The Evolution of Satan

It’s been a while since I last posted something, but I deserve my rest after the extensive article on Mormons. This time though I thought I’d tell you about a subject I promised to talk about when I wrote about the evolution of Yahweh: the evolution of his adversary, Satan.

I will start by repeating what I said in the post “God of War”, where I mentioned that the Abrahamic religion was different from other religions at the time it arose, since this religion only believed in one god, while other religions held a polytheistic view with a counsel of gods and goddesses. I mentioned that we can see the traces of polytheism in Genesis when it says “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness…” (Genesis 1:26). But monotheism meant that one all-powerful being controlled everything and stood for all that happened, even the evil. By taking a look at the Old Testament we can see that Yahweh pretty much is kind of evil, especially when compared to the New Testament god. In the end, this religion could not talk about a loving god who committed these atrocities, so after a while a character would rise that could be blamed for the mishaps of the world: Satan. The whole concept of Satan was also heavily influenced by Zoroastrianism, which was the first religion to believe the earth was a battlefield between good and evil deities, in this case the good god Ahura Mazda and the evil god Angra Mainyu.

I’m pretty sure we are all familiar with the story about Moses and the flee from Egypt. One of the harshest plagues were sent upon man when Yahweh killed everybody who had not smeared blood of a lamb on their door frame. But was this really Yahweh personally? Did he in person fly around the city killing people? Exodus 12:23 says that if one were to smear blood on their door frame, Yahweh would “not permit the destroyer to enter [their] houses and strike [them] down.”. This destroyer is known in ancient Hebrew as Mashit, and note that Yahweh has full control over him, sending this assassin personally to kill the Egyptians. If you are familiar with the story of David, who conducted a census which Yahweh didn’t like, he was punished for what he had done. The punisher was not Yahweh though, but an entity referred to as: 1. Pestilence, 2. an angel (ma’lak), 3. the angel who was bringing destruction (ma’lak hammashit).

The older texts from the Old Testament (called First Temple), make use of the word ‘satan’, which loosely translates to “an angel of obstruction (or punishment)”. Note that this is not Satan with an upper-case letter, which is the Satan we are familiar with. Lower-case satan appears in the Old Testament to mean both an earthly and a heavenly adversary. The earthly satan appears five times, one example being 1 Kings 11:23-25: “And God raised up against Solomon another adversary (satan), Rezon son of Eliada […] Rezon was Israel’s adversary (satan) as long as Solomon lived.”. Another fine example is in Psalm 109:6, where the writer is furious with people who have slandered him, and looks for someone to prosecute this misdeed: “Appoint someone evil to oppose my enemy; let an accuser (satan) stand at his right hand.”. So as you can see, this satan is an earthly person, one of negative attributes.

The first appearance of a heavenly satan is in Numbers, in the story of Balaam. In this story, Yahweh sends an angel wielding a sword, or mal’ak Ywh (angel of the Lord) to earth. Balaam doesn’t see the angel, but the donkey he is traveling on does, so the donkey changes course to avoid the angel. This leads to Balaam beating the donkey. This routine happens again, and on the third time the donkey just lays down since the angel blocks the only path. Now the donkey goes all Shrek on Balaam and starts talking (hopefully with Eddie Murphy’s voice). After chatting about their past together, the angel appears to Balaam and asks him: “Why have you beaten your donkey these three times? I have come here to oppose you (be a satan) because your path is a reckless one before me.” (Numbers 22:32). So we can see that now satan is starting to become attributed to heavenly beings too, not only earthly. If we move towards the Second Temple (later Old Testament writings) the heavenly attributions get more frequent.

The story of Job tells the horrible tale of one man and a bet made in Heaven which causes him great misfortune. I’ll start with a direct quote from the first chapter from this book: “One day the heavenly beings came to present themselves to the LORD and Satan also came among them.” (Job 1:6). In earlier versions of the Bible it says “the Accuser” in place of “Satan”. In the Hebrew version it says “hassatan” (the satan). Those of you familiar with this story know how this heavenly being (whom I will call Satan) makes a bet with God that Job will turn against God if great misfortune would befall him. God gives his permission, and Satan kills Job’s livestock and family, but Job does not blame God. Satan then tells God that Job has to be affected personally, since humans are selfish beings, and God gives permission to harm Job. Satan then gives Job boils, poison ivy, scabies and other unpleasant things, and Job cries out in pain asking God for an explanation.

