THE DEVIL AND HELL: DOCTRINES OF FEAR
It would seem that for Christian Theology, the concept of God and the love of Her as expressed towards our fellow man (which is what Jesus taught), was not viewed as enough of an incentive to hold people to a faith. To justify the need for the church, ritual, and power; their theology created an external threat, an all-powerful sworn enemy of God, one whom we need to fear and be protected from. He is known in the Christian world as the Devil or Satan. As if that by itself were not enough; he is followed by legions of powerful fallen angels which have been branded demons - all of which live in a place called hell. And, instead of promoting the love of God for its own sake; too often, religion prompts the faithful using the fear of the devil and hell. Often, preachers preach about Satan as much as they do God.
The basis for the theological picture of Satan today is often claimed to be the Bible. But is that really so? Elaine Pagels tells us in her scholarly work THE ORIGINS OF SATAN:
In the Hebrew Bible, as in mainstream Judaism to this day, Satan NEVER appears as Western Christendom has come to know him, as leader of an "evil Empire," an army of hostile spirits who make war on God and humankind alike. On the contrary, he appears in the Book of Numbers and in Job as one of God's OBEDIENT SERVANTS - a MESSENGER, or an ANGEL, a word that translates the Hebrew term for messenger (mal'ak) into Greek (angelos). In Hebrew, the angels were often Called "Sons of God" (bene 'elochim) and were envisioned as the hierarchical ranks of a great army, or staff of the royal court.
In biblical sources, the Hebrew term Satan describes an adversarial role. IT IS NOT THE NAME OF A PARTICULAR CHARACTER. Although Hebrew storytellers as early as the sixth century BCE occasionally introduced a supernatural character whom they called the Satan, what they meant was ANY ONE OF THE ANGELS SENT BY GOD FOR THE SPECIFIC PURPOSE OF BLOCKING OR OBSTRUCTING HUMAN ACTIVITY. The root "stn" means "one who opposes, obstructs or acts as adversary, (The Greek term diabolos, later translated devil," literally means "one who throws something across one's path").
The Satan's presence in a story could help account for unexpected obstacles or reversals of fortune. Hebrew storytellers often attribute misfortunes to human sin. Some, however, also invoke this supernatural character the Satan, who, BY GOD'S OWN ORDER OR PERMISSION, blocks or opposes human plans and desires. BUT THIS MESSENGER IS NOT NECESSARILY MALEVOLENT. God sends him, like the angel of death, to perform a specific task, although one that humans may not appreciate...
And in another scholarly work we read:
It is noteworthy that Satan, in the canonical books of the Old Testament, is an adversary of man, BUT NOT OF GOD; HE IS A SUBJECT OF GOD AND GOD'S FAITHFUL SERVANT.
( Paul Carus, THE HISTORY OF THE DEVIL AND THE IDEA OF EVIL, Bell Publishing,1969, p7l)
So, Satan, in the Old Testament, was not seen in the same context as we see him today. And even in the New Testament, it is more than likely that a Jew would have understood Satan in much the same manner as his fellow Jews. It is more likely that the source of Satan (as we have came to understand him today), as a mortal enemy of God, has its roots in the polytheistic belief structures of the period.
Another Biblical fact we would like restate, one that theologies often represent, has to do with this idea that "Satan" tempted Eve in the Garden of Eden. The story of Genesis tells us no such thing. The Serpent was the tempter, and it was Christian Theology, which assigned it the title of Satan, in the sense of devil. What the Bible says is:
Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made.
There is simply nothing here to indicate we are dealing with anything more than a clever beast, yet alone, Satan as we understand him today. In fact, the serpent is often the symbol of life, and it could just be that the story was telling us that life becomes the tempter; but without the temptation, there is no free will. And if we follow the Old Testament image of God sending adversaries to test man, the serpent would have been doing what God wanted it to do - in metaphor, of course. In fact, many of the early Christians and Jewish beliefs held that the Garden of Eden story was about the raising to consciousness by man, seen as a good thing instead of the fall.
