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Thursday, October 31, 2013

SATAN!!!! And Protestants. And Catholics. And of course some Jews. Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists, Admittedly, as an Afterthought.

I'm Catholic. Through Facebook, I've been exposed to some of the inner thought processes of my fellow Christians, Protestants.

There is an aspect of Protestant thought that does not work for me. More times than I am comfortable with, my Protestant friends attribute events and actions to Satan. These haven't been Lutherans or Episcopalians, but rather Protestants based in the Southern US.

We Catholics don't really do this. If someone behaves badly, we say, "Oh, he's weak / mean / deluded / drunk / vengeful." What have you.

For Catholics, if our cars won't start, we think first of a mechanic, rather than Beelzebub under the hood. If the weather turns, we get the rain gear out of the closet, rather than looking for clouds shaped like horns and tail. If someone gets cancer, we phone an oncologist.

The frequent allusions to Satan trouble me. I don't find them helpful or illuminating. They strike me as a bump on the road to solutions, rather than a guidepost on the road to solutions.

I'm mentioning this now because I saw a post attributing the behavior of adults who had been abused as children to Satan. Associating adults who had been abused as children with Satan is a choice I'd avoid. I wouldn't even use the words in the same sentence.

The author of the post was saying that "Many victims of child abuse never leave their victim mode behind. They continue playing the victim, finding comfort in that role because it's all that is familiar. Satan loves to keep people in victim mode."

I found that statement to be without support and potentially harmful. It seemed to me that making an unsupported, negative generalization about an entire group of innocent victims could be rendered bulletproof to critique by attributing the alleged "victim mode" to Satan.

Imagine how this works in a debate. The first debater says, "You are merely saying what you are saying because Satan is making you say it. I am here to save your soul."

And the opponent says, "No, no, YOU are saying what you are saying because Satan is making YOU say it and I am here to save YOUR soul."

And the first debater replies, "No, no, that you disagree is just greater proof that Satan is steering you around. Let me save your soul. Agree with me."

The arrogance of those who invoke Satan to make their points is made clear.

But it's more than a bit spooky, and a bit arrogant, to invoke Satan. It goes against consensus reality. Consensus reality is that reality we can all agree on because we can all see it, hear it, touch it, taste it, smell it, test it, measure it, and name it.

You can't test for Satan. You can't prove Satan. By invoking Satan, you reserve to yourself the right to name a reality that no one else can see. Rather kingly, if not Godlike. Or merely nuts.

I do invoke Satan, but  r a r e l y  and only after much thought. After ten years of study, I concluded that Satan had something to do with the horrors of Hitler / Stalin / Tojo / Auschwitz / Nanking / Kolyma, but that was really only after ten years of study, and I don't bring it up much.

I'm open to being shown to be wrong on this one. Until then, I'm going to continue being glad that I was raised Catholic.

There is a historical reason for this caution in invoking Satan. We are all mindful of what occurred between c. 1400-1700. People decided that some were "witches" -- in league with Satan -- and once you decide that, all normal rules of evidence, rational debate, and decent treatment are called off. After all, your opponent is Satan. If your opponent is Satan, you can treat the human being in question in a horrible way, by burning that person at the stake. We Christians avoid that extreme by insisting on evidence based decisions about our fellow humans.

After I posted this on Facebook, I realized that though I've had Jewish friends all my life, including secular Jews and observant Orthodox Jews, I've never heard a Jewish friend attribute events or actions to Satan. The same is true for Muslim, Buddhist, and Hindu friends, but I have spent less time with them, so I feel less confident making the generalization.

Jesus Arm Wrestling Satan
Etienne Dinet Le Messager de Satan
FW Murnau. Faust 


  1. Hi, Danusha. It's been awhile since I've said Hello, and I'm happy to see Save Send Delete has been read and embraced! Anyways, I agree with you here. There seems to be a general misapprehension of Satan's impact, which I've always considered as being very involved, in company with demons who give him allegiance. But I think Christians do tend to overlook that an essentially flawed and corrupted world has much more to do with most circumstances that are imperfect and undesirable - Satan is responsible for the disharmony we have to deal with, in other words, but to assume his interaction is on the level of constant personal involvement only lends to a lack of accountability or understanding of Free Will. That seems ironic to me. And in a lot of ways, it conveys the concept that Satan's interaction with the world has a power and effect that outweighs the influence of God. Yet another thought-provoking and comprehensive post. P.S. Save Send Delete has permanent residence on the Apologetic Theology shelf next to me. Take care! - Jeff Cote-Troupe

  2. Jeff! So good to see a post from you! I was wondering if you were still out there somewhere.

    1. Yep, still around. I had to take a sort of sabbatical from the internet, for the most part. Jeff needed some heavy-duty brain-adjustment. But I got back to writing. It helps. Happy to see your reply here. Hope your day is awesome.

  3. Replies
    1. Thanks! So far, so good. It was a tough few months, but I'm bearing up okay. Just needed to get back to writing. My daughters don't get how therapeutic that is.