Is Secular the New Satanic?

Uncle Screwtape is not going to be happy. Things were going so well until a recent miscue under the watch of an underling. The oversight now threatens to blow the Adversary’s cover in a growing number of U.S. cities.

Or perhaps it was approved by the High Command. Screwtape himself had said in his seventh letter,

I have great hopes that we shall learn in due time how to emotionalize and mythologize their science to such an extent that what is, in effect, belief in us (though not under that name) will creep in while the human mind remains closed to belief in the Enemy. . . . [T]hen the end of the war will be in sight.

Whatever the case, the cat now may be out of the bag. The Detroit Free Press and USA Today report that the “Satanic Temple” in New York is branching out to the Motor City, with fifteen others to be announced in the coming weeks.

Not What You Think

But don’t be fooled by the name, the pentagrams, and the upside-down crosses. This tiny sect doesn’t believe in the supernatural at all, but only a “metaphorical, literary construct” of Satan. They’re essentially secular to the core (though they wouldn’t want to say it that way), and their hope is that the name and imagery sends silly supernaturalists like us expecting all the wrong things (like cannibalism, human and animal sacrifice, and Satan-worship), only to have our folly exposed.

The local leader in Michigan, who has taken the name “Jex Blackmore,” says, “The idea of sacrifice specifically is to appease some demon or some god, and that’s a supernatural belief that we don’t subscribe to.”

Founded in New York just two years ago, the Satanic Temple is cutting paths across the country, acting as a religious group and aiming to undo supernaturalists in general, and Christians in particular. The group has done first-amendment rights demonstrations in Florida and Massachusetts and (understandably) seeks to block a Ten Commandments monument in Oklahoma by demanding that a Satanic statue appear alongside.

In addition to a disbelief in the supernatural, the group “embraces individuality and equality,” stands for free will and feminism, opposes “informed consent laws requiring that women receiving abortions be given certain information,” and plans to offer so-called same-sex wedding ceremonies.

The Great and Tragic Irony

What’s revealing is not what this new spin on “Satanism” says about the tiny sect itself as much as what it says about its growing number of ideological co-belligerents who would admit, “I’m secular and I know it.” The great irony — and the slip with which Screwtape won’t be happy, unless the strategy has changed — is the explicit packaging of “Satanism” on disbelief in the supernatural, strident advocacy for free will and feminism, abortion without any brakes, and so-called homosexual marriage.

For the Satanic Temple, Satan may only be a “metaphorical, literary construct,” and they may think the joke’s on us if we see anything deeper, and truly diabolical, at work. But for those of us who do believe in the supernatural, and wrestle against “the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12), how can it not make us ask, Would Satan having his way in Western society look any different than this?

When Satan Goes Secular

While at first we may expect it would be the outright evil of Nazism, Al Qaeda, or ISIS, or the blatant demon-worship of “theistic Satanism,” we may be struck, upon further reflection, by the genius of Screwtape’s subtle strategy. And perhaps now the Satanic Temple is the chink in Smaug’s armor helping us confirm how Satanic the march toward secularism has been all along.

Could demons do any better in our current milieu than to convince us that Satan doesn’t exist, that there is no supernatural, that human beings are autonomously self-determining, that there is no complementarity in gender, and that abortion and so-called same-sex marriage are anything but the work of the Adversary from the Garden to undo the designs of his enemy?

The new Satanic Temple in Detroit may have only twenty members, but adherents to such an ideology are not nearly as rare as we might hope. Even though many secularists and atheists will find the Satanic Temple to be no more than a cheap publicity stunt, perhaps this new brand of Satanism gives us a fresh insight into what it really means to be secular.

Make Disciples

But we should not be too surprised. We have been told that “the whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19), that “the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers” (2 Corinthians 4:4). Maybe demons are directly behind this (1 Corinthians 10:20), or maybe in all our great secular learning, we’re now just doing the work for them.

The existence of the Satanic Temple serves as a reminder “not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs” (2 Corinthians 2:11). It’s a refresher that the battle rages on as the progressive agenda powers forward. And it is a call not to grumble (Philippians 2:14) over the loss of a country that was never ours, but “hold fast to the word of life” (Philippians 2:16) and put our hands to the plow on the small but unstoppable labors of good old-fashioned disciplemaking (Matthew 28:18–20).