Fundamentalist Jews, Christians and Muslims and many others of those faiths believe in personifications of good and evil–God and Satan. These two forces are essentially equal in powers with one exception. God was able to create the life we know and all we perceive with our senses within this life while Satan was not. Satan was jealous of creation and set about to destroy it.
They further believe that God caused the writing of The Bible, that it is his word. However, Satan could just as easily have been the “author”. It is interesting that those who believe in a Satan have not considered the thought that he may have been responsible for The Bible. They believe he has all the qualifications necessary to do so and many of them believe that Satan works through religions. I have been told by several believers that Satan does his best work through religions, the religions of others, of course.
Among the followers of Judaism, Christianity and Islam who believe there is a Satan or Devil there is general agreement that:
- Satan is not stupid, in fact he is extremely clever;
- Satan can influence people;
- Satan can influence the writing of books;
- Satan can influence the way people act;
- Satan has been around since before the creation of the world;
- Satan’s mission is to lead us away from the work of God;
- Satan can not create a person, plant or anything in nature.
Consider the possibility that the Bible was written under the influence of Satan rather than God. Since we are playing with the notion that one of them influenced the stories of the Bible the exercise should begin before the Bible, before Genesis.
There were these two guys, angels, gods, a god and an angel, whatever. Both very bright. God figured out how to create life. He created this thing which we perceive with our senses as our life. We see with eyes given us by the creator. We hear with eardrums given us by the creator. We smell and taste and feel with senses given us by the creator. When our eyes see a beautiful animal or plant or geological wonder we are seeing part of the creation. When we enjoy a beautiful voice, a bird’s song or the crash of waves against the shore we are enjoying sounds provided by the creator. The smell of a flower, the taste of fresh fruit, the feel of another’s body against ours are all part of this creation which we are able to enjoy through our senses, our, according to the believers, God-given senses.
Satan was unable to create life. Even today he can’t create life. He can’t create a geological wonder or make the waves crash against the shore or give a flower a beautiful smell. He cannot make an apple or another body.
That God could and Satan was unable to duplicate the feat apparently made him jealous. Just like a couple of children playing, when one builds a tower of blocks the other has an urge to knock it down. So Satan’s mission became the destruction of God’s creation, the destruction of life as we know it.
There is the puzzle. Put yourself in Satan’s sandals. You have no powers to do anything physically. You cannot cause a flood. You cannot blow up the earth or the universe. The only thing you can do is influence people. People are not stupid. You can’t just take over one person and use him or her to preach the destruction of the earth. The rest of the people would say, “That’s an evil idea. We like life. We like this creation. We are not going to destroy it.”
What better ploy than to imitate God, to say that you are God or rather that the person you are speaking through is speaking for God. But people wouldn’t believe someone who said they were speaking for God if they were saying things that didn’t make sense from the point of view of the Creator. Satan would have to be more clever than that.
Just as we, in this mind exercise, are trying to get ourselves into Satan’s head to figure him out, Satan’s next thoughts would be to get into the heads of the people he was trying to influence. What questions might those early people have? They would probably be curious about how this life come about with the stars and earth and plants and animals? They might be wondering, “How did I, a person, come into being? My parents tell me about their parents and their parents’ parents and on and on but where did the first people come from? How did this all start?”
The people 2500 years ago believed the earth was flat and they had scant understanding of anything on it. Virtually everything was a mystery. It would not be difficult for Satan to implant an idea of a creator in their minds. He could try out several ideas in different people. He could take the ideas that gained greatest acceptance and refine them over time. The people with the most acceptable ideas would become respected in their tribe. Satan would work with them, continually refining the story but always with the purpose of ultimately destroying Creation.
The story that gained the greatest acceptance had God creating the universe in six days and then creating Adam and Eve. Chapter 2 of Genesis ends: “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.” (Genesis 2:24, 25) That certainly sounds like something a creator would say of his or her creation.
A magician’s primary tool is misdirection–getting the audience to look at the left hand while the right does the work of deception. It would suit Satan’s purpose, while impersonating the Creator, to create in people’s minds an enemy. Most people today who believe in the notion of Satan believe that in Chapter 3 The-Bible-Satan chose the guise of a talking serpent to influence Eve to eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge. A nice story to get people to focus on snakes as being evil. Snakes move strangely and there were probably some poisonous snakes about that would make it easy to imagine them to be evil.
