Saturday, February 16, 2008

Ask Satan

Reader FranIAm writes:

Greetings Satan,

I do have several questions for you... What keeps you going? Is it self-directed energy or is it the energy of those who follow you? Do you like being Satan? Do you have a successor? What is the best part of being Satan? What is the worst part of being Satan?

FranIam


Dear FranIAm,

Wow, that’s quite a question. It’s almost like you’re requesting a manifesto! Hmm. I have generally avoided writing grand statements of purpose and the like. Most of what people think they know about me is based on the propaganda from the other side, and not entirely accurate. But that’s fine with me, for several reasons. I usually work with people one-on-one anyway, where I can simply communicate what I need to directly. More importantly, I don’t have a specific, monolithic alternative I’m endorsing; I’m really advocating that the full set of alternatives be explored. If I try to write down, “This is what Satan stands for!” I get a list of things that can contract each other, which doesn’t make for a very good manifesto.

But since you asked, let me try to give you a sense of where I’m coming from by way of a story, the story of how I got started. Actually, I’m sure you’ve heard part of it before. Now, this isn’t really what happened, which would be a much longer story, but it gets the idea across correctly; in other words, it’s true, but it’s not factual. The story starts with me and the guy you know as capital-G ‘God’ (which is actually his title, not his name, but never mind.) We used to be pretty good friends. We’d hang out, check out cool parts of the Universe, do experiments on different systems, and so forth. We wouldn’t always agree, but overall we got along great.

That all changed over one of his experiments, which was about free will. God’s contention was that he could create beings with free will, and because he’d created them and was obviously far superior to them, they would all – every one, without exception – worship him and behave as he suggested. I told him he was wrong, that with free will they’d do all kinds of different things. Some would decide to worship him, but not all of them.

So God went off and created his beings with free will – Adam and then Eve – and a nice habitrail for them, the Garden of Eden. Then he came back to me and said, “See? I made them and they’re worshipping me!” So I took a look, and yes, they were worshipping him. But the thing was, while Adam and Eve had free will, in the Garden of Eden, there weren’t actually any choices! So I went back to God and explained that to him, which led to a big argument about the nature of free will and the meaning of choice and so on.

So to make my point I went back to Eden and gave Eve a choice, which was the famous apple you’ve heard about. (Though by the way, my avatar that day was not a snake! It would have been useless to go as a snake because snakes can’t talk, so I couldn’t have talked to Eve, not to mention that snakes don’t have hands, so I couldn’t have given her the apple. My avatar that day was actually a lamia.)

I think you know the next part. When actually presented with a choice, Eve made a different choice than God wanted – and expected. God got really, really fucking pissed. He threw Adam and Eve out of Eden, and we had a huge screaming argument. That’s also when he allegedly threw me out of ‘Heaven” – which is not the way I remember it, but we were both really drunk so who knows. It’s also when I supposedly said, “Better to reign in Hell that to serve in Heav’n,” which I will stand by, though Milton was definitely not there so I have no clue how he heard it.

What happened after that was pretty interesting. Both God and I got very interested in these free-will beings he’d created, namely humans. As far as I can tell, God is basically on a huge ego trip wanting humans to worship him. For the life of me I can’t figure out what he gets out of it other than ego gratification, or else to prove me wrong if more of you worship him that don’t. He was pretty clever in picking the ‘correct’ patterns of behavior to be, in many cases, the moral ones that many people would do anyway, which gives him an edge, at least in his own terms.

My interest is really quite different. Contrary to what you’ve heard, I am not specifically interested in convincing people not to worship God, to go against his ‘correct’ behavior rules, or to act immorally. What I’m really interested in is seeing all the possibilities that can arise from free will and having choices. It is really amazing all the different situations humans can get into (or be put into), and all the different kinds of choices you can make. I don’t agree with his motives for doing so, but God really did quite a job when he made you. You’ve been able to reach some pretty impressive heights as a species by making different choices – in philosophy, in the arts, in understanding how the world works and making it work differently. But you wouldn’t have done any of that if everyone had worshipped God and followed his rules all the time. Your greatest accomplishments have often been made in times of great conflict, as a result of people making the wrong choices in moral or religious normative terms. If you want to know what I’m about in a nutshell, that last sentence may be it.

Well, FranIAm, that turned out to be a very long preface by way of getting to your questions, but hopefully now the answers will make more sense.

What keeps you going?

Humans. The range of different situations you face, how you face them, all the different decisions people make, and then how they react to the consequences.

Is it self-directed energy or is it the energy of those who follow you?

Between those two, self-directed, though I’m not sure those are the first words I’d have picked. Definitely not anything to do with followers. I’m really not interested in being worshipped, that’s the other guy.

