The director of ministry sits before a desk littered with paperwork, hair streaked a similar blue as the artful walls behind him. He’s a fit 30-something and speaks in deep, soft tones, looking very much like someone you’d engage in conversation with over coffee. Only he’s not out to have you volunteer with him at the nearby soup kitchen or recruit you to his political party – he wants you to check out TST, The Satanic Temple.
He goes by Priest Penemue, and he’s been with The Satanic Temple for “a number of years.” Styled after the high order of angels’ Penemue (who taught men to understand writing and the use of ink and paper), he’s organizing chapter heads and media liaisons around the country to work out an ordination program for members of The Satanic Temple to become legally recognized officiants to many types of ceremonies – including marriage, traditional and same-sex alike.
“I’m looking forward to watching this develop, and seeing how our members and community leaders can take these new roles seriously to provide a service to our society,” says YouTuber Venita Hodgkin. “We will lead by example, autonomy, and compassion.”
Continuing the trend of progressive political stances, the Atlanta Chapter uploaded a rainbow version of The Satanic Temple logo in October. A Satanist known as Reverend Gregory can relate to that particular intersection. “I would go to gay nightclubs and have these cool experiences with MDMA and all these wonderful people, and I would just feel so alive,” he says. “But when I would bring those stories to Christian circles, the leftie ones, they would always say, ‘We’re not trying to say what you’re doing is terrible, but let’s try to find the nugget of truth that works for our [religion].’” He rejects that. “There’s no ‘nugget of truth’ – the experience itself … those sorts of things to me are holy,” he affirms, adding that even moments in darker corners of society help him accept himself.
The group is no stranger to confusion and ire, though their dedication to community could put other organizations to shame. This summer, the Atlanta chapter of TST met at The Highlander in midtown, as they’re known to, and raised money, clothing, bedding, food, and personal items for Lost-n-Found Youth, a place for teens experiencing homelessness in our area. Like the TST overall, the local chapter of is a strenuously conscious participant of social reform including, even more recently, a donation drive to help combat the anti-abortion laws passed around the nation. Because the laws “restrict or inhibit access to abortion, make unreasonable demands on patients or practitioners, or endanger the health, safety, or wellbeing of our members, this is a violation of our Third Tenet (bodily autonomy) and Fifth Tenet (living in accordance with the best scientific understanding of the world),” according to their website. “As a federally recognized religion, the right to practice our beliefs is protected under the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.” At the time of printing, they’ve raised $5,331.20 – or 11 percent – of the $50,000 they’re aiming for in the name of TST Religious Reproductive Rights Campaign. The organization will hold a rally in the state with the most donations.
But do they actually believe in and worship Satan? As an organization, no. “Satanism has a very strong moral foundation, a worldview rooted in a narrative with deep cultural and historical significance, and a set of symbols that we as Satanists have a deep connection to – and from which we draw inspiration and meaning,” Priest Penemue writes. Should Atlanta be afraid of its local chapter? If peaceful meetings that raise money and awareness for compassionate, progressive causes constitute a bogeyman for us, then Happy Samhain, folks.
The next TST meeting is on Oct. 27 at 2pm in the Oakland Cemetery. (Bonus: It’s also a pot luck.) Check out their Facebook for more details at Facebook.com/TSTATL.
The 7 Fundamental Tenets of The Satanic Temple
- One should strive to act with compassion and empathy toward all creatures in accordance with reason.
- The struggle for justice is an ongoing and necessary pursuit that should prevail over laws and institutions.
- One’s body is inviolable, subject to one’s own will alone.
- 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 one’s own.
- Beliefs should conform to one’s best scientific understanding of the world. One should take care never to distort scientific facts to fit one’s beliefs.
- People are fallible. If one makes a mistake, one should do one’s best to rectify it and resolve any harm that might have been caused.
- 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.
Did You Know?
The Church of Satan is not affiliated with The Satanic Temple. In fact, the two are mostly at one another’s throats. The former was created by Anton LaVey in 1966, while the latter was founded by Lucien Greaves and Malcolm Jarry in 2013. While neither of them believe in an actual Satan and both of them are quoted in the news when Satanism appears in pop culture, there is a hefty schism between the two. Among their key differences?
The Satanic Temple has a headquarters (Salem, MA), defends reproductive rights, fights for secularism, has local chapters, doesn’t believe in “magick,” is tax exempt, is socially and politically active, holds regular meetings, doesn’t require a fee to join, and doesn’t believe that “men who prefer bleu cheese dressing must be homosexually inclined because the odor is reminiscent of a locker full of well-worn jockstraps.” (Yes. Really.)