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It’s official now! Satanic temples get religious recognition from the US Government

It’s official! America has a new religion now as the US Government officially grants religious status to Satanic temples. Satanic Temple has been granted equal tax -exempt status as a church by the IRS. The group has been around for a half-dozen years and grabbed news attention for its political activism. The new-found official US government recognition and a recent documentary film are helping the group grab a new level of attention.

The Satanic Temple is headquartered at a strikingly beautiful old New England house, which was once a funeral home, right at the heart of Salem, Massachusetts. While giving a tour of the temple building, Lucien Greaves, co-founder and spokesman of the Satanic Temple also pointing out some of the ways that the place functions as a religious centre, along with showing the art gallery. He also showed the events room where the congregation gathered together.

Apart from the art gallery and events room, there is a small library with significant works of Satanic literature and history, with a 2-foot tall historic relic. It's a 2-foot tall monument for veterans, in the form of a metal cube with a reversed pentagram on the front and an upturned military helmet on top.

However, the main attraction, is an 8-foot, 6-inch bronze statue of a goat-headed, winged icon called Baphomet. When quizzed if the Satanists here consider the monument to be holy, Greaves says "Words like 'spiritual' or "holy," I think — one of the first things that people need to realize about us is that we don't advocate for any supernatural beliefs. We're a nontheistic religion. We don't subscribe to supernatural explanations or accept them as legitimate."

He goes on saying that while the patrons of the Satanic Temple consider the mythological, and literary, figure of Satan as a symbol of rebellion against tyranny, they do not worship Satan in any way. "This idea of worship, it's usually kind of insulting to people who identify with Satanism, because that implies a sense of servility. Satanism is about personal sovereignty and independence and freedom of will," he added.

The congregation is also about trolling religious rights. The trolling, the beliefs and the short history of the Satanic Temple have been featured in the recent documentary, Hail Satan?", which also brought them out in the limelight.

Penny Lane, the filmmaker behind the documentary, spent a few years pursuing the founders of the Satanic Temple as they were getting their movement up and running with a range of public pranks, social protests, and legal action, many of which centred around issues of separation of church and state. But Lane, who thought this wasn’t anything serious in the beginning, says, she came away from the film believing that there is something deeper going on with the Satanic Temple — something religious.

"I had never understood why people are religious and what they get from it," Lane said. "But it was really doing this project that made me see that religion, in and of itself, is not the problem. It is a human impulse that has to be satisfied one way or another. We still need to come together in communities organized around values and mythology. I think the Satanic Temple is just showing me a new way," she added.

But what makes a religion legitimate in the eyes of government?

The United States has no state church and no religious bureaucracy, which leaves it to the discretion of the IRS to decide if a new entity claiming to be religious deserves tax-exemption status and the official recognition that comes with it.

While reacting to the IRS recognition, Benjamin Zeller. a religion scholar at Lake Forest College said, "We tend to think about institutions that have leaders, texts, buildings, adherents, beliefs, rituals. The Satanic Temple actually checks those boxes, at least most of them. We may not like it. We may not think of it as a conventional religion, but it seems to fit the characteristics."

The Satanic group is growing in numbers. It already has around 20 chapters across the US, and affiliate groups in Canada, Australia, Germany, and the UK, with more seeking approval from the Satanic Temple.

"In a way, the Satanic Temple has enjoyed such expansive, explosive growth because of the rise of the theocratic right in the United States. Our expansive membership numbers are a response to the Trump administration and Pence being vice president. People are horrified," says Greaves.

The fundamentals of the Satanic Temple are laid out in its so-called seven tenets. They mention personal freedom, including the freedom to offend, the pursuit of justice, and the value of scientific understanding, with non-violence, compassion and empathy as their ideological base.

"We're to the point now where we're already big enough and our message has resonated with people strongly enough that we've developed schisms, and people disagree with some of our tactics with how we approach injustice and other types of activism," adds Greaves.

Even the documentary has portrayed their stern route of sticking to the ideology, irrespective of the hierarchy, in one of its episodes. Greaves says this is one of the problems that arise with the evolution of a small band of pranksters into a rising congregation of an established religious organization.

It’s official now! Satanic temples get religious recognition from the US Government It’s official now! Satanic temples get religious recognition from the US Government Reviewed by Tim on August 22, 2019 Rating: 5

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