Weeks after the ‘largest Satanic gathering in history’, the ominous rise of America’s Satanist movement has left many questioning what is behind the hellish trend.
Although the event’s hosts The Satanic Temple, the largest such group in America, claims to have over 700,000 followers, the religion has roots dating back over five decades to a lone eccentric author.
When Anton LaVey kicked off Satanism in the 1960’s, his beliefs gained traction at a time when culture was in flux. Commonly seen as the pursuit of individualism at large, Satanism found a place among those looking to challenge norms over issues including gender, sexuality and religion.
But over the years its ideology has evolved to suit many ‘woke’ issues dominating modern culture, with some followers connecting their devotion to the Devil with debates over abortion, transgenderism and children’s education.
SatanCon attendees flashing the Devil-horns hand symbol as they shout ‘Hail Satan’ during the opening ceremony on April 28, 2023
Followers of Satanism say they are drawn to the Devil as a figure of strength and independence
‘Really, it’s all about religious freedom’, Lucien Greaves, founder of The Satanic Temple, told DailyMail.com as he explained how Satanism has been able to grow to the extent it caused chaos in Boston four weeks ago.
When members of The Satanic Temple convened inside Boston’s Marriott Copley Place to celebrate their annual convention, SatanCon, a bizarre opening ceremony saw speakers tear up the bible and perform ‘un-baptisms’.
But the East Coast hub quickly became the epicenter of a new religious struggle, as furious Christians gathered outside the summit to face down the Satanists, continuing a decades-long struggle epitomized by the so-called ‘Satanic Panic’ of the 1980s.
‘While they think they are coming to ambush Boston, little do they know that God has planned to ambush them,’ warned Dr Jaymz Sideras, leader of religious group Revive Boston, at the time.
While those outside the event would claim Satanists are intent on spreading godlessness and a demonic ideology, followers insist it couldn’t be further from the truth.
Anton LaVey, pictured, is widely considered the founder of Satanism after authoring the Satanic Bible in 1969
An entertainer by trade, LaVey has been dubbed ‘the most iconic figure in the Satanic milieu’. he is pictured alongside iconic actress and friend Jayne Mansfield
Lucien Greaves, the founder of the Satanic Temple, told DailyMail.com Satanism is ‘all about religious freedom’
Many maintain that they are ‘atheistic Satanists’ or ‘romantic Satanists’, a term Greaves described as seeing ‘Lucifer as the bearer of knowledge’ and as the ‘ultimate rebel against tyranny’.
‘It’s becoming much more present, and much more ingrained in culture,’ he added.
Followers have grown in numbers enough to throw Boston into turmoil, but the organization’s five-decade history dates back to outlandish carnival worker and nightclub entertainer LaVey, who kickstarted the religion by writing The Satanic Bible in 1969.
Goatee wearing LaVey, described as ‘the most iconic figure in the Satanic milieu’ by Satanic historians before his death in 1997, authored the tome as an outline of the Satanic ideology for future decades.
He was also notably friends with iconic Hollywood actress Jayne Mansfield, who he met as he was laying the groundwork for his new religion in the early 1960s.
The two had a rumored fling after connecting over his beliefs about Satan as a symbol for pursuing desires and individualism, however their budding friendship was cut short by her sudden death in a car crash in 1967.
LaVey’s following continued to gain traction into the 1970s, becoming known as the Church of Satan, which is currently a largely-online fellowship of supporters with a quasi-rivalry with to the Satanic Temple.
‘We have a radical individualist philosophy,’ said Raul Antony, 40, a Reverend in the Church of Satan, to DailyMail.com. ‘It is an acceptance of the material world, that we only have one life and we must make the best of it enjoying our carnal desires.’
A member of the Church of Satan for 15 years, he added that the movement at large ‘prioritizes the individual over the greater good.’
The church argues that Satan represents ‘personal freedom and individualism’, and unlike other religions, ‘LaVey readily acknowledged that he used his own faculties to synthesize Satanism’.
‘They’re just really non-existent at this point,’ Greaves said of the rival faction. ‘They don’t really have a purpose other than to assert themselves as the one true voice of Satanism.’
‘They want to do this for their political agenda’, responded Antonywho said while the Temple is ‘broadly inclusive’, the Church takes a different approach.