Wouldn’t this be a good plan for someone who wanted to destroy God’s creation? He now has people believing that his words are God’s and he has people focusing on an evil force other than himself.
The following is a quote from the Mormon Bible Dictionary’s definition of Satan. “One of the major techniques of the devil is to cause human beings to think they are following God’s ways, when in reality they are deceived by the devil to follow other paths.” Can there be any better way to get people to think they are following God’s ways than to cause a book to be written that purports to be the word of God?
From the beginning of the Bible God does not come off looking all that good. He creates Adam and Eve and the first thing he tells them is that they can do anything they want to do in the Garden except eat from one tree. Anyone who has been a parent knows that the worst guidance you can give a child is to tell them not to do something. It immediately puts it in the forefront of thought. “Why can’t I do that? What will happen if I do?” Saying don’t do something gives it a mystic irresistible to most.
If God loved the people he created, why would He put the tree there in the first place? A question often asked and the religious answer given is that it is as a test. Adam and Eve failed the test and humanity has suffered ever since. If you think about it, it is hard to fault Adam and Eve. God created them in His image then gave them a directive He knew (He is always describe as knowing all.) was impossible to follow. He set them up for failure. Sorry, but God does not come out of this looking like a loving entity. Adam and Eve were mere children in the world. It was an unusually cruel test.
They fail the test and it turns out that the “knowledge” they gained was to be ashamed of or embarrassed by their bodies. Embarrassed by their God-given bodies!? We are only three chapters into the Old Testament and Satan has already got people denying the beautiful bodies that God gave them. Good work Satan! A stroke of genius. Not only does he turn people against their own bodies he makes women bad people and puts a curse on them.
It is not even necessary to pursue the notion that Satan influenced the writing of the Bible to question the idea that it was written by the Creator or even by people benevolent toward the Creator. First, he puts his two new creations in a situation no understanding and loving parent would do to their children. Second, this all-knowing God turns his back while the serpent tempts Eve. Third, he does not forgive as other passages in The Bible tell us we should do. Fourth, he puts curses on serpents, women and men with which they must live for the rest of creation. Vengeance is not a particularly endearing trait. Fifth, he throws Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden and shuts it off to them for eternity. This does not seem like behavior we would expect from a loving parent let alone a creator toward his creation.
God is such a jerk in the book of Job that one can interpret it as Satan writing a story to make God look bad. After all, Satan is not the Perfect One here so it would make sense that he would want to poke some fun at God. Or perhaps it is just a show of vanity. He has done such a good job getting people to believe in the “God” he created in people’s minds that he wants to bring down this creation of his.
In Chapter I of Job we are introduced to Job, a perfect and upright guy who eschews evil. God recognizes that Job is good. Satan tells God that Job only seems good because God has given him a plush life. God accepts Satan’s challenge and tells him to test Job. Job is tested sorely (his children are killed and all of this wealth is stolen or destroyed) but his faith remains strong.
If God is all powerful–can see into the heart and soul of every person on earth, can do anything he wishes–why couldn’t God see what Satan saw? Was it because he had not walked upon the earth as Satan says? If that is the case, why didn’t he, so he could observe his people and know them as well as Satan? Why did God trust Satan over his own observation?
Job was praying to God and doing everything God asked. God was tempted by Satan. Job was a pawn in the power struggle between God and Satan. Shouldn’t it be discouraging to think that God could be so easily manipulated by Satan?
In Chapter 2 God says to Satan of Job, “..there is none like him in earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil? and still he holdeth fast his integrity, although thou movedst me against him, to destroy him without cause.” Satan says you only allowed me to take away his worldly possessions. Let me hurt his body and you’ll see, he’ll curse you. God says, go ahead but don’t kill him.
Why would God portray himself like this? It is more fun to think that Satan wrote these two chapters and that he gives himself away by portraying God as vain, impulsive, unsure of himself, and, frankly, not very bright.
