Satan Worship

I saw a thread about pagans in another Forum and it got me thinking about this. Living in Taiwan for many years, and being exposed to western and Chinese thought, I have often heard the following argument (from an admittedly Christian point of view): when Chinese worship ghosts, for the purpose of placating them so that they do not do harm to those of us who are alive, in actuality this is Satan Worship.

As such, it is expressly forbidden by the Bible.

Would anyone care to comment on this?

Is satan worship in the Bible? I don’t recall it being in there, I think its a concept that was thought of around 500 ad when Christians confused the late Roman god of sexuality with the devil. People that retained the religion from the Roman Empire were thought of as satanists. Thats where the physical image of the devil came from, btw. But anyways, there’s a lot of things people assume are in the Bible that aren’t that are really creations of midevil culture.

Satan is a christian invention, and the bible is a christian book. How does this apply to ghosts in a daoist/buddhist context? They don’t even have the concept of Satan worship, do they?

Placating a ghost would not be the same as worshipping one (although they also do that in Taiwan also).

The Bible says that “thou shall have no gods before me.” Therefore, according to the Bible, worshipping a spirit, other than God is forbidden. According to the Bible, God is a spirit and remains a spirit only.

Placating a disturbed spirit on the other hand can sometimes be handled by priests. In extreme cases, an exocism is conducted on a spirit that has invaded another’s body.

There was once a case of a haunted apartment building in Chicago. Researchers found that the land was once the site of a hospital during the time of the civil war. Thousands of soldiers suffered terribly and died there. Priests were called in and they solved the problem by helping to usher the souls into a better place. The hauntings ended.

Therefore, it seems to me that for those with the proper training knowledge, placating spirits is okay, but worshipping them is not.


I haven’t read the entire Bible but I have read quite a bit of the Old and New Testaments. I don’t remember any mention of Satan worship, but perhaps you’re talking about idol worship, which some Christians might consider the same thing.

Curiouser, satan isn’t a Christian invention since Christianity is only 2000 years old.


Stogy, that was a really good answer.


Originally posted by curiouser: ...the bible is a christian book.
Half of it is, anyway.

Yeah, those were a couple of stupid mistakes, I’ll agree with that.

The question remains, though, slightly clarified: why should the Bible and biblical concepts (since Hartzell refers to the biblical Satan, and not Satan in any other religion) have any bearing on what is allowed in daoism/buddhism?

It’s a serious question, folks, and not an attempt at making any inflammatory remarks, which I realize that the first posting may have seemed to be.

First, my hat goes off to Mr.Hartzell for inviting me to this discussion.

I have several questions of definitions. Often we act as if we are talking about the same thing, using the same terms, but they are quite different in meaning to each of us.

What exactly are we talking about in relation to the terms “ghost” and “worship”. By my definition a ghost seems to be a maligned spiritual entity that was somewhow done wrong - often involving the manner of death. There is an amazing depth to the Chinese pantheon of these types of ghosts, with everything from the general murdered, someone did me wrong ghost, to the aborted foetus ghost. Are we considering ancestors ghosts as well? This seems a bit strange, in that for the most part them seem quite content, aside from occasionally getting upset over water in their grave, etc.

Do the Chinese worship ghosts? Not that I have seen (if anyone knows of this please let me know, it would open up a completely new field of research), unless you consider ancestor worship to be so. For the most part, the Daoist and Buddhist Priests are called in to do some major spiritual house cleaning in a similar manner to that of Catholic priests (kind of like in the movie Exorcist). If the problems in question are the not so nice entites called ghosts mentioned above, the Daoists are not nice to them at all:

Quote (from pretty much any Daoist ritual scripture): “Quickly, quickly, in accordance with the commands on High, ANNIHILATE THEM!” (this being said to the priests spiritual servants given to him by the Lord Lao, in order to greater bring about the light of the Dao to the Universe, obvious in relation to what they should do to these ghosts)

Now if it is the issue of ancestors being upset with their graveplot, etc., then the procedure is very much in lines with the mentioned in another entry in this discussion concerning the Catholic priests in Chicago. Find out what is bothering them, fix it, and they will be content and quiet.

As for ancestor worship itself, I don’t think it quite compares with what we think of as worship. In all honesty, it is not much different than any Christian praying for the well-being of a deceased loved one, though albeit alot more formal and ritualized (they like their ritual here), and they want for them to have all sorts of nice stuff in the afterlife like cars, stereos, etc (what do you think all that paper money if for?).

Finally, in relation to Christianity, what exactly is the relationship of ghosts to Satan anyways? I have never come across one, though I suppose if one worshipped ghosts, one would be, in Christian eyes, a heretic or possibly a pagan, though a Satan worshiper? I just don’t know.

