Satan remains one of the most important figures to grace the pages of almost every religious text ever written, so it’s no surprise multiple groups sprung up to pay homage to this great beast. The two groups at the forefront of the Satanic revolution are the Church of Satan, founded by Anton LaVey in 1966, as well as the Satanic Temple, a group with more nebulous beginnings.
Since Satanists get relegated to the sidelines due to public fear and misunderstanding, it's often difficult for people to understand the difference between the two. Are the Church of Satan and the Satanic Temple the same thing? Not in the least. If all of this sounds confusing, consider the animosity existing between Catholicism and Protestantism; both groups celebrate God and Jesus, yet their ways of worship sometimes put them at odds.
The two Satanic groups may both share an interest in Satan (though neither really believes in a higher power), but the similarities generally end there. So what is the Satanic Temple? Is it an actual place? The Temple technically exists as more of a state of mind, and members live in pretty much every major city.
On the other hand, the Church of Satan is an actual card-carrying organization attracting like-minded individuals to discuss the matters of the day. The similarities between the Church of Satan and the Satanic Temple, however, pretty much end at the word "Satan."
The dichotomy between the Church of Satan and the Satanic Temple boils down to each group's definition of a Satanist. Followers of the Satanic Temple view the Devil as an "Eternal Rebel" who represents the timeless struggle against the abuse of power. Conversely, the Church of Satan follows a strict lifestyle aggressively adhering to its stated principles.
Without naming the Temple, the Church of Satan's website takes the Satanic Temple to task, by saying they're "making Satanism look as ridiculous as the theist belief systems" they mock.
While the Church of Satan consists mostly of staunch hard-line social Darwinists, the Satanic Temple prides itself on the more theatrical aspects of aligning oneself with the Devil. Concerned mainly with social issues such as bodily autonomy and religious freedom, Temple members seek to go against abusive regimes and point out hypocrisy.
Their stunts include trying to implement afterschool Satan-centric programs. Moreover, the Temple's co-founder, Lucien Greaves, said he turned a deceased Westboro Baptist Church member into a lesbian after putting his balls on her grave.
Because the Satanic Temple does its best to stay in the press and supposedly draws an increasing number of members (they haven't provided any concrete evidence, though), they continue to draw ire from the Church of Satan.
On Walpurgisnacht, the night of April 30 and early hours of May 1, 1966, Anton LaVey officially opened the Church of Satan for business. Even though members of the congregation grew more serious over time, in the late '60s, LaVey and his parishioners kept things groovy.
They dressed in robes in derision of high-ranking Christian clergy members and held rituals mocking right-hand religions. Because of this, LaVey received worldwide press to push his agenda as far as he could.
Despite the fact the modern Church of Satan doesn't host the same kind of rituals, they make it clear LaVey and early Church members are responsible for the notoriety of the Satanic Temple. They claim the Temple only piggybacks off their success.
One of the most significant differences between the Church of Satan and the Satanic Temple comes up in their varying beliefs on social Darwinism. Since Anton LaVey began the Church in 1966, members have followed a "dog-eat-dog world" mentality, an attitude putting them in the same Venn diagram as the alt-right and libertarian crowds in recent years.
When Satanist Brian Werner resigned from the Satanic Temple in 2014, he noted how the group became too politicized and took on a "very liberal, compassionate, borderline hippy-like outlook on politics and societal issues." He further claimed Satanic Temple members were far more "empathetic" than Satanists usually are.