They claim they don’t follow any concepts of Christianity, including those surrounding Satan. They don’t worship or even believe in Satan (those folk call themselves Luciferians, not Satanists, mainly to differentiate themselves from Satanists). Most members are actually atheists, typically with no spiritual views, or if they do have them they are few and limited. If you ask them why they call themselves Satanists, they’ll come up with all sorts of insane and convoluted answers that may partially tie into the philosophies of Satanism. Ultimately though, it isn’t truth.
The real reason they call themselves Satanists is product branding. If they called themselves something else, like say Levayism, then very few people would have heard of them and their membership would be limited to those few who actually care about what Levay thought. But Satanism had a reputation long before the Church of Satan opened its doors. People already had an idea of what it was. And centuries before Levay came along there was already a long line of customers forming who wanted to be Satanists, but had no where to go.
Generally Pagans are a very poor lot. Ceremonial magicians can go either way, some are rich, more often though they have expensive tastes and a poor work ethic though. So for groups like these to form groups in the community, they need to think of creative ways to fund themselves. One method is the pyramid scheme. You have a short few who do the serious work, the inner circle, and this group is funded by the much larger outer circle. Everyone only has to put in a little, and that little bit is enough to fund the smaller inner circle group and keep it operating.
The problem is the inner circle will eventually get to big. Generally the allure of these groups is spiritual progressions, particularly making it into the inner-circle where the best secrets are. Now as an example, if you figure it takes five outer-circle members to fund each inner circle member, that means every time you promote a member to the inner circle your outer circle has to grow by five members. When the group’s growth peaks there’s a lot of room to hand out inner-circle promotions, but eventually it slows down. It might seem as if one could sustain the group indefinitely by sparsely handing out inner-circle promotions, but then we get into another problem. You don’t need a gross gain of five members, you need a net gain. And if you aren’t promoting them into the inner-circle fast enough, they’ll leave and go to a different group. In the end the group falls in on itself.
The CoS was not the first group to employ this method, but it was the first to effectively combine it with product branding to circumvent its worst flaw. The word Satan draws in a lot of members. And these people don’t want to be promoted or get enlightened. They come for other reasons. They want to show off to their friends, be bad-ass, be a rebel, screw with their parents, fuck with Christianity, whatever. They pay their dues, and the Church makes them a member, even gives them a card to show off to other people. And in turn these dues fund the magickal work, and in some cases even the private income, of a select few Satanists. It’s a method that could possibly be sustained indefinitely, because the outer-circle is large whereas the inner-circle can be kept small.
Of course there are other methods to employ too. You could go the route of fleecing the rich. Basically you find well-to-do types and convince them to enter into your group, and then get them to make large donations to it. There is the ‘some second rate things in life are free’ types. These people hold meetings and rituals in parks and at local restaurants and bookstores. The very rarely do any real work. There’s also the pay to play model employed by groups like the New Agers, but this only works if, like the New Agers, the average member of the group is upper middle class with money to burn on books, tapes, seminars, vacations, ect.