When you think of Satanism you are more than likely plagued with thoughts of sacrificed babies, inverted crucifixes, and a trail of other horror movie tropes. Some of the more aware will think of Jayne Mansfield and Anton La Vey, one of Satanism’s most famous followers and its founding father respectively. What few people know is that Satanism is in fact a very peaceful way of life, one which focuses on individual liberty, a shift away from Christian morals, and a critique of the role mainstream religion has played in Western culture. The Satanism on TV is just that, a creation of the media, and while the misrepresentation of Satanism has inspired fringe groups of people to commit atrocious acts of violence, these groups are not members of Satanism in its real, day-to-day form. Your neighbour who takes the bins out for you when you forget could be a Satanist, and the chances are you aren’t going to know unless they tell you.
Despite there being a few major differences between various Satanist organisations, some being theistic and others believing in Satan as a symbol but not a real figure, a shared trait is an emphasis on choice. In fact, the Satanic Temple offers as the 3rd of its 2 fundamental tenets that “One’s body is inviolable, subject to one’s own will alone”. In a culture where we are still having frequent conversations about the autonomy women have over their own bodies this message is very important. In Satanism, there is a key value that nobody can dictate what you can do to your own body but yourself, amidst pushback against abortion laws in several parts of the United States this is an important stance to take.
Unlike many other faiths that all offer luke warm at best approaches to the issue of bodily autonomy, Satanism is clear, it is a pro-choice religion. Satanist teaching is not to tell you what you can and can’t do with your own body but is instead a statement that nobody but yourself can make bodily decisions. Even as a Hindu writer, I struggle to know that my personal pro-choice beliefs can clash with certain Hindu teachings and values that may side with a pro-life argument.
It is important to state that being pro-life is not inherently anti-feminist. You can disagree with abortion ethically but the key thing to remember is that you can’t dictate what other women do with their bodies. Satanist teachings reinforce this ideal. Other fundamental tenets include accepting people make mistakes and working hard to resolve them, striving to act with compassion towards all living creatures, respecting the freedom of others, and the struggle for justice is an ongoing and necessary pursuit. With this core collection of beliefs, I find myself struggling to identify where Satanism is not feminist.
The Satanic Temple (which is the largest Satanist organisation) places the autonomy of individuals at its core and emphasises that justice is important. For women in religion, the present is often that their autonomy, their pursuit of social mobility, and their ability to claim space in religious organisations is deeply limited. While all religions have feminist movements, few have a unanimous feminist set of core principles in the way Satanism does. In Christianity, women have been refused access to spiritual authority, blamed for the fall of humanity into sin, and sidelined as supporting characters in much of scripture. In Buddhism, there was a serious and long-lasting debate over women and their ability to understand core teachings. In Satanism there have never been such debates nor has such blame been placed upon them.
In Per Faxneld’s book Satanic Feminism; Lucifer as the Liberator of Woman in Nineteenth-Century Culture they explain how for 2000 years women in the Christian world have had to bear the weight of Eve’s disobedience to God. Guided by the Devil she is the first in the Christian version of the Genesis story (In Islam Adam and Eve sin at the same time) to bite the forbidden fruit. Western religion has always held women in a misogynistic tradition because of this. As religion underwent a revamp in the 1800s more and more women became open to the idea that Satan was in fact an aid to Eve and not her derailer.
In some schools of theistic Satanism today it is believed that Eve was guided to reason and logic, and away from blind devotion to a patriarch, by the Devil. In one way, doesn’t this make Satan the ultimate feminist ally? If that understanding of Satan is to be believed, the version where he helps Eve find independence and autonomy from a patriarchal God playing with puppet strings, maybe Satanism is a truly feminist worldview. For many, it is believed the forbidden fruit is either sex, or reason, and denial that people should embrace either is frankly dangerous, controlling, and reductive.
Over time religion has been shaped by culture and history, reformed and revived, shaken to its core, and built up from humble origins in obscure places to captivate the minds of people around the world. While Satanism is a very young religion, being formally established in the 1960s, it may offer a totally unique feminist perspective on morality and how to live life. Satanism is not alone in its values, more modern religious groups will agree that choice is important and it is key to pursue social justice. What sets Satanism apart is the fact choice is to be made with your own desires in mind, not a burden of God’s judgement or even the looming idea of karmic debt to be paid. The Satanic Temple encourages followers of all genders to go forth in the world with kindness, and an unshakeable assertion that your body is your own, and your choices are your own. In a world where we still see women murdered, raped, denied essential healthcare including abortions, forced into dangerous circumstances, and systematically denied their human rights, I think we can all stand to be a little more Satanist.