Steve Hill in many ways is a typical candidate running for elected office in California. He's a former U.S. Marine looking to reform public schools, reduce the state’s mass incarceration rates, and create jobs. But a couple things are holding him back: He’s an avowed atheist and Satanic Temple organizer.
Hill is a Democrat running for the state Senate in California’s 21st district, and probably the only candidate in the country who embraces both atheism and the tenets of modern-day Satanism. But Hill, who ran unsuccessfully as a write-in candidate last year during a special election, said this year he’s getting shunned by the Democratic establishment largely because of views the party believes are too extreme.
“I’m a Satanist as far as trying to get people to understand that I don’t believe in the devil any more than I believe in God,” Hill said in an interview. “All of it is stupid. But if I have to tell people I’m the devil to get them to listen, then, OK, I’m the devil.”
Hill, who also works as a stand-up comedian in Los Angeles, is currently helping organize an L.A. chapter for the Satanic Temple, a nationwide Satanic activist organization. Hill said he identifies with the temple’s mission, which he described as a “humanist approach that raises levels of consciousness.”
“I don’t go worship Satan and pour milk on me,” he said. “But [Satanism] would influence me greatly because I could deal from a different perspective, as a regular human being.”
In the last few years the Satanic Temple has tried to push Satanism away from its perception of devil worship and into politics. The group says its mission is to “encourage benevolence and empathy” in society while using Satanic imagery to further its goals. Hill says he reconciles his atheism with Satanism by not believing in any sort of deity or otherworldly presence and instead adheres to the Satanic Temple's goals like keeping church and state separate.
The group has often challenged organizations like the Westboro Baptist Church, which regularly holds anti-gay protests at military funerals and has been classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The Satanic Temple also pledged to erect a Satanic monument on the grounds of the Oklahoma State Capitol alongside one displaying the Ten Commandments. (The Ten Commandments monument has since been removed.)
Doug Mesner, a Satanic Temple leader and spokesman who also often goes by the name Lucien Greaves, said he doesn’t know of any members who are elected officials in the U.S., but added that “every day, we’re being told of new plans for credible people within our membership to make a run for various public offices.”
Hill hopes to be the first, running to replace Sharon Runner, the Republican incumbent who is not seeking reelection. But Hill acknowledged the difficulties. As of Thursday, he said he had roughly $100 in his campaign account and that he’s essentially been abandoned by the Democratic Party and plans to file as an independent. He’s also running in what he calls the “most religious area of Los Angeles County,” an area just north of the city. And it’s not just the party that’s left him behind. He said many of his friends have kept their distance since it’s come out that he’s an open atheist running for office.
“But I think more people are climbing out from under these rocks and saying, we exist,” he said. “We’re human.”