Satanic statue installed at Illinois state capitol

At a state capitol at the US, right between a Christmas tree and a Jewish menorah, a statue depicting a snake coiled around an arm holding an apple has been installed.

It belongs to the Temple of Satan's Chicago chapter, and depicts the moment in the Bible that Eve is tricked into eating the forbidden fruit, in the process learning of good and evil - but earning a place on God's naughty list. It bears the phrase "knowledge is the greatest gift".

The installation of the statue at the Illinois state capitol in Springfield was opposed by local Christian groups - but there's nothing the authorities could do to stop them.

"Under the Constitution, the First Amendment, people have a right to express their feelings, their thoughts," a spokesperson for the state government told Springfield newspaper the State Journal-Register.

Temple of Satan Chicago chair Lux Armiger said the group doesn't believe in proselytising, but wanted to push back a bit against religions that "have dominated the religious discourse in the state Capitol during the holiday season".

"Aside from the occasional critical comment on a news article or social media post, we have been met with near universal praise," he told publisher McClatchy.

The Satanic Temple - Chicago chapter
The statue. Photo credit: The Satanic Temple - Chicago chapter

The Temple of Satan doesn't believe in a literal Satan, instead using the Christian bogeyman as a "metaphoric representation" of opposing "arbitrary authority" - such as God.

"To embrace the name Satan is to embrace rational inquiry removed from supernaturalism and archaic tradition-based superstitions," said Mr Armiger.

Illinois Family Action, an anti-abortion Christian group, said in a tweet the Temple of Satan failed to realise "that the little baby in the manger has CRUSHED Satan's head", presumably referring to Jesus, and that "the gates of hell will NOT prevail".

The Temple of Satan's claim that Satan isn't real conflicts with what the leader of the largest Christian denomination thinks. Pope Francis last year said Satan is a real person who should be told to "go away" whenever he shows up.

But earlier this year Francis reportedly said hell, unlike Satan, doesn't exist - sinners aren't punished, they just disappear.