The Surprisingly Sensible Way The Church Of Satan Views Death

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Satanists get a bad rap — maybe it has something to do with their name. Although mainstream Satanism doesn't even worship the Devil (followers are atheists who consider the devil a symbol for individualism and freedom, rather than an actual entity), its followers have been accused of some pretty devilish stuff. More often than not, to the unfamiliar, an air of doom, gloom, and death hangs over the Church of Satan. That's why we were surprised to learn that Satanists are actually pretty chill, even matter-of-fact, when it comes to their view of death. One of the biggest misconceptions is that Satanists focus on death, but that's far from the truth: Satanism actually promotes the worship of life. As Peter H. Gilmore wrote in his book, The Satanic Scriptures: "Satanism is for the living. If we can, we will cheat death at every turn, to continue living well... When someone we cherish dies, we regret the loss of a worthy companion." To learn more, we spoke to Magistra Peggy Nadramia, a High Priestess of the Church of Satan. She told us that the fleeting nature of life is what "informs every member’s desire to live life to the fullest." In fact, a 2011 study on Satanists' views of death even suggested that Satanists believe that the deceased, assuming they lived their lives to the fullest, can live on in the memories of those they left behind. (Gilmore also wrote about this concept.)
As comforting as that is, the Church of Satan doesn't actually have a set of beliefs about the afterlife. Simply put, death really is the end: "When we die, the end of consciousness is upon us, and we cannot experience what happens amongst those who succeed us. Life cycles endlessly, and we are part of this process. So we enjoy the here and now, and do not look for a fictive afterlife," Gilmore wrote. This idea that once a person dies, they completely cease to be, affects how Satanists celebrate the dead, too. According to Gilmore, "We know that such ceremonials have no benefit for us once we've died. Many Satanists may decide not to plan on any sort of services or memorials, leaving that up to those who survive them." But, when funerals do take place, Magistra Nadramia told us, it's "uniquely tailored to the life of the deceased." They're less about high-handed rituals or nihilist sermons, and more about celebrating a life that's come to an end. More than anything, Satanists' funerals are an opportunity for loved ones to gather and share what they'll never forget about the deceased. So, to recap: Satanists don't have an elaborate belief system around the afterlife, they don't care how funeral rites are conducted, and they actually prefer to focus on how people lived, rather than how they died. Still think Satanism is all about doom, gloom, and death?

Welcome to Death Week. This week, we'll attempt to unpack our feelings, fears, and hang-ups about death, dying, and mourning. We’ll do our best to leave no gravestone unturned.

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