|Because Heaven sounds lame anyways
|God's own scapegoat
|A devilish plan
|Light iron-age reading
|Gabbin' with God
“”Mark you this, Bassanio,
The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose.[note 1]
An evil soul producing holy witness
Is like a villain with a smiling cheek,
A goodly apple rotten at the heart:
O, what a goodly outside falsehood hath!
|—Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice, Act I, Scene 3[note 2]
“”It's better to reign in Hell, than to serve in Heaven.
|—John Milton, Paradise Lost
Satan (birth name: Louis "Lou" C. Fer) is a fictional character who serves a bogeyman for both grown-ups and children. After being kicked out of heaven for telling The Big Guy to lighten up a little ( , leading a slave revolt), he became God's prosecuting attorney and the foremost Abrahamic advocate for humanity's right to know and understand what's going on around them. Some people think that makes Satan the first humanist.
Somewhat unfortunately, Satan doesn't really have a big part in the Bible. He only has a handful of walk-on roles, such as cameos selling fruit (debatable), tormenting Job (with God's collusion), and tempting Jesus. He has, however, had parts in many other prominent works, such as Milton's Paradise Lost, Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov, and the Faust story by (in turn) Christopher Marlowe, Goethe, and Thomas Mann.
In an odd parallel to the book Wicked, Satan (then called Lucifer) was born with bat-like wings, rather than the traditional dove-like ones most angels have. Despite this huge defect (which made him the object of ridicule and discrimination), he persevered; through sheer hard work and born talent, he rose to the highest court in the world, only to come to the shocking realization that God believed that a lifetime of sinning deserved an eternity of punishment. Perhaps seeing the injustice in infinite punishment for finite sins, he then rebelled against God, and eventually was exiled, along with the angels who supported him, one-third of heaven's population. (Little known fact: he is one of the only characters in the Bible to stand up to God and live.)
He is also the Prince of Darkness, has horns, a widow's peak, and a long tail. Entertainingly, "Lucifer" means "light bringer," which means post-Roman Christians are essentially contradicting themselves. (Not to mention, God dwells in darkness in the Bible.) Some Christians believed that he doesn't have an arse — where it should be is instead a second mouth or face, making defecation a torment.[note 3] His favorite color is red, as he is a commie,[note 4] and his favorite number is 666 —or sometimes 616, depending on which book you read — because it looks pretty as a birthmark. He is claimed by some at RationalWiki to be a pretty good hockey player... but what do they know?[citation NOT needed] He is also a metalhead.
You may have some lingering questions. Here, we shall answer them.
So, what's the deal with this Satan dude?
Satan/Lucifer was second-in-command to the big G in the Kingdom of H. Or, in English: in the Christian mythology, Lucifer was a high-ranking angel in heaven. "Lucifer" is roughly translated as "the bringer of light"; it comes from "Lucifer son of the morning" in Isaiah 14:12 (the only Bible verse in which "Lucifer" appears), which has often been interpreted as a reference to Satan, but may in fact mean a Babylonian king who was the Jews' number one bogeyman at the time. Or maybe it's electricity!
Like, why did he totally piss God off?
Lucifer decided that he was tired of being a working stiff. He had to run an army of millions of angels, got no overtime, no health benefits, and was really pissed that God hadn't even invented bars to drink in yet. He rebelled against God when he realized that God was a floating logical fallacy. There was a war in heaven as the choirs of angels split into two factions. God and his army of noble warriors bravely fought off the horde of logic hammering at the gates and kicked them out of heaven, where Satan and the fallen angels would be free to cause AIDS and reality television. On the plus side, this meant that they would no longer bother God. Y'know, "God"? The dude who controls everything and could have just smitten the horned one at any time and place of His choosing? Not to mention, being omniscient, should have known of the rebellion before he created those who would take part in it?
Satan's exile from heaven occurred before God had even created the Earth. However, Satan is seen chatting with God in heaven in the Book of Job, which occurs a long time afterward. Perhaps he was there on parole? Those wacky Old Testament authors needed a better continuity checker, or at least an editor to go back through the text and come up with some retcons, like the New Testament authors used.
Like, why did God let the Devil set up shop in hell?
