“At Vienna, one of the audience affirmed publicly that my performance was not surprising, for he had distinctly seen, while I was playing my variations, the devil at my elbow, directing my arm and guiding my bow. My resemblance to the devil was a proof of my origin”
I recently watched a UFC fight. Both competitors battled each other heroically for 15 minutes. They had trained their bodies into peak physical shape, and showed unbelievable skill and heart throughout. Each fighter tried to separate the other from consciousness, and both ended up wearing a mask of blood and gore. When the fight was over, a winner was announced. A microphone was thrust up to the victor’s face, and before answering the question posed to him, he announced, with eyes reverently cast upwards “first of all I have to thank God”…….
Wasn’t Jesus all about the peace and love? The original Hippie. Even if God was into combat sports, would he want this fighter to win a split decision after 15 minutes of being punched in the face? Did God want this fighter to suffer injuries that would see him out of action for 9 months? Surely God would have wanted a clean 10 second knock out for his man? Or perhaps he simply had money on the fight going the distance?
I began racking my brain wondering if anyone had ever thanked the Devil in such circumstances, “First off all praise goes to Satan for giving me the strength to put in the hours in the gym…” I couldn’t think of one, and yet surely The Devil would be totally into helping fighters beat the Christ out of one and other?
Then I began to realise that I knew very little about the Devil. Like everyone else my knowledge has been primarily gleaned from Hollywood depictions and Heavy Metal imagery. With regards to any information taken from my early years as a church goer, it was all very vague. Satan was a sneaky little bastard and the chief administrator of Hell, the place where all the bad people go after they die. He seemed to be a nebulous bogeyman, an ever present threat. He was a symbolic warning more than anything else, “and remember, if you don’t do the good things… boogey boogey boogey!”
I decided to go to the source, the Bible, to see exactly what the church had to say about the ultimate bad guy. I read more Bible passages in trying to find out about the guy we’re all meant to be afraid of, than I ever did in school, where I was taught about the guy we’re all meant to thank for our very existence. Paradoxically, actually researching the Bible from an adult skeptic perspective, I now have more chance of identifying as a member of the Church of Satan, than I ever will as a Catholic.
Now, before I continue, I’m a sort of atheist. I’m trying to figure it all out. But what I do know is that I don’t need a supernatural friend to get me through life, and yet as far as I’m concerned, whatever works for you is your own business, and if it helps, more power to you.
I went looking for some simple truths about the Devil, and what I found may surprise you. And if you find my take on some of the stories in The Bible offensive, just be a good Christian and pray for me.
THE EVOLUTION OF THE DEVIL
The Old Testament (The Crazy Bible)
Our story begins with The Old Testament, which is a surreal collection of stories featuring monsters, torture and tales of dubious allegorical import. Passages relating to the Devil in this lengthy tome are few and far between. There is no “Chapter 3 – The Birth of The Devil”, but in fairness, as I will now show, it’s quite evident that there was no real need for him at this time; God appeared to be doing a great job of being evil all by himself.
For example, in Kings 2:23-24 we meet Elisha, a God fearing man who happens to be going bald. Some kids make fun of his baldness, (Yo slaphead etc…) so Elisha curses them. God was very hands on back in the day, and tended to get involved in shenanigans down on Earth on the regular. Enraged that these children had the temerity to mock one of his followers, he decides to teach these kids a lesson they would never forget. God commands a gang of angry bears out of the forest to revenge attack the wicked children. 42 children are mauled to death. Seems totally reasonable, doesn’t it? The Devil’s involvement? Zero. God has overreaction and murderousness covered.
I swear I’m not making this next one up. In Genesis 32:22-31 God gets into a fist fight with Jacob. The fight goes on for ages, both participants giving as good as they get. Realising he’s not going to out-scrap Jacob fairly, God uses his witchy powers to magically dislocate Jacob’s hip on purpose. God, seeing that Jacob is one tough sonofabitch, decides to own up and tells him he’s God. I imagine Jacob was both shocked and pissed off that God decided to beat him up. God ends up blessing Jacob’s hip, and that’s that. No word on the mental and existential torment Jacob suffered for the rest of his life, wondering “why me?”.
This story shows us that God was not above alleviating his heavenly boredom by getting pissed up and picking a fight with a stranger. Again, where was the Devil here? Nightclub God has drunken parking lot scraps covered.