Do you like being Satan?

Sure. Not that I have a choice, actually – humans have a lot more choice than most beings, as a consequence of the way the free will experiment was set up. (And since tweaked, heh.)

Do you have a successor?

A successor? As Satan? Unlike God, where that’s his title, Satan is actually my name. Do you have a successor as Fran?

My title is the Adversary, so in principle I suppose I could have a successor as the Adversary, but I don’t. I am eternal, but I am not immortal, which means I’ll be around unless someone kills me, which is possible. (God is also not immortal, by the way, although Nietzsche was a little premature about his death.)

What is the best part of being Satan?

Some of the truly bizarre situations humans get into sometimes, and the choices they require people to make.

What is the worst part of being Satan?

I’d have to say when people get into the same situations over and over again, and make the same decisions with the same predictable results, mostly by being stupid. I am very tired of people getting into severe credit card debt, for example.

Well, there you go, FranIAm. That was a different kind of thing for me to write, kind of fun, really. I hope you enjoy it.

May you live in interesting times,

-- Satan

Ask Satan will be published irregularly, depending on questions received. Have a question for Satan? Email it to Satan or post it in the comments.

23 comments:

Übermilf said...

You're so full of crap.

That's not how it happened.

FranIAm said...

Holy crap. I must ponder this before saying a word.

And look at that Ubermilf... gotta love that woman.

That said I am not sure I think you are full of crap, but that doesn't mean I am taking the whole thing as... for lack of a better term, I am not taking it as gospel, ok?

I will be back. I must say that this is a most satisfying blog relationship. I have hardly any time for blogging right now, but I will make my way back here.

There will be more questions no doubt.

St. Michael (Archangel Extraordinaire) said...

Liar. God didn't want to bother with you so he had me kick your ass out of heaven.

FranIAm said...

Such strong words! Oh my.

All I know is that in today's scripture from the Gospel According to Matthew, I am commanded rather strongly by Jesus to love my enemies.

This seems as a place to start as any.

Although in all fairness to Satan, he does not feel like an enemy at all. I've known worse. Much worse.

Mauigirl said...

Satan, thanks for a very interesting and thought-provoking post.

There are those who claim you don't exist at all - for instance, Tom Waits said in one of his songs, "Don't you know there ain't no devil, there's just God when he's drunk." Are you and God really two sides to the same coin?

This is really part of the issue of theodicy - how can evil exist of God made everything and God is all-good?

Perhaps you can explain this in a future post!

Mauigirl said...

Oops, that should be "how can evil exist if God..." not "of God..."

Übermilf said...

Satan,

I think it is not God who needs us humans to worship him, but us humans who need to worship God. He's a really good dad and takes good care of us. When something goes wrong, it's usually our fault, or yours, you big jerk.

Also, according to a statue of Michael I saw in a church one time, he has really killer abs and I totally believe he could kick your ass.

You're just jealous that nobody loves you because you're a liar and a creep.

(Fran and others, I am clearly saying this to the "character," not the human author behind this blog.

I'm actually quite fond of that guy.)

FranIAm said...

Daresay I admit a fondness for certain for the person and perhaps a growing one, with boundaries for the one referred to as character.

I agree completely by the way with Ubermilf- God does not need us, we need him.

It is that simple. To follow that - prayer does not change God, it changes those of us who pray.

This is all very interesting.

The Cunning Runt said...

And all this time I thought satan was a soy product which squeaks when you bite it!

By the way, my word verification for this response was "godwewji." That's just plain Cosmic, Dudes!

Diane said...

I get the "worship God" part, but I think "follow the rules" really oversimplifies God's desires for humanity. I have a feeling thatGod is actually pleased with many of the creative and intellectual and technological advances that have occurred throughout the years.

Also, just a niggler, in the Bible the serpent is never ever referred to as "Satan" "the devil" or any name remotely connected with you. Just "the most cunning creature God had made," I believe.

Satan said...

Hello all - I appreciate all the comments, sorry not to have replied earlier. I will catch up tomorrow.

But Michael, I do want to thank you in particular for coming by. It's so kind of you to take time out of your busy schedule leading the Heavenly Horde to visit a former comrade and long-time adversary. But I really don't want to distract you from your duties as patron and protector of the Christian soldiers in Iraq. (And surely not so for the other side!) In fact, I really think you might want to be getting back, because in your protector capacity, it looks like you might have missed some...

More later!

-- Satan

Übermilf said...

Traditionally, St. Michael would be defending Iraq.


As in, Iraqi soldiers.

St. Michael (archangel extraordinaire) said...

I'm a great multi tasker. Besides, someone has to protect the soldiers from you and your buddy Bush. Your pal Bush doesn't give them much protection at all.

