• Hell ain’t nothing without Satan

    One of my published works, The Little Book Of Unholy Questions, is a romp through the cumulative case against God set out as 501 leading questions, supported by commentary introducing and closing each section. After my section on Hell, I look briefly at the idea of Satan, who is nothing more than a middle management executive working on behalf of God. Please support my work by grabbing a copy from the link above or the sidebar, and writing a review if you like it. If you don’t, just forgeddaboudit…final cropped unholy cover2

    Hell ain’t nothing without Satan

    Wherever there is good, there is evil. Ying and Yang. In the bible, Satan is mentioned a number of times, but many people see Satan as a symbolic entity. That said, there are many that also adhere to the Satan of actuality – a beast, an evil and the scourge of God.

    However, just because many people might believe in Satan, doesn’t make him any the more likely an existent phenomenon. After all, many children believe in the tooth fairy and Santa. The whole house of Satanic cards comes tumbling down when you think that God is supposed to be omnipotent – an all-powerful deity that bows to no one. And yet Satan is an ever-present thorn in God’s side and God cannot seem to do anything about it. Despite his all-powerfulness, God seems all-powerless to rid the world once and for all of that pesky Satan. It’s like a bad episode of Scooby Doo when God takes off the mask of the bad guy who has been running amok in the deserted house only to reveal Satan. And this time it’s God saying, “If it wasn’t for that meddling Satan, I’d have a perfect universe!”

    The only other option, given Satan’s actual (and not symbolic) existence is the notion that Satan’s existence gives a greater good than the suffering he causes. For this, see the Problem of Evil section for a little more detail.

    Many people see the serpent in the Garden of Eden as the first appearance of Satan. Of course, this begs the question as to whether the Garden of Eden was ever actually a historical place or event. Moreover, many people still declare that the talking serpent was exactly that: a talking serpent and nothing more.

    In the Book of Job in the Old Testament, Satan is a member of God’s own Divine Council, and is basically one of the good guys. Actually, he makes God look a little harsh by comparison as God and Satan bet about the actions and beliefs of Job whilst effectively torturing him by taking things away from him to see if his faith wavers.

    Satan is also referenced in the non-biblical Second Book of Enoch, where he is cast out of heaven. In reality, though, Satan is the creation of the New Testament, where his name occurs numerous times. The Book of Revelations again refers to Satan as a serpent and deceiver. He particularly claims some fame in trying to tempt Jesus in the wilderness. Without much luck. It’s sort of a Star Wars moment where he takes Jesus to one side, waves his arm gracefully over the desert, and says, “Together we can rule the galaxy as father and son” to which Jesus gives him the what for.

    Most of the popular ideas of Satan as rebelling against God from once being one of his favourites are embellished inferences from scant references in the bible. Interestingly, Revelations has Satan as one amongst many being thrown into the lake of fire and being tortured:

    And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

    (Revelations 20:10)

    Certainly a few questions to come out of that. Essentially, there is not an awful lot of evidence to support a Satanic thesis, which is probably why many people see Satan as a symbolic representation of evil, sin and temptation.

    Let’s look at these ideas under the inquisitive microscope:

    1. If you created everything, and are the one true (all-loving) God, then why did you create Satan?
    1. Similarly, if Satan is a fallen angel, and you have omniscience, you knew that that angel was going to fall, and so why did you create that angel?
    1. If you are omnipotent, why don’t you just do away with Satan?
    1. Since Satan is still kicking around, then you have chosen to allow this (being omnipotent and omnibenevolent). So does this mean that Satan existing is providing more good than evil?
    1. If, as above, you are able to rid us of Satan but choose not to, then it follows that Satan must provide a valuable service, rather like the prison service and other such correctional institutions. It then follows that Satan is effectively following your orders or wishes, otherwise you would stop him. In this way, Satan becomes a management arm of yourself, and thus Satan simply becomes you and certainly becomes your responsibility. In this way, are you Satan?
    1. Does Satan really have a number (666), or did that refer to the Emperor Nero as is generally thought?
    1. Did you really have a bet with Satan to make Job’s life a misery?
    1. Surely the notion of Satan is ridiculous, since he would have known that you are omnipotent, -scient, and –benevolent so that when he fell and decided to act against you, he knew he would never, ever have any chance of succeeding?
    1. Is it cruel to use humans as pawns in your endless battle with Satan?
    1. Given that Revelations has Satan being thrown into the lake of fire himself and being tormented for rather a long time, who is it that will actually do all the torturing in hell in his absence? You?
    1. If you take it upon yourself to torture souls and suchlike for what could well be an eternity, do you see yourself as an all-round, loving kind of deity?
    1. Can Satan, as a fallen angel, ever be forgiven?