There is a great deal of theological license, combined with an effort of making the story fit a preexisting belief, behind so many of the Christian Theological interpretations of these ancient tales. We are led to believe that they have been read in this same manner for the thousands of years they have been in existence; but, that is simply not the truth! The people who wrote, and the people for whom they were written - had a vastly different concept of God, the world around them, and the human Divine relationship. Consequently, they held very different interpretations.
When we read the ideas of Paul, Aquinas, Augustine, Luther, Calvin, and etcetera - it becomes clear that these men were viewing scripture with their own agenda already in place. It is also obvious these men had their own demons, so to speak, and sometimes what they wrote was a rationalization for their personal shortcomings.
Essentially, the concept of Satan (and Hell for that matter) that is held today is more pagan, than Jewish in origin. Hades (hell), for example, has its roots in Greek Mythology. When we study the life of Paul, although he was a Jew, he was a Jew raised among Greeks. While Jewish literature has its share of evil spirits, they are not held in the same high esteem of being part of an organized rebellion against God. It would seem that their belief would actually deter such a concept; in that, Yahweh controls all other gods. Rebellion against God would, in a sense, be futile and actually impossible. It is the polytheistic beliefs of the so-called pagans (where gods actually waged war upon one another for a variety of reasons) which contain the seeds for modern supernatural being who challenges God, often using man as his pawns. In fact, many of the named legions of demons of the Christian Church are simply the gods from other cultures or religious ideals.
So, why do we have the Devil, as we know him today from Christian theology?
There are a number of good works that trace the evolution of the devil, two of which have already been mentioned in our quotes. This is not the place to do a history of Satan, although we will refer to some historical facts. What is more important to responsible theology, are the possible consequences of such a doctrine, and the integrity of the motivation behind proclaiming it.
We also need to acknowledge that there can be powerful mythological symbolisms expressed by the concept of a devil, but we need to emphasize the word "symbolism"; being careful we do not encourage literal interpretations as we shall discuss
Theologically, there is no need or place for the concept of Satan in a monotheistic religion. We do not need a supernatural force to explain the bad things that happen in our world. In fact, the Jews often seen God Herself as the source of much of their ill fate:
In all the books of Hebrew literature, especially in the Pentateuch, Satan is not mentioned at all. All the punishment, revenge, and temptation are performed by Yahweh himself, or by his angel at his direct command. So the temptations of Abraham, the slaughter of the first-born in Egypt, the brimstone and fire rained upon Sodom and Gomorrah, the evil spirits which came upon Saul, the pestilence to punish David - ALL THESE THINGS ARE EXPRESSLY SAID TO HAVE COME FROM GOD. Even the perverse spirit which made the Egyptians err (Isaiah ), the lying spirit which was in the mouths of the prophets of Ahab (I Kings ; see also II Chron. 28:20-22), ignorance and indifference (Isaiah 29:100: ARE DIRECTLY ATTRIBUTED TO ACTS OF GOD.
prophet Zechariah speaks of
(Paul Carus, THE HISTORY OF THE DEVIL AND THE IDEA OF EVIL, Bell Publishing, 1969, pp70,71)
These ancient peoples accepted the reality of positive and negative forces in the realm of creation. They might not have understood them, but God in his wisdom, for whatever reason, had created such things. Their stories often illustrated that it was our actions that influenced God's interactions with His people. And, while they were often seen as punishments (something the story of Job cautions against), they were mostly accepted as life's experiences as ordained by a Divine who was trusted to guide his people through the experience of life.
Psychologically read, we can understand how these things might have been viewed as punishments. But if we examine the symbolism of these stories, the so-called punishments are actually the consequences for the actions of men. In other words, God isn't really punishing; the story is trying to show us that there are consequences for our every act. Personal responsibility is so often the true clear message of the tale; and in our rejection of that: we assign blame and make excuses for our weaknesses and failures - projecting responsibility for evil in an external cause. Yet, when we read these stories, the results of many of these actions would often be the same even without God.