By reading the story of Job, we realize that this version of Satan comes and goes between Heaven and Earth as he pleases, that he is part of some celestial counsel, that he acts accordingly to Gods will and permission, and that he has limited powers. As we can see, this is not the Satan that we usually hear about.

I mentioned the story of David earlier. This story can be found in the Book of Samuel, but was later retold in Chronicles. In this retelling, we see the first use of the proper noun “Satan”: “And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel” (1 Chronicles 21:1).

Let’s move on to the New Testament. Here we can see the continuing evolution of Satan. In the earliest books of the New Testament (Epistles of Paul), Satan is not mentioned many times, but when he is mentioned, he is only some sort of a small hindrance for Christians. By the time we come to the Gospels though (60-100 AD), Satan has become to play a far more greater role. He has become Jesus’ nemesis, and (according to both Matthew and Luke) tempts Jesus with the following line: “To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please”. In the New Testament we see this powerful character, who has command over a legion of demons (568 demons mentioned in the New Testament). These demons were not apparent in the old Hebrew texts, but suddenly arose at the time the New Testament was being written. Then finally, Satan develops into the most powerful being he has ever been: the Beast.

In the Book of Revelation, Satan appears as a dragon, a monster, and even as a giant serpent. In this book comes the first mention of Satan being the serpent who tempted Adam and Eve (something that never was Christian canon until this book). But Satan’s evolution does not stop here. In medieval times the depictions varied, some becoming more popular than others. Horns, scaled wings and goat legs were among the most popular traits of Satan. In the beginning of the 14th century Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy popularized a certain view of Satan, both physically as story-related, but the modern day Satan most of us are familiar with was popularized by another epic poem: Paradise Lost by John Milton. Here we meet Satan, who actually is the main character of this work. He is a fallen angel and a tortured ruler of Hell. The view of Satan modern-day Christians have is largely molded after this version of Satan. Probably since this version is the most interesting.

Part 16: Final showdown

Now the anti-theist in me had woken up. The next time we met with the missionaries mostly I did the talking. It was my turn to talk, and their turn to listen. I criticized their faith, claiming it was racist and sexist and had no archaeological evidence to support their book of fan-fiction. I talked about the real origins of religion, about where Yahweh really originated from, about how no evidence has been found to prove a divine being, and how evidence actually has so far disputed most religious claims throughout history. I talked about all the fallacies they’ve made so far in trying to prove god, like the god of the gaps argument and appeal to authority. I said that either there actually is no god, or he deliberately hides himself from humanity, leaving behind false evidence that point to a galaxy billions of years old and an earth where life has evolved over a long period of time. This was not the loving god that Mormons believed in. They didn’t think that god would be a deceptive god who wanted to fool mankind.

I told them how I had tried to notice god answering my prayers. About how I had to make unbiased observations, not only noticing when my prayers were answered, but also when they weren’t. I had to look at all signs about what god liked about the idea of me joining the church. I told them that when I was on my way to church the second time, my car almost didn’t start, I almost backed into a car driving past me when pulling out. Another car almost rammed me a couple of minutes later, and I lost my way at the end, only finding my way there by asking directions. My fellow humans helped me get to church, not god. This is why I put my faith in humans.

