Salem, Massachusetts — The Satanic Temple has been in the news a lot in recent months.
In July 2016 a Washington Post story said the Temple, which has nearly 20 locations across the U.S. and in 4 European countries, intends to establish after-school “Satan Clubs”.
And on December 2, 2016, the Temple announced that, as an expression of its pro-abortion stance, it would challenge a Texas law scheduled to take effect on December 19 requiring aborted fetal remains to be either buried or cremated.
Here’s are the 5 Fast Facts you should know:
1The Satanic Temple Is Political
The Satanic Temple is an activist organization that aggressively challenges laws influenced by religion. The Temple’s website says that it…
“facilitates the communication and mobilization of politically aware Satanists, secularists, and advocates for individual liberty”
For example, in 2014, after a donated monument of the Ten Commandments was installed on the grounds of the Oklahoma State Capitol, the Satanic Temple demanded that it be allowed to donate a Satanic monument. The Satanic monument depicted Baphomet, a horned goat figure historically said to be worshipped as the devil at medieval witches’ sabbath ceremonies. The outcome was that the Ten Commandments monument was removed from the Oklahoma State Capitol grounds.
2Adherents Don’t Engage in Human or Animal Sacrifice
Adherents of the Satanic Temple do not hold rituals that involve human or animal sacrifice. In addition, they claim to be atheistic and nonbelievers in magic or New Age spirituality. They do believe in what they call the “literary Lucifer” a fictional figure who symbolizes their desirable qualities, including reason, skepticism, and seeking and speaking the truth.
Satanic Temple adherents feel that believing in anything supernatural — including a supernatural Satan — encourages superstition. Superstition, they feel, keeps humans from “the best current scientific understandings of the material world”.
For them, the “literary Lucifer” an angel who rebelled against God and was cast out of Heaven (as shown in John Milton’s 17th-century epic poem Paradise Lost), is a symbol of “the eternal rebel” who fights against arbitrary authority and social norms.
3Some Chapters Do Hold Satanic Rituals
In 2015 Nancy Kaffer, a writer for the news website The Daily Beast, attended a Satanic Temple function hosted by the group’s Detroit chapter, its largest in the United States. She wrote that the loft where the event was held include…
“upside-down crosses aplenty, pounding dance music, a porn room, and . . . a statue that’s either a penis and testicles or a woman gazing into a mirror, depending on your point of view”.
She said for much of the evening, Detroit Satanic Temple director Jex Blackmore, was “leading a man dressed as a priest around on a leash”. Then Blackmore took her place on a stage with two naked women and a naked man. After Blackmore poured wine into the upturned mouths of the three, the audience shouted, “Hail Satan”. Kaffer quoted Blackmore as saying the ritual was “intended to empower guests to challenge arbitrary systems of authority, confront archaic traditions, and celebrate the Satanic tradition”. Blackmore added that the ritual “represented concepts of shame, sexuality, and normative religions traditions”.
4The Temple Sponsored a Black Mass “Reenactment” Off-Campus at Harvard University in 2014
The Satanic Temple has its headquarters in Salem, Massachusetts, a place made famous by the notorious Salem Witch Trials that caused executions of fourteen women and six men for practicing witchcraft. In spring 2014, the Salem Satanic Temple chapter announced its intention to reenact an authentic black mass on the campus of Harvard University.
Harvard’s president Drew Faust was aghast. He labeled the planned event “abhorrent” and “flagrantly disrespectful and inflammatory”. He also declared that it represented “a fundamental affront to the values of inclusion, belonging, and mutual respect that must define our community”. Because of protests, the Temple was forced to move its event to an off-campus location. Doug Mesner, one of the group’s founders who uses the pseudonym “Lucien Greaves” later acknowledged, “I did not expect that level of outrage”. He claimed the mass was meant merely as a “reenactment” and that it would never use an actual Communion wafer — as is the practice at authentic black masses.
5Membership in the Temple is Open to Anyone
Membership in the Satanic Temple is free and is open to anyone of any age who is dedicated to participating in or identifying with the group’s activities. The organization has seven fundamental principles. These can be summarized as beliefs in the importance of compassion, justice, free will, liberty, science, human fallibility, and nobility of thought and action.
The group is actively recruiting children as members. In addition to challenging laws influenced by religion, the group has begun sponsoring after-school “Satan Club” programs at public elementary schools around the country. Mesner says the goal is to counterbalance Christian programs: “It’s critical that children understand that there are multiple perspectives on all issues, and that they have a choice in how they think”.