As Jesus told us on several occasions, we in the end will reap what we sow. We are judged by the way we judge others. The authors of ancient text may have attributed many of the calamities in these works to the Will of God; but realistically, we become the source because we choose to ignore the Image of God within ourselves. God does not punish, we self-inflict!
Too often, our theologies have molded their
ideas in a
We don't need the devil to explain the evil of mankind. We can, and should, be accepting responsibility for it. Psychologically, this would be a far better approach to controlling it within ourselves. Our whole approach toward evil, as an external supernatural force to which we have an already weakened will, creates a self fulfilling prophesy that we are predisposed towards sin. It creates a psychology where we cling to God to avoid evil; with greater drive than, loving God in our acts of goodness and justice. In many religious interpretations, the devil is feared more than God is loved.
If we examine any human act of evil - rape, genocide, murder, persecution, etcetera: we find that a human being is responsible for the act. Yet, very often, the devil gets the blame for planting the seed of evil in the heart of the poor and weak human being. Reason would dictate that if God were just, and our wills are weak; then, He would arm us in some way against such a powerful force - otherwise, we would have the deck stacked against us. There is no predisposition toward evil or any weakened will; we have an equal potential to be the best or the worst that we can be. The choice is, and always has been, ours!
We owe God our being, and She is not responsible for our actions in that state of being because we have been blessed with intellect, consciousness, and free will. It is a self-serving theology that needs enemies that God needs to protect us from. It is a contradictory doctrine that states: we need God to provide the means to protect or save us; when we are stating, that mankind is in God's Image and that we have free will. It is contradictory to proclaim that we have been saved by Grace; and then state, we are weak willed or predisposed towards evil. If we are in God's Image, all we need do is draw upon that Image which is our free choice, which is within our grasp; and then, life will be in accordance with the design of the Creator.
Our motivation must shift from God's protection, or God's punishment or Her reward. Our only motivation for the love of God should be: because "GOD IS", and that we share in His being with our gift of life. The idea of a devil only serves as a distraction from such truth. To create super-powerful forces to explain our evil in our theology is to provide excuses for our failures. The idea of the devil is a convenient way for us as individuals to rationalize all the ills of humanity. Not only is it an excuse, we become powerless to change behavior. If the devil is making people evil, what can we do - where is our responsibility or power to effect real change in our world?
Is it God, or a devil, which creates murderers, thieves, and cheats; or, is it our social conditioning and acceptance of such reality that is the more contributory cause? Does God, or the devil: persecute people, oppress people, starve people, cheat people, make war, abuse children, use drugs. Or, could it be the existence of a projectionary mentality that rationalizes selfishness, greed, indifference, and religious acceptance of these things, which are the chief causes of these evils in the first place?
It is not the devil that is the problem. The problem is in the "self" with its ego-driven pursuits that are not spiritually balanced. The devil doesn't deceive us; we deceive ourselves by choosing a projectionary perspective, which often justifies our own true spiritual neglect.
What we need to overcome is, "the Satan in one's self", adapting a spiritual balance where we transform the self. This in not to say that we must deny, or give up, ego conscious pursuits; but, they need to be balanced by spiritual values that truly come from within, instead of without.
The Gospels paint a picture of a God who is a loving Father, knowing: "even the number of hairs on our heads". Yet, many of our religious concepts fuel the faithful by using fear as a weapon. "The devils out to get you" - "you could go to hell if you do not behave in a certain manner" - "God will punish you for that": are all phrases that are the tools to keep the faithful coming back. But what loving father would expose his children to the power of an evil force if it were within his power to prevent such? What kind of a God would send us to hell for a weak moment of the flesh or because we couldn't believe in the declarations of other men? What kind of a God would turn a woman into a pillar of salt (Genesis ) for simply looking at the explosion taking place? What kind of God would smite two cities, which must have contained large numbers of children, because of the sins of the adults?
And what kind of a God would allow a super power, which theology gives to Satan, the freedom to toy with the hearts of men - something God Himself avoids? These things are really human characteristics that we have assigned to God because of our inability to rationalize and understand the negative aspects in our world. But just because we do not understand them, does not mean that they are not serving God's purpose!
