Friday, October 28, 2005

Speaking of Satan

...the show this week is all about Satan. I looked up my past research on the subject, and worked this week to put together some more research, both from contemporary and early Christian belief, and from the work of mythologists (is that a word?). I think it might be interesting, so tune in!

We will be discussing the definition and the origins of The Devil, and beliefs about the little split-footed demon. Why are so many seperate characters attributed to the same creature? Maybe we'll find out!

The show will be ready for download at our site Saturday evening. After that, be sure to tune into the Live Show on Freethought Radio at 2 pm Eastern STANDARD time on Sunday, October 30. Don't forget we go back to standard time at 2 am Sunday morning! We'll be talking about more news stories, and playing more inexcusable music! Be sure to join us in the chatroom.

10 comments:

Thomas said...

I'm of two minds about Big Red Guy. On the hand, as Greg Egan points out in his short story, "Oracle," Satanism is completely ridiculous. “You have to be doubly foolish to be a Satanist... Not only do you need to believe all the nonsense of Christian theology, you then have to turn around and back the preordained, guaranteed-to-fail, absolutely futile losing side.” Furthermore, occultists of every description (I don't leave Anton LaVey off the hook here) are even more credulous than their establishment religion counterparts, because they go out of their way to pick up their crap ideas, instead of just aborbing cultural orthodoxies by osmosis.

Christopher Hitchens has wittily oberved that even though Christianity and Satanism are both irrational, there's a bit more empirical evidence for the Devil. That's true in its own way, but if he was an orthodox Christian he would understand that Satan has no power over the material world. Everytime a wall of water wipes out Sri Lankan villages, or a church full of children putting on a Christmas pageant collapses -- that's not Satan's doing, that's God's hand at work. He is the real monster.

That's why all people who are intelligent enough to realize that both God and Satan are fictional characters still root for the underdog when they read the vast drug-induced epic of the Bible. Satan is the only guy in the whole book who asks the tough questions, and stands firm in his opposition to the Divine Brute. Even Milton, when remaking the Christian mythology into the vastly improved tale known as Paradise Lost, cast Satan as Hamlet with wings and the body of a Hollywood sex god. His Satan is H-O-T hot and a rebel with most excellent causes. He is the hero of the book, whether Milton himself realized this or not.

"Non serviam, baby!"

Hellbound Alleee said...

Actually, LaVeyan Satanists have it right about Satan. As I point out in my show, Satan was never one personality. Satan was always an angel sent by God to do his bidding. The name Satan means adversary. Satanism does not hold satan as a red devil personality, but as an adversary of christianity. However, I would have to say that Satan is only an adversary in later Christian liturgy from 1000 plus years after the supposed death of Christ. Christian/Jewish scripture does not have Satan as a personality named Satan or Lucifer. This is my current position on this, but it may change the more I read.

There only is a Lucifer who was a Roman god, and there only was a Helel who was a Babylonian one. Only Helel really resembles the Lucifer of ex-christian liturgy. "Satan" only is "a satan" who is an adversary of the one God sent it to bother.

Some satanists do believe magical nonsense. But they are not believers in the One Satan.

Mark Plus said...

The satan myth raises more questions about the god myth than christians want to contemplate. For example, consider the claim that god created satan "good," whatever that means, but satan chose to become evil and rebel against god's authority in heaven. If satan set this precedent, what keeps the saints in heaven from likewise choosing to rebel against god?

Hellbound Alleee said...

...in other words, there is no Satan in the bible that stands against God.

The "Beast" of Revelation stands for what really stood against Christianity at the time: Rome. The entire book of Revelation of course is apocalyptic literature--which held the tradition of symbolic writing. Also,neither the "antichrist" nor the serpent were supposed to be "the satan."

Hellbound Alleee said...

It never was Satan that rebelled in heaven as an angel. That angel always did god's bidding. The story of the fallen angel, Helel, belongs to Babylonian mythology. As I mention in the show. Anyway...;)

breakerslion said...

Every super hero has to have a super villian, it's a literary law. If your heros and villians aren't exciting enough, go dig in the garbage bin and recycle someone else's plots. You would think that a myth, having been exploded once, would either stay dead, or point to the made-up nature of the recycler's story, but NOOOOO! The sly story teller will just explain that the earlier myth was started by people who misinterpreted what they were seeing, unlike the Official USDA-approved corn-fed version of the story that you are now hearing! (sleeep, Sleeeeep!)

