Who defines normality? Who decides what to believe and what to reject? Can our minds be dictated and forced to accept the inexplicable? How many lives have been lost in the name of God, in the name of belief, and for a piece of land? Every day members of LGBTQ community keep committing suicide either because of illegal gay conversion therapies that mess up their minds or being rejected by their families because of religion that does not accept what it sees as abnormal. By saying this, I am not trying to defend the concept of Penny Lane’s satirical “Hail Satan?” but rather request to have an open mind as this film alone, trust me on that, opens the room to so many interpretations that clearly can solve the problem of the society.
“Hail Satan?” is an incredible documentary that gets unprecedented access to The Satanic Temple that within six years of its existence has no intention of slowing down in getting more and more members. America’s most bizarre religious movement considers itself as a genuine movement that accepts what all other beliefs do not. Its members are peaceful, non-conflictual, and right to the point when it comes to questioning the morality of religion in America.
As the story unfolds, the audience can clearly tell that the members of The Satanic Temple believe in every element they do. They volunteer, clean up the dirty beaches, accept all the members of the society. They are cool with the LGBTQ community and are non-judgemental. While all these aspects are really important and admirable, the film takes a slow step back and takes the viewer to the time when the followers of Satan or its movement started decades ago and how since then it has unfolded.
You may disagree with every single line said in the film or with the points its interviewees try to bring up, but one thing what the spokesperson of The Satanic Temple, Lucien Greaves, said is gut-punching but the truth can burn any eye – “What we want to do is to force people to evaluate their notion of the United States being a Christian nation. It is not. We are a sacred nation. We’re supposed to be a democratic pluralistic nation. We are supposed to be a nation that does not allow the government to dictate what is an appropriate religious expression.” And the key word here is the government and why they go against it by creating a religious community that has an open door policy to everyone who wants to join – even those that were rejected by its own country due to its religious opinion.
In the end, as there are a lot of things with what the viewer can disagree with in “Hail Satan?”, one thing we can’t take away from it is its intelligence approach and superb storytelling to unfold in such a manner that it ensures you will miss nothing at all. On top of many things, the film tries to reveal the personal independence of individuals, their disagreement with the biased politics of the government that targets gays and lesbians or the minority. The members of The Satanic Temple are clear throughout – The United States of America is a multicultural and diverse country. It has too many religions in it and people with different backgrounds. Moreover, one message this film sends is too loud to not hear – when sport separates itself from politics, the government should separate itself from any religious group and stop promoting one particular one as if no other exists. Because it does. And that’s the beauty of the United States which seems the politicians somehow have forgotten.