy, it grew in appeal because many of the principals appealed to the everyday person who had become disillusioned with the church.
La Vey died in 1997, but his Satanist legacy has continued.
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