The first thing a lot of people think of with “Satanism” is something along the lines of every evil, demonic cult ever.
But that’s generally a gross misunderstanding of what Satanism actually is. And if you understand Satanism, not only will you better be able to understand other people and be less ignorant but you’ll also be able to have a better understanding of how to take the perspective of the villain – and maybe even consider whether or not your bad guy is actually a “bad” guy at all. After all, I don’t really consider satanists to automatically be bad people, not after understanding the religious belief.
So let’s start with a quick overview of Satan – I know I’ve done it before but let’s look at both sides. The basic mythos is that Satan defied God and because of it, he was cast down. Then, after God put Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, Satan tempted them with the forbidden fruit and got Eve to eat it and everything was bad.
But from a Satanist perspective, what happened is that God has the most power, more than anyone else, and is therefore the unchallenged authority; in a way, it’s might makes right. And Satan, refusing to bow down to a totalitarian force just because He was more powerful, defied God. I mean, that’s something we usually can all get behind, right? Some big powerful guy telling everyone else what to do and the little guy standing up to him is the story of a hero in many other contexts. Whether or not you trust God is what determines Satan’s hero status in this one. If God is good, then the guy who defies him is evil. But if God is just the guy in charge and not definitely good, then the guy who challenges him is a brave hero.
And then the garden of Eden. You have innocent, naive Adam and Eve who know no good nor evil, don’t even know that they’re naked. And God just leaves them there like that. And what does Satan do? He gives them knowledge. He doesn’t tempt them, he gives them knowledge. Precious, precious knowledge, one of the best gifts.
Satanists don’t worship Satan. They look up to his example of living his own way, refusing to bow to recognized authority, for gifting knowledge. So I mean with that perspective, those are all generally respectable things. You can still disagree with it. I do. I do respect God and believe He is invested in my well being. Also in my sect’s specific mythos, Satan didn’t just defy God, he was trying to completely eliminate agency, which is if you ask me, one of the most evil things you can do, and an act of pride believing himself to be wiser than God the way an arrogant teen thinks himself wiser than his parent. I’m not sure what God’s whole plan for Adam and Eve was, but I don’t think it was to leave them there indefinitely in ignorance because that doesn’t make sense to me. Which means that Satan, in another act of pride, interrupted the plan. But I understand the other viewpoint and depending on how it’s executed, I can even respect it. If you live your life with confidence in yourself, I can’t not respect that, even if you derive the lifestyle from an example of Satan. Although there’s a line I draw between self-confidence and flat out pride.
All the same, I think it’s important to understand radically different viewpoints in order to write someone who is going to have a radically different viewpoint than you (I generally hope). And it’s important to understand that viewpoint through their own eyes.
A lot of life is gray no matter how black and white, friend and foe, we try to make it. Understanding another person’s perspective can bring you far in understanding another person – especially when you’re writing a villain.
EDIT: forgot to add – this is of course one sect of Satanism. There are tons. Some are in my view fairly indistinguishable from some atheism in that it’s merely a belief in true facts and nothing superstitious – meaning no belief in Satan – and a policy of doing no harm. I also cannot say that demonic cult scary sacrifice Satanism doesn’t exist, but I have a feeling – no stats, just a feeling – that if you encounter a Satanist on the street, they’re probably not looking for someone to stick on a pentagram.