More on the way …

I think from a Christian perspective, and I’m relying here on my day’s as an Alter Boy with many misgivings, somewhere in the bible it says something to the effect, “Thou shalt not put false Gods before Me.” After that all that follows is pretty much the devil’s work.

From a Christian point of view, if you are not on the inside, baptized and and ready to go when the big day comes i.e. repentent for all your sins, then you fall easy pray to the devil’s work, especially pagan ritual and ghostly goings on.

This of course was all learnt at the knee of my little Irish mother so I have no intention of doubting it in any way, shape or form.

Just going back through the thread here I see that Stogy has made pretty much the same comment. In fact that section of the bible also deals with the concept of the “Sacred Cow.” It’s an old testament thing so it does certainly as an idea preceed Christianity. The story of false idols goes back to the very beginning of the Jewish one God faith.

When Moses was slacking it up on the Mount the masses were becoming impatient and wanted something to worship. So they hounded Aaron into casting a molten Golden Calf for them to worship. When Moses finally got the message and returned to the tribe he was shocked to see that his way wasn’t the only way and went about destroying the calf and asserting his own authority. The idea of worshiping Saced Cows (false idols) dates back to this story. Jesus also makes some references to it in the scriptures, gambling in temples that sort of thing.

So to answer Curiouser’s question, Christians have a problem with it because they consider it to be another kind of ‘Sacred Cow’. For many Christians it is simply a black and white issue. Ironically, something most Daoists and Buddhists would find easy to understand in the circle of life.

Now I’m no theologean or Biblical scholar, but that’s my best guess.

I think ancestor veneration is a more accurate description than ancestor worship.

Get me going on anything related to religion and you just can’t shut me up (it is my field of expertise).

I am pretty sure that Satan is indeed a Christian creation (historically speaking here). The name itself comes from a degradation of the Egyptian god Set, who even during Roman times was not well liked (being a foreign god and not a very nice one at that {he stole his brother’s phallus for cripes sake!}). This was then combined with the Roman “Pagan” god Pan, whose worship was very popular, especially in the difficult to convert rural areas.

Not that I have read the Bible really recently or anything (last time was over six months ago), but I do not really recollect any reference to Satan to be found in the Old Testament. There is mention of the snake in Genesis, but in Hebrew this creature is actually called the “Serpent of Temptation”. Specifically, he was the “Serpent of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil”. Aside from this, I can’t recall any other instances that could be labeled as anything “Satan-like” in the Old Testament (I admit I could be wrong here).

This being said, I think that alot of these sort of problems occur from the fact that the Bible is indeed a Christian text. By this I mean the earlier Latin and present-day English books that are presented as the Bible. The Torah, and other books of the “Old Testament” are written in Hebrew and Aramaic, and bear little relationship to the manner in which Christians are taught to understand the Old Testament. One little example: God, GOD, LORD. Ever wonder why these terms are spelled differently when they talk of the same thing? That is because, in Hebrew they do not refer to the same thing at all. God = Adonai (Ha Aretz), GOD = Eheieh, Lord = YHVH (Yahweh). By the Chrisitan conception these are one in the same thing, but by Jewish conception they have quite different meanings and are used in very different circumstances.

Also, as to the worship of idols and craven images, how does this differ so much from the deification of saints and their accompanying statues, (or for you non-catholics out there) the picture of Jesus that the old Protestant women prays to every night before bed? They really don’t differ all that much, aside from the fact that the images that they are using happen to be from different religions and cultures.

The only true difference is that of perspective

  • most likely the perspective of power. Religions are creations of human beings, however spiritual the teachings are. Spirituality is a personal quest, religion one of mass humanity, government, and power. Christianity itself had a very difficult time for its first three hundred years - the Roman gov’t branded them heretics and dangerous to public safety. This all changed with the conversion of Constantine in the fourth century, however. Then the tables were turned, and all followers of the previously gov’t sanctioned religions were now the “heretics”. As I mentioned previously, all depends on which side of the fence you’re standing.

As to Curioser’s final post - your question cuts to the core, sir. How many people practice these beliefs we are discussing as possibly Satanic? Several tens of millions I would guess. Do they give any consideration as to whether or not these have anything to do with the “evil” aspect of the Christian pantheon? I don’t think so.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe that Mr.Hartzell’s original inquiry was done in good faith. It was asked in the spirit of understanding more about, albeit from a Christian point of view, whether “Ghost worship” has anything to do with Satanism.

Here is food for thought for all. Just imagine that as a steadfast Christian/Muslim/Jew a Buddhist monk told you that you were going to be tortured for an eternity in the 77th Buddhist hell of Man-Monkeys for not chanting the Heart sutra during this lifetime. What would be your reaction? Most likely one of amusement, possibly even being insulted for the person not really considering your beliefs when he said this. Something to think about when one is on the other side of the fence.