Fear is a great psychological weapon and a great religious tool, but it has no place if we are to encourage a real faith (in terms of its original meaning: "TRUST") in God. It is simply counterproductive. If we were picking a baseball team, would we rather have committed teammates who were playing for the love of the sport, or, teammates who were threatened with punishment if they refused to play? What causes are humans more likely to be faithful to; one they believe in and love; or, one they participate in out of fear? In our modern world, Gandhi proved the power of peace, love, and commitment; where as, Hitler showed us the power of fear in all its extreme.
The Christian Church, throughout much of its
history, has demonstrated its power to fuel fear and projection. The
persecution of the devil and his human armies in the inquisition; the crusades;
forcing Native Americans to accept Christ by threatening death; and trying to
prevent scientific knowledge which might dispel fear - are all real examples of
a religious ideal that has demonstrated the irresponsible consequences of fear
driven thinking. Idealist, such as: Mother Teresa, Francis of
And all this talk of the devil, hell, guilt and sin: the fear doctrines, are not healthy for adults, yet alone, our children:
I remind the reader of the fire and brimstone preacher only so that I might condemn him for his lack of insight, and his profound stupidity, He instills into his congregation, WHICH INCLUDES CHILDREN, the picture of an angry, harsh, and punitive God, who is respected, if not feared. This concept of God represents a sick attitude and will be avoided by all parents with common sense and feeling for their children. THE CHILD WHO SEES HIS GOD AS PUNITIVE LIVES WITH UNNEEDED FEARS AND BEGINS TO GENERALIZE HIS FEAR OF GOD TO INCLUDE OTHER THINGS. IN OTHER WORDS, HE BEGINS TO PERCEIVE THE WORLD AS ANGRY AND HARSH.
The concept of hell is also useless and harmful. I suspect those evangelists who continue to pedal this asinine idea are beyond redemption. Inculcation with such a negative entity as hell makes for intriguing books and horror movies, but does little to promote a healthy attitude toward religion.
(Doctor Eli Chesen, RELIGION MAY BE HAZARDOUS TO YOUR HEALTH, 1972, ppl25-126)
While Doctor Chesen's statements are often forceful, they need to be considered. These concepts of sin, hell, the devil, a punitive God and guilt: could lead young minds to a "surrender to", or an "acceptance of", the very evil we trying to discourage. From such concepts come the reasoning: that we need to work hard to be good because goodness is an unnatural state - and, these fear doctrines tend to discredit the idea that love as a force can effect change in our reality.
One of the psychological effects upon some of the youth of today is their fascination with Satan. The very concept of the devil with all his power has young people turning to satanic cults, or witchcraft - in order to tap those magical powers of darkness for personal gain! Religion has given substantiation to the devil by effectively giving him dominion over the material world. There is a strong implication in the present ideal that the devil rewards us in the here and now, with payment coming much later in a nether world of the beyond. It is a kind of "if you can't beat him, join him" mentality which can develop.
If there were no other reason for responsible theology to reexamine and offer alternatives to these present ideals, this effect would be reason enough. Not only is the devil to be feared, he is often glamorized with tales of his power, ability to bestow magic, riches, and proclaimed the lord and master over the wondrous physical world created by God's hand. Such begs the question: Why would God betray us so?
Now, we need to examine some of the motivation behind the theology of the Devil to demonstrate that its root could be self-serving; it that, these teachings are often a justification to legitimize the power and control of a central church. We have already discussed that the biblical concept of Satan is a far cry from the present Christian ideal. But why such a change?
While there are many factors which contribute to belief in Satan, there are a few reasons for his timely evolution:
1, The Christian theology needed a rationalization for their redemption doctrine. If the Christ did not redeem us from Satan, then from whom were we redeemed from? This concept played well to a Greco-Roman world that was accustomed to gods doing battle and having supernatural enemies of man. It played well to a gentile world that was accepting of god-men, both good and evil, who aided or tormented them.
