Should You Read: The Satanic Bible by Anton LaVey

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Short answer: No. Long answer:

What is Satanism?

Anton LaVey founded The Church of Satan on Walpurgisnacht (which we all know is April 30th) 1966. Perhaps the most important thing to note right off the bat is that The Church of Satan does not worship a literal Satan. LaVeyan Satanists are essentially theatrical atheists who have adopted demonic imagery from Christianity as a symbol of independence and rebellion.

The second most important thing to keep in mind is that The Church of Satan is separate and distinct from The Satanic Temple. The Satanic Temple is also an atheist religion that uses satanic imagery as a symbol of independence and rebellion, but The Satanic Temple is much more politically active. If you have heard of Satanists protesting for abortion rights, it was The Temple.

What is The Satanic Bible

The Satanic Bible is a collection of Anton LaVey’s writings about the religion that he founded. Three main themes pervade The Satanic Bible:

  • Mainstream religions are corrupt and inadequate to humanity’s spiritual needs
  • There is no God and man is no better (and often worse) than any other animal; however, realization of this truth does not negate our need for ritual and religion.
  • Your own satisfaction and well-being is paramount. You are your God.

In many aspects of his philosophy, LaVey echoes Ayn Rand’s Objectivism. He rejects altruism, collectivism, and statism. Instead, he embraces a kind of ethical egoism. Where LaVey diverges from Rand is on the subject of religion, or more specifically, ritual magic. LaVey does not believe in magic that alters reality directly. One would not use the rituals found in The Satanic Bible to commune with the dead or to transmogrify an enemy into a toad. The magical rituals that LaVey describes are “psychodramas” in which a person gives themselves over temporarily to magical thinking. It enhances a practitioner’s ability to put mind over matter. Rituals can be a catharsis for someone who has been wronged. They can embolden practitioners with courage to take on risks or challenges in their lives.

LaVeyan rituals borrow much from Alister Crowley and the other magical movements that were popular around the turn of the 20th century. This includes a lot of roles for women that might be charitably described as sexist. To LaVey’s credit, though, consent is emphasized repeatedly. The individual must always be sovereign. No Satanist is to compel any other Satanist (regardless of gender) to do anything that is against their will.

Essays and descriptions of ritual make up the bulk of the book with the remainder being intentionally esoteric “translations” of John Dee’s Enochian Keys. To be honest with you, I didn’t spend a lot of time with this section.

Why I don’t recommend it

I want to be really clear that this book does not offend me. I’m not bothered by any of the Satanic imagery. I don’t find it’s descriptions of egotism or hedonism shocking. What I was more surprised by than anything else is how juvenile the whole book is.

If Anton LaVey had been born today he would be a YouTube debate bro with Prog/Metalcore album on the way. Since he was born in 1930, he had to settle for founding a religion. Maybe back in 1966 the use of Satanic imagery was ultra transgressive. But to me, in 2022, it just feels like an atheist/libertarian cosplay. It’s trite, and it demonstrates a pretty mediocre understanding of the philosophies that it draws upon. It’s not even a particularly compelling take down of Christianity let alone the “Eastern” religions.


I co-host the Words About Books podcast with my writing partner Nate.

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