Written By: Anton Sawyer
I think it’s pretty evident that some clarification is needed when it comes to my perception of Christianity, and faith in general. Having read several hate comments and messages, it seems that many have the mindset that I loathe religion. I’m sure the title of this article isn’t helping either. I want to make it clear that when it comes to faith, just so long as it doesn’t lead to rape, murder, or infringing on the rights of others, I have no right to judge whatever it is you believe in. Though I must say that Scientology does push those limits quite a bit. Throughout my life, I have seen religion do as much good as I have ill. The real problem I have with faith is when money and power become involved. Keeping this in mind, today’s piece is going to look at an experience I had with a chapter-head of The Satanic Temple (TST) that drove me to the realization that there’s no difference between modern-day Christianity and Satanism. To begin, I do think it’s important that I briefly give you an overview of how God-based faith has played a role in my life and why this piece specifically is such a passion project.
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My formative years were spent living in what I call the “Bible Belt Of The West”—Utah and Wyoming. Because they house a branch of Brigham Young University (BYU), Idaho is also included in the conversation. Due to this geographical location, religion became a forced way of life for me at a very early age. Everything you may have read about the stronghold The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) has in this area is correct. I learned at age three there were some—read all—of my neighborhood friends who could not play on Sunday. Having been raised in a trailer park and not coming from money made me a popular subject of ridicule. The feelings of low self-worth brought about from being constantly surrounded by one popular way of thinking lasted until I turned 18. At that time, I came in contact with “The Satanic Bible” by Anton LaVey. I loved it. It dripped with such hatred towards any form of Christ-based faith that I finished it in about two hours. From there I wanted to learn anything and everything I could of what would be considered “forbidden” materials. From Hawaiian religion and magic to the analytics of how much sex and violence were found in the pages of the Holy Bible, I spent three years absorbing as much information as I could. The thing I found so refreshing about Satanism, along with many of the other alternative belief systems, was how centralized they were in using the power within to manifest change. Whether the faith had deities or not, the basis to all of them is about empowering yourself to be a better person; each faith has its own take on what that means exactly. Around this same period, I began following LaVey’s Church of Satan (CoS) online and watched what happened with interest after LaVey’s death; the forums and their content began to decline quickly. It was weird watching the concept of being true to yourself—one of the cornerstones of Satanism—turn into elitist bickering. It was incredibly disheartening watching anonymous names on computer screens extol their accomplishments—mystical or real-world—and use it as a weapon against another member. It was when I saw the majority of the arguments being made using the same verbiage and tone which was used against me growing up that I went back less and less.
Enter Lucien Greaves and The Satanic Temple.
From their beginning in 2013, they have made strides in court cases all across the country in using the letter of the legislation in each state to allow their faith and ideologies to be equally represented. Some of the highlights include offering to take in Muslims or refugees experiencing backlash, to challenging a plethora of laws that blatantly show favoritism towards one belief within a legal context (i.e. 10 Commandment Statues erected on court property), to the case they settled out of court involving Netflix and Warner Brothers over the show “Sabrina The Teenage Witch.” They have been using the legal system to their advantage in leveling the playing field. It was because of a fascination I had with their use of the law in creative ways that I came into contact with Chalice Blythe. In 2015 she was the Chapter Head of TST Utah Chapter and was the person I interviewed for research I was doing. I found her to be incredibly intelligent, and she knew how to answer my questions with honesty and clarity. I wanted to write about what the future of Satanism could be, especially with the legal maneuvering their organization had been embroiled in for so long. After the interview, I put together a 2,000-word piece, emailed it to her, and set up another meeting. The second meeting went a bit differently than the first. Both she, and the leadership as a whole, did not like the article and did not want me to publish it, or submit it anywhere for publication. When I questioned why, it was due to my mentioning of the CoS. The angle of the piece was to look at the origins of LaVeyan Satanism, how it was impactful then, and how TST was coming to fruition while weighing the potential future of both organizations together. That last part was where the problem came in.
