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…
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.
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:
- If you created everything, and are the one true (all-loving) God, then why did you create Satan?
- 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?
- If you are omnipotent, why don’t you just do away with Satan?
- 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?
- 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?
- Does Satan really have a number (666), or did that refer to the Emperor Nero as is generally thought?
- Did you really have a bet with Satan to make Job’s life a misery?
- 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?
- Is it cruel to use humans as pawns in your endless battle with Satan?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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!