They soon started to realize that there was no way they could convert me, but they had their orders of trying until I told them I didn’t want to continue meeting them. We all felt the awkwardness in the room now when we were praying. We only met a couple of times after this meeting. I found that it was really going nowhere. The same arguments were used by both sides, time after time. I tried to lead the conversation to something new, but it felt like the missionaries were deliberately trying to keep us on a track they’ve been trained to handle. Finally I had the guts to say that I didn’t want to keep meeting them anymore, that this whole thing was going nowhere and that it was a waste of time for all of us. They said that it was unfortunate, but said that I was one of the smartest guys they had ever met, and if I ever felt like I wanted to meet them again I shouldn’t hesitate to call them. I knew I was smart. I had gotten an ego boost from the Mormons during my time with them. During Family Nights and other events especially the Stengers were amazed by how much knowledge the brain of someone my age contained. I knew though that the Mormons thought that because of my intelligence I should have realized that their church was right and that god existed. Before they left they once again asked if there was anything they could do. They suggested washing my windows. Seriously, what the fuck was this all about?

Back to before

That was my encounter with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It was not a complete waste of time, since I think that both I and the Mormons gained a little more respect for each other. I don’t think of Mormons as complete nutjobs anyore. I think of them as decent, friendly human beings who are complete nutjobs. They probably realized that the younger generation has become more secular for a reason, be it a divine reason, and that non-believers are not all the complete assholes fundamentalists sometime regard them as. I’m a complete asshole, yes, but the Mormons never realized that.

I don’t know what will happen after death. I don’t know the answers to many of life’s big mysteries. But not knowing is much more exciting than filling in those gaps with an imaginary being. We don’t have to justify our existence. We don’t have to keep the egoistic thoughts about existing forever. Life becomes so much more meaningful when you realize that this is the only chance you get to have a glimpse of the vast universe. Don’t waste it on Iron Age fairy tales. And if the Mormons happen to be right, I need not worry. They have my name somewhere in their registers. Once I die, I will be posthumously baptized, ascend to heaven, get my own planet and create it full of kittens and without sin. As a planet should be.

Part 15: Preparing for my baptism

When I started to realize I needed to wrap up my thing with the Mormons, I gave in the next time they asked if it was okay to set a date for my baptism. Dawkins assured me that if I just prayed, read the BoM, attended church, and kept the laws I had promised to keep, I would gain a feeling of certainty that their teachings were true. I did read a bit of the BoM. I did pray with Sarah when she called, and I prayed with the missionaries. I went to church, where they were all excited about my baptism. The teaching session was about baptism, and the priests announced my upcoming baptism. I kept the laws I saw fit. Religion is all about cherry picking anyway.

During this last time of going to church, I was told about something very exciting. One week after my baptism, there would be a meeting of young single adults. This meeting would be taking place in Avernus, comfortably located as near as possible to as many Mormons as possible. The trip would be done by bus, and would not even cost much. To be honest, it was very cheap. A thought came to me. How about I let myself get baptized and then go look for a little Mormon hottie for me? Of course I knew that I’d uncover a lot of other juicy things about what really happened during all kinds of meetings if I were to become a Mormon, but to uncover the juiciest things I’d have to be Mormon for life. I was not prepared to waste my only chance at life to live it as a Mormon.

During the last week before my baptism we went through the baptism process. I would be completely under water when baptized. I could choose who would baptize me. I chose David. I went along with everything, even though I knew I would not allow myself to be baptized. The missionaries told me that the day before my baptism a person who held priesthood would interview me. That’s maybe not such a fitting word, but I don’t really know what to call it. They told me about what kind of questions he was going to ask me. There were questions about if I believed in god, if I believed Jesus was his son, if I believed Joseph Smith was a prophet. There were also questions about if I had ever had extra-marital sex, or engaged in homosexual relationships. I asked what would happen if I “theoretically” answered yes on either of those questions. They told me that then the priest would just ask me what had drove me to sin, if I regretted it, and then we would work together for a way for me to gain salvation. I now knew what I had to do. I knew how to sever my ties with the church. I had a hard time being rude with these Mormons in any way, but honesty is the best virtue.

The day of the interview came. I headed for the church, and met Mr. Sagan, who would be interviewing me. We entered an extremely small room. He asked me how I was and told me not to be nervous, since the interview wasn’t really hard. Oh, I didn’t expect it to be. I was still nervous, since I would have to come clean about my beliefs. Then he hit me with the first question.

