Good Story Telling Always Has A Satan.

Perhaps its noteworthy that the “thoroughly modern” Pope Francis’ version of the faith includes the villain, Satan.  What good story teller would leave the villain out?

I looked up the top ten villains in literature.  They include Count Dracula, Police investigator Javert in Les Miserables, Bill Sikes in Oliver Twist, Papp Finn in Huckleberry Finn and Aaron the Moor in Shakespear’s Titus Andronicus.

Old western movies always had a guy in a black hat.  We all have our favorite villains.

Why was it necessary in Biblical story telling, and all other story telling for that matter, to have a villain?  Literary fiction is not my field but one can guess why it is.

I think it is because the traits of the hero cannot be seen clearly unless there is someone or something to compare the hero with.  Light does not seem impressive until one has seen darkness.

Its easy to envision that the story telling around campfires long before the written word included both villains and the gods who saved people from the villains.  That Satan is smart, cunning and good at tempting people makes him like so many others in story telling.

One critic in the link wishes Pope Francis would stop talking up Satan so much.  The critic says talking about a literal Satan just casts more doubt on the entire enterprise of Christianity.

Selling the story of Christianity, however, requires the touching of emotional buttons.  These are the fear of hell, hatred of the villain and love of the hero.

50 Responses

  1. entech

    We need devils so that we can recognise angels.
    Without sinners how would we recognise saints.

    1. entech 1:53 “We need devils so that we can recognize angels.”

      That makes me feel better. I’ve been called Satan for going on 30 years now. It happened while I was a Mayor and continues now as a Freethinker blogger. It seems like that makes me more of an expert on Satan than our Christian friends here.

      Perhaps that preacher, Rick Warren, who wrote The Purpose Driven Life, was writing about me. My purpose is to allow angels to be recognized. 🙂

    2. Henry

      entech:“We need devils so that we can recognise angels. Without sinners how would we recognise saints.”

      A zero-sum game, a very limited view.

  2. It’s not just saints and sinners. Humans recognize mythological doppelgangers for just about every characteristic we can express: greed, lust, love. Characters are so much easier to tell stories about than mere characteristics as we sit around fires in the night.

  3. Wolfy32

    Fictional story telling in most cases requires a protagonist and an antogonist. There needs to be conflict. Without conflict stories, literature, life, would be boring.

    I think it echoes the human condition. Art imitates life.. After all sci-fi isn’t based on reality, but teaches us a lot about a variety of social issues, including poverty, cultural and racial conflicts, as well as giving examples of how to deal with extreme conflict.

    In many ways, art – paintings, writing, stories, etc, represent the conflict within the human existence. After all isn’t there a constant conflict with all people to do what’s best for others vs. themselves, to better themselves, to be better for others, etc.

    Stories give us insight into our being. A way of communicating the conflict within humanity. I think the biblical conflict between “good and evil” is moreso to put labels on the human condition.

    I look at human minds as though a highly advanced biological computer with the ability to reason and think for itself. We’re given basic programming to live and survive, from there, our logic and thinking is challenged, updated with what we’ve learned and new actions and thoughts are tried. If we could create an AI it would have a basic ruleset that it then learns and updates. “Evolution” could be simplified as group logic being updated within our biological computers.

    I think the problem with intelligence (artificial or natural) is the conflicting rules. We learn something is o.k. or not o.k. but then tomorrow we learn that what we learned yesterday wasn’t totally right. it needs to be updated again, and again. After so many updates, sometimes things get confused, we don’t know how to react anymore and this conflict arises between rule sets I know this is wrong, at the same time I know my other options aren’t great either. Writing emphasis this conflict within us and tries to find ways to cope with those conflicts.

    So, in my very humble opinion, it’s no wonder the most religious book on the planet, has a powerful conflict.

    However, there’s other texts that indicate that Satan/ Lucifer was not actually God’s antagonist. He was just God’s lawyer against humanity. The prosecution if you will. In the eternal “judgement” of all human life, Satan is the one (biblically) pointing out the wrongs and bringing them before God. I’ve heard many fire and brimstone sermons about how evil and vile Satan is. Then there’s this other belief that Satan is still imbued with God’s trust and power, but, is given the authority and responsibility to test humanity.. Pretty contrary to the new testament though.

    Regardless, he’s against humanity and therefore emphasis the human condition/ conflict within all of us.

