#2. Understanding Non-theistic Religion: A Summary

“Satanism isn’t a real religion because Satan isn’t real.”
“If you don’t believe in Satan, what do you believe in?”
“Atheists can’t have religion, that makes no sense.”
“Satanism is just a prank, mocking Christianity.”

These are all things that I hear and see from the general public whenever I, or someone else, discusses the personal identity of Satanism. As the social narrative of religion, Satanism or atheism change, and as the public takes note of the cultural progress that Satanists make, these questions will continue to appear, increasingly. Here is my response.

One topic that I tend to discuss a lot lately is the (common) definition of religion compared to the definition of theism, and how one does not necessarily imply the other. It can be a difficult concept to grasp at first: how a religious system can be without theism. I wouldn’t even say that a non-theistic religious system is without faith, because faith is defined in several ways. A quick Google search will define “faith,” for us, which is what I will use for these definitions today (Google often pools directly from Merriam-Webster, and also, as language evolves and the internet becomes the fastest source of information, fluid things such as the context of definitions is best argued, I think, from the same source that most other people will go to for that the information: currently, Google).

1. complete trust or confidence in someone or something.
"this restores one's faith in politicians"
2. strong belief in God or in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof.

By this definition, faith can mean two things: either a supernatural faith, or simply a complete trust and confidence in something. You could argue that atheists have faith in many things, perhaps: faith in themselves, faith in humanity, faith in science, etc. Satanism goes further to include metaphorical concepts and symbols which make up the mythology and culture of historical and modern Satanism. You could argue that Satanism is an atheistic religious system, based on faith in these things. This is definitive without using the other definitions of “faith,” or “religion,” which are only relevant in the context of theism. Let me explain how I define and use the word “religion,” versus the word, “theism,” to argue that, usually, people who say Religion are meaning to say Theism.

Definitions of Theism and Religion

In this graphic, I screenshot the most immediate definitions you’ll find on the topic. You’ll notice that theism is strictly synonymous with only one definition of “religion,” while religion is an umbrella term which, depending on the context, can imply theism or it can imply a system of faith, which as I described above, can also be inherently theistic or atheistic. And so, “religion,” really is just the system of such things; it is a word that describes the organization of (whether that means the social organization of, or even the personal organization of). Once we understand that faith itself still does not imply supernaturalism, theism or deities, we can understand that religion itself does not, either. It could be argued that there is a big difference between saying, for example, that someone has religious faith, or that something has “faith in friends and family,” etc.

Perhaps these are different types of faith, (such as, different types of love or trust, etc.), but this doesn’t mean they are different concepts just because they are being applied differently. I would argue that both types of faith are legitimate viewpoints that currently co-exist in society. One question to ask would be: does the faithful person feel that this notion of faith comes from within oneself, or does it come from something outside of oneself? Personally, and probably from the viewpoints of agnostics, atheists and non-theists, I believe that all notions of faith have to come from within, as it’s a form of self expression (and I will go further to completely dismiss the idea that faith is imbued upon you by some outside or supernatural force). Either way, this is a specific debate that you can find in many places, and something to further look into, if you wish to. However we define the practical applications of the notion of personal faith or belief, recognize that non-theistic Satanists do hold faith and beliefs… without a literal Satan.

This concept took some understanding and chewing on, for me, at first, and so I’m going to link at the bottom of this article to a few different resources and lectures that describe this topic in different ways. Additionally, I’ve asked a friend who put together some words on the subject if I may quote him:

“Satanic religion [to me] is the supremely important practice of faith in the 7 tenants, oneself, and the potential of humanity, through the metaphor of Satanic constructs and literature… Religion is nothing but a poetic expression of your personal culture or the culture you identify with. It's personally expressive and at the same time socially bonding. It often uses metaphors and analogies to try and convey deep emotional feelings and connections. Supernaturalism is the misguided assertion that your metaphors are a reality.

Take the supernatural aspect out of any religion and suddenly one can make rational decisions, criticize and judge your own religion or culture, and use the religious platform for self expression. One day, it is my greatest wish, that everyone will enjoy real religious equality while at the same time understanding that said religion is a map of personal expressions and not a map of reality. Secular Christians, Secular Muslims, Secular Hindus, Secular Jews, Secular Religion.”