He didn't. According to Christians, Scripture says that Satan is still running around in good ol' Heaven and Earth, and that the flaming lake in Hell was created as a punishment for Satan and his rebellious angels, and the "conscious torture" for humans in Hell was an afterthought by the main asshole Himself.
So, like, why doesn't God just click His fingers and make Satan poof into a cloud of dust, thereby stopping Old Nick from torturing or corrupting any more innocents?
Because He is a sadistic asshole to boot. And it's all part of His great, much wider plan. Besides, every good narrative needs a good villain. Where would James Bond be if Her Majesty's Government did the sensible thing and just used highly-trained snipers or well-aimed cruise missiles to assassinate the bad guy rather than let 007 loose with some one-liners and dames?
Wait, I'm confused. Why would the Devil punish people in hell for doing his work?
Well, technically, it's God who is punishing you by consigning you to a lake of fire for all eternity. The Devil is just following orders. Which means he isn't an arch-rebel hellbent on challenging God at all. Which is where this part of the story gets so tangled up that we rejoice that humanity has had 10,000 more years to really get to grips with this whole "character motivation" thing in narrative fiction.
Like, how do I avoid going to hell?
Just don't book a trip to New Jersey. Zing! But you should also stay away from shellfish, taking it up the wrongun (especially from someone with the same plumbing), and a few other things. You might also want to avoid that road paved with good intentions… or something.
Also, hell was originally a literal place in ancient Israel known as Gehenna that had sulfur pits and supposedly Pagans used to practice child sacrifice there. Oh don't worry, the gods such as Ba'al Zebub (Beelzebub) and Moloch would devour the souls, so it's not haunted or anything. But if you don't want to go there, avoid the eastern half of Jerusalem.
Okay, so I understand all that. But tell me, why do I sin? Is it Satan or is it God who causes me to sin?
Ah, what came first, the chicken or the Prince of Darkness? The fucking chicken (read: God), you moron. God created Satan and allows him to rule his dark dominion and have far more obvious influence on world affairs than He allows Himself to have. God created you. He did this in weird ways just to make sure you are sinned when you are conceived. To make it worse, He decreed that you have to obey His rules, even though you never asked Him to create you.[note 5] One of these rules is that you must resist the temptations offered by His old roommate in favor of a life spent abstaining from fun and being a sysop at Conservapedia. Zing, zing, and double zing!
Wow, you've answered my questions with detail, wit, aplomb, and warm generosity. So what say you, is it better to serve in heaven or reign in hell?
They're both fictional places, but if you had to choose, I'd say reign in Hell. Since you're the one reigning, you won't be doing any suffering unless you're the one in Dante, except he wasn't really reigning. You'd get to set your own hours, be your own boss, have hordes of demons ready to wait on you at a snap of your fingers (claws?) and there are probably so many scientists in your kingdom by now that in all likelihood, they've installed air conditioning. Plus, you can come and go between Hell and Earth (and Heaven too, according to Job!) as you please. And maybe you'd make Hell a better place! But yeah, they're both fictional places.
Don't mention it.
A bum rap
Satan is called the "Father of Lies", but there is no biblical evidence (other than hearsay) that Satan ever did lie. In fact, in the Garden of Eden, when Satan (or "the" Serpent, but who can tell the difference?) tells Eve that she won't die "in the day thereof" when she eats the fruit, Satan is telling the truth, because Eve did not die until much later. Further, Satan was right, that Eve could hold good and evil apart from that point onwards (God, on the other hand, told them that they would die, but since Eve needs the fruit of immortality first, she would have died anyway, which makes God the liar instead of Satan, but that's another topic...). But Biblical literalists quote a Psalm, where it is written, that for God, a thousand years are like a day gone by or something. Fundamentalists cover the issue by saying that Eve spiritually died the instant she ate the fruit, despite the fact that she gained the ability to tell good from evil. This is very much like when you send $30 to a TV preacher for him to pray that you win the lottery. You don't actually win the lottery, but you win the lottery spiritually.
The Qur'an tells a story that God commanded the angels to bow down to none but God. Then at some time later, God commanded the angels to bow down to Man. Unable to reconcile these two conflicting instructions, Satan and various other angels had the divine equivalent of a nervous breakdown and attacked God.