    It’s not an I accept Jesus and believe strongly in forgiveness and all of sudden all human conflicts go away in our lives. If that were true, everyone on the planet would be christian by now.

    The human condition involves conflict. Most forms of literature will reflect this. What is there to life without conflict?

  4. Fr. James

    Or…there just might be a Satan. Of course atheist’s can’t prove there isn’t one.

    Maybe they sat around the campfire and told stories of how wonderful humanists were deceived by those evil religious leaders who just want power and conflict and who are opposed by heroic atheists thereby touching emotional buttons…hmmm…I guess someone does create villains and heroes and fear. Nowadays the movies always show Christians wearing the black hats and goading the masses to hate them.

    Maybe this Pope, whom you like to misquote, is on to something. Perhaps you should listen to everything he has to say even when you don’t agree, although Jon doesn’t like doing that.

    1. Formerly Fargo Bob

      “Of course ‘atheist’s’ can’t prove there isn’t one.” We can’t prove that fairies, pixies and elves don’t exist either, but that isn’t much of a reason for believing that they actually exist. I could also go around making all sorts of claims and then say, “Prove it isn’t so. Oh, you cant? Then I must be right.”

      My guess is that the whole God-Satan dichotomy is merely an outward projection of the struggle we see within ourselves as individuals and as a society.

  5. Fr. James

    Bob, okay let me go through this again. Science is limited in what it can prove. If it cannot measure or test something it can’t say much about it. Not all truths are scientific truths. Things that are not part of creation are not subject to the scientific method.

    Science can tell you how to make an atomic bomb, but it can’t tell you where or not it is right to use it or when it is right to use it. So when you demand scientific proofs where none are possible due to the limits of science then it is a straw man argument. I use it in reverse to show you that fact. Yet, you folks keep on saying the same thing over and over again. Repetition doesn’t make it a fact. So take a moment and THINK.

    As for projection, that is what I was pointing out that Jon and atheists do with Christians. You simply replace the real devil with us. I am sure Satan is delighted with that.

    1. Formerly Fargo Bob

      “Things that are not part of creation are not subject to the scientific method.” First, you’d have to demonstrate that everything was created. Or even if you just mean the natural world when you say creation, you’d have to show some reason to believe something exists outside the natural world. Basically, you’re just inventing a realm where the rules of logic and evidence don’t apply because you can’t make your case otherwise. Well, I can invent all sorts of imaginary realms as well. Basically, you’re trying to claim “God” because science doesn’t answer every question that human beings have. What an incredibly poorly reasoned load of hooey you’re offering up here.

      1. Fr. James

        Bob, unless you claim that the universe is static and eternal it has a beginning at some point. Scientists do agree on that. If something is not an object with mass and cannot be measured then science can say little about it.

        Logic and reason do however apply to non-scientific facts. We would agree that love is real and exists. But science cannot say much about it. That does not mean nothing can be said about it. As I point out science cannot make moral decisions either, which you have seemly not considered. Even science does not claim to answer all questions or provide knowledge about facts that are not scientific. It would be as absurd as requiring mathematical proof that shows a father loves his child. A mathematician would be puzzled and tell you that is is not a math question. The reason that most atheists avoid metaphysics or philosophy is that they must then admit that science is limited and that belief in God might be reasonable when another epistemology is used.

        1. Formerly Fargo Bob

          None of what you’re stating proves the existence of a supernatural realm. Basically, you’ve got no proof for your claims, and you fall back into the “God of the gaps” notion. Your whole methodology is to start with the assumption that the Christian God is real and you go backwards from there. You seem to think that we believe that science has answered or can answer every question that human beings have about our existence. Frankly, the idea of “God” raises far more questions than it answers. I don’t go around making extraordinary claims, but scientists continue to learn more about the origins of the universe and how life arose on Earth. Right now, the answer to many questions is “I don’t know” or “We don’t know yet.”

          1. Fr. James

            No, it is you who play the God of the gaps game. Okay, prove to me scientifically that it is unjust to torture an infant to death for fun. You claim science can prove anything, so give it a shot. Do NOT fall back onto any form of philosophy.

            My method begins with admitting that science does not prove everything and that not all truths are scientific. It says nothing about assuming there is a God.

