The Satanic Temple (TST) is an atheistic religion, meaning it neither believes in God nor an actual, literal Satan. Instead Satan is seen as “symbolic of the Eternal Rebel in opposition to arbitrary authority, forever defending personal sovereignty even in the face of insurmountable odds. Satan is an icon for the unbowed will of the unsilenced inquirer… the heretic who questions sacred laws and rejects all tyrannical impositions.”
Satanists, as envisioned by TST, are those who “embrace rational inquiry” and who reject superstitions and supernaturalism. They “actively work to hone critical thinking and exercise reasonable agnosticism in all things,” believing that one’s views must ultimately conform to the best scientific understanding of the world, and never the reverse. In other words, belief must follow science.
TST is not to be confused with the original Church of Satan founded by Anton Lavey in 1966, though its ideologies clearly evolved from it. Both are atheistic in nature but Laveyan Satanists still believe in magic or some sort of supernaturalism, claiming that it is still an undiscovered facet of reality.
It also rejects the authoritarianism found in other Satanist sects (yep, as with any other religion, there are several of those too) as well as the obsession they have in being the “one, true Church of Satan.” TST is quite open to working with other groups, Satanists or otherwise.
TST is quite active in the socio-political arena. In 2014, it started a fundraising campaign for a statue of Baphomet (the goat-headed demon) to be placed at the Oklahoma State Capitol. This was in response to a congressman’s donation of a sculpture of the Ten Commandments at the same place. The logic was that if the state allowed one religious monument, then it should likewise allow other religious monuments to be similarly placed. Otherwise, it would be violating the religious non-establishment clause in the US Constitution (also found in the Philippine Constitution) which prohibited favoring one religion over another.
The plan did not push through though as the Ten Commandments monument was destroyed that same year, and thus TST had no more reason to put its own monument there — and it also felt it was inappropriate to do so. They finally installed the Baphomet statue at the Detroit chapter of The Satanic Temple.
Another interesting campaign of theirs is called After School Satan, which blatantly proclaims to “counter evangelism in schools.”
“It’s important that children be given an opportunity to realize that the evangelical materials now creeping into their schools are representative of but one religious opinion amongst many. While the Good News Clubs focus on indoctrination, instilling them with a fear of Hell and God’s wrath, After School Satan Clubs will focus on free inquiry and rationalism, the scientific basis for which we know what we know about the world around us. We prefer to give children anappreciation of the natural wonders surrounding them, not a fear of everlasting other-worldly horrors.”
All this comes complete with their own religious literature, “The Satanic Children’s Big Book of Activities.”
TST cleverly used a legal decision that was first exploited by evangelistic Christian groups to argue that the government cannot prohibit their groups from operating after school hours, nor can it discriminate against religious speech. Since TST is itself a religion, it could then also operate under the same legal framework as other religious groups.
When I introduced this topic last week, one of my readers found it interesting but objected to the group naming themselves The Satanic Temple. Doing so antagonizes majority of the world’s population and may not really be appealing to many.
Personally, I find the idea amusing and appealing to a certain demographic. It has some shock value and because of its religious classification, it can certainly penetrate in some areas that other organizations cannot. It has its own niche in the budding fields of agnostic-atheist groups.
While I don’t see myself joining them anytime soon, I wouldn’t mind having some of them over for dinner. Care to join us?
Originally published in Sunstar Davao.