Facebook is rather holy today. A friend this morning posted:
I love it when distractions that Satan would want to use to hinder our worship are overcome by the Spirit of God! I am thankful for people willing to be obedient and lead us in worship despite their fears, sadness, grief, or any of the other emotions that I know were at work this morning!
Fear, sadness, and grief aren’t terrible emotions and there are appropriate times for all three. I’m not a psychologist, but I don’t think it’s healthy to view one’s normal human feelings of sadness and grief as tools used by Satan.
I’m scared half the time — of life, of the world. I have grief. Is this evil at work in me? I have nothing against the person who posted these sentiments — in fact, I consider her a very dear friend — but these ideas are ridiculous and alarming.
I scrolled and saw another posting, this one from a gay man with completely opposite political, religious, and social perspectives as the first friend:
The biggest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing bigots, misogynists, and homophobes that they were patriotic Christians.
The people who wrote these posts are in opposite camps, politically and socially. The first is a minister’s wife and the second is a middle-aged homosexual. While I value them both, I’m a little bugged that both of them used the silly trick of devil-blaming to reduce and oversimplify the complexities of human nature. The devil doesn’t make anyone sad or fearful. The devil doesn’t convince anyone to be anything. Why isn’t this obvious? Humans do things — good and bad. The devil is just an old, antiquated, and mildly amusing concept upon which we dump all our guilt, shame, and personal responsibility.
I think the devil is great. If Lucifer exists, so must his dogmatic counterpart, a being that created a world and people to live in it — who was omniscient enough to foresee Eve’s stunt in the garden of Eden ahead of time and know that we would fall to sin, destined to suffer. Why did he not create some way to prevent her slip-up? Why did he create his beloved creation with the built-in impulse to sin? God is invariably responsible for sin and therefore must be responsible for evil. To punish us for this trait, which we invariably have because he deemed it so, is sadistic and cruel. Why do Christians want to believe in such a being? Why worship one?
None of this is new — the logical fallacy of a benevolent god has been presented by people who can think for literally thousands of years. Since before Christ, in fact.
God cannot be benevolent. If God is omniscient and omnipotent, he sits in Heaven and watches things like the Holocaust and AIDS and permits them — or worse, brings them into reality. And if he truly made all things and is benevolent, he cannot be a hands-off observer — that would be abandonment. By the assumed logic of those who consider themselves blessed (white, middle-class Christians), God elects to give some the comforts and others (starving Black children in Africa dying of AIDS) lives of misery and pain. This is actually a classic conundrum with Biblical precedent. The story of Job and the problem of suffering (sometimes called “the problem of evil”) leads to one logical conclusion: if God exists, he must be evil.
So far I’ve only written about the Christian god, the god of Abraham, but all of this applies to any being that is considered omniscient and omnipotent. If your god is all-knowing and all-powerful — if he or she created the world, started the world, runs the world, sustains the world, or in some way directs natural events — they are invariably responsible for monstrous cruelty and unimaginable suffering.
Compared to such a monstrous being, the Devil should be cheered on. If Christian lore is to be believed, he combated such a being — the cosmic underdog — and will presumably wage holy war again in the last days.
All this is simple logic, so I’m baffled that a well-educated minister’s wife and well-educated Christian gay man haven’t worked it out. I imagine they choose to accept this cognitive dissonance in order to continue believing in a world run by something good rather than a world run by nothing. If a world run by nothing sounds more appealing to you than worshiping and praying to a cruel and sadistic monster, don’t worry, you’re just sane. Atheism isn’t the natural state of humans — we are, by default, religious — but for me, it’s the kinder reality than believing all the suffering on earth is permitted or, worse, deigned by something powerful enough to spare us. I’d rather believe in nothing than that.
I’m not trying to recruit anyone into non-belief — that’s what this post is for.
If the devil is real, I’m rooting for him. Until that day comes, I encourage everyone to stop blaming the beast down below. Blame the other one.