In Leviticus 21:17-24 God explains to Moses (who, incidentally, he one day decided to kill, no reason given, and only changed his mind when he saw blood on Moses’ feet from his son’s circumcision. So find the meaning in that one) that not everyone can offer food in his temples. People with “defects” are not wanted. Specifically “no man who is blind or lame, disfigured or deformed; no man with a crippled foot or hand, or who is a hunchback or a dwarf, or who has any eye defect, or who has festering or running sores, or damaged testicles”. Again I am not making this up, I don’t have the imagination.
Sure God, no problem. There’s no chance he’d get away with this level of exclusionary rhetoric today. University students would be horrified. Once again, The Devil is still nowhere to be found. Hey who needs a Devil when God is getting rat arsed drunk and ordering haunted bears to kill people? Also, damaged testicles???
But where was the Devil? At this point I was none the wiser as to Satan’s origins. That is until I came across the story of a man, his donkey and Satan (finally).
Balaam and the Donkey
The actual word Satan appears a few times in the Old Testament but it simply means “adversary”, so anyone who opposed God’s teaching was “a Satan”. The first time we meet Satan as an entity is in the story of Balaam beating the piss out of his donkey (This is not a sexual metaphor. It’s just a regular ole man beating up a donkey).
It’s a typically meandering batshit crazy story, but in essence it goes like this: God didn’t want Balaam to go to a certain place, so he sent Satan as an Angel of God to stand in the path of the donkey upon which Balaam was riding. The donkey sees the “Adversary” and veers off the path 3 times, each time receiving a verbal and physical beating. You see Balaam can’t see Satan, only the donkey can (no word on who interviewed the donkey to get this insight).
After a few donkey beatings, God turns the regular donkey into a talking donkey, and it asks Balaam why he was kicking the everloving shit out of him. Balaam then gets into a heated argument WITH A TALKING DONKEY until God opens Balaam’s eyes so that he can see Satan. Satan admonishes Balaam, who is then ordered to only do exactly what God tells him to do. You have been warned, Balaam… In this story we also get the first glimpse of God’s complete indifference to the suffering of animals. In fact, he positively hates them, seeing as how 99% of all animal species that have ever existed are now extinct. It is not clear, from the story, whether the donkey retains the power of speech for the remainder of his life.
So Satan, the ultimate symbol of evil, in his first public appearance, simply stands in the way of a donkey, then gives out to some loser who can’t afford a horse, and warns him to do what God tells him to do. Hardly Prince of Darkness territory.
Satan & Job
Later on we get another glimpse of the Dark Lord in action, in the story of Job. This is the most famous story involving Satan from this time. It is presented as a fable wherein God decides to test Job’s faith as told to us in Job 1:6. Satan here is referred to as Ha-Satan, which literally translates to “The Accuser”, which definitely shows us he’s stepping up his Badassery game. As the story goes, God and Satan are chilling on the couch in Heaven, and they have a conversation…
Satan – Hey, you know that guy Job? What do you think of him?
God – Good dude. He’s got everything he could ever want, money, power, hot wife, great kids. I gave all that to him. Liked him straight out of the gate. He’s funny too. And loyal. Dude friggin loves me. The whole time glory to Me this, thank Me that. Lovely guy.
Satan – Oh Ok.
God – Why do you ask?
Satan – Oh no reason.
God – Come on Satan, spit it out.
Satan – Well I was just thinking; would he still worship you if we took away all his shit?
God – Like what?
Satan – Oh you know, his money, his house, those expensive sandals, his kids…..
God – Wait, did you say “His Kids?”
Satan – What?
God – You trailed off there at the end.
Satan – Well those sandals too, you know, before the kids go.
God – Wait, you’re saying we…
Satan – No no. Not we. I’ll do all the stuff. I’m the Badass enforcer. You don’t have to technically get your hands dirty. I mean we know he’s super into you, but let’s test him. It’ll be a total ego trip for you. Imagine, if we make him miserable and still he’s digging your vibe? How awesome would that be?
God – Well that would be pretty sweet I suppose.
Satan – So I’ll go down there, take all his money, ruin his crop, bada bing bada boom, and then I’ll kill like a bunch of his kids.
God – Ha. Yeah, fuck it. Let’s do it. Oh and if none of that works, give him, like horrible boils or something. Really make him want to die, but, get this, I won’t let him die. That’s the kicker.
Satan – Nice. Ok, now you’re thinking. Make sure you’re watching. This’ll be epic.