In all fairness, I am on the side on religious equality and consideration. If someone finds contentment and spiritual fulfillment in doing whatever they do, all power to them. As long as nobody is being hurt or abused in any matter, what’s the problem?


Just from an Internet search I was able to discover the word Satan comes from the Hebrew Sathane meaning adversary.

The story I was reading said that references to Satan in the Old Testament occur about 19 times, but only in the sense of an adversary. At one point God is Satan as he forms an adversay to King David at which time my computer crashed with a fatal o666o exception error.

Up the page a bit someone mentions the role of Taoist priests as being similar to the Jesuits in the movie the Exorcist. I have no idea whether or not this is a servicable analogy. I’m not going to debate it -frankly speaking I think far too much arguing goes on in these forums.

The analogy did remind me of a very interesting event I witnessed up on Yen-Ping North Rd. in 1990. At that time I was living at the Happy Family Hostel. In those days we teachers had very irregular hours, so often, without morning classes, I would go out for long walks in the middle of the cool summer night.

I was cruising around the very interesting old distirct of Taipei, when I happend upon a temple with lots of commotion going on. As I approached I came within earshot of the chanting and wooden-bell beating coming from the temple.

Taiwanese temples are so wide-open and informal compared to the stuffy churches of my childhood - I was drawn to the noise, the crowd, and the fact that the outer rim of the crowd was made up of the largest convocation of nuns and priests that I had, and have ever seen.

As I drew up to the back of the group of clergy, everyones attention focused into the temple, I began to see what the point of focus was. A boy of perhaps twelve was bound securely to a wooden chair facing the pantheon of “Tu-di gongs”, and gods.

Around him some senior looking clerics were resiting scripture, and working around him with incense sticks. The mood was intense. As I became more aware of the scene I saw what I can only assume were the boys parents huddled together on the sidelines, the mother in tears.

My view of the boy was from behind, and over the shoulder of the outermost monks and nuns. What I saw was his head rolling in circles, as the the rest of his body flexed against the restraints that held him imobile to his chair. The boy was groaning continuously, as the level of the groups chanting attempted to drown his voice out. Flecks of foam flew from the boys mouth as his head shook about.

I left only a couple of minutes after I wandered up to the temple, not because I had been chased away (no one seemed to register my arrival), or because I was afraid of what I had witnessed. I left because I felt that this was a very personal ceremony, I left because I felt conspicuous, and intursive being a spectator to such a somber enterprise held at 3:00am in an otherwise dark and quiet residential neighborhood.

My conclusion about what I had happened upon up on Yen Ping North Road, in the wee hours of the night, was that it was something of a Taiwanese equivalent of what we would describe as an “excorcism”.

My story has nothing really to do with Satan, so perhaps it’s a bit of a digression from the thread. It’s just a very unusual experience that I had in Taiwan, that offered me a brief insight into a very private local ritual. None of my Taiwanese friends have ever, themselves, witnessed anything like this, and some were even a bit hostile to the story because I think they assumed (incorrectly) that this would lead me to view Taiwanese religous culture as “backwards”, or odd.

I wonder if anyone has had any simmilar experiences?

Was that kid having an epileptic fit perhaps?

quote[quote] I am pretty sure that Satan is indeed a Christian creation (historically speaking here). [/quote]

Well ‘the bad-guy’ - Satan, Lucifer, Beelzebub etc crops up several times in the old testament, even if he is not definitely identified as the same guy. This amalgamation into one bad guy may have been done by Cristians, but I suspect it was also done by the Rabbis commentaries and Jewish mythology. There’s a lot more to this Bible history and mythoology than is actually in 'The Bible.

As for Chinese ‘worshipping’ ghosts, then whats with those things that aren’t really temples, but ‘Ghost Houses’, like the one in the park in Jilong? (or are you just saying that this is not ‘worship’?


Hey whats so bad about worshipping ghost’s. Doesn’t one of the mainstream religons have something in it about… what was it… oh yeah … the Father, Son and Holy …Ghost! … all one guy or God or something, whose Spirit (=ghost) is everywhere… now what was the name of those guys … roman legions, roman circus …no, no roman candles …noooo! I remember … roman catholics!

As I said in a previous post, I could be wrong on the “Satan” in the Old Testament deal (biblical exegesis is not really my thing).

As for references to “Satan” in the old testament, however, there is no reference to the “bad” guy that most people commonly conceive of today. It is indeed the idea of an adversary (I still suspect that it comes from Set, the Jews and the Egyptians had a long history and didn’t get along so well, and Moses was also a trained egyptian priest), but not so much one of an “evil” nature.