‘We’re about exclusion, not inclusion,’ said the Satanic reverend. ‘If the idea of Satan turns people away, that’s fine.
‘This idea that Satan could be this warm, cuddly thing that people can get comfortable with, that turns me off… Satan should be a figure of some kind of fear.’
Furious Christian protestors gathered outside the Boston conference
The rise in Satanism has led religious groups to protest their events, with members of a Christian activist group pictured outside SatanCon in April
Attendees also put on a ‘Satanic Ball’ at the conference to celebrate their devotion to the Devil
Notably, while Antony insists the church predominantly stays out of politics, The Satanic Temple has grown increasingly ‘woke’ in recent years, primarily focusing its activism upon social justice causes including abortion, trans rights, and education.
‘We fully believe in our bodily autonomy, and our right to identify as we will,’ added Greaves. ‘
‘It’s valuable to look beyond whether people approve of our lifestyle, and more generally about whether or not they actually want to imbue the government with the authority over religious groups, and people’s lifestyles and beliefs.’
One its most recent fights has been over after-school kids’ clubs, where Greaves clashed with former-Fox News firebrand Tucker Carlson over the presence of the ‘After School Satan Club’ in schools.
Greaves maintains the club, and his religion at large, is supported by the Supreme Court’s decisions to uphold freedom of religion.
The group claims it actively avoids opening after-school clubs unless ‘other religious groups are operating on campus’, with its secular, anti-religious indoctrination beliefs a driving force of the modern movement.
The issue consistently plagues school boards across the nation, including in an elementary school in California earlier this year, when Temple followers launched one of the clubs ostensibly to teach kids about inquiry and rationalism.
While parents told KBAK at the time they thought the club was ‘disgusting’, the group hardly shied away from the controversy, with a placard seen on a stand at SatanCon comparing their club to the ‘Good News Club’, a religious club that is allowed at schools.
‘The Satanic Temple does not advocate for religion in schools,’ the group claims on its website.
‘However, once religion invades schools, as the Good News Clubs have, the Satanic Temple will fight to ensure that plurality and true religious liberty are respected.’
An ‘Education with Satan’ stand was installed at the conference to advertise its ‘After School Satan Club’
The stand included a placard comparing its Satanic after-school club with the religious Good News Club
The Satanic Temple, which is currently recognized as the only official Satanic church and enjoys tax-exempt status, again showed its rivalry with religious groups following the overturning of Roe v Wade last summer.
While LaVey wrote that the decision over abortion should be made by the husband decades ago, The Satanic Temple has branched out, instead focusing much of its activism on pro-choice causes.
It claims to be a ‘leading beacon’ in abortion access, arguing that a religious exemption via its movement is the ‘the only available challenge to many restrictions’ that have been put in place.
‘The mission of The Satanic Temple, a religious organization, is to encourage benevolence and empathy among all people,’ the group claims on its website.
It adds that members should ‘reject tyrannical authority, advocate practical common sense, oppose injustice, and undertake noble pursuits’.
‘Most don’t believe in Satan, not a literal Satan. It’s not some 1980s horror film,’ said SatanCon attendee Lael Lillard to WNB-TV. ‘It’s about supporting human rights.’
‘It’s about supporting women’s bodily autonomy. It’s about freedom of religion, freedom from religion,’ he added, maintaining that the group’s purpose is misunderstood.
However, while followers claim they don’t necessarily believe in the Devil as a deity, the cries of ‘Hail Satan’ at their Boston hub did little to convince their opponents.
Members of The American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property protested outside SatanCon, pictured on April 28, 2023
Demonstrators introduced several counter-events to show their opposition to the conference
White nationalist group Patriot Front seen clashing with counter-protestors outside the event
The growth of the movement from an entertainer’s writings in the 1960’s was marred by the so-called ‘Satanic Panic’, a phenomenon in the 1980s that sparked a cultural apprehension to the movement.
But for modern-day Satanists, the issue never truly went away.
‘We’re seeing a resurgence of the Satanic Panic, we see it with Q-ANON and similar things,’ said Greaves.
‘We’re not driving the narrative from our presence, but we’re confusing that narrative, and maybe helping people to think deeper.’
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