A prominent preacher was caught having sex with a male prostitute while on meth. A senator was caught trying to elicit gay sex in an airport bathroom. A mother shoots her son and then herself at a shooting range. Another mother drives her car into a lake with her children in it, drowning them. A child is molested by her uncle and a baby is born with birth defects because the mother was a heroin addict. Every day people do things that we think they are not capable of, we see people commit acts that go against what we think are out of their character. Why do people do that? How can they go from charismatic preacher to homosexual meth addict? If you ask a psychologist, the mother that shot her son in the back of the head had an undiagnosed mental illness. What happens when you ask a believer? A God fearing person? They have a simple answer….Satan. The devil made them do it.
To believers, Satan is an actual being whose sole purpose is to destroy the lives of believers and the believer must be on guard at all times or Satan will sneak in and cause you to do things that are outside the norm of your regular behavior. Let’s now take a closer look at the Beast called Satan in this week’s Sunday school. The character Satan appears frequently in pop culture. He is evil personified and provides an easily despised villain. In the movie Devil’s Advocate, he appeared as Robert DeNiro. On South Park, he is a big red monster with horns and a pointy tail. He can be a spirit, possessing people or take the form of a child as in the movie Rosemary’s Baby. He is a convenient scapegoat for all things evil. Pop culture aside, who really is this Satan character? Let us first start at the most obvious place, the Bible.
Starting with the Hebrew Bible, let’s see how the Jews viewed the character Satan. The original term Satan in Hebrew is used as a noun deriving from a verb meaning to “obstruct or oppose” and appears in Numbers 22:22, 1 Samuel 29:4 and Pslams 109:6. Ha-Satan is translated as “the accuser” or “the adversary” with Ha translating into The in English. Used this way, it is a title not an actual physical being . The early Hebrew texts give us no indication that Satan is portrayed as an evil devil. He is not seen as the arch enemy of God and humanity, he is simply a henchmen who carries out God’s evil instructions. There is not an All Good God and an All Evil Satan. In all the text, God is the one performing all acts, both evil and good. God sent plagues on Egypt, he performed genocide with the great flood, he destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah and turned Lot’s wife into a pillar of salt. The ancient writers of the early Hebrew Scriptures viewed Jehovah as performing both good and evil deeds . Here are a few scriptures to back this up: “I am the Lord and there is none else. I form the light and create darkness. I make peace and create evil. I the LORD do all these things.” Isaiah 45: 6-7 “God destroys both the blameless and the wicked. When a scourge brings sudden death, he mocks the despair of the innocent.” Job 9:22-23 and “Who has commanded and it came to pass, unless the Lord has ordained it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and evil come?” Lamentation 3:37-38 Like all things on this planet, Satan began to evolve but before we look at what form he would eventually take, let us look to the Indo-Europeans that lived some four thousand years ago.
Here we find that foundation of what Satan would eventually become, the God of Evil. During this time, the Kurgan people emigrated from Southern Russia into the Near East, Middle East and Europe.
These people were polytheist worshipping at least one mother goddess and one male God. Their beliefs were based on the vey-duh, the Hindu sacred text. Those that settled in Western Europe became the Celtic people, where their religion developed into Druidism. The Kurgan people that settled in the Middle East took a different route then their western European counter-parts. They developed the twin concept of salvation and damnation after death. Remember, this is hundreds of year before Christianity. Upon dying, they believed your soul had to pass over a narrow bridge on horseback which was called the “Bridge of the Petitioner.”
The god Rashu judged each soul and decided who was righteous to cross the bridge or who will fall into a type of Hell with “flames and terrible smalls .” Let’s fast forward in time and meet Zawr-oh-as-ter. He was a Persian prophet that is said to have lived between 628 to 551 BCE in what is now Iran. Zoroaster was recorded as having been tempted by Satan, performed miracles and healings and was considered supernatural by his followers. Similar to the life and works of Jesus, who came hundreds of years later. Zoroaster introduced a spiritual reformation and created what is believed to be the first monotheism. People of this time worshipped three gods named vur-oo-nuh, mith-ras and in-druh. Zawr-oh-as-ter changed this to the worship of one male God, ah-hoo-ruh Mazda, the “sovereign, lawmaker, supreme judge, master of day and night, the center of nature and inventor of moral law” essentially the same attributes of Jehovah and with that Zoroastrianism was born. Along with Ahura Mazda, he recognized his twin brother, Angra Manyu, the God of Evil who created snakes, demons, and the entire world’s evil. The polytheistic gods of the religions became the demons in of zawr-oh-as-tree-uh-niz-uhm .
Zoroaster taught that Ahura Mazda and Angra Manyu would constantly battle each other until the God of Evil was defeated, the dead will be resurrected and a Last Judgment will divide every person that ever lived into two groups
1) The bad go to Hell for all eternity, and
2) To good will go to Paradise
In 586 BCE, the Nation of Israel was taken into exile by the Babylonians. During this exile, their view of God and the universe began to change, most notably to the beliefs of zawr-oh-as-tree-uh-niz-uhm. It was during this time the idea of two realms took hold, the spiritual kingdom which belonged to God and the worldly or evil kingdom which belonged to Satan. The Jews saw themselves as the chosen people and viewed any outside group as from Satan. It was during this time that Satan’s fall from heaven was developed, the intertestamnetal period which is the time between the Old Testament and the New Testament .
Biblical literalist views the Bible as the errant word of God where each line literally happened. Here is what those people believe about Satan.
