The “snaketivity” scene decorating Michigan’s state capitol this holiday season has raised some eyebrows — and questions about the group behind it.
That group calls itself the Detroit Satanic Temple, and it just formed a few months ago.
Temple director Jex Blackmore says the display is meant to promote Satanic practices and beliefs, but those aren’t what many people think.
“We believe in individualism, critical thinking, and that the decisions that we make about our body and our understanding of the world are best informed by science,” Blackmore says.
Nor does the group worship Satan as a deity. Rather, they see him as a “cultural hero” who challenges “arbitrary authority,” empowering marginalized groups and social “outsiders” — a view of Satan that emerged from the literature and philosophy of the European Enlightenment, Blackmore says.
“Even Biblically, Satan is often tempting man to question God, to go a different path,” Blackmore says. “And that’s something that we identify with, because we think it’s good to question authority. We think it’s good to think for ourselves, and make rational choices based on a moral and ethical code that we have engrained in us.”
The Detroit chapter of the national Satanic Temple movement just formed in August. The chapter doesn’t have a physical worship space, though Blackmore says members are considering getting one. For now, they meet in a series of private locations, in part because violent threats the group has received in the wake of “snaketivity” publicity.
That display was prompted by recent state legislation like the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and other measures the group considers harmful to women, LGBT people, and religious minorities.
Blackmore says the display is meant to protest what the group calls “moral bias rooted in religious preference," and express a whole "diversity of beliefs" that exist outside the mainstream. And while it was meant to contrast with a traditional Christmas Nativity scene the Satanists saw as an expression of that bias, Blackmore insists it’s not meant as an attack on Christianity.
“And I think that that accusation, and that framing of the story, is in and of itself proof that there is an issue here,” Blackmore says. “That people are often demonized because of being different.”