And we cannot leave out ignorance here. People often did not understand the very forces of nature around them, seeing much of their world as be driven by supernatural forces. It was a world where superstition replaced science and religion was driven by a primitive understanding of the creation. We must always remember that this was a world where the people often had no explanation for many of life's ill fates; something religion took advantage of.
A responsible theology in today's world has no need of such an immortal enemy. It will see that the Christ redeemed us from ourselves, and that redemption is in the form of the examples and metaphors which empower us to live in the Love of God. Jesus didn't die for our sin, he was murdered by us for bringing the truth about our responsibilities. He is a Savior, but his salvation is in his example and words. He is the Christ, the Word made flesh, because in him God's word was actualized in humanity - and that is the primary motif of the gospels.
We have invented excuses to place blame for
Jesus' death at God's doorstep (a plan of redemption); at the devil's doorstep
(we needed to be redeemed from Satan); at the hands of Pilate or the Jews. But,
the reality of what prompted the death of Jesus was our rejection of personal
responsibility in a
Even the metaphor in the Gospel of Matthew Chapter 4:1-10, where Jesus confronts the devil - can be looked at from a responsible perspective without literalization. When we read these temptations, we can see they are really about self-control over ego driven desires. They are temptations that come about in the reality of our everyday human existence.
The first temptation is physical, the second has to do with faith for personal gain, and the third is about materialism, power and greed. If Jesus is to be seen as truly human, even if we see him as Divine, it would be only natural that there would be some selfish temptation to use his ability for personal reasons, especially when he appeared to be so popular. We must remember that the gospels are about the human nature of Jesus; not his Divinity. There is little we can truly understand about the Divine. In order for Jesus to be human there had to be some selfish motivation within, which he obviously controlled. In each of these cases, Jesus reaffirms in the metaphor that when we are united with the power of God's love we see more to our reality. We understand that there is more to life than physical gratification, self-serving faith, and power. This vision, in turn, helps us to have responsible self-control and ultimately brings to us God's favor as expressed in the metaphor of angels.
2, Orthodox Christian theology also needed a justification for its power over the faithful. What better way than creating a threat which people needed protection from?
The orthodoxy of this early church needed such an enemy; not only to necessitate their needs of control over the faithful, but one they could blame for opinions which differed from theirs such as the Gnostics. Early church fathers would often cite the devil as the source of heresy - justifying their authority and feeding a need for people to seek their guidance.
This concept is clearly demonstrated in the theological way we present religion today. The devil often unites the "faithful'' and pits them against the enemy, which is the sinners or non-believers who are accused of serving Satan. And while the orthodox may have won the battle of the first three centuries, the fight returned with the Luther reformation bringing forth other splits and divisions. The consequence led to a rebirth of the strengthening of Satan in the Christian orthodox ideal.
Power verses personal empowerment was a serious
struggle in the first four centuries of Christianity's development. Power, with
its political structure of bishops and priest was represented by the orthodoxy;
while self-discovery, personal responsibility and Divine diversity were
celebrated by many of the Gnostics. In the orthodox view, the rising to
While the concept of demonizing the enemy took on new heights during this period, it did have its origins around the time the Acts Of The Apostles were written. Barnabas, a companion of Paul's, used such logic to demonize the Jews:
What Barnabas says of Jews - that they have been deceived by an "evil angel" - and what the majority of Christians say about the pagans - that they unwittingly worshipped demons spawned by fallen angels ...
(Pagels, THE ORIGIN Of SATAN, Random House, 1995, p158)
Much of the theology having to do with Satan comes from some of the early church fathers who were often involved in a power struggle against those who resisted apostolic authority. Justin the Martyr (100-165 CE), Irenaeus (130-200 CE), Tertullian (160-220 CE) Clement of Alexandria (150-215 CE), Origen (185-254 CE); were all church fathers of the first several centuries who, not only dictated the trend of Christian theology, but they played a powerful role in personifying the devil.
