Membership in satanic churches soars in Trump's America
The Satanic Temple attracted "thousands" of new members in just the first 36 hours after the election of Donald Trump, according to co-founder Lucien Greaves. The 4-year-old temple, which had a pre-Trump membership of around 50,000, has never before seen a spike in registration nearly this big.
"It's crazy," Greaves said after a speech in front of some adoring fans at CU-Boulder. The emails, registrations, donations and social media posts are pouring in faster than the temple can respond. "People have a desperate need for something to rally to right now."
The Satanic Temple is based in Salem, Mass., the very same Salem where the witch trials happened, with branches in several other cities. It doesn't sacrifice goats or cast spells or drink the blood of Christian children. It's actually kinder than you might think. But it does oppose the Trump-Pence worldview that America is a Christian nation, not welcoming to Islam or Judaism — or Satanism.
"We're definitely a resistance movement," Greaves says. "We stand in stark opposition to this idea that we must unify under a single religious banner."
In the past, the Satanic Temple has fought the Christian takeover of government. It sued to place statues of the goat-head demon Baphomet in state capitals, fought to sponsor after-school clubs that would compete against Jesus-y ones, and demanded to be allowed to say satanic prayers before town council meetings which normally have Christian prayers. Trump and Pence are believed to want more theocracy — rule by God — including punishing women who have abortions and banning Muslims from entering the country; the Satanic Temple, in contrast, counts religious freedom, abortion and birth control as among its members' sacred religious rights.
"We're on the front lines of some of these battles against theocratic encroachment, especially with characters like Mike Pence holding such a high office," Greaves said.
Not all satanists feel the same. A competing satanic organization, the Church of Satan, saw a surge in interest online, but not a surge in membership. That's because its teachings are harsher than the Satanic Temple's, and fall more in line with the policies of Donald Trump. Raul Antony, a reverend in the Church of Satan, says that the Church of Satan believes in Trump positions like lex talionis — law and order — and capital punishment. The church's official policy is to never endorse candidates. But it does stand for the Trumpian beliefs that might makes right, that great men should rule lesser men, and that love is not all you need. "You have to hate," Antony said.
"There's probably a lot of Trump voters within the Church of Satan," Antony said. He refused to say who he voted for. But says, "I could definitely understand why a satanist would vote for Trump."
So, yes: during these times of turmoil, even the satanist churches are fighting each other.
No matter what the individual churches believe, it's clear that, during a Trump administration, satanic churches will become more relevant than ever. And while the Church of Satan will sit on the sidelines and probably silently agree with much of what Trump does, the Satanic Temple will stand up and fight — though it doesn't know how, exactly. It will wait to see what Trump does. But, in whatever fight is coming, the Satanic Temple suddenly has legions more satanic soldiers. Expect more to join.
"We are definitely ready," Greaves said. "And, at this point, we're almost looking forward to it."