I have long held reservations about the Satanic Temple. I am not at all keen on replacing one Christian superstition with another Christian superstition, even if the satanist are saying they don’t believe in any supernatural entities. It’s just an attention-getting hook, they say. I could see the argument that they are acting as a counterpoise to all those Good News Clubs that are infiltrating the public schools, or as a way to highlight the absurdity of religious teachings.
But are they really?
I have my doubts. Especially after reading this long expose of the Satanic Temple’s history. It begins to look like one guy’s marketing scam. They charter an insignificant few “After School Satan” clubs, they trigger hysterical shrieking from local pastors, they get in the newspapers and on local television news, Tucker Carlson invites Lucien Greaves onto his program, mission accomplished, the clubs are neglected and fall apart.
As late as September 2020, the Temple claimed to have active ASS clubs in nine school districts. A person searching for themselves to double-check could even find multiple national and local headlines about it:
Atlanta (Powder Springs, Ga.);
Los Angeles (Panorama City, Calif.);
Salt Lake City (Taylorsville, Utah);
Washington, D.C. (Capitol Heights, Md.),
Tucson, Ariz.; Springfield, Mo.;
Seattle (Mount Vernon, Wash.); and
What you may notice (but journalists and fact-checkers never seem to) is that those stories don’t include the clubs getting to the point of actually meeting with students.
This is a good summary of the pseudo-religion.
What an awful, pathetic religion Satanism is if it wants to get national headlines, untraceable money, and the right to teach children but is too craven to even manage that.
Do we even need to get into Lucien Greaves’ sordid history of anti-semitism, racism, eugenics, and pandering to the far right?
I must admit I’m a little disappointed. I’ve always thought the Satanic Temple was more sincere than that.
I don’t know anything about Lucien Greaves but I do think you’re kind of missing the point. They aren’t really trying to be a religion, the whole idea is to expose the faulty reasoning of people who want state support for religion. If you get to have your cross or your Jesus statue on public land, we get to have our statue of a demon. If you want prayer in the schools, we get to have ours. And so on. They don’t actually want to have a church or worship, and having actual functioning after school clubs isn’t the point either. It’s not actually a religion at all.
PZ Myers says
No, I’m not missing the point, which is, as you say, to expose the faulty reasoning of people who want state support for religion. The question is, are they effective at that? Or is it a flash-in-the-pan PR stunt?
I dunno, it seems to me they’ve been fairly effective. Again, the point is not necessarily to create actual, functioning, long-lasting after school clubs, and it’s the failure to do so that seems to be the issue here.
So what is their point? They sell local volunteers on setting up clubs, get some work off them while they get donations and headlines, and then leave them high and dry. So TST gets notoriety and cash, and the locals get fucked. What good is the attention if the work isn’t actually done?
Susan Montgomery says
@3 Have you considered the possibility that it could be straight-up attention whoring? Greaves seems like the type for that.
I was gonna say that Lucien Greaves was scarred by being born with a name that sounds like a Harry Potter character, but after a quick google, I see that he picked the name himself. So I’ll go with publicity whore.
It is still possible that in principle it could work (wikipedia):
My guess is that the only kids who could possibly be interested in a Satanist after school club are the ones that had religion forced on them from an early age. The rest will pick some more trendy fantasy activity if they’re so inclined.
Marcus Ranum says
Its the “religion is a grift!” anti-grift. Which means its still a grift.
Some of their trolling is fun but it’s still trolling. If trolling is bad, why is trolling christians good? Seems to me that fighting religiousity is a reasonable thing (it’s a system of oppression) but using their tools is ambiguous, if they are tools we don’t like.
Susan Montgomery says
@7 All you used to need to do was have a D&D club and really enjoy your Satanism….
@9 Or join a Harry Potter club as described in this Onion article from 2000. It looks like they don’t have the photo with it anymore, which is a shame. And yeah, I’m old enough to remember the D&D scare. I also had friends who played, but I never really got into it (not because I wasn’t interested, but because I am too much of an introvert for role playing).
I used to be a supporter of TST, but I drifted away from checking their website b/c:
–I have come to prefer criticizing the Bible (which barely characterizes or mentions Satan at all) than reinterpreting Satan’s character.
–Reproductive Religious Rights lawsuits were doomed to failure because TST cannot take itself seriously. An abortion ritual? Really?! I expected a lawsuit centered around TST’s religious belief in personal autonomy. Not pulling an abortion ritual that no one will ever follow out of thin air.