Just as a state is usually more united and powerful when in the crisis of war, the devil and his legions became a useful tool for the early church fathers to create an enemy. But, the life of this enemy has been given so much power and credibility; it often defeats the unifying purpose; and actually strengthens the division. The devil not only becomes a super entity; he becomes embodied in those who may differ in lifestyle, ideology, or faith. The so-called unity of uniting against "other'' ultimately divides us even more. The idea of Satan has become more of an excuse, encourages a blame game, and justifies the failures of mankind. We need to move away from such a projectionary figure and unite in the love of God, which was the ideal that Jesus proclaimed.
3, The early church also needed an explanation for the fact that many of their religious rites such as the Lord's Supper, were rooted in pagan rituals that predated Christianity. The devil's cunningness became a neat explanation to defend the church from such charges:
Even the most peculiarly Christian sacrament, the Lord's Supper, was, according to the testimony of Justin Martyr, celebrated by the Persians in the same way as by the Christians; and Justin is ingenuous enough to attribute this coincidence without the slightest hesitation to the influence of evil spirits. Tertullian is also aware of many similarities between Church institutions and the pagan modes of Mythras, which observation prompted him to declare that "Satan imitates the sacraments of God"
The devil appears to have been very cunning in those days, for if he had not daring spies in heaven, he must himself have anticipated the Lord's plans; for the pagan institutions spoken of as SATANIC IMITATIONS, such as the Persian haoma sacrifice, the eating of consecrated cakes in commemoration of the dead for the sake of obtaining life immortal ARE OLDER THAN CHRISTIANITY.
(Paul Carus, THE HISTORY OF THE DEVIL, Bell, 1969, pp220-221)
In other words, Orthodox Christianity was blaming the devil for such a "coincidence". But, it was reaching the point, where anyone that questioned, challenged, or differed in opinion from the leaders of orthodoxy was branded a heretic who was in league with the devil. Faith essentially shifted from "trust in God" to belief in the church as declared by men.
4, Satan was also a convenient source to explain converts to Christianity who may have persecuted Christians before their conversion (like Paul or Tertullian). This explanation became a kind of justification for their atrocities against Christians - because they were "blinded by Satan" at the time of the persecution!
So, we can demonstrate that there is strong evidence of self-serving reasoning behind the concept of the devil. Objectivity toward scripture was not foremost in the minds of the early Christian thinkers who would determine the course of Christianity.
When one combines a political agenda, with the reality that the Old Testament ideal of Satan differed so much from the present conception, we quickly see that this evolution of Satan was more self-serving than biblically rooted. This should concern the responsible theologian, especially, when it is combined with a church history of persecution and bloodshed justified in the name of this doctrine of Satan. Especially, when the church of today is often more interested in ritual, words of prayer, and declarations of belief; rather than, the dire needs of people.
And the doctrine of hell, too, has its essential roots in power more than scripture:
The * "Manichaean" emphasis on heaven and bell proved to be effective from a missionary point of view. THE THREAT OF DAMNATION lent the new faith a sense of urgency, and the prospect that those who embrace the faith -one's enemies and oppressors, the rich, and all who were evil would meet with dire punishment was gladly heard.
(Walter Kaufmann, RELIGION IN FOUR DIMENSIONS, p113)
Despite such conflict, and what would seem to be self-serving interpretations of evil, the devil and hell - there actually does seem to be an archetype for these images in both scripture and myth.
There are several ways that responsible theology can approach these concepts without creating
the projectionary psychological result which now happens.
The first is seeing ourselves as the devil when we go against our personal plan of salvation; a rejecting of God's purpose for our being. Just as we often attack others for the faults we dislike in ourselves, we have manipulated the character of Satan to fit a projection; rather then, seeing him in ourselves. The Satan of scripture and myth deceives, lies, and stands in the way of our spiritual growth. Who is more capable of deceiving us than when we lie to ourselves? What stands in the way of our spiritual growth more than our willingness to blame something else for the lack of it?
The punishment of hell, too, does not have to be a place created by God. It could just as easily be seen as a "state of being" in which we know we wasted our precious gift of life - a state of being that brings us torment beyond what we can understand as human beings; thus, the metaphor. It becomes a state of failure, a state where we reap what we sow. Hell is a metaphor for a state where we realize that we missed our opportunity to give, which is what really builds life's treasures and meaning.
