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With unprecedented access, HAIL SATAN traces the rise of The Satanic Temple: only six years old and already one of the most controversial religious movements in American history. The Temple and its enigmatic leader Lucien Greaves are calling for a Satanic revolution to save the nation's soul. But are they for real?
Despite this movie's title it shows nor says anything blasphemous. The movement, however, uses symbols bound to confuse people to think they are really Satan's followers
Saw this at the Rotterdam film festival 2019, where it was part of the Big Screen Competition (but another film got the price). There is nothing blasphemous in this movie, though one could derive it from the title, especially when overlooking the question mark. Nevertheless, this movement gives rise to frequent controversy, as shown in many examples. Such an amount of resistance can be readily expected in a country where "In God we trust" signs are everywhere, on banknotes, in governmental buildings and many other public places. The mere existence of this sentence all over the country, is always the standard argument against The Satanic Temple (TST for short), to point out they have no place in the USA, and even to suggest they are unconstitutional.
The seemingly obvious fact that religion and the existence of God is laid down by the Founding Fathers and hence in the Constitution, proves incorrect as per the talking heads (I did not verify it). The binding role of religion came about in the 1950-ies as a determining (uniting) factor in the days that Communism was deemed something dangerous, the "red scare" as it was perceived at the time. Think of McCarthyism and more such political phases in USA's history. In 1956 US Congress made "In God We Trust" the national motto.
TST fights for separation between religion and state, and they lay their fingers on many aspects of life that are (inadvertenly?) grounded on Christian beliefs. USA may advertise adhering a strict separation between religion and state, in practice it is not. Take for example the prayer in schools, which should also be allowed to be led by someone belonging to a non-Christian belief. Thus, by extension, prayers could also be led by someone from TST. Be that as it may, a negative side effect of this (in my opinion) is that TST outings state that one could also praise Satan in those prayers. This will inevitably lead to uproar, being purposely controversial in its choice of words. So, though their basically proper intentions about separation of religion and state, they also create resistance while bordering on what is allowed versus what is frown upon in "standard" religions. The naming of their TST movement alone is evoking resistance, both from people basically supporting their principles, and (even more so) also by everyone else balking on their name, their rituals, and particularly the "black mass" events they organize.
As a documentary, this movie does a good job in showing many aspects of this movement, regardless of being against them, for them, or somewhere in the middle. As I wrote in previous paragraphs, I see their cause and what they stand for, but their attributes and their outings are deliberately confrontational. This is not really helpful in spreading their word. Each time when Satan is mentioned or when satanic symbols are shown, resistance can be expected, with the result that their actual cause is overlooked and drowned in the upheaval.
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