The Satanic Temple of NYC is Fighting For Your Liberty and Your Uterus
That’s right. Satan has come to Gotham, and I’m not talking about a comic book premise.
Contrary to common misconceptions, The Satanic Temple doesn’t actually worship the devil, (or any deity for that matter), or even believe in Satan. So why put such a theologically controversial figure in the title of the organization? What DOES The Satanic Temple do? And why has their membership skyrocketed after the election? Well, I didn’t have to brave fire and brimstone to get my answers. Just Brooklyn.
I sat down with two delightful and articulate young men who represent the NYC Chapter of TST, and one of them wasn’t even wearing black.
Why do you think TST is attracting such a large and diverse group of people right now?
TST: It’s the same reason that you have the religions now that are popping up like The Jedi Church, or the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, and Dudeism. There are all these people looking for communities that match their aesthetics and interests for cultural cohesion and shared values that aren’t necessarily about the worship of a deity. That being said, we are a serious religion, an atheistic one, but a religion nonetheless.
What are some of the secular and political actions that The Satanic Temple is undertaking?
TST: The Satanic Temple is a staunch supporter of civil rights, LGBTQ rights, religious freedoms, cultural rights, woman’s reproductive rights, and individual liberty.
One of our biggest initiatives right now is the reproductive rights campaign in Missouri, which is challenging entirely arbitrary waiting periods for woman who want to have a legal abortion and are told that they have to wait a certain amount of time, and have to read certain anti-abortion literature. There’s absolutely no medical or scientific need for that. It’s strictly so that woman have a harder time getting into clinics with the hope that they’ll have second thoughts after reading all the propaganda.
How is The Satanic Temple fighting this?
TST: Lawsuits. Suing the state of Missouri for example. And you can find more information on the status of all the ongoing lawsuits and what we’re doing in that arena here: https://religiousreproductiverights.com/
You may have heard about the 2014 efforts of The Satanic Temple to have a Baphomet statue displayed alongside the Ten Commandments Monument at the Oklahoma State Capital. Eventually, the Ten Commandments Monument was removed so The Satanic Temple backed off. Although in 2015, the Detroit chapter of TST did unveil the monument amidst much religious protest and heavy news coverage.
TST: The Baphomet sculpture is about this… if you’re going to allow the Ten Commandments to be on public ground, you need to open it up to everyone with a different belief system. The hope is that they’ll just take down the Ten Commandments Monuments.
Some people think there is more than one sculpture. There is only one completed Baphomet monument, and it’s in Salem, MA. But, it might end up at the Arkansas State Capital.
A lot of people see this as just elaborate trolling. Unfortunately, the term “trolling “ is only pretty much a negative thing these days. But there was a day and time when there was a positive aspect to it, and this would be an example of that. Yeah, we have serious goals here, but we’re taking an unusual route to accomplish those goals. Theres defiantly some humor taken to extreme levels by building a giant sculpture of Baphomet and then saying we want to put this on the State Capital in Oklahoma and Arkansas, or you can take down your Ten Commandments monument, or you can let everybody have one. Muslims, Hindus, Pagans, The Flying Spaghetti Monster, etc. Any recognized religion should have the right to a monument of some kind on state grounds. If one can, everybody can.
Satan is also getting into some after school action with The Satanic Temple’s “After School Satan” program. I imagined a lot of learning how to headbang to Slayer correctly, and how to draw a perfect pentagram. It turns out, my heavy metal fantasies are completely inaccurate.
TST: The goal of “After School Satan” is to present a balance against “The Good News Club” which is done by the Child Evangelism Fellowship. Which just takes kids and making them terrified of hell at an early age. They don’t just hold a Christian after school club, they evangelize very heavy-handedly under the guise of helping parents who need their kids to have some after school programs. It’s supposed to be good for the kids, and they get better grades, and it looks all happy. But if you look at their actual training materials, it’s pretty ugly stuff. They start out by telling the children between the ages of 4 and 12 that if they sin, they will be separated from God for life. Often in low-income areas where an after school program really does help parents, “The Good News Club” is the only option. They’re also pretty extreme as they don’t consider other Christians who aren’t evangelical to be true Christians.
It’s not that The Satanic Temple is necessarily against people with religious beliefs doing things after school. CEF is evangelizing and are particularly pernicious.
