Spritzophrenia

humour, music, life, sociology. friendly agnostic.

The Logic of Satan

Posted by spritzophrenia on May 18, 2010

I’ve never appreciated those christians who major on Satan and demons. (Although as an agnostic I notice I’ve blogged on Satan or Satanism several times in the last few months.) Why not listen to Burn In Hell by Twisted Sister while reading? It’s today’s blog background music. [1]

Methinks the idea of God, and Jesus as God’s incarnate son provides quite enough mystery to spend one’s time on. “Shaitan” and demons can be found in Islam and some other religions too and of course Lucifer first appears in the Jewish scriptures. The Bible actually says very little about the Devil as he’s also called. Nevertheless, I got to musing on the nature of of Satan. For the sake of this blog I’ll assume the christian theist conception of him exists.

I think that if Satan is real there is no humour about him. Not that he cannot take pleasure – I discuss this idea below – but he’s not a laughing clown in red pajamas. Satan is never described in the Bible. Movies often depict him as a figure of fun, eg in Little Nicky and even horror movies often make the devil out to be more camp than creepy. Why is this wrong? Because humour is a good, an invention of God. Satan is not a figure of fun.

If anything, I think satan could be compared to a shark – a cold, ruthless killing machine with no feelings. That’s why I’ve used Pinhead from Hellraiser as the illustration for this post. Unfeeling lust after pain is much more scary – and realistic in my opinion. I rather suspect Clive Barker was thinking along these lines when he wrote it.

esoteric

It’s long been a standard argument that evil cannot create anything, only alter something already created. The argument “God created everything, therefore God created evil” has been dismissed since Augustine (c 300 CE) as evil is not regarded as a creation, but a distortion or lack of good. A “privation” of good, to use the terminology. Eg disease is seen as a warping of an existing good, not as a creation in its own right. Hence the devil can’t create humour.

What about pleasure though? Most beings require some sort of motivation. Simplistically, humans and other animals are motivated by either pleasure or pain. What motivates something evil? I think every being needs a motivation, otherwise why do anything at all? Even an evil being is motivated by some sort of pleasure. Therefore evil can use the inventions/creations of good even though they do not author them. Perhaps there are a base set of goods that an evil being uses, the minimum set of “goods”. For example, existence itself is a good. For Satan to exist, he is inadvertently glorifying the creator. I’m assuming here that an evil being only exists for malice and destruction; it’s quite conceivable that an evil being could take pleasure in flowers, love and friendship. Only the being’s motivations and goals would be entirely selfish. Rather like us humans, right?

So yes, Satan can take pleasure in doing whatever Satan does. Lying and deceiving, perhaps, according to the New Testament.

On reflection, I’m not completely happy with all of my conclusions. Some of my alleged logic is perhaps not so logical after all. I started out thinking that Satan had to be humourless and then began to doubt this. Nevertheless, I shall post rather than say nothing. What are your thoughts?

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If you want some fun, try taking the Dante’s inferno test to see which of the 9 levels of hell you’d end up on, based on Dante’s 13th century Divine Comedy. I made it to level two. Inferno is Dante’s interpretation, the idea of purgatory, nine levels, the punishments and even some of the sins are not from the Bible.

1. As you’ll see from the lyrics, Burn In Hell by Twisted Sister is actually an exhortation to live a moral life, not a celebration of hell. Twisted Sister were the first band I saw live and I still rate that as a great show.

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7 Responses to “The Logic of Satan”

  1. […] The Logic of Satan […]

  2. The clown reference: if one is scared of clowns and Satan appears as a clown that would be scary. The apparent funny becomes terrifying.

  3. justin said

    i have a question. do u honestly believe beings on a level as high as god or satan actually even consider such frail and petty concepts such as good or evil? there’s no way. good and evil are human concepts. we invented those words to explain to ourselves what we thought was good or bad. and both are merely point of views. you could be thinking youre doing something good while another could think the opposite of you. and that could be the same with both god and satan. but it kind of seems to me as if satan is merely performing a function, a job assigned to him by the creator himself. who better to weed out the most worthy of humans than ur highest ranking lieutenent?

    • Thanks Justin for the reply, it’s appreciated. I don’t always get back to people straight away, but I try to keep up. I’m an open agnostic so I’m wearing my “what if christianity is true?” hat right now. So, if god and satan exist…

      I think there are maybe two parts to your question. One is

      1. “Are good and evil as concepts real?”.

      I think if a g0d exists, it’s possible the g0d is good, and this would mean ‘really’ good. ie the g0d would set the standard for what ‘good’ might mean. (Within g0ds own nature – This is the usual theist response to the ‘Are the gods good?’ question in Plato’s Euthyphro. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Euthyphro) There is another reason I think there might be a real good which I come to below.

      The second part is

      2. “Do human concepts of good and evil match up with the ‘real’ ones?” I’d have to say it depends. If the g0d has told us what real good is, as christians allege, then our concepts match to a degree. Philosophically though, the ‘congruence’ of our ideas to the ‘real’ ideas is probably tricky. I don’t have an answer for that right now, and there’s probably a limit to how interesting everyone finds my hardcore philosophy here 😉

      3. That’s an interesting suggestion about satan’s role.

      If the creator has given him a function, then we could say that it is “good” for satan to carry out that function. Hence, there must be some kind of good, even if our own concepts don’t marry up with it. In my thinking, everything we do has a moral value. eg If we eat a meal, we are kind of thinking “It’s good to eat.” (Because not eating would hurt us, and hurting us is bad.) I think this goes beyond the mere pleasure/pain idea that some allege morality boils down to.

      This is a long answer, and as always, I could be wrong.

      Jonathan 🙂

    • Iain said

      C.S. Lewis’ perspective on this was that God represents the side of what is ‘good’, and there is no other game in town. Rather than seeing good/evil as two dualist forces, he saw evil as simply a perversion of what is good. This is because if dualism were true, then God’s opinion would merely be arbitrary… he becomes just one guy sitting on a certain side of a fence. For this, Lewis falls back on some kind of platonic notion of having an ideal concept of good. That is, perfect good in itself. (as spritz says, that has its own problems, e.g. the Euthyphro dilemma, where if good is fixed then its also arbitrary… what justifies its ‘good’ nature?)

      Justin, I don’t think that increasing the power of the agents involved removes the idea of good or evil. Powerful agents would have interests and goals just as much as feeble humans do. They may be different, but they are still going to need the concept of “things which are for me and things which are against me”.

      As for the idea of Satan being a powerful lieutenant of God, that doesn’t work biblically. As it says, “a house divided against itself cannot stand.” Given that God and Satan are biblical characters, it doesn’t really make sense to talk about them in a way not endorsed by their own book.

      • “Rather than seeing good/evil as two dualist forces, he saw evil as simply a perversion of what is good.”

        Well put, and a long-established christian concept which might surprise some lay christians who are more dualistic as you put it. I was quite influenced by C.S. Lewis when I was a christian.

        It’s possible that Justin may be referencing modern Satanism? (Well, there isn’t any other kind 😉 ) But I can’t speak for Justin.

        Thanks for stopping by Iain, appreciate your contribution as I ponder life.

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