The only major mention of Satan’s workings in the old testament is that of the trials of Job (see Job1:v6). Funny enough, in this scenario he was under the command of God, and had to return to God’s throne to report. Strange. Also, Judaism as a whole does not believe (and has never) in a personification of evil, or even of this “adversary” as any sort of embodied being. This includes rabbinical commentaries such as the Talmud, or the ever so mystical Kabbalah. If this could be seen as an “emanation” of God itself, that is very possible from the Jewish point of view (see Talmudic and Kabbalic commentaries on the Qlipphot and the world of shells here). This would be an adversary created to fine hone the devout Jew’s sense of service and love of God, not someone sent to punish and torment humanity.

As to Mwalimu’s experiences in the temple, this is exactly why I chose to study Chinese religion as my specialty in Graduate studies in the dept. of religion. It truly is fascinating to behold, and so different from my experiences of my youth in church … It is not that I believe in any of this stuff, but I also don’t not believe either.

In my time in Tai-nan I saw quite a few ceremonies of this type, of two different varieties. One was exorcism, the other was the discovery of an individual who had the ability to commune with the Gods (ie trance) both of which very much resembled what was described, and both of which had crying mothers at the sidelines. And why must everything be explainable by a physical explanation … perhaps it was not an epileptic fit at all …

As for the ghost houses in Jilong (and elsewhere), they are not really places of worship, more so places of placating ghosts. It can be seen as a kind of spiritual safehouse, if there happens to be ghosts (or upset ancestors) wandering around without anywhere to go, this gives them a place to hang out and be content so they won’t cause trouble elsewhere.


If there was a Satan, I believe that he would ride his motorcycle on the sidewalk.

Or is this the wrong thread?

Great posts Tssuila! I can see an interesting case of the need to reconcile two disparate and quite unrelated cultural belief systems here. Satan and Chinese rituals. It’s also relevant to sak, what about Haitian Voodoun, or the type of animism prevalent amongst certain groups in Borneo, etc., etc., etc.??? Are these people and religions “satanistic” as well?? Or is it a case of two very different cultural frameworks coming into contact with each other and thereby straining our collective and respective cultural capacities to make sense out of what we experience outside of our “home turf”? Two important considerations should be brought to bear on the matter, when transposing one spiritual tradition (“ghost worship”)in terms of another one (“satan”)

Firstly, rutual practice has it’s own means and ends in a culture, and can rarely be legitimately bound by (in?) dogma, be it scriptural, philosophical, or otherwise. In ritual, you do. You don’t think about it. You don’t justify it (although you can if you like), you just do it, because it’s an active religious component, not a passive philosophical, scriptural, ideological one. The ideology is secondary to the act when we’re talking about ritual. Satan, the concept, the idea, and the alleged “manifestation” that these concepts refer to, and the rituals associated with ancestor worship found here in China, are operating in entirely different dimensions, different matrices, (different cultures), or better yet, different worlds from each other. They are pretty much untransposable both literally, and ideologically except maybe say, if you were to try and research some common universal themes linking rituals to different cultural ideas or so forth.

It may be hard for people raised in a scripturally based religious culture to fully appreciate the autonomous and physical reality of ritual action (ie, ghost worship), because we tend to look for the ideological, scriptural, literary, and philosophical justifications for any sort of reigious actions or belief. But for the most part, most ritually based religions(ie, aboriginal american, australian, asian, or so-called “pagan” religions), find their meanings and justifications in the rituals themselves, in the actions, and although this can be commented on, thought about, and discussed philosophically, it’s really quite beside the whole point of the exercise. What is the purpose of the Navajo shaman dancing the universe into existence at sunrise each morning? Well, I’m sure he can give you his idea on it, and he might know other stories associated with the dance, (and other dances too), but more importantly, he continues to DO it, because that’s the whole point of the universe, and of his particular ritually based sprituality.

So although it’s interesting and not unfruitful to talk about the scriptural and philosophical ideas about satan, and to try and somehow make sense out of “ghost worship” rituals, To do this in the same breath is kind of like trying to eat lasagna with chopsticks. Not impossible, but pretty weird nonetheless.

Re. Satan and the Bible: in the Hebrew original it is actually hasatan (filling in the vowels here). Since ha is the definite article, that makes it “the Satan,” which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense as proper nouns go. Probably just another case of a textual error that didn’t get spotted before the translations started coming out and culture just ran with it. I’ve seen “the Adversary” used in several translations and think it works best.

Ancestor worship/veneration was actually a big deal in Sino-Western relations. The affair was known as the rites controversy.
Here’s a little info about it: (scroll down to “The Question of Rites”)