“Do you believe in God our heavenly Father?”
I sat quiet for two seconds. Those two seconds felt really long and awkward. I took a deep breath and responded.
He was caught off guard. He had no idea what to do or say.
“No?” he asked me.
“No. I’m sorry. I have to be honest with you, but I do not believe in god.”
He sat thinking for a while. He had no idea how to continue. I guess this doesn’t really happen that often. He decided to just continue asking questions.
“Do you believe that Jesus Christ is the son of our heavenly Father?”
“Well it’s kind of hard to believe he is the son of a god I don’t believe in”
“Do you believe that Joseph Smith is our prophet and has restored the original church of Jesus Christ?”
I almost felt sorry for him. He had no idea what to do.
“This is not going anywhere, I’m sorry. I don’t believe in god, and I don’t think there is anything you can do to change my mind”
“Why?” he finally asked me.
“Oh the reasons are too many to list. Questions about whether or not god exists can’t be summed up in just a couple of sentences. I would need two weeks. Basically it is too easy to refute religion with both modern science and holy scriptures themselves.”

He was thinking deep. Thinking of what to do. He wondered if the missionaries hadn’t talked with me about what I believed in and tried to tell what they though. I had to say that they hadn’t. We never spoke of my personal views. We always concentrated on the views of the church. We decided to move the date of my baptism and have the missionaries question me about my views our next meeting. The missionaries were down below, and I caught a glimpse at the computer Hitchens was working on. He was preparing a Power Point-presentation and I saw my name and a picture of a baptism on it. Comfortable. Just think if John the Baptist would’ve had access to Power Points. The priest told them that I was not ready, and we set a time for our next meeting.

Part 14: Missionaries, commence switch!

I realized I was getting pretty deep with the Mormons now. After the next Family Night the missionaries told me they’d only be teaching me once more. Then it was up to Dawkins and Hitchens to complete the teaching. Harris said she and Dennett were about to teach me something after the floorball match that night, but once I had played and joined them, they realized they couldn’t teach me. I didn’t understand what they meant. They told me that it wasn’t allowed for two female missionaries to be alone with a male pupil. So that’s why they had always brought at least one other person with them whenever they taught me! What the hell was this crazy shit!? While David was giving me a lift home, I took the opportunity to ask him about what the missionaries were talking about. He admitted that the whole thing is a bit silly. Missionaries aren’t allowed to date anyone while on mission. To make sure that no funny business is going on they have to have a third member with them, who is not a missionary. Yeah, silly is the word.

From now on Sister Harris and Sister Dennett would no longer be teaching me, but I tell you, it felt better with having two guys teach you. Especially since they were the first Mormons I had met, and I had bonded with them during Family Nights and other events. Elder Dawkins and Elder Hitchens usually came later than the Sisters. We usually met around 7 PM, instead of 1-4 PM. Our conversations focused more on the cosmological aspects of their faith. There was one thing that started to bother me though. They were, to put it bluntly, willing to become my slaves. They asked that if I needed any help, anything at all, I shouldn’t hesitate to ask. They said they could take out the trash or go shopping for me. This was very odd, to say the least. I of course said that I didn’t need any help. I couldn’t make slaves out of people in a tie!

Part 13: Whoring for Jesus

On Saturday I headed for the fair. Just as Marie had said my ticket was waiting for me at the side entrance. The fair was huge. I’m not kidding you; it’d have taken me the whole day if I had wanted to see even half of the places there. I went to the map of the fair. It took me a while to find the Mormon booth. They were at the literature part of the fair. Good. If they would’ve been at the science part I would’ve flipped. I decided to head to the Mormon booth first.

Marie waved eagerly when she saw me. There were two other elderly women with her. The booth was not very large. There were pamphlets in multitude, copies of the BoM in over 15 languages, and a large Jesus on the wall, staring at me with his creepy eyes. I got to sit down on a comfy chair and relax. It was interesting to watch when they tried to preach their faith to passerby. No one was really interested. There was one man who had a Ph.D. in religious studies, and had read the BoM in his native language but now wanted an English copy of it sent to his home. Otherwise no one was really interested.