Satan was created by God as a perfect angel and lived in heaven. He was the head angel and was beautiful, radiating light and glory. He spent a lot of time with God and Jesus and helped to make plans and share ideas. Everything was going well until God and Jesus had a secret meeting and did not include Satan. He became jealous and wanted to prove to God that he was better than Jesus. He gather one third of the angels in heaven and rose up against God.
Even though Satan was proud, good tried to persuade him to stop his attack but Satan would not relent, so God had no choice but to expel Satan from heaven and the angels that were with him. Satan became the ruler of this world and his fallen angels became demons . Satan was not done evolving. Time marched on and Satan began to change. As with Zoroastrianism, all other faiths beside Christianity were seen as being of Satan and his demons.
Soon Satan took on the form of the Greek God Pan with goat-hoofs, horns, a goat head, a long serpentine tail with a heart-shaped tip, long claw-like finger nails, leathery wings like bats and a trident. Saint Augustine introduced the sexual demons which are called incubi, fallen male angels and succubae, fallen female angels. In 1215, the Catholic Church declared that Satan and his demons were not created evil but became evil when they succumbed to their own sins and fell from heaven.
The inquisitions that took place during the Middle Ages centered on Satan.
Anything outside of the Orthodox Church were seen as being from Satan. In the 14th Century, a book called “Handbook of the Inquisitors” describes three forms of Satan worship:
- Luh-trahy-uh: which is praising Satan and flagellating oneself
- Doo-lahy-uh: which is “combing the names of demons with those of the blessed” and
- Using “curious practices, including the use of magic circles and other nek-ruh-man-see such as love potions, magical filters and talismans”
In the 15th Century, the Book “Witches Hammer” was released and was the legal book for the inquisition. This book laid out different tortures for heretics with the rationale that if they used torture to get confusions, they had a chance in the afterlife because they recanted their evil ways and accepted Christ .
Christianity dominated the middle ages until the Age of Reason in the 1700’s took hold. As the church’s power waned, so did Satan’s influence. As science began to take hold, the concept of a being causing people to do evil started to slowly wane as well. The trend in this modern era is to internalize religion.
Instead of seeing psychological issues as being of Satan, it is now widely recognized as having a material, psychical cause.
Instead of exorcisms, we engage in therapy. Expect in fundamental religious circles, Satan is no longer seen as an actual being and that evil is best explained through genetics, upbringing and societal influences. It is of no surprise that this superstition fell to the hands of science.
Demonic possession is not recognized as a psychiatric or medical disorder by either the DSM-IV or the ICD-10. Dissociative identity disorder is communally misunderstood as demonic possession. The alternate identify will report being a demon by modern psychiatry label this mental illness demonomania or demonopathy. Satan is no more real than the boogeyman, Santa Claus, Easter Bunny, angels, demons or God. Satan is just another mythological being that pre-scientific humans used to explain evil .
As with most things involving religion, science provides us a better answer than religion ever did.
Mark 1: 35-45
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This is an atheistsocialworker.org news brief, with you host C-Webb
This news hits close to home, literally. This past Tuesday on May 8th 2012, my state of North Carolina voted discrimination into the constitution. Amendment one defines marriage between one man and one woman as the only recognized union in the state. This means that same-sex and opposite sex couples who are not married are not allowed to have domestic partnerships or civil unions. This essentially forces heterosexual couples to get married to have benefits from the state and it could eliminate benefits for same-sex couples who had a civil union especially those that work for the state. This does not affect private organizations.
The regions that voted against the amendment tended to be large university towns such as Wilmington, Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill and Charlotte.
Just days later the president came out in support of gay marriage, something he has supported since the mid-90’s but as he explained it, he had to “evolve” on the issue. I didn’t know evolve meant coming back around to something you already supported? Is this a big deal? Sure but he really did not do anything to push states into recognizing same-sex marriage and I don’t think he should. If religious bigots want to keep marriage, fine but provide an alternative for same-sex couples. I don’t think the state should be involved in the marriage. It is a religious ceremony. Why should specific individuals be afforded certain benefits? For legal purposes, any couple should have the opportunity to go down to the court house and participate in a civil arrangement. The laws should support this type of arrangement between two consenting adults. Keep marriage in the churches but if you want legal protection and recognition from the state, sign a contract to form a civil arrangement. Two people joining together should be a legal contract between those two individuals and should be recognized by the state and federal government. Don’t use the word marriage, who gives a shit.
I cannot sit here and ignore that the black voters in North Carolina came out strong for amendment one. Homosexuality in the black community is still taboo. Majority of black churches are upset with Obama supporting same-sex marriage. They believe the Bible is the word of God, which is ironic because the Bible clearly supports slavery [link]. This happened in California too. I understand people wanting to bash North Carolina and calling us brain dead hicks but let us not forget that “Liberal” California (where I was born and raised) voted against same-sex marriage as well. People in our state fought hard to stop this amendment, granted we lost by 21 + points but at the beginning, the margin was 40 + point difference. 62% of voters had no idea what this amendment did and some thought voting for this amendment was voting for same-sex marriage. This amendment was designed to be confusing and it worked. Yes, there are bigots in this state and I will say it here, if the black community was against this amendment, it would not have passed.
I challenge my friends and family to provide me a secular reason to oppose same-sex unions. This is clearly a religious issue. I have friends that claim to be Christians that support same-sex couples but they have friends to oppose same-sex unions. The ironic thing, they are both using the same Bible. I am glad I do not need permission from a book to do the right thing. Again, I challenge you to provide me with a non-religious reason to oppose same-sex unions.