CREDIT: Magnolia Pictures

Starring: Lucien Greaves

Director: Penny Lane

Running Time: 95 Minutes

Rating: R for Religious Nudity

Release Date: April 17, 2019 (New York)/April 19, 2019 (Los Angeles)

After watching the documentary Hail Satan?, I am seriously considering joining the Satanic Temple, even though I have been perfectly happy all my life as a Roman Catholic. Maybe I can have it both ways. If dual national citizenship is a thing, then why can’t dual religious membership also be?

Hail Satan? is directed by Penny Lane, who became a Satanic Temple member herself after shooting wrapped. The Temple does not worship the Christian conception of the devil (though in some ways its teachings are based on an alternate interpretation of the Bible), nor does it promote unseemly practices like blood orgies or human sacrifice. It is also separate from the LeVeyan Satanism of the Church of Satan that has been around since the 1960s, though it does share some similar tenets. The Satanic Temple was co-founded in 2013 by Malcolm Jarry and Lucien Greaves, the latter of whom serves as the group’s spokesperson and the primary voice of Hail Satan? Greaves is eminently logical and boundlessly patient, making him a convincing salesperson to the intellectually disaffected and a compelling personality to base a documentary around.

For many, the appeal of the Satanic Temple is that it avoids dogmatism while offering the community of organized religion that wouldn’t be a part of a fully atheistic lifestyle. And save for that communal aspect, much of the Temple’s purpose is civic activism, in the form of holding an American society accountable to its ideals of religious tolerance. Much of the documentary focuses around efforts to erect a statue of the goat-headed, bewinged Baphomet outside the Oklahoma and Arkansas State Capitols alongside Ten Commandments monuments in the name of making it clear that the government is not playing favorites when it comes to religions. What could come off as trollish in less thoughtful hands instead comes off as the highest form of patriotism from the Satanic Temple. Even when some cracks start to show within the Temple’s ranks (as they almost inevitably do in any organization that grows to a certain size), it is gratifying to witness the portrait of a group living up to its own ideals.

Hail Satan? is Recommended If You Like: Going Clear, Religious freedom, Governments living up to their constitutional ideals

Grade: 4 out of 5 Baphomets