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Speak of the Devil…

By Daniel out of the Lion's Den ~

My wife asserts that I am being blinded by Satan, and that he uses science to bring about my unbelief. This certainly attributes a great amount of ability to this creature. That he can telepathically implant thoughts and ideas in my brain to alter the process of how I arrive at rational conclusions? That he has just the right biochemical substance to create a neurotransmitter, injecting it at just the right location in my frontal lobe to be carried across just the right synapses to bring about doubt in the existence of God, the deity of Jesus and the inerrancy of Scripture? Whoa, if somebody could bottle that…

Thinking about Satan was a big part of my deconversion. Consider all the human perspectives of this being, everything from a hideous monster to a beautiful angel. All these images concerning a being that has never been seen! Yet, 57% of Americans assert that Satan is real. It’s all a part of the clergy casting their net of fear as a means of control. After all, why be afraid if there is no Satan or his band of demons? What would the preacher substitute for the imagery of a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour? (notice in the Bible that “lion” is used as a metaphor for both Satan AND Jesus. Does that make any sense?) If a god exists without supernatural opposition, then its omnipotence is somewhat diminished. The whole idea that there has to be an Antagonist, a Yang to the Yin, in the great cosmic story makes it appear even more mythical.

The Firing of the Accuser

Evidently, part of Satan’s job description in heaven was to bring charges against humans, as is recorded in the Books of Job and Revelation:

“Does Job fear God for nothing? …But put forth Your hand now and touch all that he has; he will surely curse You to Your face.” (Job 1:9-11)

“…for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, he who accuses them before our God day and night.” (Revelation 12:10)

I wonder what Satan’s job was before God created Adam and Eve? But all good things must come to an end, and Satan’s gig in heaven reached its conclusion. The account of Satan being thrown out of heaven like a disgruntled employee escorted out by security, swearing that he will get his revenge. It in essence sets up the impending mother of all battles at the end of time:

“I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the Most High.” (Isaiah 14:13-14)

And it wasn’t enough that Satan alone was cast out. He must have put together quite the coup d'état, getting 33% of the angels to join with him. Now, it’s one thing for us wicked, sinful, faithless humans to reject the never-before-seen Almighty Creator of the Universe. But for an angel who has spent eternity in the presence of this perfect god in its heavenly paradise to decide he will oppose it? Wait, does that mean angels can sin and are in need of a redemptive blood sacrifice? Oy-vey, my mind is doing contorted gymnastics! Nevertheless:

And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. (Revelation 12:9)

Why cast them to Earth? Why not Jupiter, where they can’t bother us? The part of the story about one-third of the angels siding with Satan (And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth) comes a few verses prior.

Can Satan Physically Harm Me?

Sometimes I think that if I were to die in an automobile accident or have an untimely heart attack or cerebral hemorrhage, my wife would attribute my death to this verse:

…To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. (I Corinthians 5:5)

At least then she would be able to sleep thinking that I’m in heaven. But what is this verse implying? That this Fallen Angel, Satan, can murder me? Particularly, if church elders gather and decide that it’s best for the eternal fate of my soul that my life ends as soon as possible so my spirit might be saved? What if one of them thinks he has received a message from God that he is to carry out this merciful act? This may seem extreme, but as Richard Dawkins has pointed out, the existence of moderate religion enables religious extremism. I certainly have been acquainted with at least one Christian who was capable of such an act.

Did I really used to believe this?

Most of my Facebook friends are Christians. Since my coming out, the amount of facebook comments that they will make on my status or photos have greatly diminished. I suppose I have also been more reserved in my comment-making. But I do pay a bit more attention to the links they will post, mainly to compare the link to what I used to believe. These links range from websites of big name evangelicals like Beth Moore or Joel Osteen, to countless memes. One friend recently posted the following link:

Why cast them to Earth? Why not Jupiter, where they can’t bother us? I have never heard of this Pastor Mike Campagna, but evidently he has a series of these lists of “10 mistakes people make with…” various things, and always adds “plus 1 bonus”. So, doing my usual “Did I really used to believe this?” exercise, I am embarrassed to admit that, yes, I did. You can look at these 11 points yourself, but three items stand out:

  1. The pastor believes that Satan himself does not personally harass people, but assigns demon underlings to do his dirty work.
  3. The pastor believes that Satan can plant thoughts and recognize responses, but cannot read our minds.
  5. The pastor believes that people are under the spell of the Satan.

The Cultivation of Mental Illness

As the husband of a psychologist (how’s that for a credential?), I would assess that anyone who believes these three points are demonstrating psychotic behavior. Have they demonstrated a loss of contact with reality? Yes. Have they demonstrated delusions of persecution? Yes. When my wife was in her graduate studies, she would come home fuming that the students were being taught that there was a connection between religious belief and mental illness. At the time, my reaction as a Christian was arrogant – “Of course they teach that, they don’t have the Holy Spirit to reveal truth like we do.” Today, I’m convinced that religion cultivates mental illness. Many years ago while in the military, I saw a psychologist who diagnosed me as being borderline psychotic. This was due to an extreme religious belief and the fact that my actions demonstrated that I could not tell right from wrong (using religion to justify disobedience). This was something I was taught by my pastor. So I come to this conclusion not only by observation but by personal experience.

A Need for Satan?

I have been taught by more than one pastor that Satan is to be respected, for he wields great power. Look at what gets attributed to Satan and demons: People who leave religion for rational and logical thought; Disease and illness; Tornadoes, Hurricanes, Typhoons, Sinkholes; The fall of hypocritical clergy; Just about anything considered adverse has been attributed to Satan. Sometimes I think, “What would Christians do without Satan?”

Once one is convinced that the idea of Satan is mythical, there are other paramount implications. Since Jesus, as recorded in the Gospels, believed that Satan was real and could do many of the things listed above, his credibility as a god-man is crushed. Since Paul, as recorded in many epistles, believed that Satan was real and could do many of the things listed above, his credibility as a Holy Spirit-filled Apostle of the one true God is greatly diminished. Since the Old and New Testaments contain these and many other assertions that Satan is real, it becomes not much more than a book of rants by crazy, ancient Middle-Eastern nomads. Since there was no real Satan in the form of a snake to tempt Eve with the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, then there was no first sin, and no need for redemption of the human race via the atoning blood sacrifice of the Lamb of God. And no need for… Christianity.