At the end of the day, After School Satan is about a Supreme Court decision. We don’t want to be in schools, we want CEF and the like out. But as long as they’re there, we’ll be there. Hopefully schools eventually just do away with it all.
So what does the “After School Satan” curriculum look like?
TST: We present some basic exercises about science, reason, and critical thinking. Some games, and a healthy snack. There’s absolutely nothing religious at all about what we’re doing other than the fact that the name Satan is in the title of the program. But that’s only because this is who is running the program, it’s not the content. Many of the people signing up to be teachers aren’t even members of The Satanic Temple. They’re just secularists who like what we’re doing and want to teach them. So it’s not only our members running the programs. It’s also local school teachers who are atheists, or humanists, or secularists in some way.
Membership in The Satanic Temple skyrocketed after the election. Any thoughts on that?
TST: I think a large majority of Americans are seeing a potential theocratic and fascist regime on it’s way, and they’re probably people that have been following what we have been doing on some level and decided maybe I should get more involved now that we’re going to have a theocrat as VP and the President-to-be is a potential fascist nightmare.
Who are The Satanic Temple’s biggest critics?
Various Evangelical groups, and actually a lot of atheists. Like the Capital A hardcore atheists. They say things like “well if you don’t believe in a sky daddy then why would you believe in a ground troll.” They don’t even want to have a genuine discussion about archetypes and mythology. They pretty much just think it’s all stupid and silly.
So, why Satan? Doesn’t he have a generally bad reputation worldwide?
TST: This, of course, is one of our favorite questions. We often point out to people that Satan is a metaphorical symbol that we’ve derived from the literary tradition as opposed to the occult or theological traditions. We like to point primarily to the English Romantics starting with John Milton, William Blake, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Lord Byron. Anatole France’s “Revolt of The Angels” is central too. Satan is a metaphorical archetype that represents standing up to arbitrary authority, tyrannical authority, and in our case often standing up to theological politics or politicians with theocratic world views. There’s also a leftist and early atheist politics that would invoke Satan as a rebellion against the church that was running certain countries at that time So there’s a pretty strong left wing take and tradition on using Satan as an archetype politically. Russian anarchist Mikhail Bakunin and his book “God and the State” is probably the most obvious work to point to, but that’s not everyone in the organization, that’s more of a subset of us that are interested in that.
And also look at Satan as a role and not a character in the Hebrew Bible, “ha satan” literally translates to “the adversary.” This whole adversary thing in modern Satanism comes from The Book of Job when Satan calls Job out and then God actually does all the bad stuff to Job. But Satan wasn’t a person or a deity then, “he” was a role.
A majority of people equate the word Satanism with the “Satanic Panic” of the 1980’s and all the urban legends of cults sacrificing children.
TST: The Satanic Temple has an entire separate sub-organization called The Grey Faction that focuses especially on those issues https://greyfaction.org/
Specifically how certain psychologists have used discredited theories about recovering false memories that helped to create that moral panic in the 1980’s. The bigger discussion here is about moral panics in general. Which is why of The headquarters of The Satanic Temple is in Salem, Mass which was the epicenter of the most famous moral panic in our countries history, that being, of course, the Salem Witch Trials.
How do you join The Satanic Temple? Are there tithes?
TST: No. There’re two types of membership. Anybody can go to the national site at https://thesatanictemple.com/ with a simple email address you scan sign up for the newsletter and become a member. And then there’re Chapter members, and that requires some responsibilities to be involved on some level. Every Chapter does that a little differently. No has to pay anything unless you want a card and a certificate. That costs $25, but by no means do you have to do that. If there’s a local chapter where you are, to join you do have to be accepted, but there’s no initiation or anything. You don’t even have to be a Satanist, you can just be a strong ally who believes in the political and secular actions without being super stoked about all the aesthetic aspects.
So you don’t even have to be a goth?
TST: (Laughs) No, we have actually had many very normal looking people. I actually feel underdressed because I’m not even wearing black right now.
The two TST members interviewed were Draco Ignis and Hofman A Turing.
Full list of all of The Satanic Temple’s social and political campaigns: https://thesatanictemple.com/campaigns/
The Satanic Temple NYC Chapter: https://thesatanictemplenyc.com/