    It seems bizarre that Satan, if he exists as a fallen angel type of figure, exists perpetually in his own torment, and offers the best example of being punished eternally for a finite decision. It could be that he thinks his actions were now a mistake, morally wrong, and that those actions represented him at a less mature and developed time, and that now, as a different ‘person’ he might want forgiveness. Surely, then, an all-loving God who preaches forgiveness and to turn the other cheek, would never punish even Satan for an eternity! This sort of punishment is logically contradictory to a perfectly, or even a remotely, just being, and certainly seems miles away from being the work of a merciful God. I can’t quite get my head around the idea of Satan – he seems to embody a lot of contradiction and unsound logic. It’s a shame, I’d like to know what kind of a guy he is because there is a strong chance I could be spending a long time with him, according to a lot of Christians.

    Strangely enough, Origen (185-254), one of the earliest Christian scholars and theologians, from Alexandria, believed that Satan would be reconciled with God eventually. He also thought the bible was full of many factual errors. An early liberal Christian indeed!

    Category: AtheismBooksFeaturedGod's CharacteristicsHell


    Article by: Jonathan MS Pearce

    • epicurus

      The idea of God allowing the devil to start and grow and defend Christianity to test the Jews? Bizarre? If you are a Christian, sure, it sounds bizarre. But some of those same Christians will turn around and say God allows the devil to fool great chunks of the population of the world by supporting other religions.

      I’m sure someone has written about this somewhere, but this idea popped into my head a few years ago. I would like to someday flesh it out. Back in my fundamentalist protestant days, it was a common view that other religions were really worshipping Satan, and God allowed the devil to fool all those people in other religions. Another view was that God, for what ever reason, allowed 1000 years of twisted, Satan inspired, twisted Catholicism to send people to hell before the Protestants showed up to get back to the Bible and salvation by faith alone.

      But if God will allow a super smart, supernatural, super powerful being to fool all these weak puny humans, then how can we be sure Christianity isn’t just a test for the Jews?

      Maybe God is allowing Satan to test God’s chosen people – the Jews – by allowing Satan to found and grow Christianity to see if the Jews will remain faithful to Judaism. Jesus, Paul, the disciples, etc, are just minions send down to pull off this deception. The miracles – from the devil. The Old testament supposedly pointing to Jesus – twisted around slickly, taken out of context to make it look that way. Christian apologetics – just the devil fooling people like Paul or even modern day William Lane Craig into making defences to help the deception along.

      • Exactly. How can any person know that their version of whatever religion is the correct one and that they are not being fooled. This is Descartes Evil Daemon, and, of course, there is no way to check. Hence his cogito ergo sum to show what we CAN know.

        I wrote about this before in showing that even God cannot evade this problem. The Christian God cannot know that he himself is not victim to a greater evil daemon pulling the wool over his eyes. He thinks he knows everything, but all of his stimuli are being created by this even greater being. And so on.

    • greg

      Might Hell be worse without that personal connection?

      i think evil, and at that, exists to increase the substance of the world. A world without evil has much less consequence, and much more fluff; too much like a dream to be existentially satisfying.

      You’ve provided a lot of arguments suggesting that God, as He is often conceived, does not exist. But can you prove that you are not Him? Naturally, as part of your omnipotent powers, you have the powers to: 1 Be what ever size and shape you want; 2. Believe what ever you want, including things that are not true, and 3. Create evidence to support those beliefs.

      I posted this over at Reddit r/philosophy, but they took it down,

      • You posted your comment/idea and it was taken down? Why?

        IF evil existed for a reason, then who is the reason giver and creator of that evil? If I am God, does that mean I created the world with the requisite amount of evil?

        • greg

          At r/philosophy, yes. Wasn’t given a reason.

          Imagine creating, or just living in, a world where all your choices were without consequence: A world where your every whim was immediately granted. Heaven, say, or maybe even the Garden of Eden. How long do you think you could stand it? Before you ate the apple? Also consider the other end of the spectrum, a completely deterministic world, a visibly clockwork world, where you had NO choices, and this fact was in your face.

          Yes. The requisite amount of evil- Yes. Like temperature: Too much, too hot; not enough, too cold. (Someone else might have already done this analogy.)
          The requisite amount to satisfy Your divine Self. To satisfy all Your divine Selves.

          The existence of evil is a result of there being consequences to actions. Some consequences must be negative. The levels of the stakes are uneven, being higher and perhaps more often negative during disasters, both natural and man-made, and other periods of excitement. Evil does get inflicted on the innocent. And the poor, for instance, would seem to be closer to hell than the rich, who suffer far less negative consequences from their- mistakes. (This thesis actually has important social and political implications. It might even be testable.) Does it all get balanced out?

          The statement: “God created evil so man could have ‘free will,.’ ” then, kind of misses the point. Evil existing to such degree and variation as it does is a consequence of such free will, such choices as man has, being optimally existentially satisfying. A world not too hard, not too soft. Just right, with variation. (Evidence of the existence of God from there being some optimum quantity of evil?)

          Of course, the world is God’s delusion/hallucination, (and in a sense His best possible,) and evil is just a necessary result of that.