Lucien Greaves is always “a little worried” about being physically injured when he speaks at universities about the religious organization he founded: The Satanic Temple.
However, since he started the organization in 2012, Greaves said he’s gotten less worried “because I haven’t been shot yet” — although he has faced large groups of Christian protesters.
But Greaves said he thinks protesters misunderstand the true beliefs of The Satanic Temple.
“A lot of the ideas people have about Satanism come from moral panic,” he said. “We do think it’s part of our noble pursuit to correct people of these type of witch-hunting activities.”
Despite what protesters might think, Greaves said the Temple promotes acceptance and benevolence.
The organization’s missions is to “encourage benevolence and empathy among all people, reject tyrannical authority, advocate practical common sense and justice and be directed by the human conscience to undertake noble pursuits guided by the individual will,” according to its website.
Greaves added the religion’s members are taught to live by seven fundamental tenets, all of which promote respect for oneself and others, belief in scientific reason and “nobility in action and thought.”
Despite the Temple’s name, Greaves said they do not actually worship Satan, or a deity of any sort. Rather, they see Satan as a symbol for the enlightenment and rationalism.
“It resonates very deeply with me, even though I’m not theistic,” he said. “We just simply don’t think that superstition should have more benefits in a pluralistic society than atheism.”
Greaves spoke at the Utah State University Taggart Student Center (TSC) Friday night at an event hosted by the USU Student Association’s Secular Student Alliance (SSA).
Tony Alder, a senior studying exercise science and the alliance’s co-president, first met Greaves when the SSA was in Ohio for a conference. They saw him give a presentation and later ran into him at a bar.
Alder said the group enjoyed his message and “just wanted to bring him in to give a voice to a religious minority and kind of spread his good message.”
The group kept up with the Temple’s various nationwide projects and “thought it was a great movement, so we wanted to support him any way we could.”
Greaves kicked off the night on the TSC auditorium stage wearing all black. His pale blue eyes and soft smile lit up when asked if the colors he wore represented his religious beliefs.
“I feel the black works for me but it’s not necessary by any means,” he said jokingly.
What is necessary for the Temple’s followers, Greaves said, is a firm belief in the separation of church and state, and the right of all groups to practice their beliefs.
Greaves’ presentation highlighted projects the Temple participated in around the country, all of which included promoting a separation of church and state.
“We see that this idea of public indoctrination and the idea of one religious viewpoint is very much now being pressed into schools,” he said.
This prompted The Satanic Temple to lawsuits against several state governments, Greaves said.
Most notably, in 2015 the group filed a suit against the Missouri State Legislature over an anonymous Temple member’s desire to receive an abortion. The state’s Informed Consent Law required her to wait 72 hours after she told her physician she wanted an abortion.
The Satanic Temple argued the law “violated her religious freedom” because it contradicted her — and their — beliefs. The Western District of the Missouri Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the woman on Wednesday, according to the Associated Press.
Attendees of the event said they enjoyed Greaves’ emphasis on secularism.
“The separation of church and state is an important issue, especially in a state like Utah,” said Zachary Neubart, a graduate student studying computer science.
Greaves said he speaks to about four universities per month, though he never imagined himself in such a role.
Greaves founded The Satanic Temple in 2012, based on ideas from his research on the “Satanic Panic,” an ongoing fear movement stemming from false allegations of abuse made against a daycare center in the 1980s.
“We never had any pretenses that we’d be able to start an organization like this,” Greaves said. “We thought The Satanic Temple would be anonymous.”
However, Greaves said he believes the group promotes positive messages of equality and rationality, and believes they are “here to stay.”
Although the Temple is a non-profit organization and receives most of its legal services pro bono, Greaves said, “If we find some heavy benefactors, you’ll see us doing more heavy damage than we are now.”
Photos by Chantelle McCall