          2. Formerly Fargo Bob

            You can’t even restate my position properly. Nowhere did I claim that science can prove everything. All you’re pushing is the “Science can’t prove or explain everything, so there’s still room to claim God did it.” And if you want to talk morality, it’s easy to explain from a naturalistic point of view. By the way, your god is a miserable example of morality. And don’t be dishonest “Father” James – you’re here to defend your Catholic belief system, so don’t pretend otherwise.

          3. Fr. James

            Bob, you don’t seem to be able to comprehend what I am saying. I guess you are so busy trying to prove your belief system that you didn’t bother to learn anything about ours. Since you agree that science cannot explain everything then you will drop the “prove God exists” question and demanding a scientific proof. That opens the door.

            So you claim that God is not moral. On what basis? How do you know this? Who decided what is moral and what is not? Is it personal opinion and relative to each individual? Is it universal?

          4. Wolfy32

            Our parents taught us morals. and yes there are legal consequences for violating those morals within a community. They may take a toll on one’s sense of self, or they may lead one to being imprisoned for committing crimes aka violating morals and rules set by a given society.

            Respect my beliefs and I’ll respect yours.

          5. Fr. James

            Wolfy, so what is moral is what your parents teach you and what the law says.

            Okay, what if your parents teach you is that stealing is good. Is stealing good? What if the law says that gassing Jews is good and hiding them is wrong. Is that therefore morally good? A given society once thought so. Is that worthy of respect?

            Btw what you claim is called legal positivism.

    2. Wolfy32

      I have nothing against them. I loosely identify myself as one. I don’t hate myself, nor do I hate my parents, nor do I hate church goers. I don’t want any laws enacted against them. I also don’t like it when they say I’m evil because I did something that a click doesn’t like. Nor do I like it when they think I’m not a christian because I question their thoughts and practices. If it’s something they care about, it’s o.k. to question it. If it’s something I care about, it doesn’t deserve answers.

      I don’t villainise them because of this. I don’t think they’re evil or desire anything ill or bad to happen to them. I don’t wish all christians were dead. I think a belief system is healthy for society as a whole. However, I don’t agree with that belief system being forced upon people or used to put down people because they’re different.

      Regardless, I wish the best for those that feel their job is to cast judgement in place of God. I hope they succeed in their lives. Do I wish they could respect others more? Sure, am I going to let them hold me back because they wish to express their own fears as religious judgements on others.. Nah. I’m going to be who I am, with or without their approval.

      1. Fr. James

        So you don’t mind that Jon and the other atheists want to force us to follow their beliefs and cast judgment on Christians or show us a lack of respect…?

        1. Formerly Fargo Bob

          When was the last time an atheist threatened a Christian with eternal damnation for having the wrong belief system? Sorry, but we expect you to live by the laws the rest of us have to live by, and you don’t get to discriminate against people just because of your belief system. Nor do you get to pick and choose which laws apply to you. Those aren’t atheist or gay beliefs, those are great American principles. Equality under the law is everyone’s right as an American, and just because you think your god doesn’t approve of certain people doesn’t exempt you from your obligations.

          1. Adam Heckathorn

            I agree with this. As far as the government is concerned Religious belief should not entitle You to special privileges (for example having the ten commandments on government or communal property) nor allow persecution or restrictions of Your rights as a Human being.

          2. Fr. James

            Bob, atheists tell me I am a low life all the time. Being told to “go to hell” is not much of a threat if you don’t believe in hell. Atheists have threatened to outlaw our faith and seize Christian children because religion is child abuse.

            In other words you want to discriminate against us legally in the name of your belief system. No freedom of conscience or religion allowed. Obey or else. How about we tell the Amish that they must serve in the military or else? You say you want equality, but will deny it to us. Already Christians are being discriminated against by homosexuals. You hate us and have no compunction about it. That is not a great American principle. Equality without liberty is tyranny.

  6. Matt Noah

    God exists. Satan exists. There is one God with 3 distinct personalities; the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Satan was an angel that defied God and was cast out of Heaven along with the other angels that also defied God. Satan’s domain is Hell. Satan has no power to make people do anything but he can tempt people. People have free will. They can choose to behave in immoral ways or in moral ways. People can choose to love or hate. There are 10 Commandments. They have consequences in our earthly and in our eternal lives. Scripture clearly states that it would be better for a person that he never had been born than to lead a child away from God.

    God is not simultaneously pro-life and pro-abortion. He is pro-life. He loves all people because He had a hand in creating them and wants the best for them.

    God does not despise homosexuals. He loves them. He despises the sin of committing homosexual acts.

