The here-and-now meaning of today’s Satan mythology

May 2, 2011

Who and what is Satan? The vast majority of the lore we have about Satan comes not from His worshipers, or from others who celebrate Satan, but from His enemies. Hence, in my opinion, the key to understanding today’s mythology about Satan is to ask these questions: (1) Who and what are Satan’s avowed enemies (SAE’s)? (2) What are SAE’s threatened by?

I believe in Satan as a deity. But I do not believe in the literal truth of any myth about any deity. I believe that the true essence of any deity is probably beyond human comprehension, but that there are real spiritual forces/entities that may manifest to us via our myths.. So, what kind of deity would manifest via the Satan myth?

To some people, the key to understanding a myth is to trace its most ancient roots, as far back as they are known. I think this effort is worthwhile as a way to gain perspective, but is not the ultimate key to a myth’s meaning in today’s world. I believe that the relationship between humans and the spirit world can change over time. Hence, toward any effort to understand the spiritual forces at work in today’s world, today’s myths are more relevant than ancient myths.

My approach to understanding any myth assumes the philosophical premises outlined in the following articles: Post-Copernican natural theology and The here-and-now principle in theology.

So, who and what is Satan? As I said, in my opinion, the key to understanding the Satan myth is to ask these questions: Who and what are Satan’s avowed enemies (SAE’s)? And what are SAE’s threatened by?

Satan’s avowed enemies (SAE’s) are a subset of believers in the Abrahamic religions. By “Satan’s avowed enemies,” I mean only those Abrahamics who actively promote belief in a Devil, seen as the source of all evil.

Christians and Muslims can be divided into three categories regarding belief in a Devil: (1) those who believe in and promote belief in a Devil, (2) those who believe in a Devil, but for whom that belief is not important, and (3) those who do not believe in a Devil. SAE’s are people in the first category only. A person cannot be an avowed enemy of someone or something whose existence one does not believe in or care about.

So, who and what are SAE’s, and what are they threatened by?

Overwhelmingly, SAE’s tend to be the more traditionalist, fundamentalist, and/or fanatical Christians and Muslims, followers of a self-described (in the case of Christianity) “narrow way.” They feel threatened by all other religions — even other branches of their own religion. They feel threatened by atheists. Many of them feel threatened by modern science, especially the theory of evolution. They feel threatened by the social freedoms of the modern world, such women’s rights, gay rights, and the growing freedoms of all manner of gender nonconformists. Many of them are prone to paranoia about many other aspects of modern culture too, e.g. rock music, role-playing games, and the Harry Potter books.

In short, they are threatened by just about everything outside their own narrow little box. Traditionally, the Devil is lumped with both “the world” and “the flesh” — in other words, just about everything, both outside themselves and within themselves, that doesn’t conform to their dogma.

So, what kind of deity would manifest via the Satan myth? A deity who “tempts” people to question the SAE’s concepts of “Evil.” More generally, a deity who invites people to step outside their own little boxes and to face down their own fears (whether SAE-induced or otherwise). A deity who invites us to explore all things hidden and forbidden, including both our own true selves and the world outside whatever enclave we were brought up in.

5 Responses to “The here-and-now meaning of today’s Satan mythology”

  1. kurgarra Says:

    Very useful points to consider. If we truly believe that deities exist, then surely they’ve changed over time. Narrowing our understanding of them to something solely from the ancient past is both futile and too fundamentalist for my tastes.

  2. If your a fundamentalist Christian, then yes, the idea of celebrating Satan would make you angry. However if he really stands for free thinking, self actualization, seeking after hidden knowledge, and rebelling against any tyrannical doctrine that would expect you to blindly follow and not ask the difficult questions, then I indeed celebrate and applaud his endeavor. If more people thought like that and worried less about the implications of uncovering hidden things, we might be more advanced as a society. There might even be fewer infirmities.

  3. Cassie Says:

    As somebody who has only recently started to identify as Satanist I find your writing refreshingly level and intelligent. Your point about the lore of Satan being written by his SAEs was one of the things that made me begin to question my own preconceptions. And your point about not lumping all Christian & Muslim believers together is also important to me.


    If you believe you exist , and are able to question that existence …..

  5. Steve Says:

    As I research more into different Satanism movements, one of the things I question most is defining the movement by exclusion.

    I know that, given the Christian-based worldview, some refutation is in order; however, it seems to be THE defining structure to explain the modern movement.

    Outside the (real) social and political power of Christianity/Islam/Judaism, I could really care much less about how they define my belief system. In other words, I want to see what drives Diane Vera in positive affirmations, not by what SAE’s see in simplistic terms of “Us versus Them.”

    Most likely, I’ll find it as I read further =P… still learning and reading.

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