The Satanic Temple

What comes to mind when you hear the word Satanist? Do you recoil? Does judgement and/or fear begin to bubble to the mind’s surface? Or do you chuckle and write Satanists off as just angsty, counter cultural, devil’s advocates (pun intended)? What does Satanism even mean? What do the people that consider themselves members of the Satanic Temple or Satanism in general even believe? Not many people seem to know or bother to find out.

I was introduced to Satanism by an old client of mine who was very dear to me, whom I still think of all the time. He identified as a Satanist and explained to me that this group does not actually believe in a literal “Satan.” It’s more about aligning themselves with the antithesis of Christianity. I was immediately interested to learn more. He lent me lots of fascinating books and really opened my eyes to the value of this alternative religion.

For years after coming to terms with what Satanism was, I thought that its primary benefit was to provide a sense of community and support for atheists and agnostic people. After all, part of the struggle to leave a religion can be the isolation you then find yourself in without having a place in the church amongst your family, friends, and neighbors. It also helped to keep alive the cathartic practices and rituals that humanity has partaken in throughout our history as a species.

Although I warmed up to the religion fairly quickly and easily, seeing how repulsed others were (even non-religious people, like myself, that believed in all the core values of it) made me wonder why they didn’t choose to identify themselves with a less inflammatory title. I personally love the reclaiming of the word Satanist and the way it makes religious people squirm. However, it still seemed counterproductive and unnecessarily isolating for the members in many ways.

Just yesterday, I began to fully realize the significance of holding firm in the term Satanism and specifically the church known as the Satanic Temple. I was delighted to learn that they had been granted recognition as a legitimate church and a 501(c) charitable organization with tax exempt status in 2019. Though there are certainly some problematic things about the man who founded the Satanic Temple, the mission and actions of the organization as a whole are inherently good in my opinion.

As the religious right in America slowly gains more and more traction in government, and insidiously encroaches on the rights of non-religious citizens, we are in desperate need of protection for the separation of church and state. The Satanic Temple is working to offer that protection and emphasize the hypocrisy of many Christians’ cry for “religious freedom.” The Satanic Temple organizes absolutely brilliant counter movements that shine a light on the ways Christianity often interprets freedom of religion as the freedom to push their religious beliefs onto other people.

For example the Satanic Temple was in the news for awhile due to a conflict about a ten commandments monument being erected at the Oklahoma State Capital. If one religion is going to be granted the right to display religious iconography on public grounds, every religion must be afforded that liberty. The Satanic Temple cleverly did not fight against the Christian monument. They simply donated one of their own, a statue of Baphomet. This promptly ended the discussion, and all religious monuments were banned from being placed at the capital, as is the correct response in a secular government.

Even more amazingly, I learned that the Satanic Temple has been fighting for women regarding the right to abortion. Unfortunately, regardless of the new threat of Roe v. Wade being overturned entirely, many places already enforce horrific laws restricting this right. These include forcing doctors to provide patients with scientifically inaccurate information before being able to offer them care. The Satanic Temple has objected to these unconstitutional laws by explaining that by pushing this “information” onto patients, it is violating their religious freedom as a Satanist. After all, one of their main tenets is: One’s body is inviolable, subject to one’s own will alone.

For years it seems the left has been fighting a losing battle against the evangelical conservatives in this country. Fighting with logic and reason alone apparently does not work. Instead we must fight back on their terms, with our own, secular religion. I cannot express how utterly brilliant and effective I believe this innovative method to be. I have become so enamored with the idea and the Satanic Temple, that I am now seriously considering becoming a member myself. Either way, I will continue to sing their praises, push back against harmful stereotypes and misconceptions about the religion, and advocate for their political efforts. If you’re interested and would like to learn more, join the church, or donate to support their causes, you can find all the information you need on their website. I genuinely hope this unique movement continues to grow and fight for religious freedom, including and especially the freedom from religion that is so often overlooked. Hail Satan!

Portraits From Social Work – Part 1: David

Even since I lost my last job doing social work with high risk, low income adults out in the community, I have missed the clients I used to see everyday. While I’m not sure if these people ever knew it themselves, the time I spent with them was much more meaningful to me than just trying to get a paycheck. This was the first time in my life that I was really able to get to know some interesting characters and bond with people older than me, with totally different and unique life experiences. Even though I was supposed to keep a professional distance, I simply couldn’t help holding a space for each of my clients in my heart. I believe these people are interesting to learn about in general, but I am also writing about them today to ensure that I can keep them with me even if they eventually fade from my memory. (I obviously won’t use their real names for confidentiality reasons.)

