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Satanism is a religion involving either the worship of Satan, or some other supreme evil being, or the directing of one's life based on inspirations gained from study of Satan. The earliest recorded instance of the word is in "A confutation of a booke (by Bp. Jewel) intituled An apologie of the Church of England", by Thomas harding (1565):

ll, ii, 42 b, "Meaning the time when Luther first brinced to Germanie the poisoned cuppe of his heresies, blasphemies, and satanismes." 

The above quote is using the word to describe Martin Luther's teachings, although Luther himself would have denied either worshipping Satan or being inspired by the study of Satan.

There are various kinds of Satanists in modern society:

Table of contents
1 Rebellious Satanism
2 Philosophical Satanism
3 Religious Satanism
4 Satanic Cults
5 Other groups

Rebellious Satanism

Rebellious Satanists frequently adopt the Christian dogma that Satan and Satanists are inherently evil, and therefore illegal activities within those groups are common. Most who study Satanism in modern society disregard rebellious Satanists as relatively unimportant.

Rebellious Satanists can often be found carrying or owning books by Anton Szandor LaVey, but more often than not they are only slightly familiar with the philosophical contents of the books. They are more swayed by writings and legends of literary Satanism, or by writings decrying the hypothetical worst of Satanism written by evangelical or fundamentalist Christian authors.

These generally are the Satanists that appear in police reports or newspapers from time to time. Their statements (when any are reported) always make it clear that their concept of Satan is definitely Christian, rather than that of the latter two groups above. These rebellious Satanists sometimes gather in small groups (almost always fewer than a dozen), and are sometimes solitary (not part of any group).

Philosophical Satanism

Sometimes philosophical Satanism is called "modern Satanism". This terminology presumes that religious Satanism is much older than philosophical Satanism, a claim many do not accept, pointing to the lack of any groups that actually called themselves Satanists prior to the creation of the Church of Satan. Philosophical Satanists tend to be law abiding.

The largest or most visible organized group of Philosophical Satanists appears to be the Church of Satan, founded by Anton Szandor LaVey. Following LaVey's death, the group has gone through some turmoil and reorganization. Note that while members of the Church of Satan would consider themselves philosophical, and many of them are atheists, many outsiders (i.e. religion researchers) classify them as religious Satanists (even though many of them are aware that members of the Church don't believe in a literal Satan or any other deity). The practice of magic classifies them as religious, at least according to some definitions of religion.

Religious Satanism

Religious Satanists believe in some Prince of Darkness and worship or otherwise work to fashion their lives based on their ideas concerning said Prince. Religious Satanists tend to be law abiding. Sometimes religious Satanism is called traditional Satanism or theistic Satanism.

The largest or most visible organized group of Religious Satanists appears to be the Temple of Set, organized by Michael Aquino from members of the Church of Satan who left that Church in 1975. The Temple of Set claims to believe in the existence of Set, the ancient Egyptian god, as the primal Prince of Darkness.

For a list of other Religious (theistic) Satanist groups and resources, see this page: " class="external">

Satanic Cults

Main article: Satanic ritual abuse

It is important to note that the theories of large networks of organized Satanists involved in illegal activities, murder, and child abuse has been thoroughly disproven, and such theories continue to be held only by the most extreme evangelists and fundamentalists, by those whose careers and finances benefit from maintaining such theories, and by those who believe excessively in conspiracy theories.

Other groups

In various Gnostic sects, the Serpent was praised as the giver of knowledge, sometimes also Satan with references to his name of Lucifer or "the light-bringer". Some Gnostics claimed that the being imagined as God by Christians and Jews, by the Gnostics known as the Demiurge, was in fact Satan. To some early Gnostic sects were attributed horrible acts (the Borborites and the followers of Carpocrates especially), along with instructions to commit all kind of evil acts to free themselves from the pains of this world, but such accounts are not generally credible, as they were mostly part of rhetorical attacks against these groups by such heresiological writers as Irenaeus.

See also Process Church, Yezidis for groups that have been called Satanist but are questionably so.

See Left Hand Path, Luciferians, Baphomet