In Judaism, Satan is given a drastically different image. The name Satan is derived from the Hebrew word for "accuser" or "adversary". Since something so holy like an angel rebelling against something so powerful like God makes absolutely no sense (imagine that), Satan is seen as a servant of God that just has an unpleasant job. Since it would be heretical for anything to be without God's control, let alone an angel, Satan is seen as completely operating under God's will without any independence. (Notice that in Job, he acts more like a debating opponent than a master of evil.) The Talmud equates him with humanity's innate sense to do evil, while simultaneously equating him with the angel of death. Yeah, wrap your head around that one.
Muslims must first evaluate what Satan actually is (an angel, a jinni, an angel with bad manners like a jinni, a jinni with good manners like an angel...), before getting into a deeper analysis.
Other famous Satans
- Satan is the name of an old friend's black cat. He had green eyes, and purred a lot.
- Satan was a pet dog owned by President and First Lady John and Abigail Adams.
- Miroslav Šatan (pronounced SHAH-tan) is a Slovak ice hockey player who played for two decades in the NHL.
- Satan (formerly Brian Salmi) was leader of the political party neorhino.ca (formerly Rhinoceros Party) in Canada.
- The Great Satan, Iran's affectionate name for the USA.
- The Great Satan, the US's affectionate name for Iraq.[note 6]
- The Little Satan, Iran's affectionate name for Israel.[note 7]
- Satan, a famous heavy metal band, who changed names often.
- Doctor Satan, a character in Rob Zombie's House of 1000 Corpses
- Santa, Lou's dyslexic cousin. Notice how one is called St. Nick, and the other, Old Nick.
- Jimbo Wales
- Robot Devil
- Satan is a peak in the Tatra Mountains.
- Satan eurystomus, the widemouth blindcat.
- Seitan, the real reason God hates vegetarianism. When you cook vegetarian, you cook with Seitan.
Mr. Satan HerculeMr. Satan, a beloved character from the Dragon Ball manga.
- Seighton, a minor character in the Shakespearean play, Macbeth.
- "Lucy" in Mr. Deity.
- Satin, the Devil's favorite fabric.
- The satanic leaf-tailed gecko (Uroplatus phantasticus)
- The thorny devil (Moloch horridus)
- The Tasmanian devil (Sarcophilus harrisii)
- Satan Xerxes Carnacki LaVey, son of Anton LaVey.
Some creationists resort to "Satan did X" to explain away evidence against creationism.
Dungeons and Dragons
Contrary to what purveyors of the Satanic Panic would have you believe, Satan makes only one appearance in D&D. Disappointingly for those who want(ed) to paint the game as an Evil Occult Menace, he appears as an opponent that people's characters could fight, and presumably defeat.
Church and Temple of Satan
It is important to note that neither LaVeyan Satanism nor the Satanic Temple worships the Satan described in this article. "Satan" is merely the (very
unfortunate Christian-enraging) name they give to a form of behavior that LaVeyans try to follow, while followers of the Satanic Temple see Satan as a symbol for rebellion and rationalism. (And, yes, they're both doing it on purpose.)
- 666 (or 616) is Satan's number
- Examples of Satan personally killing people
- Satanic Panic
- The Satanic Temple
- Of course, the most likely reason that the devil can cite scripture for his purpose is because, unlike your average fundie, he's actually read the damn thing.
- Not scripture, as most fundies seem to think. (Matthew 4, to be exact.)
- Heck, just walking without buttocks would be a pain in the… oh, wait.
- Or perhaps just a turboslut.
- Despite the notion that "For the wage of sin is death" (Romans 6:23), apparently there are additional penalties on top of death for additional sins.
- Only the government, the people of America are evil liberals.
- Only the government, the people of Iran are evilly Western-minded.
- Some bunch of kooks
- Let me try and give you a clear picture of what we're dealing with here.
- You can't just let your characters announce how they feel. That makes me feel angry!
- 7 Demonic Creatures: Thorny Devil, Satanic Gecko, More by Liz Langley (August 19, 2013) in Weird & Wild on National Geographic.
- Yazidis, University of Washington