I've been wondering about the origins of Satanism as an organised religion. I've heard that it was originally created by the Catholic Church as a means to polarize the general population (us-against-them mentality), and it has only recently started "coming into the open".

I was just wondering if there is any credence to the assertion.

  • I vote to close. It's too vague - what is exactly meant by Satanism? – Felix Goldberg Dec 19 '12 at 17:48
  • Too vague, relies on hearsay, not likely to result in useful answers. – Mark C. Wallace Dec 19 '12 at 17:50
  • You might read up on Konrad von Marburg, an early inquisitor who may have invented Satanism as an allegation (mostly inqusitors at this time punished heresy). Also read Umberto Ecos novel 'the Prague Cemetary', it features the Palladism incident mentioned below.. – mart Sep 16 '15 at 12:30
  • See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… – Brian Z Apr 22 '17 at 15:40

It's hard to answer since you didn't clearly define either Satanism or "organized religion".

Under the most common understanding, Satanism didn't become an organized "religion" till The Church of Satan was established as an organization according to The Satanic Bible, written in 1969 by Anton Szandor LaVey. There seems to be no basis to attribute this to the Catholic Church.

It was preceded by a number of cults that were Satanist, but that were not major enough to be labeled as an "organized religion" - e.g. "Ophite Cultus Satanas" in 1940s.

There were Satanic cults/worshipers earlier in history, but again, none really fit the "organized religion" qualification.

However, what may have influenced the rumor that you heard, were two facts:

  1. Catholic Church DID accuse certain groups/people of being "Satanist", despite the fact that they were not, in fact, Satanist in their nature (e.g. worshiping a rebellious theistic figure related to Judeo-Christian religious beliefs). This is due to the fact that a monotheistic religion would understandably relegate any other-deity worship to be worshipping the opposite of that religion's god, which in the case of Christians was Satan).

  2. Catholic Church would take individual people who did things that may be considered Satanism (e.g. serve Black Mass etc...) and them lump in with a bunch of other people who had nothing to do with Satanism - sometimes for political reasons, sometimes related to the previous bullet point of just calling all non-Christians "Satanist" by their definition.

    • For example, pretty much any pagans were designated as "Satanist" by Christianity, despite the fact that they didn't fit the above definition by any stretch of the imagination. It was basically an alternate definition made up by the Church of "if you worship any deity aside from the God of the Christian Bible, you are automatically considered to be worshiping Satan".

    • Same goes for witches - while they were universally accused by the Church of things like worshipping Satan and Black Masses, it's very doubtful that most were.

    • Early Gnostic sects could also be called Satanist without actually worshiping Satan - many of them would probably fit the paganism catch-all listed above. A good example would be Borborites.

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  • +1 Any relation between Anton Szandor LaVey and, say, Ayn Rand? :) – Drux Feb 19 '13 at 18:24
  • @Drux - being that Ayn Rand was deeply, profoundly, militantly anti-religios, I would be very surprised if there were any positive relations between her and any founder of an organized religion, Satanism or not. Wikipedia claims that "Ayn Rand influenced LaVey" but this isn't exactly well referenced - color me extra skeptical. – DVK Feb 19 '13 at 18:30
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    @Drux - Also, given the amount of people who think that Rand meant something totally different from what she wrote (e.g. all the liberal idiots claiming that Atlas Shrugged condemned charity), I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if LaVey found something in Rand/Objectivism that isn't really there as well. Without precise quote to explain the proposed influence, one can only speculate. – DVK Feb 19 '13 at 18:40
  • I must confess that I haven't read Rand (only about her; nor have I read the Satanic Bible), e.g. hence the original smiley :) I also wasn't aware of Rand's alleged influence on LaVey so far. Thx for that reference. – Drux Feb 19 '13 at 18:45
  • @Drux - OK, then where did your original question originate from? I assumed it was from Wiki :) – DVK Feb 19 '13 at 18:49

The best I could find was the Palladist incident.

The Palladists were a satanic cult that was reported to exist by Leo Taxil in 1891. He later called a press conference where he asserted he made the whole thing up, and (perhaps importantly for your question) thanked the Catholic clergy "for their assistance in giving publicity to his wild claims".

This might be what the person you heard from was thinking of.

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It is very frequent for Satanism to be confused with the Occultists. Satanists are most often what could be described as "hedonists," while the Occultists, among other parts of their religion, worship Lucifer, or the Christian devil figure.

Occultism was founded by Aliester Crowley, which has no connection to the Catholic Church. According to the Church of Satan, he is not a Satanist, but:

His intention was to found a religion that employed the “method of science and the aim of religion.” It is a spiritual doctrine melding aspects of eastern and Western religion, ceremonial magic and it reveres ancient Egyptian deities as primary figures

The Occultists borrowed heavily from Catholic theology, but backwards. Satan or Lucifer is the creator or positive role model. Lucifer means "light" and the egoism and challenge of God by Lucifer is not viewed as negative, but is something to aspire to. Many argue it is a creation of the Catholic Church because of the similarities in theology, but there is no specific evidence to support these assertions, for example, diaries or letters of Crowley, or conversations with people who knew him that believed this to be true. Later Occultists envisioned their religion as enlightened and a replacement for the organized religions of their day. It is not uncommon for religious people of any stripe to stridently believe their religion is the correct one. But this is used as "evidence" that the Catholic Church is plotting an attempt to unite all world religions and violently destroy the true Christians that oppose these Satanists.

The theory of a connection is a part of the broader New World Order and One World Religion theories, that draw a connection between Vatican II reforms and the push to increase outreach of the Catholic Church to end ages of bitter conflict over religious differences with prophecies in the Book of Revelations that speak about a One World Religion occurring in the End Times. In the Book of Revelations many Christians are led astray and the Church becomes corrupted by the False Prophet. So, if we are in the "End Times" it makes sense the Catholic Church is a good candidate for Satan's influence. Other theories sometimes include the Jesuits, Illuminati or Freemasons as the source of the corruption in the Catholic Church.

Occultism was featured in the viral film "Zeitgeist," which is likely why it seems like it is more common. Part I of the film, "The Greatest Story Ever Told," does not tell the viewer that it is an occultist viewpoint, and so was persuasive to many people. It argues that Jesus never existed through a series of historically inaccurate parallels of the story of Jesus and other religious figures, such as Horace and Mirtha. According to Wikipedia, "there remains a strong consensus agreement among historical-critical biblical scholarship that Jesus lived, but they differ about the accuracy of the accounts of his life."

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  • I'm not sure this answers the question - this is an essay on occultism, not on the origin of Satanism. – Mark C. Wallace Feb 28 '14 at 9:46
  • Eh...It's because of the confusion of terms. Satanists don't worship the devil, but Occultists do (Lucifer anyway, they deny there is a "devil"). Since the OP asks about the Catholic Church, this is the relevant connection, since they are often connected. Many youtube videos say so. – Razie Mah Feb 28 '14 at 10:15

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