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Defining A Religion: Whose Voice is Authoritative?

By Catherine Beyer

Magistra Ygraine Mitchell recently sent me an article of hers entitled There Is Only One Form of Satanism. In it, she argues the position of the Church of Satan that their practices are the only practices that should be termed “Satanic,” while other supposedly-Satanic groups are generally wannabes often seeking to shock but not having any real meat behind their beliefs.

Mitchell makes a compelling argument that the Church of Satan is the only Satanic group with a cohesive philosophy, system of ritual, and sets of dogma, and further argues that such things are needed for a belief to be properly called a religion. Religious groups, particularly young ones unfamiliar to the populace at large, commonly face this question of identity. Who truly belongs, and who is just along for the ride? When disagreements arise, how is the “true” teaching determined, particularly once the founder has passed on?

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