Hail Satan? 3.0 stars

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The question mark in the title of Penny Lane’s documentary on The Satanic Temple is integral to the story she’s telling. Like Satan himself — the original disrupter in the Garden of Eden, the rebel and accuser who bedevils the righteous — Temple co-founder Lucien Greaves is a troll. His outfit’s first gathering is more prank than piety: a kind of embodied internet gag about the dangers of opening the door to religious influence in the public square, because when you do, Here Comes Everybody. And there’s no question that he enjoys the outrage that follows his proposals to celebrate the American ideal of religious tolerance by placing a statue of Baphomet next to a Ten Commandments monument on public land. But by the time he’s strapping on a Kevlar vest before giving a speech, it’s clear that, troll or no, he’s not just doing it for the lulz. He and his fellow adherents — there are more than you might imagine, and from more walks of life — are serious in their belief that Christianity is an oppressive, even hateful institution, and that the Seven Tenets of The Satanic Temple are a more decent, more human set of rules by which to live than the one Moses brought down from the mountain. (Do what thou wilt is absolutely not the whole of the law here: a charismatic chapter leader gets booted for rejecting the Temple's teaching against violence.) And they’re serious about engaging the world in the name of their movement. But it’s not clear that what they’ve got going on is a religion, or even exactly what’s meant by the word. Lane could have stood to do a little more with those sorts of questions, and a lot less sampling from old movies. But it’s still a fine, thought-provoking effort.

Matthew Lickona

Length: 1 hour, 35 minutes

Rated: R

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