    These are all teachings of the Catholic Church which I adhere to and embrace wholeheartedly.

      1. Matt Noah

        The Church is very liberating to an individual without being liberal. Neither is it conservative except that it’s infallible teachings have never changed. Moral certainty is a comfort. However, following Christ is not comfortable. It is a burden. It is hard to explain to a person why one would choose to life a Christian life if it is a burden. It has rules, per se. Modern culture is not in synchrony with Christianity. Yet, we truly enjoy witnessing a person of character like Mother Theresa who lives a holy life. But would do as she would? More would aspire to wealth and power.

        1. Adam Heckathorn

          fortunately most of the Catholics I know feel similarly and see the value in civil rights for others regardless of religious affiliation or even lack of religious affiliation.

    1. Formerly Fargo Bob

      You’ve given us a nice summary of your beliefs, but you couldn’t help sneaking in the ol’ “If you don’t buy what the Church is selling, you’ll end up in hell” routine. That in itself is one of the main reasons I find it so easy to reject your belief system with an almost 100% certainty. In the end, I don’t know for certain if there’s some kind of higher intelligent force at work in the universe or not, but if there is I suspect it’s nothing like what our various religions have imagined. To me it seems far more likely that human beings and all other life are the result of impersonal natural forces.

    2. Matt 12:43 “These are all teachings of the Catholic Church which I adhere to and embrace wholeheartedly.”

      You are engaging in what social sciences calls exchange theory. You give your money, time and testimony to the church, it gives you something of greater value to you in return. This is the experience of religions since time began.

      Others of us have engaged in that exchange and received a negative return. It is each person’s individual transaction–it works for you with a good outcome, my not engaging works for me.

      I’m happy for Fr James there are enough of you to provide him food and shelter.

      1. Matt Noah

        It is interesting to note that it is called exchange THEORY and not fact. Just as evolutionary THEORY is just that; theory. But so-called scientists will believe in a theory as their scientific dogma rather than call it what it is; faith, theory, conjecture, etc.

        It is your choice to have a jaded view of people of Faith and their Faith.

        However, to suggest that my motivation is an exchange of any sort is demeaning. If that is how you choose to understand people of Faith, you are missing so much of Christianity or any sort of non-christian religion.

        There is heaven and hell. There will be a final judgment. All souls end up in one place or the other for eternity. Christ redeemed us all but rejection of Christ dooms one to hell.

        1. entech

          Noah, many words have different meanings depending on context. It is common to confuse the word theory in popular usage and in a strict scientific usage. Gravity may be “only” a theory but it keeps our feet on the ground (well, some of us).
          If you want know about evolution try this by Father George Coyne past director of the Vatican Observatory.

      2. Fr. James

        Or maybe he actually believes it Jon. Our martyrs gave all, often in atheist persecutions.

        Oh and I do so enjoy when the scalding lava of your hate comes out even when I am not a party to the conversation. I will happily compare my salary with yours. How much did you make as mayor when you did not tell the people you are a bigot?

    3. Wolfy32

      Ever consider why the bible makes references to Hades as hell? Hades was a reference to Greek mythology. Hmm. I wonder where the biblical writers got their ideas from?

      1. entech

        Not all of the ‘Biblical Writers’ only the NT and that was mainly written in Greece or nearby in places that had a strong Hellenic cultural influence.

          1. entech

            Hey, everything in the whole book was written thousands of years ago but you still use it!
            Not to mention that you introduced it?

          2. entech

            You keep saying things like that. I am sure not even you believe them.
            Are you denying that you introduced the Septuagint, actually stating that it was needed. Actually pointed out that it written earlier.

            Now you say it has no point, by extension nothing you have said is not Off point, and pointless.

          3. Wanna B Sure

            Sometimes, trying to have a conversation with you is like talking to a dish of oatmeal.

          4. entech

            Oh dear, and I am always accused of being personal. But I don’t mind I like oatmeal – which reminds me that it is around breakfast time where you are. So when the coffee does its job and the temperature rises to thaw your brain out, think about it some more.

            Bedtime here, goodnight from me and good morning to you.

            PS. Do you often talk to your food?

      2. Wanna B Sure

        Wolfy; If you don’t have one, get a Strong’s expanded concordance of the Bible, which also contains Vines expository dictionary of OT & NT words. This may help you with your word study.

Comments are closed.