Several days a week, preachers in the Brickyard can be heard shouting their messages across campus, reminding students of the significant presence of Christian groups at NC State. As of 2016, more than three-fourths of all religious clubs at NC State were Christian, according to getinvolved.ncsu.edu, although the site has since been updated to include "secular" in the "religious & spiritual" category, making it difficult to determine the exact number of these groups today. A recent PEW Research study also found that about two-thirds of all college graduates in America are Christian.
The Satanic Students at NC State respect their beliefs, but politely disagree.
Satanic Students is a new club at NC State, having held only its fifth meeting last Tuesday, Oct. 20. Founder and president Peter Aker, a third-year studying chemical engineering, said the purpose of the club is not to be inflammatory or even to promote any particular system of beliefs.
"Satanism is more of a philosophy and ideology, and not so much a religion," Aker said. "We don't believe in a literal Satan. Instead, we use its philosophy and the symbology behind it to form our opinions on the way the world should go."
According to Aker, the Satanic Students at NC State promote such concepts as empathy, benevolence, individuality and free thinking. They don't subscribe to a black-and-white view of good and evil in the world, but generally believe that practices which bring harm to others are bad.
The club’s five-part mission statement is based loosely off of the seven tenets of The Satanic Temple, a national organization which advocates for topics such as women's reproductive rights. Aker cited a campaign replicated by several of the temple's chapters called "Menstruatin' With Satan," which collected feminine health care products and redistributed them to communities in need.
In this way, each of the club members brings a different perspective to the Satanic Students. Alec Nabinger, a fourth-year studying sustainable materials and technology, talked about some of the principles which he was drawn to when he joined.
"It's more of just, the Satanic ideals of bodily autonomy, knowledge through science, accountability," Nabinger said.
Aker estimated that the current number of club members sits at around eight. Their current meeting room was described as "more of an information desk," at least for the duration of the semester. In the future, however, Aker hopes for the club to be member-driven, and future events will be planned around the views members hold and the type of activism they want to pursue.
"I want to start having more displays of symbology, like having chalkings around campus or putting up posters," Aker said. "Fitting along the lines of these things like, believing in yourself or loving yourself, talking about individuality. But really it's all up to the membership and what they want to do."
Aker said that transparency will be key to getting out the message of the Satanic Students and avoiding misconception at NC State.
"Definitely having a clear message and an understanding of what the club stands for [is important]," Aker said. "We make sure to stay transparent in things we do … there will always be people who will be adversaries to a cause, any cause, and this one's really no exception."
Aker spoke about the group’s perspective and how it compares to other religious groups present on campus.
"We have the same amount of validity as them, but we think this message is better," Aker said. "It's more modern. It's less restrictive and puritan. We don't preach that you're going to go to Hell if you do bad things … What matters is what you do here, while you're alive."
For more information about the group, students can visit the club’s page on Get Involved. Their meetings are held weekly on Tuesdays, from 2:30 to 3:30 in Talley 3223.