I did not know Doug Mesner’s history of antisemitism and racism, but it’s not that surprising, really. It was already clear to me that he values trolling over reproductive rights. Maybe he doesn’t have ANY sincere values.
For TST to be successful in its campaigning, I think its members should have either:
–developed TST into a real atheistic religion, perhaps changing the name and founding a new org, and base later legal campaigns on that rather than on paper-thin trolling. Includes developing a theology that is admitted to be like a fandom universe, and valuing stuff like bodily autonomy and the wiccan maxim (do what you will, as long as you cause no harm) over the details of the fandom demonic pantheon, and both over blatant trolling
–or the members just quit and support effective church/state seperation and reproductive rights orgs
@8 I don’t think trolling is neccessarily bad. However, I think betraying local chapters by cutting off support for initiatives, pursuing SLAPP suits against former members, allowing trolling to impede more effective channels of combatting attacks on reproductive rights, and trolling too blatantly (ASS clubs to be in schools)…are bad.
@7 According to the last link in P.Z.’s post, Doug Mesner is also a pseud
@2 If they wanted their religious reproductive rights campaigns to have a slight chance at succeeding, they should develop into a real, LARP-ish atheistic religion valuing progressive values. Trolling is fine for Snaketivity scenes, not so much for school clubs or for abortion rights. If they want to campaign for more things, they should start a new org. Maybe they should have even started a pagan atheist religion, for the legal campaigns to be more successful.
I thought all this Satan worship was just nekid wimmin jumping over fires.
“Much too Dangerous to Jump Through Fires Fully Clothed”
The Wicker Man.
There is a guy I chat to on faceache,(who have banned me again for two days,bastards)
he related a story about how he saw a distressed old guy near to where he lived so he took him
home gave him some food and a hot drink,then took him out to find out where he lived.
He finally tracked a neighbour,who told him the old guy often wanders off,but returns after a few days
I told him that was a kind humane thing to do,anyway it turns out he is a Quaker,I told him I was a atheist and he replied there was atheist Quakers,which came as a bit of a surprise.
He said at their meeting house there are no preachers,no sermons,just quiet contemplation.
So if ever I do get religion,that’s the one for me.
PS,would anyone like to know why those bastards at faceache have banned me?
Well I was on the Viz comic page,on my faceache profile I put that I am a proud Benefit Scrounger,and Full Time Carer For My Brother.
So this arsehole must have saw my profile and posted you can’t get any sense out of someone who describes himself as I did,which was sarcasm by the way.
I replied that if I wasn’t caring for my brother it would cost the govt £800 a week.
He replied I was a parasite,so I let rip on my reply.Next thing I see I am banned for two days.
So i send him my post in a message with extra abuse,then blocked the dozy sod.
I have got to stop replying to these bastard rightwing gits.
Are you sure that’s not Neopaganism? I’m not sure about the fire. (Hey, you’re a lot closer to Stonehenge than I am.)
Remember that even a few thriving ASSC clubs could never act as counterpoint to the thousands of Good News clubs. There is or was a secular, non-Satanist alternative to these clubs already. It would be better to support them or a successor, than trolling ASS.
@16 Nah,that’s Satan worship all right,first the nekid wimmin,then the naked virgin is brought out
to be sacrificed,and in charge most of the time is a retired Scout Leader in a goat mask.
Satan is the prince of lies and all y’all are surprised that a follower of Him lies and is insincere?
seachange@19 Uh, Satan, if he actually existed, might be better at it?
This is why I worship Ukko, Finland’s god of thunder. He is basically Thor, but without any neo-nazi vibes.
And his friend Väinemöinen was the inspiration fö Tom Bombadil.
birgerjohansson@21 I remember reading that Tom Bombadil was inspired by a kids’ toy. (Googling…) Wikipedia:
Of course, there could have been multiple contributions, but I always felt Tolkien threw in Tom Bombadil as a total red herring.
I always liked the fact that he is seemingly independent and unaffected by the Tolkien universe (e.g. the ring has no affect on him). It makes him a kind of alien visitor.
Yes, but both Bombadil and Väinemöinen (Tolkien read the Kalevala before WWI) use song for their magic, and both are the oldest entity to walk on the earth. So likely multiple sources.
