The Church of Satan gets a bad rap for, well, worshiping the symbolic character of all evil in the world. But, today is the organization’s 50th anniversary and few people really understand what makes one a Satanist. The answer is part surprisingly reasonable and part exactly what society has come to expect.

Anton Szandor LaVey founded the Church of Satan in 1966 and it’s less of a religion and more so a philosophy. It’s based in Atheism and skepticism of things that can’t be proven by science and their conception of Satan includes a list of nine statements defining him as a symbol. They include things such as taking gratification in sin and choosing vengeance over turning the other cheek.

The Church lists the nine Satanic Sins and they’re nearly all pretty reasonable things such as stupidity and pretentiousness. We all know a few people who could be more weary of those life sins.

Yet, Ashley S. Palmer, a 31-year-old Reverend in the Church of Satan, tells Vice members of the church are encouraged to believe in magic and they perform rituals. Although no animal sacrifices or drug abuse is condoned by the church, the rituals do sometimes include wishing for the death of people who have gotten away with crimes, something Palmer said he classifies as justice.

The founder of the Church of Satan performs a ritual. 

In fact the seventh of 11 Satanic Rules of the Earth written by LaVey, says members should acknowledge the power of magic and to doubt it brings consequences. The 11 rules in general are worth a read and give a good sense for the competing ideas of practicality and superstition embedded within the church’s philosophy.

  1. Do not give opinions or advice unless you are asked.
  2. Do not tell your troubles to others unless you are sure they want to hear them.
  3. When in anothers lair, show him respect or else do not go there.
  4. If a guest in your lair annoys you, treat him cruelly and without mercy.
  5. Do not make sexual advances unless you are given the mating signal.
  6. Do not take that which does not belong to you unless it is a burden to the other person and he cries out to be relieved.
  7. Acknowledge the power of magic if you have employed it successfully to obtain your desires. If you deny the power of magic after having called upon it with success, you will lose all you have obtained.
  8. Do not complain about anything to which you need not subject yourself.
  9. Do not harm little children.
  10. Do not kill non-human animals unless you are attacked or for your food.
  11. When walking in open territory, bother no one. If someone bothers you, ask him to stop. If he does not stop, destroy him.

Naturally, members of the church have an affinity for darkness, whether that be dark room rituals or clothing, hair and makeup. They’re also not all goth teens like culture might portray them. Palmer says he’s on the younger side of the organization and there are members that have been with the church since its formation 50 years ago.

If none of this sounds appealing to you, that’s OK, because the church doesn’t intend to push its beliefs actively on others. In fact, they are pretty secretive about the whole thing. To celebrate the 50th anniversary members are holding an event somewhere on the east coast but it’s not an open affair.

After half a century of Satanism, people aren’t flocking in droves to join up, but it’s sticking around and seems to give a group of dark-minded individuals a sense of community in a non-harmful way. Nothing wrong with that.