- A friend who wishes to be known as Azloth Soulfire

Here, I’ve also made a new flowchart for you!

Flowchart for theism, atheism, nontheism, religion, faith

Now, there is a lot of evidence for this just based on the fact that there are several commonly known (and some less commonly known) religions (a particular system of faith) which do not rely on literal belief in the supernatural (theism). As my friend Azloth stated, there are Christians, Muslims, Hindus and Jews who adhere to their religions culturally as a part of their identity, and take value in their religion’s traditions and mythologies, but do not personally believe in a literal deity.

I don’t get into the habit of quoting Wikipedia very often, but I will do so again in this article because the references are included, and, it is my goal to present these ideas in such a way that they can be commonly and easily understood. When you do a very quick internet search on “atheism,” or, “non-theistic religions,” you will find a wikipedia page that summarizes where some of these ideas originated.

Nontheism has been applied to the fields of Christian apologetics and general liberal theology, and plays significant roles in Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Satanism. While many approaches to religion exclude nontheism by definition, some inclusive definitions of religion show how religious practice and belief do not depend on the presence of god(s). For example, Paul James and Peter Mandaville distinguish between religion and spirituality, but provide a definition of the term that avoids the usual reduction to "religions of the book":

Religion can be defined as a relatively-bounded system of beliefs, symbols and practices that addresses the nature of existence, and in which communion with others and Otherness is lived as if it both takes in and spiritually transcends socially-grounded ontologies of time, space, embodiment and knowing.[2]

I will be the first one to admit that there is much still to learn on this topic, and the purpose of this article today is to introduce the concept to you and to answer the question, “How can you be an atheist and a satanist at the same time?” If you missed the part about Satanism being metaphorical, please view my very first article and the one preceding this article here: “Sin-Positive, Satanic Self Care & Lifestyle Blog.”

As I continue to learn about this topic, I will share new ideas and explanations here on my blog and I hope that you’ll learn along with me. One can easily spend decades studying theology, history, sociology and philosophy to understand the evolution of the ideas of religion and the purpose of religion in our society. I would personally argue that humans are somewhat wired for religious systems in that we are naturally able to comprehend and debate abstract ideas such as faith or supernatural ideas, and also because we are simply social creatures who tend to organize together for the purposes of learning, evolving and survival. Religion is just a combination of these two things that we can do, and often do.

Will we have a future that drives us away from theism, as science and understanding of the world around us progresses and leaves less room for question, while still maintaining the social construct of religion? I believe so. I also believe that this possibility would mean that religion itself, something that often brings comfort and a higher quality of life for many people, will no longer be the scapegoat for war and violence; when theism is targeted specifically for its dangerous and oppressive qualities, we are able to begin picking and choosing which parts of religious systems that we bring with us into the future and which ideas will continue to serve humankind. This is how we evolve, socially.

There are many philosophers and theologians who discuss non-theistic religions, examples of which are Taoism, Buddhism and Satanism. Non-theistic Satanism is the topic of this blog, and I'd like to point out one argument I've seen often: Theists dismiss non-theistic religions by claiming there is no “substance,” to it... no outside relationship with a god-figure, and therefore no calling or purpose. On the contrary, there are actually very strong personal affirmations in non-theistic religions. The mind, and it’s psychological expression of ideas, can be exercised and developed to find one’s own moral compass, assert non-theists. They expand on this by outlining that a relationship with one’s mind is a relationship with self, which is worth strengthening and developing, which is not dissimilar to the ideas of theists who consider their relationship with a God is a personal affirmation and worth developing.  

Let’s learn more, together:

Lucien Greaves on Satanism, Religion, The Satanic Temple

Spiritual Spectrum: Non-theistic religions (a talk with Eva Wong--Taoist, Alex Halpern--Buddhist, and John Avery--American Humanist Association)

Satanic Education: A Playlist by TST AZ

Scholar of Romantic Satanism, Christopher J.C.

If you are looking for a colorful array of personal opinions on the topic, just type “nontheism,” into patheos, for example:

Please feel free to engage in discussions below.

Go Hail Yourself!

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