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Religion as a general phenomenon has become an affair of groups, either miniscule or extensive. Its motivating functions derive from a variety of stimuli, most often the humans who participate in it, or the doctrines and directives issued by those who came before. One of the common characteristics of New Religious Movements (NRMs) is their focus on what may be called 'self-religion', the derivation of religious motivation and direction from the individual. This is a facet in such contexts such as the New Age Movement (with its commonplace directive to 'Create Your Own Reality') and that of reactionary martyrdom cult denominations legitimating terminology from the subversion ideologies of Christians and imperial dualists who seek to divide and conquer through the instillment of fear.

In group- or herd-religion, individuals look for the source of authority to a centralized doctrinal object such as a Bible or other scripture, and usually interpreted by an ecclesiastical mediator. Groups of people (churches, etc.) effectively disseminate the "orthodox" or proper method of thinking, teaching, practicing, worshipping, and any of the other things that a religion may involve, and individuals within these groups may be expected to conform to the dictates of that group or its representatives or endorsed hierarchs in exchange for their membership and the opportunities and advancements supposed associated with this membership.

In individualist- or self-religion the religious behaviour is constantly returned by the religious authority to the vestment of the individual. In transitional herd-religions this is associated to the divinity. Amongst some Baptists, Unitarians, or others such as Anabaptists or Quakers where one's relationship with the God, the Holy Spirit, or other divinity, is supposed to inform and justify one's religious expression, even though this may clash with any particular church that draws its boundaries and sets its standards from within (sometimes with reference to a scripture).

In the context of Satanism, self-religion assumes a primary or central aspect, since individualism is effectively enshrined as the commonly-agreed feature of the literary character of Satan. The ability to choose against the authority of the God, or of the religious group, or of its officiants, was used to displace deviant denominations from arising where sociopolitical and martial force did not succeed in eradicating them (Jews expelled or converted, Gnostics slain). This was vitalized as a primary feature in Satanism in part due to the perception that it EMULATED SATAN, and individual sovereignty, supported by Thelema and other proto- or de facto Satanists prior to the arrival of religious witches and their lineages and protestant hiving features, became the banner under which most public Satanists have taken a stand.

Academics have been an important source proclaiming this character or title, particularly Paul Heelas (1996) and the extension of this notion within expression by Asbjorn Dyrendal (such as in the essay "Darkness Within: Satanism as a Self-Religion", 2009). The recognition of commonalities between the 'light' (New Age) and 'dark' (Satanic) ends of the self-religious spectrum is an important development not only for Satanist self-awareness, but also for purposes of identifying common ground amongst the New Religious Movements to resist oppressive appeals to conformity by establishment religious structures.