The Old Testament was written from oft told stories passed on from generation to generation. These stories were part the history of the people and part the myth that they developed to answer life’s perplexing questions. The myths of the Old Testament are very similar to myths in all cultures. Joseph Campbell recommends, “Read other people’s myths, not those of your own religion, because you tend to interpret your own religion in terms of facts.”
A lot of the “mysteries” of the Bible are solved when we put the Bible in the context of history. It is a document of stories told and ultimately written that are not facts but that are a window into the early thinking of people to describe their life, how they came to be, what was happening to them and how they tried to provide guidance to each other to make their lives better.
Consider the Ten Commandments in this light. What parent of a teenager has not wanted some supreme being to tell their child to “honour thy father and thy mother?” Do you really think the relationship between parents and children was so different 2,500 years ago or more?
Who among us today thinks that killing, stealing or lying (bearing false witness) are acceptable behaviors? When people today are asked to list the Ten Commandments most begin, “Do not kill. Do not steal. Do not commit adultery.” The first pops out easily. The second follows fairly easily and each following is more of a struggle. Why would Satan cause the Ten Commandments to be written? They are good, aren’t they?
THE TEN COMMANDMENTS
King James Version, Deut. 5.1-21
1. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
The first three commandments tell followers that there is only one God and that the author of the Commandments is it. Not only is he the one and only God but if you dare to question him, he will lay a curses on you and your children and your children’s children. That goes beyond jealousy. That is vindictive in the extreme. Why not give the future generations a chance to make their own mistakes? The answer is that this “god”, the god who caused the writing of this Bible, doesn’t want anyone to question him. Why? Perhaps because questioning will lead to a better understanding of the world than the one presented in the Bible.
The fourth commandment is one that is easily supported. Who doesn’t want a day of rest? That it should be spent studying Satan’s teaching isn’t too big a price to pay for having the day off.
If you are a parent, you want your children to honor you whether deserved or not. Good deal having the Holy Book to whack my kids with if they misbehave.
It is pretty easy to agree with a dictate from on high against killing, stealing and bearing false witness. It’s interesting they are so far down the list. Didn’t even make the top five.
Coveting and adultery are debatable. If you look at this from the point of view of a politician of today, it is an easy decision to go with the Ten Commandments and against coveting and adultery. That they are in the Ten Commandments is probably more telling about the times in which the commandments were written than anything else. It is quite likely that if the majority of people 2,500 years ago had been into mate-swapping or open marriages, Commandment Seven would have been different or perhaps there would only have been nine commandments. The majority of people who would be listening to the telling of the story of Mosses and the tablets must have been against adultery and coveting and so were happy Satan had put them on the list.
Aren’t the Ten Commandments a good thing? Based on what most people remember of them, sure. However, Commandment One which is supported by the next two commandments has caused much grief in the world and will cause much more before our thinking is able to progress beyond the notion that there is one universal god; omnipotent, loving, vengeful, jealous, vain, impulsive, unsure, and not very bright.
How can such a god command the love and respect that he does today? The answer is that people are taught to believe from the time they are babes in arms. They are taught not to question by the most important people in their early lives, their parents. Their parents, just to be sure that they are not questioned, teach their children that there is a higher, more knowing power than they, their pastor, minister, priest, rabbi, imam.
While science in all areas has expanded our understanding of the world tremendously over the past two millennia there has been very little expansion in our understanding of philosophical questions that might improve our lives. As long as people hold that they know things that are really their beliefs there will be religious conflict. A great hope for the next millennia, and it will take a millennia at least, would be such a simple thing as having everyone understand that they are agnostics. We can be agnostic Jews or Christians or Muslims or atheists. We can hold beliefs and at the same time know that they are beliefs and that they are ours and that we honor all other beliefs because they are, after all, only beliefs, not knowledge.
If Satan’s mission is to destroy creation and if his method is to cause the writing of the Bible, his strategy is working pretty well. A religious fundamentalist, after nearly a dozen attacks on the nation with the greatest destructive power the world has ever known, finally found a leader of that country willing to declare a war. George W. Bush gets considerable financial and voter support from religious fundamentalist in the United States who believe that the Bible predicts a war to end all wars, Armageddon.