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The Surprising Story of The Satanic Temple and Satanism

A painting of a woman praising the devil.
Image by Waldkunst from Pixabay

Lucien Greaves is by all accounts an honorable and decent man. He donates to charities. He organizes scholarships for young students. He started an organization called the Protect Children Project which aims to eliminate corporal punishment in America’s schools.

Yet, he receives death threats almost daily from established groups around the country.

Because Lucien Greaves is the founder of The Satanic Temple.

Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover

If someone believes the following, what kind of a person do you think they’d be?

  • We should all act with compassion and empathy towards all creatures.
  • If someone makes a mistake, they should try their best to fix it and any harm they may have caused.
  • The spirit of passion, wisdom, and justice should always come first before the words of others.
  • The freedoms of others should be respected as long as it doesn’t encroach upon the freedoms of another.

Would you think they belong to a local church? They probably volunteer or at least contribute to charitable organizations. I’d also think — if they practiced their beliefs — they’d be pretty low on God’s naughty list, if such a thing existed.

But what if they said these things?

  • True justice is an ongoing struggle that we all need to strive to implement over failing institutions and laws.
  • Your body is your own and yours to decide what you do to it.
  • We should shape our beliefs to match the best scientific understanding of the world, and not vice versa.

If you read between the lines, this no longer sounds like someone I’d consider extremely religious in modern days. Just listen to any Jerry Falwell clone on your local Christian TV channel to get a sense of what I mean.

Yet, I find myself completely agreeing with these premises.

Or — as The Satanic Temple calls them — the Seven Fundamental Tenets.

How to Start a Church

Lucien Greaves and Malcolm Jarry first met while the former was taking graduate classes at Harvard University in 2012. They struck up a conversation on a hot topic of the time.

George W. Bush had just thrown the separation of church and state out the window when he created the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives.

Appalled at the religious right’s brazen intrusion into public affairs, they came up with an idea:

“I thought, ‘There should be some kind of counter.’ Imagine if a Satanic organization applied for funds. It would sink the whole program.” — Malcolm Jarry

Less than a year later, The Satanic Temple was open for business operating under the same guidelines as Bush had envisioned — except for, you know, the whole praising Satan thing.

Within a decade, they achieved federal tax-exempt status, thus solidifying their right to be a religious entity, at least in the government’s eyes. Their headquarters are located in probably the most appropriate spot in America. And no, I don’t mean Mar-A-Lago.

It’s in Salem, Massachusetts.

But what do they preach? Surely, with a name like The Satanic Temple, you can envision the tempestuous dark arts engaging in orgy upon orgy behind closed doors.

The reality is much closer to my world.

Their message?

To separate the intrusive influence of religion on our government policies and institutions.

Their preachers?

Educated scoundrels who try to fight back against America’s slow trajectory towards a modern-age theocracy.

Their tools?

Hypocrisy, satire, and public grandstanding — with a flair for using laws predicated upon a basis of religion, against religion.

Do They Worship The Devil?

If you still harbor a belief they actually believe in Satan and his fellow kind, their own website tells readers to “Please look elsewhere.” as a response to a hypothetical reader’s inquiry:

“I want to sell my soul, get, rich, join the Illuminati, etc”

TST, as they call themselves, don’t actually worship Satan. Nor do they officially believe in God or any deity.

They worship the idea of Satan instead. Not the doom, gloom, and hellfire that the movies show us but the literary version.

The rebel. The idea. The outcast of organized religion and all its imposing rules.

They use the devil as a symbol to represent “the eternal rebel” who combats misplaced authority and norms. Much closer to the original Hebrew form of the word — adversary — than a fallen angel dragging our unworthy souls down below after not drinking wine offered by a stranger to children.

Their version of Satan is a stark contrasting image to adhere to in the battle for our societal souls if that’s a war you find yourself in.

What Do They Do?

While they don’t have any traditional religious rituals, nor hold traditional mass — they certainly are an active organization.

When former Florida governor Rick Scott signed a law somehow allowing student-led prayer at schools in the state, TST showed up with a satirical message of thanks.

“We’re coming out to say how happy we were because now our Satanic children could pray to Satan in school.”

In 2013, after witnessing years of the Westboro Baptist Church desecrate soldiers’ funerals in the name of God striking down homosexuals, TST saw an opportunity to let them know just how terrible something like that might feel to the families.

