The warped story of Satan.
When I was a child, I know Satan sneaked into my bedroom and afflicted me with all sorts of physical and emotional problems. I want revenge, so I finally wrote the President, urging him to invade Hell and nuke Satan’s sorry red ass. The president is keeping his options open.
Satan has been known by many names, including the Devil, Beelzebub, Lucifer, Prince of Darkness, and so forth. As red guy, complete with horns and other special effects, Satan has become the ethical opposite of God. However, it can be difficult to tell the difference between what Satan has to offer and God has to offer, since they both want obedience in exchange for all the interesting things in life.
In fact, both God and Satan are promoted like Santa Claus, who offers gifts in exchange for matching a checklist. Since Santa Claus has a white beard and wears red, he is a lot like God and Satan rolled into one.
The image of Satan has changed over time. Originally, Satan was God’s adjutant, the right-hand angel who tested human beings. One of the best instances was the temptation of Jesus, so he could pass the test and become the Christ.
In the Middle Ages, Satan became more diabolical. As a contrary angel, he became the force that started the War in Heaven, a game of Celestial Monopoly that uses human souls instead of money. In this battle of good versus evil, we are expected to verbally affirm our allegiance to either God or Satan, with the consequence that we will either ascend or descend, respectively.
One of my former Unity ministers once described Satan in this fashion, “The Devil is the Father of all lies. In addition, the Devil Himself is a lie,” i.e., a metaphor brought to life, because someone has to be stuck with the blame for evil.
It is convenient to be able to proclaim that it was the Red Guy’s Fault, so that we do not have to deal with any issues ourselves.
In a true monotheistic faith, Satan creates endless philosophical problems. If God is truly omnipotent and omniscient, where does Satan get his power? Why does God allow so much evil to exist and to increase? Where was God when the Holocaust took place?
Post-modern philosophy seeks to answer these questions. However, such philosophy can anger many people, by removing absolutes and any and all convenient answers. In addition, people resist the loss of human-centering, based on the discovery that our reality was possible but not inevitable.
The concepts of good versus evil, along with war versus peace and love versus hate, are dualisms. While, psychologically, dualisms may seem very important in our daily lives, they are all philosophically unsound. Dualisms attempt to divide up reality into convenient camps, that often end up battling each other for dominance. Once divisions have been made, we can call them absolute and discriminate against anything and anyone outside our camp.
Remember, we do not need evil to have good, hate to have love, or war to have peace.
The unsoundness of dualisms does not mean that reality can be reduced to trivial measures. The whole will often be more than the sum of its parts. Reality is filled by tensions that will not go away and are too often labeled as evil.
Tensions associated with reality are called polarities. These polarities are interdependent, and many are considered to be necessary opposites. An example in human pairings would be relationships versus individual selves. People can turn paired relationships into wars for dominance, or they can turn the same into useful vehicles for mutual growth and adventure. Since situations containing polarities cannot be resolved by brute force, any idea that winners will triumph over losers is a formula for disaster.
Philosophers study the origin of ethics, and whether creation is driven by any set of ethics, but our ethical conclusions are very human-centered. It is not a good idea to generalize our ethical mores as a model for any other species.
If Satan does not exist, what is the opposite of God, especially in a non-orthodox model? If God is viewed as the current sum of all the creative experience, then God’s opposite is destruction, the gradual decay of objective reality. Diversity is a product of creation; yet, diversity is too often said to be a nuisance created by Satan. Diversity is merely the result of an incomprehensibly enormous amount of stuff happening all at once, in an interdependent and intertwined reality.
Who is at fault? Is it God? But the image of the all-powerful God died in the Holocaust. Without Satan, everyone might have to take responsibility for their own actions. What a novel idea.