Religion? Or Activism? Or Both?

“I would like to thank you for coming to our conveying.  Hail Satan.” So began Hail Satan?,  the opening entry in Pure Nonfiction at IFC’s Spring 2019 series.  The film takes an inside look at followers of Satanism, and in particular an organization called The Satanic Temple.  Many members are presented, but mostly the film focuses on the group’s two prominent leaders, Lucien Greaves and Jex Blackmore.

“Blasphemy is very much a declaration of personal independence,” states Greaves early in the film.  To him, Satanism is not only a way of life, but a call to activism, and in particular one to support religious plurality and freedom.  Jex feels similarly, explaining “The Satanic Temple is reinventing Satanism and turning it into a new weapon in the ongoing culture wars.”  The group believes modern Satanism should confront the conglomeration of church and state around the United States. As Jex says, “directly confronting authority is an expression of one’s Satanic faith.”  The film follows the group as they originate and expand, and eventually bring the fight to the civic halls of state governments around the country. In Oklahoma, they protest the placement of a Ten Commandments monument on government land by submitting a petition for a statue of their own God, Baphomet, right next to it.  TST Member Stu de Hann explains, “I feel a sense of duty to do this. It’s not even an option at this point.” As another member states, “Invoking Satan is invoking the struggle for equality for everyone.”

Director Penny Lane further elaborated on this theme in the Q&A following the film.  When speaking about Lucien Greaves, she explained, “He really feels it’s a calling. He feels this responsibility and this duty.  And it’s not coming out of this ego… he is so passionate about this, it’s taken over his entire life.” She said of the group, “You come for the jokes, and then you get into the religion and politics stuff.  But it was totally transformational for me, making this film.” Not growing up religious, Lane felt very impacted by the movement. “They’re fighting for everyone… and that I thought was incredible, and also knowing how mocked and reviled they are by all of culture, I wanted to get it right, I wanted to make sure I was representing their worldview accurately.”  And she can’t deny the appeal of the movement to people today. “I do feel very optimistic about satanism as a religious movement. I think that’s going to continue to gain strength, whether or not the institution of The Satanic Temple stays around… the way that they’ve framed Satanism for the modern era is extremely appealing to a lot of people.”

Hail Satan? begins its theatrical run at IFC Center on Wednesday, April 17th and will spread to other theaters as it continues its run.  More information on the film can be found at