Satan and the Origin of Evil
This week we're going to be talking about the arch-enemy of the God of the Bible, namely, Satan. Now I am aware that there are many different interpretations of Satan's role in Christian mythology. Some see him as the same as Lucifer and the Devil while others view them as separate entities. Some also claim that Satan has been given dominion over the Earth in order to test humanity. I'm going to be focusing primarily on the more mainstream view of Satan as God's antithesis and the source of all Evil.
The Origins of Evil
Back when I was a Christian I always asked this question every chance I got but I never received a satisfying answer. Many brought up the story of Lucifer as it appears in the Old Testament, however some historians believe the verses in Isaiah talking about Lucifer might refer to a Babylonian King. Regardless it is generally believed that Lucifer/Satan was an angel who was God's second in command. One day he becomes full of pride, Ezekiel 28:15 describes it this way:
15 You were blameless in your ways
from the day you were created
till wickedness was found in you.
It is from these verses, along with those in Isaiah 14, that originate the idea that Satan was the serpent in the garden. Both Chapters say that Lucifer was there in the Garden of Eden however they do not make the claim that he was the snake. In fact in both accounts the Garden is mentioned BEFORE Lucifer's fall from grace and Genesis identifies the serpent DIRECTLY as a snake. It seems apparent that, in fact, Lucifer was there AS AN ANGEL in the Garden but people love a good scapegoat and blaming a talking snake makes Christianity out to be even more silly than it already is.
So where does Evil come from exactly? If God is ALL POWERFUL, if he begins with ALL POWER and is good than where exactly does evil come in? Do they really expect us to believe that evil comes from the Free Will that God gave us? So God decides to give people free will AND that creates the ability for good and bad decisions but rather than pre-program us to know good from evil God leaves Adam and Eve without anyway of discerning the two. God is responsible for the creation of evil IF evil did indeed stem from free will and original sin. But then, that's just it, an All Powerful being inherits All Responsibility for everything.
The only way to reconcile this problem, when I was a Christian, was for me to believe that Evil always existed in some form. I borrowed this idea from Taoism, I believed that God was Yin and Evil was Yang and that Evil could attach itself to people like Satan or anyone else. Not only did this help me hold onto my beliefs but it also took away a defense that I HATED people using - THE DEVIL MADE ME DO IT. Even as a Christian I hated when people scape-goated the devil for their own behavior, or blamed him for essentially ANY viewpoint that didn't cram itself into their narrow-minded views. Rock and Roll - that's of the Devil. Liberals - that's of the Devil. Any religion other than Christianity - that's the Devil deceiving people. This of course leads me to my next point.
The Face of the Enemy
The Devil is Powerless?
Even if Satan existed he would be entirely powerless. This goes back to that All Power = All Responsibility point I made earlier. Surely Satan is not equal in power to God, two beings cannot both have infinite power can they? So if God IS All Powerful and Satan is not than how exactly does Satan plan on doing anything without God's express permission? The only way Satan can mess with anyone or do anything is if God has given him free will and power. It would seem to me that if an angel rebels against you and you damn them you would remove essentially ALL of their power, leave them with free will if you must but don't allow them supernatural powers and demonic cunning.
So did God make another mistake in letting Lucifer retain his powers? Well not if you ask some Christians because some believe Satan is here to test us. There is scriptural evidence to support this the most glaring of which is Job. In Job Satan asks for permission from God to take everything Job has away to TEST Job's loyalty to God. God regrets this in the third verse of the second chapter and admits that there was no good reason to do it (another Godly mistake).
Personally I think the first choice here is the only one that makes sense. Believing that God unleashes Satan to test people just makes God out to be a total dick. In truth it seems Satan is Lex Luthor to God's Superman, essentially harmless. (I am aware that Lex Luthor does pose a threat to Superman, the point here is that Lex Luthor in a fair fight, without Kryptonite, would get his ass kicked by Superman every time without fail).
Another thing to ponder: Read your Bible, how many people does Satan kill? How many people does God kill? How many does God throw into a lake of fire in agony? How many does Satan throw in there?
Not only do Christians believe in Satan but most also believe that Satan's got helpers. Demons are generally considered evil spirits, they are fallen angels that also rebelled against God. Hmm... One has to wonder, if God is so good why people who decide to rebel against him? Maybe he was letting angelic children die of cancer and AIDS, you know, the kind of stuff he still does today despite being All Powerful.
So these demons ALSO have supernatural powers and supposedly can even possess the bodies of the living. Aside from a few extreme cases these "possessions" usually only manifest themselves in symptoms of mental illness - meaning they aren't actual possessions. There are a handful of severe of unexplained cases of "demonic" possession however I think any explanation is better than invoking the boogeyman. Demons were, at one time, the explanation for a wide array of physical illnesses as well as mental illnesses. Luckily superstitious beliefs like this are on the decline and amazingly as the beliefs decline so do the reports of demonic possession, its almost as if people are getting the correct diagnosis and treatment from medical science.
Demons are meant to be able to tempt people as well, meaning those dirty thoughts you've been having about your daughter's high school age friend's upcoming slumber party might just be demons in your head. Demons are also a great scapegoat for superstitious believers, it is amazing how we humans will shirk responsibility for actions ANY WAY WE CAN.
While the Bible is unclear on the subject of Satan and the Origin of Evil people still have strong personal beliefs on the matter. Whatever you believe about Satan (I think he's fictional personally) it seems clear to me that Satan should not be blamed for your own personal actions. Please remember that this is the 21st Century and while your first instinct might be to be superstitious it would be wise to employ logic and reason before leaping to the conclusion that Satan was involved.
That's all for this week, thanks for reading.