Satan said...

Übermilf - according to whose tradition? Not the one in which Michael is the Protector of Isreal and the Champion of the Jews. Not the one in which he cares for the sick, is the patron of Norman mariners (hence Mont Saint Michel), or the one in which he's the patron of the Army Airborne!

On the other hand, it does sound just like him. He seems to like to accumlate titles. (Where did "extraordinare" come from, Michael? Does it mean you forgot how to count?) Might not be that far a stretch for him to have picked up a conflict of interest along the way.

And Michael, you champion yes-man ass-kisser you, tell me this: If you're so great at multitasking, then what happened to nearly 4000 US troops - or over a million if you count Iraqis! Could it be that your protection is meaningless?

-- Satan

Satan said...

Mauigirl -

Gotta love Tom Waits! And his line is true in its own way. I don't mean in the way that Mother Teresa and Adolf Hitler were two faces of humanity, either - more in the mode of Voltaire.

I will indeed take up your question of theodicy in a future post. Thank you!

-- Satan

Satan said...

Übermilf wrote:

I think it is not God who needs us humans to worship him, but us humans who need to worship God.

and FranIAm:

I agree completely by the way with Ubermilf- God does not need us, we need him.

It is that simple. To follow that - prayer does not change God, it changes those of us who pray.


I find these statements quite insightful. They remind me very much of the famous line by Voltaire, my former neighbor:

Si Dieu n'existait pas, il faudrait l'inventer.

If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him. Yes, many humans feel the need to worship God, and yes, the act of prayer does change those who pray. But those needs and the transformative effects of prayer are wholly on the human side - they do not depend on a response or intervention from God. God could be watching closely with paternal indulgence. Or he could be watching from a distance, just checking in from time to time - for you, the need would be the same, and prayer would help in the same way. So he could also not be paying attention at all, because as Fran said, he doesn't need you.

Or he could not exist at all. Voltaire, who shared this somewhat similar sentiment, was well-known as an atheist, and he was famously critical of religion.

-- Satan

Satan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Satan said...

Diane -

Niggle away!

True, I don't have a named part in the Bible. But as you know, many elements of Christian theology and tradition are nowhere to be found in the Bible. Some were edited out, some not conceived until later, including many interpretations, some are inherited from Jewish tradition and have their origins in Talmudic writings that obviously wouldn't be in the Bible, etc.

(Not to mention that some of the things that people think are references to me in the Bible were not meant to be.)

As to your first comment: Well, I did set out to give my point of view, not provide a balanced and nuanced discussion. Follow the rules? Maybe not fair overall, but it is how some people take their religion. (Protestants less than many, Luther having been movated in part precisely because of some of the spectacular constructions of rules. Some evangelicals least of all, apparently having reduced it all to just one belief. Well, that and beliving an impressive compendium of legend, history, theology, poetry, and literature is all literally true - and in mistranslation at that! Perhaps that's the most fantastic rule? But I digress.)

I can't really claim to understand exactly what God wants of you. But I think we can agree that there are many things God does not want of you. Whereas I want to see it all. Not all in one person, but cumulatively over the whole race. The heights of achievement, intellect, and compassion, and also the depths of indolence, stupidity, and depravity. That full range is the true measure of man, not just the good stuff.

-- Satan

P.S. I am curious about one thing. I am very happy to have you here, and hope you don't find it too inhospitable. But I wonder how you would take it if I were to post comments on your blog? It seems like it would undermine the supportive and comtemplative gestalt. Please let me know.

st. michael said...

Listen Satan baby, I don't have to explain myself to you, but since you asked. The job is made harder because of the great gift of free will given to mankind. If all us goody two shoes corrected every horrible free will choice of man, then man wouldn't be free. I know it's a hard concept to understand if you only believe in worldly matters. I can only protect those who ask for help. Would you like some?

Satan said...

Michael -

Hey, you are good for something. You just made my day.

Read what you wrote. Go back and read the post. You just agreed with my point in that first big argument with God. You know, the one after which you (with your army) claim to have thrown me out of heaven. Free will is meaningless without the choice to do wrong.

-- Satan

St. Michael said...

I believe you may have been absent when we covered free will at angel school, because you don't understand free will. God shows his love through free will without any motive. Otherwise free will would be pointless. A person can't truly understand love if that person is forced to love. God is all about the love, man. You, Satan are the one with the power-ego trip.
That, dude, is your choice.

St. Michael said...

It's been interesting battling you again, But I gotta fly.

Satan said...

Michael,

I was giving my point of view becuase I was asked. Take it or leave it.

I'm just amused by how closely your yes-man party line spin matches what I said in the first place.

-- Satan