It was made clear that TST wanted nothing to do with the CoS and were doing everything they could to distance themselves from the decades-long originator. TST looks at each person’s rights and that they are inviolable. That you should do what you want, so long as it doesn’t infringe on anyone’s rights … or even the possibility it might. I’m not saying this in any negative way at all, but in almost every sense, the CoS is the Republican Party, and TST is the Democrat Party. The CoS has the “Nine Satanic Statements,” and TST has the “Seven Fundamental Tenets.”
Here are some key differences from each:
CoS: Satan represents vengeance instead of turning the other cheek.
TST: 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.
CoS: Satan represents responsibility to the responsible instead of concern for psychic vampires
TST: The struggle for justice is an ongoing and necessary pursuit that should prevail over laws and institutions.
The CoS takes the “literal” meaning of LaVey’s tome. Might is right. Destroy your enemy at all costs. The original meaning takes precedence. TST looks at the human element of what LaVey wrote and places the value on others much higher than the original ideology of Satanism. Since these are beliefs, neither one is necessarily right or wrong. I was stunned at the level of what I took as repugnance towards the idea of the two leading American Satanic organizations joining forces for a common cause. In fact, neither of them want to work with each other due to interpretive differences of the same source material. Sound familiar?
The largest difference between the two is how they handle legislation and lawsuits. This is where I think TST could take a clue from the Christian Coalition of America (CCA). Just like the DNC, TST is going state-by-state putting out fires. If something happens in one locale, they will be there to contest religious wrongdoing. The CCA used to do those kinds of things, but they quickly learned that the best way to send the country on a preferred trajectory is to change the laws themselves. The TST has great court acumen, and an incredibly positive PR campaign, so it is possible. Having worked for a public relations firm before, their ability to spell out the narrative and use elements of persuasion is top-notch. With all the positive things they’ve done over the last decade, they’ve set themselves up well. What I would do if I were them is team up with a national organization that has the infrastructure to support a major lobbying campaign. A company with a liberal bent like Planned Parenthood, or something along the lines of anti-gun legislation perhaps. It’s more important to get on board with an organization that supports your mission, and already has ties to Washington. Next, I would do a mega-push for a piece of legislation in a liberal state that helps further your goal (whether it be reproductive or religious freedoms) and use the PR machine to get the public behind it. Once it becomes law, it becomes the base for future precedent. We’ve seen the CCA go state-by-state (How The GOP Is Legitimately Trying To Dismantle The First Amendment State By State) and use precedent and subsections of laws to further their goals. When I said that TST is exactly like the DNC, I meant it (Throwing Reparations At A Systemic Problem Isn't Going To Fix It, President Biden). It’s much more effective to change the rules than it is to keep putting out fires. But then again, I’m just a guy with a high school diploma, what do I know?
Earlier I mentioned how I only really submerged myself in the world of religion for three years. By that time, I learned pretty much the key of what I needed to know; it’s about trying to figure out who any of us are and what our purpose is. At the base of all religions, it really comes down to being a good person. Not hurting other people intentionally, and trying to help out when you do accidentally. It’s about looking at the world you live in and doing what you can to make the trip easier for your co-passengers in life. Realizing that every book with any religious connotation uses parables to explain the world around and the human experience. But that’s all they are, parables. We’ve seen people throughout the ages say that there is a quote in some section of their preferred book of beliefs that can justify anything, good or bad. When looking at ANY Bible, there’s no way you can take it literally. We have science to explain things. We know that lightning is an electrical discharge caused by imbalances between storm clouds and the ground. It’s not because of God’s rage and using it like arrows to smite his enemies. Take the moral lessons from your faith, but do not assume it is all 100% fact, and don’t force it on others because you “know it’s right.” I look at it this way: if I had a 2020 Ford Mustang and I took it to a mechanic due to an engine issue, and the only book he references is an owner’s manual for a 1970 Mustang, I know that my car is not going to get fixed. It’s the same with the Holy Bible. If you live in the year 2021, I can’t see how you can make substantive life changes when you use an owner’s manual from the Iron Age.
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