Witches and Satanists with a progressive political bent

I know what you’re thinking. There’s no way this story can live up to what the headline promises. Oh, but it will. Let’s start with the Satanists who are expected to be part of a hearing Tuesday on a court challenge to a Missouri state law which mandates a 72-hour waiting period before a woman can have an abortion. As part of the law, the woman seeking the abortion is asked to read a pamphlet which states that life begins at conception. A group called the Satanic Temple has been challenging the law. From NBC News:

There will be a showdown with Satan on Tuesday in the Missouri Supreme Court.

Not with Lucifer himself, but with a group called the Satanic Temple that is going to bat for a woman identified as “Mary Doe.” She contends the state’s informed consent law, which required her to wait 72 hours before having an abortion in May 2015, violated her religious beliefs.

Specifically, the woman — identified in the case summary as a “Greene County resident” — says she was forced to view an ultrasound of her fetus and pledge that she read a booklet stating that the “life of every human being begins at conception.”

This despite the fact that Doe advised the doctors at the St. Louis clinic that “she adheres to principles of the Satanic temple and has sincerely held religious beliefs different from the information in the informed consent booklet,” the case summary states.

Are the people involved in the Satanic Temple really worshippers of Satan? Well, no, not exactly. In 2015, one of the founders of the group told the New York Times how it came about:

“The first conception was in response to George W. Bush’s creation of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives,” said Mr. Jarry, who was raised by irreligious Jews. “I thought, ‘There should be some kind of counter.’ ” He hit on the idea of starting a faith-based organization that met all the Bush administration’s criteria for receiving funds, but was repugnant to them. “Imagine if a Satanic organization applied for funds,” he remembered thinking. “It would sink the whole program.”

That idea percolated until 2012. At an event at Harvard, Mr. Jarry, who was taking graduate classes there, met the man who became “Mr. Greaves,” a man who, when not participating in Satanic Temple activism, is often called Douglas Mesner. He is now 39 years old and says he “does some odd jobs” for a living. Mr. Jarry and Mr. Mesner bonded over a shared distaste for organized religion and an inclination to fight back with mischief…

Mr. Mesner insists that his attraction to the Satanic label is not just opportunistic. Although he, like Mr. Jarry, is an “atheistic Satanist,” meaning that he no more believes in a literal Satan than he does in a literal God, he finds special meaning in Satanism, which represents to him the solidarity of outsiders, those judged and excluded by the mainstream.

So they’re actually atheists looking to make a point. Given the history of their activism, they appear to be progressives, albeit with a gimmick. But they do call themselves Satanists so I’m counting that as half a headline fulfilled.

Ah, but where are the witches my headline promised? Well, last week NBC’s Left Field published a video titled, “The new witches of Salem: feminist, empowered and anti-Trump.” The clip is exactly what it sounds like, i.e. a group of women who embrace the idea of being witches but who mostly see themselves as feminists. NBC hasn’t put the clip on YouTube yet so you’ll have to click here to watch it, but here’s the description that goes with the video:

Witches are real and their ranks are growing. Amid the rise in political activism across the country, young American women have been drawn to witchcraft as a sign of feminism and community building. Salem, Massachusetts, is engrained in the mythos of witches and draws many women curious about the movement. Some of these witches come from families that have practiced witchcraft for generations, while others are new to the world of spells. But one thing they all have in common: they see it as a feminist practice.

Unlike the Satanists, who are non-believers, some of the witches do seem to be sincere about their spiritual beliefs, i.e. they cast spells and use Tarot cards. It’s sort of like ordinary progressive feminism but with pointy hats. It seems to me that the appeal of both groups (to the left) is that they represent extremes that have the potential to offend or provoke people with more traditional or conservative religious or political views. The left really is fond of theatrical flourishes with their politics.