Letters

Could it be ... Satan? Readers debate the influence of the Dark Lord on Bush, Saddam, Osama and the rest of contemporary culture.


Salon Staff
January 22, 2004 2:00AM (UTC)

[Read "How Satan Is Propping Up Bush's War on Terror" by Andrew O'Hehir.]

Excellent article.

"If you believe in Satan, then he has already claimed your soul," said Thomas Mann.

I find the history of Satan instructive. Originally, the word ("adversary" in Hebrew) was an abstraction, and appeared with the definite article, "the Adversary." During the Babylonian exile, the Jews were exposed to Zoroastrianism, at which point they were inspired to turn the evil one into a personal deity, and they dropped the "the." Only, they missed the boat in terms of cosmological structure:

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In Zoroastrian cosmology, there is a triangle: Ahura Mazda on top, then, below but equal: Angra Mainyu and Spenta Mainyu. In English: God, Good and Evil.

Mainyu refers to the human spirit, so it is a way of saying that we choose between good and evil.

The thing to notice is that the evil spirit is never directly opposed to God -- who is above the whole duality. It appears to be a dualistic philosophy, but at the core it is nondual.

Logically speaking, you cannot both believe in a God who is good and all-powerful, and a devil who has the power to steal souls away from God. The belief in Satan having power opposed to God's compromises true monotheism, because God would not then be all-powerful.

Therefore, anyone who believes in the power of Satan is not monotheistic (but bitheistic) and therefore is not a true Christian.

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-- Miles Zarathustra

I found this article interesting. I am a Christian, although not a right-wing fanatic. I do believe that Satan exists because I believe God exists and it only makes sense that there would be an entity that is the antithesis of God.

Interestingly, I don't see bin Laden or Saddam Hussein as Satan-like.

I believe Satan packages himself as a pleasant-looking person. I believe Satan even espouses belief in God. I believe Satan attracts people of faith because of this. I believe Satan has convinced people he is good and compassionate. However, I believe his actions belie his words.

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I believe Satan is best represented in today's world by George W. Bush.

-- Paula Baranowski

My concern is that too frequently Salon spreads a certain uncritical view that Christians (and by implication Christianity) are dangerous and responsible for many ills in our society. It seems that for Salon if there is a demon at the bottom of a crisis, it is sure to be a Christian. Isn't fear what you accuse Christians of? Any problem like the so-called war on terror is a whole lot more complicated than just being the fault of fundamentalist Christians. I believe there are many people who fear the idea of God, and cover that up by ridicule and uncritical demonization. Sure some people who claim to be Christians seem scary to me too: George Bush or John Ashcroft. But it is too easy to say (or imply) that Christianity is the cause. Is it not more critical, but less sensational, to say, "Look, some people transfer Christianity's sureness too uncritically to their own actions"?

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I am a Christian. I believe Satan is real. But more to the point I believe Jesus is real. For me, that means I think that invading Iraq was immoral: a brutal, absolutely unfounded, self-serving act of imperialism. So for me George Bush doesn't need less Christianity, he needs much more. He needs to love his neighbor like he loves himself. It seems to me he has never viewed the Iraqis as his neighbors. But believe me, Jesus wants us to.

Would it be possible for the writers of articles like this one to state their biases up front? If they believe fundamentalist Christians (whatever that really means) are dangerous in general, they ought to be honest about it. I'd appreciate a positive article for every negative one. Go out and interview the many Christians serving the poor here or abroad. Interview Armand Nicholi, who teaches a class at Harvard on Freud and C.S. Lewis. Or the chemistry professor from Georgia who writes about all the serious scientists who cannot accept pure materialism (Henry F. Schaefer, "Scientists and their Gods"). The world is not divided between the dangerous idiots who believe in God and the rational smart people who don't.

-- Heidi Anderson

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It's ironic, or perhaps not so ironic, that the far-right religious Christians portrayed in Andrew O'Hehir's article have something in common with Islamic fundamentalists, namely Satan. To the Islamic fundamentalists, we, the USA, with all our alleged decadence, represent the culture of the "great" Satan. Conversely, Islamic fundamentalists and their culture, especially after 9/11, to many of us represent Satan. I don't believe, though, that the Islamic fundamentalists are specifically going after the religiously conservative far-right Republicans. More likely, they are going after liberal American feminists, who'd take away the four wives that Islam says a good Islamic man may marry, if he chooses to do so. If this sort of Christian "liberalism" were to spread into Islamic countries, Muslim men would have to give up their religiously legitimate four wives and start behaving like Bill Clinton, be a polygamist on the sly.

-- Ed Cunion

Thanks, Salon, for your recent balanced representation of thoughtful, sincere, progressive-minded people of faith like Bill Ellis and Albert Pennybacker. At a time when the majority of religious news seems to cover spectacular, outlandish statements from conservative Christians, it is encouraging and refreshing to read the stories of those who are more in line with the millions of us with a deep, abiding faith and desire to bring justice and balance to a religiously contentious time. Keep it coming!

-- Dave Palmer

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Thank you for such a well-written (if all too brief!) essay on this increasingly relevant topic.

As someone who was born and raised in the deep South (Jacksonville, Fla. -- a virtual ground zero for the religious right), and who had a few years' worth of experience in the evangelical, born-again Christian ideology, I am continually amazed by the lack of critical analysis they are willing to give their own beliefs and scriptural interpretations.

Let's assume for a moment that Satan/Lucifer/the devil, as portrayed by the religious right, is alive and well and carefully plotting his takeover as foretold in the biblical prophecies of Revelation (their interpretations of which, by the way, portray Satan as extremely cunning -- a liar whose ability to deceive is matched only by the power of Christ).

If, according to fundamentalist Christians, the Bible is factual and true and all the prophecies more or less faits accomplis, wouldn't Satan -- with his evil trickery -- be smarter than to recruit such obvious targets as Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein and Kim Jong Il to do his bidding? Come on! If you were the Master of All Evil, would you play into the hands of God's Army so easily? I doubt it. I'm sure Satan appreciates what these guys are doing on his behalf, but I think their work is mercenary in nature. They're like contract labor.

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Christian extremists point the finger at all the obvious culprits because they tend to be racist, homophobic, mysogynist xenophobes (I lived among them for 23 years, so I know whereof I speak). As binary thinkers, they see the world in black and white, and cannot imagine the complexity inherent in the actions of a truly diabolical foe -- even though their own interpretations of biblical prophecy describe him as complex and difficult to see; that he will reveal himself only when he so chooses.

If I were Satan, and my one desire was to conquer the earth and subjugate God's people to my evil will ... let's see ... I would probably employ one of the most clichéd of all strategies: the wolf in sheep's clothing. I would lead the lambs to slaughter so carefully and cunningly they wouldn't realize it until it was too late. I would be so clever as to convince them to encourage it and endorse it. They would follow me in the name of God, because I was "one of them" and they trusted me. I would do their bidding. I would cleanse the world of evil, and they would love me, fight for me, make blood sacrifices for me. Meanwhile, I would use my "contract labor" -- patsies, all of them -- to distract my followers, to focus their fear and righteous rage on these red herrings and prevent them from uncovering the true evil at work before their very eyes.

Sound familiar? The joke truly is on the Christian right. Too bad they are too blind to see it and too proud to admit it.

-- Michael Borum

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