Part 1: David

David was my all time favorite client. I still dream of him often, and I wonder how he is doing on nearly a daily basis. I liked to describe him as my schizophrenic, satanist client. Usually people are shocked to discover that this was the client I became closest to. However, schizophrenia has fascinated me since youth and although I was afraid at first, I was eager to finally get to know a real person with this disorder.

Far from being the violent psychopath that most people picture when I say he’s a satanist suffering from schizophrenia, David was one of the kindest, gentlest people I’ve met. Even though he was in his early 50s, he still had an almost childlike quality about him. He inspired in me a motherly instinct. I recall once even looking up if you are allowed to adopt someone older than you on a whim with him in mind. I also recall discussing with David what kind of pet he might like if he got one. I was expecting a snake or tarantula or something along those lines. I wish I could have hugged him when instead he said he’d always wanted a rabbit. If David had a spirit animal it would definitely have been a rabbit.

One of the many things I learned from David is that Satanists do not believe in a literal Satan. It’s more of a reactionary stance taken against Christianity. It is spitting in the face of these churches, while acknowledging the community that comes with religion is valuable and worthwhile. Satanists are just atheists, and David was so happy that I was an atheist too. Unfortunately most of the people he had encountered in life (including his therapist) were religious nut jobs. His adoptive mother had been Catholic I believe and seemed to have hated him for abandoning his faith. He told me about a few occasions in his youth when she had discovered his Satanic stockpile and threw it all away. (Jokes on her. The house is his now and the walls are covered with pentagrams painted in red.)

David lived all alone in his house. He had no family left to speak of besides a brother that lived in another state and rarely communicated with him. He had no transportation either, besides me. So with nothing to fill his days, David lost himself in books. He loved to read. He lent me lots of his Satanist books along with a few of his favorites by Stephen King. It made me so happy to be able to discuss the contents with him after I was finished.

It truly breaks my heart to know that I will most likely never see or speak to this man again. I never even got to tell him goodbye. Part of me still wished I could write him a letter and at least explain the circumstances of my leaving. However, I have no right to do so. It would be unethical of me to reach out to any of my past clients now that I am not their case worker anymore, no matter how much I may want to do so. I just hope that somehow he knows that the bond we shared was real and it meant a lot to me.

I am happy about all I was able to do for David, primarily being a genuine friend to a lonely, isolated man, but also getting him a laptop and internet access to make him a little less isolated. I also know that I could have done much more. I wish that I had made more of an effort to address his hoarding behaviors. His house was an absolute mess, filled with bits of paper, receipts, scattered DVDs and books, and random garbage. I also wish that I would have fought to get him a different therapist at my work. The one he has been seeing for years was not doing him any favors. In fact, I would go so far as to say he was exacerbating his mental illness, by acting as though his schizophrenic hallucinations may have actually been revelations from God. No joke, he was that bad. Nothing they discussed in his sessions could be considered therapy by even the loosest of definitions. It bordered on criminal.

David had a lot of issues that he struggled with every day. He would tell me about his hallucinations of vengeful angels and violent demons. How the fear of a Hell he didn’t even believe in would sometimes make him try to get back into religion. He was sexually and physically abused as a young child. He was also abandoned and excluded by his peers and eventually even his family growing up. He was so terribly bullied at his school that he once brought a knife to protect himself and was subsequently expelled for it. David also seems to believe that he is a terrible, evil, irredeemable person even though that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Unlike a lot of my clients, David never tried to take advantage of me. He was always extremely polite and considerate. He once got bedbugs and would put his clothes in the dryer on high right before I came to get him to ensure that he wouldn’t transfer any to me. Even though I always said yes, he would still ask me every time before using snuff in my car. He would prefer to suffer in silence rather than inconvenience anyone. Despite all that he had to deal with, he never complained or made himself out to be a victim. He is a truly beautiful, gentle soul. I miss him so much, and I hope that he is doing alright and that he knows I cherish the times we spent together.

Satanism - Founders, Philosophies & Branches - HISTORY