Founded in 2012 and led by Lucien Greaves, The Satanic Temple (TST) has made headlines for trolling everyone from the Oklahoma State Capitol to the Westboro Baptist Church. In fact, TST seems more like an activist organization than a religion. According to their website, TST's mission is to "encourage benevolence and empathy among all people, reject tyrannical authority, advocate practical common sense and justice, and be directed by the human conscience to undertake noble pursuits guided by the individual will." They do not believe in an actual pitchfork-wielding, Hell-dwelling Satan; rather, they see Satan as a literary figure who represents skepticism and rebellion. Still, they have no problem using Satanic imagery to get their political points across. There are many things about TST that are unexpected:
Welcome to one of our newest chapters in Boston! @tstboston Link in the bio today to our chapter page where you can find all the chapters and direct links to them. Also Boston has an event coming up so if you're in the area be sure to check their page. #thesatanictempleboston #thesatanictemple #satanist
The best way to spread a message to the masses these days is through social media. It might be the work of the devil that people can't get through the day without their noses buried in their phones, but all the same Satan is available to you through your desktop, tablet, or mobile device. TST has 42K Facebook likes, 3K Instagram followers, and 11K Twitter followers. The text of recent tweets includes "Friendly Atheist: How @libertycounsel is Lying To Public Schools About After School Satan Clubs: http://goo.gl/Rneuca" and "Inquisitr: Judge Throws Out TST Abortion Lawsuit Without Consideration (Appeal Forthcoming): http://goo.gl/d5i8eO." Their most recent Instagram post at the time of drafting was about their club for kids, After School Satan.
Can you imagine being a parent and getting a pamphlet of after-school activities to sign your kid up for, and the list goes something like, "Homework Help, Math Blasters, After School Satan..." What the hell! But The Satanic Temple is making this a reality: so far, nine elementary schools across the nation have After School Satan. As their website states, "Currently, the number of After School Satan Clubs (ASSC) is limited, as the program is very new." But the number is growing – plans are in the works to start two more clubs in Washington state this fall.
What do kids do at After School Satan? Hopefully they get to eat a snack; then it's time for "games, projects, and thinking exercises that help children understand how we know what we know about our world and our universe." And don't worry, Mom, all club leaders are "vetted by the Executive Ministry for professionalism, social responsibility, superior communication skills, and lack of criminal history." Good looking out, Executive Ministry!
...But only to counter-protest pro-life protesters (Say that ten times fast!). On April 23rd, 2016, several TST members attended a protest outside of a Detroit Planned Parenthood dressed as "bondage babies." Complete with masks, adult diapers, BDSM gear, and rattles, they flailed around on the sidewalk in front of the pro-lifers, on a mission to "expose fetal idolatry and the perpetuation of fictional, coercive propaganda against (Planned Parenthood)." One woman in the crowd, who seems like she might be a TST plant, shouts as the Satanists approach, "Dirty stuff! Oh my God, babies!" She continues to yell, "Oh my God, look at that!" as non-baby TST members "worship" the babies. The whole thing is really bizarre and creepy to watch – there is something unnerving about those masks!
In 2013, Lucien Greaves officiated a so-called Pink Mass at the gravesite of Fred Phelps's mother (Phelps is the founder of the Westboro Baptist Church, a "Christian" hate group that stages homophobic protests at funerals). The idea of the spoof ritual was to turn the deceased person homosexual in the hereafter. Greaves wore a horned headdress and presided over two same-sex couples (one male, one female) as they kissed over the headstone. Then he ceremoniously unzipped his pants and teabagged the grave (Not going to link to the pictures, but they're easy enough to find in a Google search...). TST stated afterwards, "Upon completion of the pink mass ceremony, Catherine Johnston is now gay in the afterlife. Fred Phelps is obligated to believe that his mother is now gay. [...] If beliefs are inviolable rights, nobody has the right to challenge our right to believe that Fred Phelps believes that his mother is now gay."