So they torture Job on a whim. The Satan is acting on God’s behalf, the implication being that God has final say. God eats popcorn on his cloud sofa watching misery descend on Job like some Celestial Eastenders Christmas special. Bible folk like to say that Satan was merely “tempting” Job, but to me it sounds like emotional torture with a healthy scoop of murder.
The New Testament
Satan Gets Notions…
As time went on, the church needed to balance out the whole good vs. evil thing. Up until this time, everything that happened was because of God, according to that crazy book we talked about. People began to question how God could be the force for all good and all evil in the world. If something good happened to a human, like the victorious UFC fighter we talked about, this was down to God. If a volcano destroyed a city? Oops, still God’s work. But it’s all part of his plan, remember? So they needed to have someone who could be feared as the embodiment of evil, the poster boy of bad. Someone who they could point to when terrible things happened and say “wasn’t us…”
Enter stage left, Lucifer, God’s favourite angel. That’s right folks, God created the Devil (Wait, does this mean that God is Lucifer’s Dad?). And boy did he build him fancy. He was said to be a dreamboat, “perfect in beauty” (Ezekiel 28:12-18) and along with the killer looks, he was decked out in swathes of jewels. Basically he was the coolest kid in school. Lucifer was the handsome Quarterback. In Latin his name, Lucifer, means “the light bringer”, and it was also the name of the morning star, Venus. Lucifer was a giant among angels. The angels themselves were said to stand over 10 feet tall with up to 6 pairs of wings. So there’s another thing: angels sound like terrifying giant flying monsters.
It was said to be the sin of pride (How dare you be proud) that caused Lucifer to lose his status as the angel who was able to do the coolest wheelies on his bike, and fall from Heaven. Now I’ve no idea how they got this quote but apparently, not happy with his station as coolest angel, he said “I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High” (Isaiah 14:12) and he wasn’t talking about smoking weed. Now I’m not saying Lucifer was more handsome or popular than God, but he certainly seems to have thought he was.
Lucifer would cycle past God on his bike doing a crazy good wheelie, and just glare at him, goading him into trying to out-wheelie him. But God was no fool. He knew he just didn’t have the same natural bike skills, and so the relationship began to strain. Lucifer became convinced that he should usurp God, and live in the big Boss mansion.
It was at this point that Lucifer began going around to all the other angels to try to get some of them on his side. He wanted to rebel against God. Shit was about to go down.
Lucifer – Hey Eremiel, what’s going on?
Eremiel – Not much. God has me spying on some dude. I’m making him stub his toe on rocks and the legs of chairs to see if he curses God when it happens.
Lucifer – Typical.
Eremiel – What do you mean?
Lucifer – I mean, it’s always about him, you know. Like those guys down there don’t know how much work we actually do up here. For example, have any of those humans actually thanked you for saving that family from that crocodile?
Eremiel – Well they all said prayers that night and thanked God, so…
Lucifer – But not you personally. Even though it was your wings I had to blowdry for hours when you got back.
Eremiel – Well, no, not me personally. But that’s the gig. We do what he says. He can get pretty angry.
Lucifer – Do you like him?
Eremiel – Who, God?
Lucifer – Yeah.
Eremiel – Sure. I mean, he’s fine.
Lucifer – Like go for a few drinks fine? Or you work with him fine?
Eremiel – Well we’ve never gone drinking. He’s fine… I mean he does have a mean temper sometimes, but he’s under a lot of stress. Dude, he made everything. Like everything.
Lucifer – But he’s the one that lives in that fancy cloud mansion, while we sleep in bunkbeds that are a bit too small and our damn wings spill over onto the floor.
Eremiel – I see what you mean, I suppose.
Lucifer – If I was in charge, you’d all have cloud mansions…
Eremiel – What do you mean “if I was in charge”
Lucifer – Huh……?
And so Lucifer recruited an army to fight against God, in what in make pretend land, became known as the War In Heaven. Think about this though: Lucifer didn’t have any special powers over the other angels, he couldn’t hypnotise them or influence them, except perhaps with his devilish good looks (yes that’s where that comes from). The bible says that Lucifer was able to recruit a third of all the angels in Heaven. A THIRD! 33.3% of all the angels essentially were not happy, IN HEAVEN!!! So unhappy, in fact, that they started a coup d’état to oust their leader.
You know, their boss.
Next week we learn how Satan gets his groove back and how snakes used to have legs.