And in today's world, the concept of Satan can be seen in yet a second metaphor - one which gives Satan life, not from the hand of God, but from the collective of man. The devil is not God's enemy, but man's excuse. He is not supernatural, but a product of a materialistically driven world with a social order that justifies its corruption by a projection, failing to encourage personal responsibility for its shortcomings. We see God in heaven, or in the bread upon altars, or in visions, or in faith; not in the faces of people and in the wonderful natural order around us. Religiously, it's as if the creation were incidental to God.
Perhaps, the idea of Satan in our sacred stories represents the collective of society - which in itself can be the master of deceit and a wall blocking spiritual growth. A society that encourages greed and selfishness through materialism; a society which feeds blame and projection; a society plagued by lies and hypocrisy; a society who both religiously and secularly have removed the Creator from the creation.
We don't really need external temptation of a supernatural order. We have become so entrapped in our daily living, we fail to look for life's higher purpose - and this is what society truly encourages! We have come to justify everything: "Everybody does it", "that's progress and you cannot stop it'', "that's the way it is"; are all sayings that a master of deceit would use to justify an evil we do not wish to face. Our world is measured in dollars and cents, jobs, cars, houses; not in terms, of generosity, love, and ideals.
In our indifference, we have turned our back on the principle ethics, which should define our morality as outlined in the directives of Jesus. Our world justifies the existence of the poor by branding them as lazy. Our economic system is based upon image, trickery, deceit and lies, which are principles of advertising and political campaigns. In the name of convenience, we waste, pollute, and destroy without much religious thought to the consequences for future generations - without much thought to what the Creator may feel.
And the religious belief structure is not doing much to provide balance for these forces of society. In fact, religious doctrines, such as the devil or the redemption, can actually psychologically suggest that there is nothing we can do about such things. Yet, it is only our indifference as individuals, and our beliefs in such a lies, that has created the monstrous force which drives so many. A society is a power that is created by the individual members, especially a democratic one. Unless individuals are willing to change, the society cannot change.
The Satan, the punishments, and the tribulations in myth; all tell us about our lack of personal responsibility. Jesus didn't blame the devil for our problems. He told us to "Pick up our cross" And solve them. He showed us that life is a balance between the egocentric wants and needs with the spiritual values which make us in the Image of God. He demonstrated that evil is in our hypocrisy, indifference, projection and selfishness. Every parable, every command, every miracle of the gospels can be seen as being about personal responsibility according to one's own potential - a personal responsibility that is rooted in love. The idea of the devil is contrary to this message for it removes the cause of evil outside us, when in reality it is in us.
Christian theology may argue, that, in their judgmental doctrine blame is assigned and that individuals pay, and this may be true. But, the cause of evil, in their doctrine, is external (the devil), and can only be defeated by a God who has chosen thus far to give him free reign over us.
If we stop and think about it, our whole Christian moral code is based upon a projectionary blame game. It states that the devil is the cause of evil by tempting us to violate God's Law; and that we are prone to break that law because of our weakened wills brought about by the original sin. Even our salvation is outside of us. And the church interprets that salvation according to what we profess to believe.
These ideals have built a psychological wall around any personal responsibility for those who choose to project. Taken to its logical conclusion, our theological reasoning asserts that while we are sinners, we are not truly at fault. We offer all kinds of ways to achieve forgiveness without ever having to make up, or take responsibility for, our selfish actions. Words of prayer replace deeds of love, ritual worship replaces actions of tribute that should be expressed toward God through each other.
As a consequence of this, our moral values must be flawed because without personal responsibility (not for what we say but for what we do), the foundation of our morals are based upon little more than hypocrisy. It seems that the proofs of these lies are demonstrated in the very reality of our world today. As long as we can project fault and blame, no moral code will have any major effect!
Theology needs to recognize that we do have power against Satan - it's within every one of us. That power is to be able to rise above selfishness; thus, changing the direction of the social evolution to one that recognizes universal love as its greatest wealth.