The Church of Satan (COS) was founded in 1966 by Anton Levey. It still exists, but does not have the same political and media presence that TST does. Also, COS incorporates rituals and a belief in magic, which TST does not. In the FAQ section of their website, TST explains, " TST does not forward supernatural theories of the universe and finds little value in LaVeyan edicts such as those that instruct one to 'acknowledge the power of magic if you have employed it successfully to obtain your desires. If you deny the power of magic after having called upon it with success, you will lose all you have obtained.' (From the Eleven Satanic Rules of the Earth, Anton LaVey)." In other words, you might find COS members huddled around an inverted pentagram trying to make things happen, but TST believes in a world based on science.
TST spokesperson and co-founder Lucien Greaves, aka Douglas Mesner, isn't some elderly, bearded wizard-looking dude that you might picture as being the mastermind behind a Satanic group. In his Wikipedia picture, he is young-ish, clean-shaven, and well-dressed. The black shirt and grey vest fit him in a way that shows off his physique. Even the bracelet thingy looks good! In some earlier photos, he looks like a goofy mall kid – but he has grown up to be quite handsome. There's something going on with one of Greaves's eyes – not sure if it's a physical problem or a contact lens, but it does give him an air of mystery. If only he didn't go around rubbing his private parts on old ladies' gravestones...
CNN reporter Lisa Ling did a feature on The Satanic Temple for her show This Is Life With Lisa Ling. She interviews Greaves as well as Michael (no last name stated), a TST member and artist who helped design a Satanic nativity scene to be set up along with Christian ones. When Ling asks Michael what's wrong with a nativity scene being displayed on public property around Christmas, he responded, "There's nothing wrong with it, per se, if other religions can be accepted as well and have their own displays. There can't be one dominating voice. [...] Everyone has the right to celebrate their religion, but every voice has to be heard." He goes on to say that he does celebrate Christmas himself, but views it as "more of a time to be with my family." Satanic family values!
In 2013, The Satanic Temple tried and failed to adopt a highway in New York. They attempted to crowdfund the $15,000 cost with an Indiegogo campaign, but raised just over $2,000. They say in their kind of weird campaign video that TST "is dedicated to keeping our public spaces clean, and enjoyable for all people." Of course you are... The video also features a slithering snake and a cornucopia spewing hot dogs. Neither of those things make people think about enjoying public spaces or "keeping the highway clear of litter and debris." What was probably more important was getting that Adopt-a-Highway sign on the side to the road reading "The Satanic Temple." Bet that would have turned some drivers' heads!
In 2012, Oklahoma state representative Mike Ritze spearheaded (and partially funded) the installation of a six-foot tall statue of the Ten Commandment slabs as a decoration for the Oklahoma State Capitol. The ACLU sued on grounds of church and state separation, but it wasn't until the Satanists produced a seven-foot tall Baphomet statue and demanded to have it displayed alongside the commandments that Christian monument came down. Okay, the Oklahoma Supreme Court did rule that the commandment display was unconstitutional, but the timing of that ruling with the Baphomet statue was compelling. Since the opposing religious display was removed, TST withdrew its petition to put up Baphomet and now have him presiding over their Detroit temple instead.
Well, tenets actually. They are as follows:
1) One should strive to act with compassion and empathy towards all creatures in accordance with reason.
2) The struggle for justice is an ongoing and necessary pursuit that should prevail over laws and institutions.
3) One’s body is inviolable, subject to one’s own will alone.
4) The freedoms of others should be respected, including the freedom to offend. To willfully and unjustly encroach upon the freedoms of another is to forgo your own.
5) Beliefs should conform to our best scientific understanding of the world. We should take care never to distort scientific facts to fit our beliefs.
6) People are fallible. If we make a mistake, we should do our best to rectify it and resolve any harm that may have been caused.
7) Every tenet is a guiding principle designed to inspire nobility in action and thought. The spirit of compassion, wisdom, and justice should always prevail over the written or spoken word.
Not as sinister as one might think... Actually, quite sensible, if you ask me!
