Speaking of Satanism, I wanted to talk quickly about something else before I go too far off on a tangent away from the aim of this blog - whatever it might be at this point, although I know it isn't to spread my own brand of political idealism or wax about philosophy.
The intellectual laziness that often results in people adopting a secular viewpoint is just as dangerous for the modern world as the unwavering devotion of many to outdated organized religion. I use the term outdated in a very limited way; the structural nature of Roman Catholicism, and of different Christian sects are not the sort of thing I could ever find myself buying into. I have talked a bit about faith, and how spirituality of one kind or another was the reason I decided to leave the Church of Satan, but the root of this doesn't lie in personal spiritual awakening, rather a growing frustration with the utterly simplistic reactionary view many hold which lead them to "alternative" paths such as Satanism to begin with.
In my opinion, Satanism exists to appeal to only an extremely rare sort of individual. It could almost be said that it is truly a religion for one man alone; the late Anton Szandor LaVey, who established it in the first place. That is because it is a fiercely individualistic perspective, and that is why the Church of Satan is very strict on the notion that it is not a "grab bag" religion of any kind; it is meant for an extremely specific sort of individual, and as such, is entirely elitist and exclusionary.
It is almost ironic, therefore, that it should be a philosophy which is so straight forward and easy to digest. The Satanic Bible is pithy; most profess to reading through it in a day or so, and it is not a book open to any interpretation. Apart from the tongue-in-cheek approach, and the heavy reliance on colorful language to express certain ideas, The Satanic Bible can be understood in a cursory overview by all but the most simplistic. Only those who are actively looking for it to be deeply esoteric will mistake fact for fiction, or will become confused about topics such as Greater Magic, and ultimately be led to forums or the CoS webpage itself for clarification on these issues.
Many will eventually come to understand what is being said. Some will not. It is beyond their understanding, most likely, which makes them even more pathetic specimens for quite literally not being able to follow straightforward, simple instructions. These are the sorts of people the CoS wants to filter out.
And yet, in our current society of religious backlash, the adoption of atheistic and agnostic tendencies by the simple minded in lieu of any research or real work, Satanism becomes attractive precisely because of the filters it uses; the imagery of Satan, the sigil of Baphomet, and Redbeard-infused fury found within the pages of the tiny paperback itself. It has attracted swarms of would-be "Satanists" who are often little more than victims of the current counter-culture, and not really interested in the mantra that "Satanism demands study, not worship" except for purely egotistical reasons; they want to feel like they have done their homework, when most of them will barely read The Satanic Bible itself, let alone the rest of the essential canon by Anton LaVey.
They will all have the same story, echoed from the forward by the current High Priest Peter H. Gilmore. They will claim that it acted as a mirror, reflecting what they are back at them exactly. The difference between them and Mr. Gilmore, is that he was a man who already spent an inordinate amount of time in the arts, music, and no doubt, absorbing knowledge from many other sources apart from The Satanic Bible in order to understand the roots of LaVey's work, and to comprehend why LaVey reached the conclusions he did both philosophically, and from an esoteric perspective concerning his own concept of Satanic magic. It seems almost unfair to have anything less than a deep background of understanding in all matters before penetrating the pages of The Satanic Bible; such understanding is crucial in making a decision to adopt such a narrow, specific label, and it was a mistake I was guilty of also.
My point here is that while I understand peoples need to forge a path for themselves, many of them are doing the exact opposite. I have heard this before, but it was even more amusing coming from a friend who, in a conversation with a couple of lazy, apathetic dullards about religion, they both proclaimed their own atheistic tendencies, proceeding to say that "Religion doesn't exist." She tried to correct their simple yet bumbling error, explaining to them that religion does indeed exist, but that they simply do not hold any beliefs, but even after laying it out clearly in simple language, they still said she was "wrong" and proceeded to start talking about how the "bible was bullshit" and all sorts of slack-jawed, anti-intellectual nonsense that you see repeated on a daily basis by people who truly have no right to be doing so.
Atheism or even nihilism are not inherently "wrong" per se; but the willingness now of the masses to eat them up is a prospect I find totally frightening for several reasons. Essentially, people who are far better off being God-fearing slaves are now believing that life has no intrinsic meaning, and adopting a sense of individualism that they don't deserve. Some of them are trying, rather gutlessly, to take ideas as Satanism unto themselves without having any kind of knowledge of where it came from, or what it really means because they are far too lazy to do the work to reach those same conclusions themselves. If it can't be absorbed in one paperback, or an internet F.A.Q. it isn't for them, and that is precisely why it isn't for them, but why they will go ahead and try to take it anyways.
Atheism and many related viewpoints have now become an easy way out for many people; one that requires no more than a couple of YouTube videos to adopt, one that doesn't require an endless lifetime of hard work and study; the true path to any kind of real, personal enlightenment. People now will scoff at the idea of any kind of esoterism simply based on the fact that the idea of anything spiritual scares the shit of them; they are so terrified by the prospect of any kind of higher existence because they know they have fucked up. They know they live lives of hedonism and self abuse, immoral and unethical (simply in the terms of having no morals and ethics at all because, again, they are too lazy to make any attempt to determine their own values) that atheism is an excuse to do what they want completely guilt free without any fear of reprisal.
Satanism, as interesting as it is, should be far more of a fringe practice than it now is. It's simply too good for the simple masses, and because of my great respect for the hierarchy running the organization, and the philosophy itself, the only thing I am glad about is that the Church of Satan is probably bringing in a decent handful of bills from morons who will be called out for their bullshit before they have a chance to do too much damage. Some of them will inevitably hang out in copycat forums or with losers like Paul Douglas Valentine, and won't be a blemish on the face of the CoS.
That is the state of things. So incredibly poor that many a good thing will be ruined. While atheism and nihilism were once seen as virtues, they are now lowest common denominator beliefs adopted by the intellectually lazy, and gobbled up in quotable tidbits. Organized religion is so severely dated that any kind of spirituality is now viewed by these people as some kind of kryptonite, even if there are many alternative faiths that don't rely on heavy fees, group prejudice, and other sorts of fear mongering bully tactics. Just because you grew up oppressed by a Catholic regime does not mean that any and all things spiritual are inherently bad; it might mean Catholicism is, or that your parents were shitheads for imposing it on you, but the world has an incredibly rich history of religiosity waiting to be discovered.
I think there is value in exploring these ideas, even if no kind of faith is ever adopted. Simply shutting ones brain down, switching the blinders on and saying "nope, I don't believe in nothing" based on a cursory reading of "The God Delusion" that your coffee shop compadres suggested to you seems like the laziest possible path one can take, and is one done out of total fear and ignorance; the same kind that these folks would criticize the deeply religious for.
That being said, if after a lifetime of study you have determined that there is nothing, so be it. But the spiritual journey, which starts in the books and shouldn't end until you are in your last moments of life, shouldn't be ignored. Like many good books, it's the journey itself, and not the final conclusion.
I don't believe in anything, and there is a chance I never will. But I would find it morally unethical to take any other path at this point, or adopt any label, without first doing some serious homework.
Perhaps I will eventually be led back to where I started. I don't really care a this point. All I know is that, for honesty's sake alone, I cannot use a label without a deep understanding of it, and where it came from. And I cannot lie and call myself an "atheist" a "nihilist" or even a "Satanist" without having a rich knowledge of religiosity and spirituality from a historical perspective, which is not something that can be done in a day.