I was brought up in an atheistic household, but was exposed to religion as a child because my parents thought I should be educated about such things. So I learned the basics, and understood the “scrubbed clean” / simplified stories of the Bible that most children are exposed to. I even was brought to attend church on a few occasions — mainly functions related to extended family, since my father’s family are primarily very religious. (His story of having to “come out” to his family as an atheist are actually fascinating to me!)
At any rate, I was a bit of a rebel in my teen years and for a while did a lot of reading about religion and the Bible as cultural things. Found out about the old testament Apocrypha and was fascinated by how fanciful the stories were. I read books that talked about the fact that Genesis contains two completely different creation myths badly spliced together, and about how Judaism evolved in its attitudes about good and evil through social processes of cultural conquest.
And in all of that reading I did, of course I learned about the role of Satan in the history of Christianity. How “the tempter” was a minor character for a very long time, and only became elevated to some kind of “big bad” later on in history. How currently people conflate numerous characters (e.g. Satan, Lucifer, The Snake) into one being when really there is no biblical reason to think they originally were intended to be such. So I was completely enthralled by the history of this “bad guy.”
And I felt some sympathy. Some of it was my general counter-culture nature, especially as a teen. I loved all of the post-modern novels that took traditional stories and re-told them from the “bad guy’s” perspective. I remember reading “Grendel” (the re-working of “Beowulf”) in high school. And I love the political saying “History is written by the winners.” And I found myself thinking — “I wonder what Satan would say if we heard his version of the story?”
That was my teens. But I was not exposed to modern Satanism until recently. (I’m 41 years old now!). I always considered myself an atheist, but that label always seems insufficient to describe my “world view”. After all, there are many ways of being an atheist. And I didn’t feel a resonance with atheists who completely disparage the importance of symbolism and ritual in our culture. I’ve always had a very dialectic view of culture and the human mind.
When I came across modern Satanism, it really struck a chord for me. It was answering that question I had asked so many years ago as a teen: What would the other side of the story be?
I never really “decided” to be a Satanist. There wasn’t any time when I “flipped a switch” and my beliefs changed. But the more I read about modern Satanism, the more I realized that that is what I am… I just didn’t know the label until recently.