It is not "other" that is the enemy of God; it is the self. Responsible theology needs to recognize the true demon, in the personage of one's self, with the power coming from a collective that justifies evil through projection. Satan is often referred to as the "master of deceit," and it is a well-known psychological fact that no one is more capable of deceiving us than we are ourselves. What leads us into evil is not external; it is our greed for instant self-gratification, our indifference toward others, our desire for power over others, and the justification of our personal hypocrisy through the use of rationalization and projection.
Religion doesn't need to fight a devil. It needs to encourage us to find a way to become more objective about ourselves. The weapons to fight evil are not faith and ritual they are love, and compassion - our very sharing in the nature of God. We do not need the devil, or a fear of hell, or the promise of reward to love our Creator. The life She has bestowed upon us; the wonders of the miracles of existence; that which makes being "be", and our sharing of such with intellect and feeling: these things should be our motivation to love God. A focus on these concepts should encourage personal growth.
To ask why evil exists; is to ask why have we distanced ourselves so far from the Creator? We ignore the sacred stories and myths, cheapening them by our literal interpretations, feeding our social order which tolerates poverty, oppression, persecution, war, bigotry, indifference, lies, and selfishness. We claim to profess that the Divine is in all men; but in actuality, we accuse - projecting our failures unto the evil servants of the devil.
Many religions have built a doctrinal evil into their system to the point where we do not even recognize true evil. Starving children, unloved people, lonely aged, poverty in the midst of great wealth, sickness where it could be prevented, wars where the innocent pay with their lives, the blatant waste and destruction of resources, the deceit and lies advertising bombards us with every day - these things are of men. Not of God! Not of the devil!
Until our theology recognizes this fact, and strives to bring the reality of God into the reality of our lives in this world, we will continue to be lost. The crime, violence, neuroses, stresses - are all symptoms of a time and a people that are lost in their own projection.
Just as we no longer see the Creator in the creation, we no longer recognize that the reality of Satan is a human creation to redeem us of any fault.
And beyond that, the idea is foolish. God simply couldn't have any enemies, for She is beyond such petty human characteristics. But we as human beings, out of selfishness, can choose to ignore God's harmonious plan of creation. A modern psychiatrist states:
Triggers are pulled by individuals, orders are given and executed by individuals. In the last analysis, EVERY SINGLE HUMAN ACT IS ULTIMATELY THE RESULT OF INDIVIDUAL CHOICE.
(Scott Peck, PEOPLE OF THE LIE, Simon & Schuster, 1983, p215)
This is ultimately what theology should see, encouraging such ideals in the hearts of the faithful follower. If we were motivated by such a responsible concept, we would go a long way to change our personal habits. As we begin to change, so too, would our societies. The first step in ridding the world of Satan is looking for that part of him which is in one's self.
The solution to the problem of evil will never rest in fear. The solution to the problem of evil begins with self-control - based upon, personal responsibility and the love of a Creator always visible in reality. Reality is about birth and renewal, not about death and fear. Life has real purpose; it is not merely a test.
... there is a renewing principle everywhere operative that is of the nature of the earth and of the mystery of the womb, which receives seed and returns it as renewed life. The function of myth is to bring that truth to mind, and of the ritual, to turn it into action. The individual is thereby united with the way of nature, centered, NOT IN SELF-PRESERVATION, BUT IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE WONDER OF THE WHOLE.
(Alexander Eliot, THE UNIVERSAL MYTHS, Penguin Books, cl976, p48)
Our doctrines should not be about excuses for what we are; rather, they should encourage us to move beyond what we are. We need to move beyond the division fed by projection; to a unity of love which generates respect and compassion. God could have no enemies; but we can reject our purpose created of God's Love.
The devil is a simple metaphor for the malevolence that we harbor within ourselves. It's the indifference and selfishness, which causes us to lose sight of the whole. It is that which distracts us from seeing the real presence of God in the people and reality all around us. Satan is the individual who is consumed by their own narcissism.
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