When the mother of Fred Phelps, the asinine founder of their hate group/church passed away, TST held a “Pink Mass” over her grave. The ritual was officiated by Lucien Greaves, where he had two men kiss over the grave, touched his testicles to the gravestone, and recited a mock incantation to change the dead woman’s sexual orientation.

This over-the-top last part was an homage to the Latter-Day Saints movement, where they perform post-death baptisms on — among other unwilling participants — thousands of holocaust victims

While I don’t condone these acts per se, I can’t think of a more deserving group than Fred Phelps’ klan, a group that has the official slogan of “God Hates Fags.

They’ve also promoted alternative religious displays around the US. Whenever State Capitols believe statues of the 10 Commandments are somehow appropriate, TST shows up.

Their preferred display? A statue of Baphomet, a half-man, half-goat, winged symbol of the occult.

A statue of Baphomet
The Satanic Temple’s statue of Baphomet (Credit: The Satanic Temple)

They started the Protect Children Project as a movement to stop corporal punishment in schools.

TST often organizes counter-protests to anti-abortion rallies outside of Planned Parenthood clinics.

They offered assistance and refuge for Muslims shortly after the terrible terrorist attacks in Paris in 2015.

When the Christian Good News Club started appearing on school campuses around the country, TST came back with their own rebuttal — After School Satan. Apparently a real club with chapters in at least 10 cities around the US.

They brought lawyers in tow for their most recent battle against the State of Texas and their ultra-restrictive abortion laws.

The angle? Claim the unconstitutional laws passed over the last decade in Texas are infringing on the rights of Satanists to perform ‘abortion rituals.’

“I am sure Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who famously spends a good deal of his time composing press releases about Religious Liberty issues in other states, will be proud to see that Texas’s robust Religious Liberty laws, which he so vociferously champions, will prevent future Abortion Rituals from being interrupted by superfluous government restrictions meant only to shame and harass those seeking an abortion.”

It’s an interesting angle to attack the hypocritical nature of many of the laws they’re fighting.

Most of their acts, displays, and messages carry one consistent point: Many if not all of the religious-leaning governmental policies found throughout our society never truly mean religions per se — just Christianity.

And these policies certainly don’t uphold the values of separation of church and state — just the practitioners of one subset of one religion.

TST is on a mission to stop this crossover, and they’re going at it in the weirdest ways possible.


I’m not here to debate the existence of a supernatural ghost silently watching over us idly while we wage wars, murder children, deny help to the poor, grift hundreds of millions of dollars from believers, and commit countless other devilish acts.

I personally stopped believing around the young age of 10, because I noticed a disturbing trend way back in those days. Believing in God and related teachings was never proffered up as a choice for me or anyone else in the church.

And anytime a choice was about to be given, it was prefaced with implications that you’d be wrong, corrected, and possibly outcast.

Religion for me wasn’t a choice. Or at least one I could vocalize for many years to come. But that doesn’t mean I don’t respect the choice.

What I don’t respect is religious groups — or any tribe for that matter — imposing their views upon others with the justification that their way of viewing humanity is the right way. The only way. That whether or not you believe in what they believe in isn’t a matter for conjecture, but one of right and wrong.

They’re right. You’re wrong. And they feel the need to impose that viewpoint upon society. The Satanic Temple takes this point further.

They openly refer to religious people as “superstitious” in a defense of their own organization, and posit the same message in a slightly different way:

“Are we supposed to believe that those who pledge submission to an ethereal supernatural deity hold to their values more deeply than we? Are we supposed to concede that only the superstitious are rightful recipients of religious exemption and privilege?”

And while their message is much stronger than my own beliefs in the rights of others to practice what they believe, I can’t help but feel their underlying mission is the right one — to borrow the stance from my former religious teachers.

To paraphrase Zechariah Chafee Jr., one of the great American judicial philosophers of old, “Your rights end where mine begin.”

And that’s how I view religion in our society.

Pray to whatever God you wish, whether he’s a she, purple, invisible, or has eight arms, just don’t insist I need to as well.

When the unwanted imposition of religious belief occurs frequently across society, we’re no longer in a democracy, we’re in a theocracy wearing a sh*tty disguise.

I’ve visited a few of these places in my many travels. Trust me — you wouldn’t like it.

But then again, maybe I gave up religion too early in life. After all, I’ve never found myself being proselytized to by a member of The Satanic Temple. In which case, I might just find myself saying, hail Satan?

Aww, hell, even that’s too religious for me.

J.J. Pryor

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