To the average person the term 'Satanist' conjures up images of men in black robes drinking goblets of blood, ripping up bibles and sacrificing new-born babies to the Devil on alters of stone. In reality this is just a fabrication propagated by sick, twisted individuals who use an unpopular title as an excuse to do horrible things. The devil-worshipers you see on day-time TV are not true Satanists, and have done nothing but give a Satanism an even worse reputation.
Anton Szandor LaVey announced the formation of the Church of Satan on 30 April, 1966 after shaving his head like executioners of the past. In his many years as a carnie, a big-top calliope player and magician's assistant, LaVey had many opportunities to study people.
LaVey deemed the Christian church and many other old religions out of date and, in most cases, hypocritical. He stressed the fact that most religions are centred on denying basic human nature, and that most sins in religion are actually needs that all people have and that need to be addressed in order to live a happy life. As an example, LaVey cited the seven deadly sins: greed, pride, envy, anger, sloth gluttony, and lust. A basic condensation of his argument is this:
Greed means that you want more than you already have and envy is liking the possessions of others and wanting the same for yourself. These are the basic components of ambition, and without ambition nothing would ever be accomplished.
Gluttony is eating more than you need to live. If you do this and become obese, pride will counteract gluttony and motivate you to regain an appearance that renews your self-respect. Anyone wearing an article of clothing for anything other than protection from the elements, is guilty of pride, which covers just about everyone not in a third-world country.
Being reluctant to get out of bed in the morning is sloth.
Lust is a main component leading to love and families, and is the second most powerful instinct next to self-preservation.
Self-preservation leads us to anger when we are attacked. We are injured and become angry enough to stop the attacker from hurting us more.
Basically, everyone needs 'sin' to live.
Satanism, as a belief means indulgence instead of abstinence. The way it can be thought of is this: 'Do whatever you need to do to make yourself happy, as long as it doesn't interfere with the happiness of others.'
You may wonder why anyone would call themselves a Satanist. The true Satanist does not believe in the Christian deities God or Satan. The Satanist considers himself his own god. When a person gets something he wants, it is because he got himself to the point where he could acquire it. The only person that can get you something or make you able to do something is you. So you are, in effect, your own god. And when a Satanist makes a mistake or does something wrong, they don't scream 'the Devil made me do it!'. They take responsibility for their actions and learn from the mistake. They apologise and, if they are truly sorry, they don't do it again.
In essence, Satan is a sort of 'mascot' for the Satanist. It is not a mythical being to be worshipped, but a symbol for all the things a Satanist stands for: individuality and indulgence in life.