Walter Solomon says
Is the Vonnegut quote about being careful of what you pretend to be lest you become it apt in this situation? Certainly if the Satanic Temple are nothing but attention whores and grifters, they’re no better than your average televangelist.
Returning to the original topic;
You already have the cult of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.
If you want a malevolent anti-god I would nominate Fenris as the God of Disaster Capitalism.
Or just go Dark side of the force.
“Maybe they should start a pagan atheist religion”
Now we are talking! The Greeks had mortal dudes like Hercules join the gods, so we could elevate Hypatia last librarian of Alexandria to goddess status.
She would be the natural enemy of book-burning, so fuck yeah!
Akira MacKenzie says
@ 21 and 23
Rob Grigjanis says
Whatever Tolkien might have said about Bombadil, I strongly disagree that Tom was a red herring. That there were powers in the world that weren’t interested in acquiring power over other beings was a powerful statement, IMO.
Peter Jackson said he left Bombadil out because he didn’t “advance the story”, or some nonsense like that. Apparently Jackson’s idea of “advancing the story” included a stupid little addition with Aragorn going over a cliff during a battle with warg-mounted orcs. Oh gosh, maybe he’s dead! The suspense is killing me. Wanker.
Rob Grigjanis@27 Maybe “red herring” is inappropriate. I liked the character, but I never gave it any more thought than that.
Leaving Tom Bombadil out of the movie doesn’t bother me. Any mistake Peter Jackson made with LOTR pales in comparison with stretching The Hobbit into three movies
Not going to defend the, once again, failure of organizations that should be doing good to… not actually do everything they can, but I do think some people here got it right. As Aron Ra recently put in one of his speeches, “…when some Christian group wants to put up the Ten Commandments that they have never read, can’t remember, and don’t understand atheists might put up a monument to science or something like that and no one would even get the point of it, and if the Hindus want to put up a statue of Hanuman no one knows what that is, and they don’t take it seriously. Its only only when the Satanists show up with their Baphomet statue that suddenly they realize that this was supposed to be a secular nation that didn’t promote any religion. Just like they are all about vouchers for religious education, until the Muslim schools want to take advantage of that. Then they remember what the establishment clause is all about.”
So, I would love to think that you are right PZ, but the sad reality is, if they do nothing but troll, as you suggest (and I very much suspect its much like other atheist groups, and its the ‘original core leaders’ that are losing track of the point, and failing to recognize that change is something to fight for, since it most certainly isn’t the case with some people I know who belong), then they are still vastly, far more useful, trolls that some random new religion – precisely because it stands in blatant contrast to the core source of all attacks on real religious liberty, and actual freedoms, in the nation, not on the sideline, where they can be safely worked around, or ignored, or just declared “not a real religion” and thus no law applies to them the same way it does the Christians. And, you know damn well that was an argument given for people starting to call themselves Jedi, or claiming to follow a spaghetti monster.
But, this is the absurdity of it, and why we kind of need these people, even if the core organization may be filled with assholes, as implied here – Christians can’t claim that are not a religion without both admitting they don’t “worship” Satan and they can’t do that without admitting that people can choose not to follow god, and not instead be following the devil. All of which leads to – unless they can erase the US constitution, “or rewrite it, in some new convention, for example…”, they cannot keep the rights of their cults, without allowing that other cults also have rights. And, that loops right back around to… oh, heck, here comes someone making us put a Baphomet statue up next to our sacred commandments!”
Also… no idea what “initiations” are going on, but.. unless its to get into some sub-cult in the temple, last I checked you sign up for email, and if you want a card proving you are a member, and they are not backlogged with them, pay $25 and pick one of several designs. Who the F is doing initiations?
Great American Satan says
Kagehi – That usefulness argument is flatly untrue. The leaders of this specific satanist org are nazi fuckwads who are REALLY BAD at winning these court cases they involve themselves in, use the notoriety from sensational news to enrich themselves while getting nothing done. I suggest reading the Queer Satanic twitter & / or tumblr in more depth before you consider supporting or defending these people in any way.
Put another way, who the fuck says you have to support The Satanic Temple / Lucien Greaves in order to put up a baphomet statue? You don’t. Hail Satan for political points, but not at the cost of enriching nazi con men.
Great American Satan says
If you don’t follow up on any other opposition research but one thing, follow the first link in my comment at 30, look at the trayvon martin merch of TST’s first high priest, and really drink that in. Feel it in your bones.
John Morales says
Satan has spoken :)