A photo of Detroiter Herman Menz's statue of the devil, from the Boston Daily Globe for Nov. 22, 1905.
Holy rollers are rocked by news that the Satanic Temple will open an outpost in our fair city
, complete with a statue of the horned one
. The group peddles its humanistic "religion" as a way to challenge the cretinous brand of Christian exceptionalism that has swept the country over the last few decades, and we think they're an amusing bunch of satirists with a message that seems more reasonable than many a faith.
But when the group completes its statue of Old Nick in Detroit, even they may not realize that they're not the first to erect such a monument, and that both monuments share the same motive: to provoke and tease the false face of that barnstorming brand of Christian piety known these days as fundamentalism.
You see, in 1905, a German-born Detroiter named Herman Menz, a stonemason and freethinker, erected a statue featuring the Prince of Darkness in his own front yard
at the intersection of Stanton Street and McGraw Avenue. The 14-foot-tall statue featured a motto that read in tortured Latin: "Man is not a created being, but the product of evolution. God did not make man, but man has made gods." Eventually, the city's Christians declared the monument a nuisance, and had it carted away. It eventually wound up in a novelty museum, as recounted in the book "Tales of Old Detroit."
The story lit up the media of its day, appearing in newspapers across the country. Though dimly recalled now, it shows why Detroit makes an excellent home for those questioning official godliness, and how far we've come in tolerating those who'd provoke a discussion of it.