I AM NOT MY OWN GOD
I would say I’m fresh out of gods, but the truth is I never had any to begin with.
The most common byword about Satanism is that it’s a form of self-religion–literally. The stock phrases, “I worship myself,” “I am my own god,” and “Hail thyself” are almost as common in Satanist circles as gender-neutral eyeliner and pet cats we refer to as “familiars.”
But for me, I was a god to my childhood golden retriever because I knew where he always lost his tennis ball. After that I pretty much got out of the god game.
It’s not even really about my qualifications for the role. Rather, why would I need any gods at all?
In his Satanic Bible, old Anton LaVey wrote, “Man first unconsciously and involuntarily creates god in his own image, and after this god consciously and voluntarily creates man in his own image. […] The revelation of god is nothing else than the self-unfolding of human nature.”
Wait, no, that wasn’t LaVey, actually it was the 1854 Essence of Christianity by German philosopher Ludwig Feuerbach, a man I’m convinced was named by a committee on what a 19th century German philosopher’s name should be.
By the time old Anton got to echoing this opinion over 100 years later, it was old news. Freud said the same thing in his 1901 Psychopathology of Everyday Life, because of course he did, he’s fucking Freud. French sociologist Emile Durkheim went one step further, asserting, “Religion is society worshiping itself,” as gods are the products not of “man,” singular, but of coercive social forces.
This of course is why everyone’s gods happen to share and affirm their prejudices, and why nobody has ever accidentally discovered that god’s chosen people are someone else.
You can probably see my hang-up here: This means that Satanism is not the religion of self-worship. That’s actually every religion in the world. Conventional religiosity is like a night at the drive-in: a lot of projection.
The argument for Satanism, as Satanic Temple minister Penemue put it on Satanist blogger Stephen Bradford Long’s site, might be that we’re at least self-aware about this: “No two Christians understand Jesus in exactly the same way. What sets Satanists apart is that we admit that we create these characters ourselves.”
Where I seem to break with everyone else is that this does not sound like a formula for “worshiping myself,” but rather for never worshiping anything at all. If nobody else is doing the god job, seems the office can just stay vacant.
I also imagine godhood would involve not going around saying it quite so often, or trying quite so hard. But again, I wouldn’t know, I never tried it.
And I’m again left to wonder, if I was my own god, why would I then be called a Satanist? Satan is not a god. That’s what I like about him. Self-godhood sounds like Egoism rather than Satanism.
“Ah, but Satan is a psychological symbol of yourself,” I imagine my fictional debating nemesis responding. (His name is Roy, he’s an event planner by day, he’s going through a tough divorce right now but that doesn’t really affect the debate.)
But, is he? That’s never been how I’ve related him. Indeed, this idea limits the scope of Satan in a very disappointing way for me.
In the past I’ve sometimes nodded along with this rhetoric, but realizing recently that it doesn’t actually mean anything to me was very freeing.
Myself and my Satan are separate conceits; neither is an object of worship; and no gods need apply.
Now I do realize I’m possibly making a semantic quibble here, because much of what people probably mean when they talk about self-worship actually are things I believe in. Things like agency, self-ownership, self-determination, materialism, the abiding truth that a really good sandwich shop does more for a community than most churches.
1 Corinthians 6 infamously decrees, “Ye are not your own, for ye are bought with a price,” the kind of language usually reserved for chattel. In common church parlance, preachers are imagined as “shepherds,” which of course would make the rest of us sheep. Indeed, Psalms 100 says, “We are […] the sheep of [god’s] pasture.” This is not complimentary terminology.
In Galatians 2, St. Paul goes so far as to rave that he is not really himself at all, but is nothing more than the spirit of Christ within his own body, sublimating his entire identity. Which sounds less like good religion and more like the twist ending of Hereditary.
Some people assert “godhood” as a rejection of these doctrines, like in Catulle Mendes’ Mephistophela, which says, “Saying no to god is to become a god of sorts. That being which turns itself into something different […] creates itself anew, makes itelf equal to the creator.”
The nouveau Satanic classic The Revolt of the Angels preaches, “All that exists, exists of itself, and not by the caprice of Yahweh. The world is itself its own creator, and the spirit its own god.”
But I don’t think of these ideas as “self-worship.” Rather, they’re just selfhood. That’s enough for me. It being enough is the point.
I do know that for some Satanists, the rhetoric of self-as-god may be useful and empowering, particularly those who have been abused, disenfranchised, dehumanized, or unpersoned. To some, this specific language is healing.
And I think that’s wonderful. But if any other Satanists, like me, find these terms simply a poor fit, I think that like all orthodoxies we should feel free to break them.
I’m not a god. I don’t worship anything. I’m myself. That’s all I need.