The whole mess, regardless of what religion you are discussing, is an incredible pastiche. To believe reminds me of the silly human habit of continuing to flick a light switch upon entering a room, in the midst of a power failure. Mark Plus' worrying about the saints in heaven rebelling is a case in point. The Titans have been put to rest, the Pantheon of Roman gods have gone the same way, but the Pantheon of Saints are right there to fill the void. If the angels rebelled, if there was a garden with a serpent, if humans defied god, then it was as the god intended, or else the god made some serious mistakes and therefore is not perfect. If it was as the god intended, then why did it get so pissed off about it? None of it ever made any sense, and neither does flicking a light switch in a blackout.

Thomas said...

Hellbound Alleee said:...in other words, there is no Satan in the bible that stands against God.

I'm no Bible scholar (God forbid), but I'm only aware of two places in the Bible where Satan makes an appearance. First in the Book of Job, where Satan appears as a sort of heckler in God's court, and pisses God off so much that God sends Satan off to ruin Job's life just to try and disprove Satan's point. The book is a little ambiguous, but I think Satan does show up God: Job gets depressed and curses the day he was born, and God has to descend from the whirlwind and throw a tantrum. Satan, in this case, really is just an angel of the Lord, doing God's bidding, but asking God the tough questions. The other time Satan shows up is in the desert to tempt Jesus. That's kind of a weird scene. I wonder what would have happened if Jesus took Satan up on his offer? Probably a half-hour of comic mishaps, before Jesus learns his lesson, and receives a stern but loving reprimand from his father, followed by warm laughter and applause from the studio audience. They should have focus grouped this stuff.

Satan never makes an appearance in the Garden of Eden. That was a serpent. It's amazing to me how "literalist" Christians can add so much metaphor and supposition to the Biblical text. Milton and everybody else assumed that Satan entered the serpent. Nope, it's just a snake, and the whole point of the story was to give a dopey just-so account of why serpents bite people on the ankles, and why people step on their heads. As if it could be otherwise.

Breakerslion said: The sly story teller will just explain that the earlier myth was started by people who misinterpreted what they were seeing, unlike the Official USDA-approved corn-fed version of the story that you are now hearing!

That reminds me of something C. S. Lewis said in response to the so-called anthropological critique of Christianity: you know, the fact there were a whole bunch of pre-Christian cults centered around dying and resurrected gods and sons of gods -- Mithras, Dionysius, Adonis -- and that early Christians simply borrowed this motif for their own purposes. Lewis's response was that mythology is always a blurred reflection of divine reality, and that as the birth of christ approached, the blurred vision came slowly into focus, giving rise to Messianic faiths of the pre-Christian era. Don't you just love nonfalsifiable propositions?

Mark Plus said: If satan set this precedent, what keeps the saints in heaven from likewise choosing to rebel against god?

The question is, how could they possibly avoid it? A century or two of seeing God's face and singing hosannas in his honor might be enough to bring freaks like Padre Pio and Mother Angelica to climax, but trust me, that would get old long before eternity was over with. Soon all the Catholic pantheon (or the Mormons, or the 144,000 redeemed Jehovah's Witnesses) will be getting restive.

Meanwhile, I'll be hanging out in Hell with Voltaire and Mark Twain and my whole atheist family. It could be worse!

Hellbound Alleee said...

Perhaps I didn't make myself clear. What I meant to communicate is that Satan is not a name. It is a description."

My claim is that there is not supposed to be one individual named satan. However, God has interacted with satans, and used them for his purposes, in the scriptures. The satan of job may or may not be the same satan that "tempted Jesus," and both were sent by God for his purposes.

Thomas said...

Oh, I see now. I should look into this matter more -- I'm not much of a demonologist. I've read several of Elaine Pagels' books on the origins of Christianity, and I hear that she has another one on the origins of Satan. I'd be interested to check it out.

One thing that intrigues me about Christianity is that early Christians, and the Jews before them, did believe in the literal existence of the rival gods of their neighbours -- they simply believed they were demons. Baal/Beelzebub is a well-known one. So is Moloch. Less well known is that the Jews of the Herodian era also believed in the Greek gods -- as demons.

They're still at it today -- witness their hostility to Halloween and sundry pagan delights. Their paranoia isn't helped by the rise of a dopey neo-pagan movement that also takes this crap seriously. If I had to choose between Christianity and the Hellenistic religion, I'd obviously go with the Greeks, with their openminded poetic fancies and their hot gay sex. Still, I'd prefer over either of these strenuous atheistical materialism and pedantic anti-faith activism. The truth is too important to let slide even for a bunch of cute elf-worshippers (or warmed over Crowleyan occultists).

Hellbound Alleee said...

Yeah, I really make more sense on the show about Satan.

But there is a really interesting conversation going on in the next post...

;)