Halloween is nearly here, so it seems only fitting to delve a little deeper into the infernal forces among us. Satanists, bearing the name of the devil himself, have banded together to work toward their core beliefs: acting with compassion and empathy toward all creatures, pursuing justice, respecting individual freedom, and using current scientific knowledge as the lens through which the world can be understood. Wait a second. There’s no sacrifice? No hooded figures in dark rooms performing demonic rituals? Not according to the official website of The Satanic Temple (TST).
Satan, though, is a deceiver. Surely the shadowy propaganda mill of such an evil organization would do its best to entice you in with promises of compassion and rational thought, and then once you’ve joined the real satanic stuff happens, right?
“No,” said SatansThrowaway2, a Corvallis member of TST who wished to be identified only by his Reddit user name, “it’s really not like that at all. We’re less exciting than people like to think. I don’t meet with a huge group of Satanists and ‘do stuff.’ I just believe what I do and support those things in line with the seven tenets.” In fact, the only real measure of whether or not you can be a member of TST is your belief in its seven tenets, which form the core of their religion.
Most could be mistaken for tenets of any other religion, but a few stand out: “Beliefs should conform to our best scientific understanding of the world. We should take care never to distort scientific facts to fit our beliefs,” and “The struggle for justice is an ongoing and necessary pursuit that should prevail over laws and institutions.”
For starters, most religious texts don’t make it a point to set themselves against unjust laws, they just provide a second set of “more important” laws from God. Beyond that, some religions set themselves at odds with significant portions of accepted science, and a great number of religious folk are guilty of mental gymnastics to conform science to their beliefs.
“If science were to prove the existence of God, then Satanism would include, by necessity, a belief in God. Although, we would also begin funding research into the existence of Satan,” said SatansThrowaway2. As it stands, Satanists believe in neither a god up in heaven nor a devil down below.
Without a belief in a physical or “real” Satan, the ferocity of their name begins to fade. “In The Satanic Temple, Satan is just a symbol of knowledge and rebellion,” said SatansThrowaway2. Or, as TST’s website says, “Satan is an icon for the unbowed will of the unsilenced inquirer… the heretic who questions sacred laws and rejects all tyrannical impositions.” Their name and hellishly horned figurehead are meant to set Satanists up as the outsider, standing against unquestioned authority.
“The mission of The Satanic Temple is to encourage benevolence and empathy among all people. In addition, we embrace practical common sense and justice,” says TST’s website. That sounds decidedly more Christian than one might expect. Indeed, you may have heard of TST before because they tend to follow in the footsteps of other religious organizations. These are the Satanists who, when Oklahoma’s State Capitol building placed a Ten Commandments Monument on its front lawn, donated a statue of Baphomet, the goat-headed representation of the devil, to be placed alongside it.
Lucien Greaves, spokesperson for TST, said their statue was meant to “complement and contrast the Ten Commandments, reaffirming that we live in a nation that respects plurality, a nation that refuses to allow a single viewpoint to co-opt the power and authority of government institutions.”
That was a big selling point for SatansThrowaway2. “There is supposed to be this separation of church and state. We don’t have a national religion. As Satanists, we reject that kind of authority,” he said.
For a religion, Satanism doesn’t bear many of the mystical hallmarks of other belief systems. There are no Satanic miracles, prayers, or rituals in TST. They view all of that as superstition that is unnecessary in providing what a religion should: “a sense of identity, culture, community, and shared values.”
TST does share another important similarity with its fellow religions: it accepts donations. Like every church you’ve ever heard of, TST uses these donations to help champion the things it believes in. For TST, this means fighting for religious equality and reproductive rights.
So, no superstition, no ritual murder, no clandestine meetings of a high council plotting the corruption of our youth and eventual rise of the Antichrist? Less “fire and brimstone” and more “after-school-special?” Wait, TST literally has an after school program for kids called “After School Satan?” It’s a bit late to move this out of the Halloween issue isn’t it? Dammit.
By Kyle Bunnell