"Everyone seems to have a very strong opinion about Satanism, even though nobody knows anything about it. Even people that are not particularly religious, like myself - we still think we know what Satanism is. And it turns out that most of these ideas are completely mythological. I thought it was really interesting that there were so many misconceptions from the get go about what modern Satanism is and means to the people who call themselves Satanists." Penny Lane
Remember the Satanic Panic? The moral panic that took place in the US and the UK throughout the 80s and 90s? The one that saw every Dick and Jane accused of worshipping Satan, murdering people, and molesting children just because they played their records backwards - all in the name of the dark lord! In the end, the Satanic Panic just exposed the foolish, desperate attempts of Christianity to save itself from the great destroyers: science, reason and freedom of thought. Despite the moral panics and few instances where people have actually murdered in the name of Satan, there's no evidence that there actually ever has been a sort of widespread and organized worship of the hoofed one. Still, nowadays in the US, just the term Satanism is still a matter of controversy, as the majority of people picture a bunch of uncivilized devil worshippers... they couldn't be more wrong. The reality is rather different, in fact, we're talking about a counterculture religion that values individualism and nonconformity. Satan as a metaphor, a symbol of mankind's freewill. Proclaiming the “Satanic Temple“, a collective of atheistic Satanists founded by Lucien Greaves and Malcolm Jarry, the feature documentary “Hail Satan?“ by acclaimed American non-fiction filmmaker Penny Lane throws new light on atheistic Satanism in the US - an ideological and philosophical belief not based on Satan as a supernatural deity but rather self-identity, activism, as well as social and political justice. What started with a group of three friends quickly emerged to a worldwide organization in just a couple of years, which now claims more than 50.000 members. Individual chapters of the protest group also drew attention with activities designed to highlight and push back against the right-wing religious establishment and archaic traditions and norms.
"Every layer of the onion that we peeled back, there was like something really surprising at the next layer. The first thing you know, I could see, was how serious and intelligent they were – despite what you might expect of a bunch of Satanists. They were really sophisticated thinkers, and many times the people who would go out in public against what they do would sound like raving lunatics." Penny Lane
The movement's belief system includes reason, empathy, the pursuit of knowledge and their "Seven Tenets" - with every tenet defining a guiding principle designed to inspire nobility in action and thought: "The spirit of compassion, wisdom, and justice should always prevail over the written or spoken word." The Satanic Temple's activities mostly focus on shining a light on the lack of separation between church and state - staged here in a fascinating, colorful and often humorous way. Given exclusive access, Lane follows The Satanic Temple through a series of events such as fighting the Oklahoma and Arkansas state legislatures when the group commissioned a massive sculpture of a winged, goat-headed Baphomet surrounded by adoring children - planned to be installed at the Oklahoma state capitol building right after the Ten Commandments went up there. Another scene reveals the distribution of a children's coloring book, at a school where Christians were handing out pamphlets. Now that’s some elaborate trolling! So if you're looking forward to sell your soul or join the illuminati, look elsewhere. In any other case, make sure not to miss out on this one. Inspiring and entertaining, it surely will leave a lasting impression. As a matter of fact, working on “Hail Satan?” completely changed director Lane’s prospects of religious concepts. It might change yours, too.
words. Christoph Rambow
"Hail Satan?" | USA 2019 / documentary / 1h 35min / directed by Penny Lane