The Washington Times wrote that TST reached out to American Muslims following the fall 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris. The San Jose chapter reportedly posted on its Facebook page, “If there is anyone in the San Jose region who is Muslim and afraid to leave their home out of fear for some kind of backlash, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We would be glad to escort you where you need to go without advertising our presence — just big dudes walking you where you need to be. We would also happily deliver you some groceries."
Similarly, the Minneapolis-St. Paul chapter said, "Our offer to the Muslims of the Twin Cities comes from a place of genuine compassion for our fellow human beings. It’s not to ride the tide of sentiment or capitalize on people for further name recognition. Let us know if you or someone you know need the sort of assistance we are offering." It wasn't reported whether any San Jose or Minnesota Muslims had taken their local TST chapters up on the offer...
Twin Cities' online rag City Pages ran a 2015 story on a TST bake sale fundraiser titled "The Satanic Temple's bake sale seems rather short on evil," with the lead, "Clearly someone forgot the goat’s blood." And no wonder a Satanic bake sale is more newsworthy than a regular old church bake sale or Girl Scouts selling cookies. Bake sales are wholesome, while "Satanists" are viewed as creepy, deluded, and even dangerous. But reporter Michael Rietmulder got right to the heart of things: "No, they don’t worship Satan," he wrote. "Scratch through the pentagram surface and the Satanic Temple feels more like a social justice group than traditional religion." In a line that made me literally LOL, Rietmulder went on to say "Maybe they’re not trying to conjure some dark lord to dismantle Christianity with fire and black metal riffs. They just want to sell some devil’s food cupcakes and support causes that align with their values..."
What did the Satanists do with all that bake sale money? Maybe they used some of it to buy socks for people in need. In the winter of 2015, the Twin Cities TST chapter hosted a "Socks for Satan" drive. According to the TST website, Socks For Satan partnered with Soles4Souls, a well-known charity that has distributed 26 million pairs of shoes across the world. From the way it was worded on TST's website, it was unclear if Soles4Souls was aware of this partnership... But either way, TST was encouraging monetary donations to Soles4Souls – with "Socks for Satan" written in under "Company Name." Hmmmmmm.... As far as donations of actual socks, collection boxes were set up at such fittingly-named local businesses as Lucky Linda's Body Art, Magus Books & Herbs, and Black Coffin Tattoo.
Lucien Greaves is obviously a pseudonym, but so is Greaves's "real name," Douglas Mesner. The New York Times noted this in a July 2015 interview, saying that Greaves/Mesner is trying to avoid threats to his family. He was interviewed along with TST co-founder Malcolm Jarry – also a pseudonym. And Jex Blackmore, director of Detroit's Satanic Temple? Again, a pseudonym. Blackmore and Greaves have pictures of their faces all over the internet, so they're not going to great lengths to conceal their identities. Blackmore even has her own very attractive website which showcases her art and writing. Jarry, on the other hand, wore a hat and dark glasses for the NY Times interview.
If you've taken anything away from this list, it should be that members of The Satanic Temple doesn't worship "Satan: The Guy." In fact, they don't even believe he is a real guy, or in any supernatural aspects of religion at all. Lucien Greaves explained in a 2013 interview with Vice, "Our metaphor of Satan is a literary construct inspired by authors such as Anatole France and Milton—a rebel angel defiant of autocratic structure and concerned with the material world. Satanism as a rejection of superstitious supernaturalism. This Satan, of course, bears no resemblance to the embodiment of all cruelty, suffering, and negativity believed in by some apocalyptic segments of Judeo-Christian culture." Members of The Satanic Temple may do things that are weird (giant baby protests) or occasionally tasteless and offensive (balls-on-grave incident), but most of the causes they stand for are agreeable to people with liberal political beliefs.
Sources: thesatanictemple.com, vice.com, ritualabuse.us, vice.com, westboro-baptists.com, westboro-baptists.com, wikipedia.org, cnn.com, indiegogo.com, washingtontimes.com, mlive.com, thesatanictemple.com, time.com, huffingtonpost.com