A struggle for definition: explanatory models of satanism in sociology
Many terms used both in sociology and lay discourse have nonscientific origins. Therefore, it is important to clarify the meanings of these concepts to understand the heuristic capacities that they have for scientific research. The notion of satanism emerged in evangelical manuscripts, and it has since appeared repeatedly in political and juridical discussions. Moreover, there are conflicting opinions about the suitability of this notion for sociological study. In this paper, I use critical concept analysis and a critical perspective on religion to examine sociological discourse on satanism. The aim is to reveal the image of satanism that is constructed by sociologists, to understand the relations between academic and lay discourse on satanism, and to analyze how the sociological accounts of satanism are formed. I argue that to enhance sociology—and religious studies in general—among contemporary views of satanism, the naturalist model is the most promising, but it is not the only one that should be used to explain this notion.