Marie told me that I should give it a go, because I could certainly attract a lot of girls with my looks. She told me that a lot of the girls at church had been wondering who the good-looking fella with David had been at church. I felt extremely uneasy with the thought of whoring myself for the sake of Jesus. Oh, so now I’m only this guy with a pretty face? Typical. Women never see me for who I am…

I also got to be a model. Marie wanted the other women to take pictures of her “teaching” me. They said that the pictures would be used on the Mormon web page. To be honest I haven’t yet found the pictures there. Maybe after my apostasy they deleted all traces of me from their archives.

I wanted to look around the rest of the fair, so I went on and thanked Marie for her time. I rushed for the science part of the fair. I had overdosed on religion and needed science to stabilize my mind. I found a bookstore, and had to by an IQ test just to make sure my IQ hadn’t dropped due to prolonged exposure to Mormons. I felt a huge relief being surrounded by reason for the first time in a long time.

Part 12: Law of chastity

No. No way. This was not going to happen. I’d rather have a castration without anesthesia than getting baptized into one of the craziest cults on this planet. I told the missionaries that since I hadn’t had the slightest feeling of that there was a god listening to me, I couldn’t get baptized. They had told me how it for some members had taken many years before having any certainty of their faith, but these were people who were unfortunate enough to be born into the faith, or being dragged into it by their lunatic parents. They HAD to claim certainty at some point. I told them that worship without faith was not something god would’ve wanted. They told me that if I just kept reading the BoM, praying, going to church and keeping the Word of Wisdom, I would get a sign of the validity of their faith by the time of my baptism. I still thought they were way too soon out with this whole baptism thing.

I told them that I’d like to wait. I needed more certainty. Then they told me that I could come and watch a baptism, so I could feel the Holy Spirit’s presence during the ceremony. Apparently this one guy named Richard who I had met at church was about to get baptized next week, and I was invited to come and watch. This would be a perfect opportunity for me to ask Richard about why he had joined the church, how long it took for him to make the trip from first meeting the missionaries to getting baptized and what kind of “proof” of god’s existence he had experienced.

I really wish that I’d made the baptism. I really do. But something more important came up. I was slapped in the face. I was told to shut my phone up. I was tired, my muscles hurt, and I couldn’t find my pants. My phone was ringing. It was in my pocket. My pocket was… somewhere. I dragged myself up from bed. After finding my pants, I answered the phone. Mormons were a-calling. They wondered why I hadn’t come to the baptism. I looked over to the bed. Mormons aren’t stupid. Ignorance doesn’t equal stupidity. If I had been sick or my car wouldn’t start, I would of course have called them and told them I couldn’t make it. They knew that. I just told them I had been feeling sick, and that I rested a bit after waking up to gather strength, but had dozed off and failed to put my alarm clock to wake me up. I’m not really sure they bought it, but that’s the best I could come up with. I wasn’t really functioning at 100%. I gazed at the clock. It was already afternoon. I was thinking off getting dressed and going home to hate myself for missing a perfect opportunity to ask Richard about his trip to Mormonism. Of course I’d have my chance later. He was sure to attend church and Family Nights in the future. I wasn’t so sure I was though.

I felt uncomfortable the next time the missionaries came to visit me. By some divine chance they gave me a pamphlet about chastity. I had that little paranoid voice in my head shouting “They know!”. I got even more paranoid once they asked me if I was willing to follow the law of chastity from now on. I was quite indifferent about the question, answering with a “Yeah, sure, you know, whatever.”. I really didn’t want to stay on the subject and urged them to go on. We talked about tithing and fast offerings. Tithing is about giving 10% of your income to the church. It is actually mentioned in the Bible, but Mormons are among the few people who actually practice this law. I was a student. I barely got by with what I had. How the hell could I give away 10% to the church? The rich should give to the poor, that’s what Jesus preached. The church has billions. My wallet coughs dust every time I open it. The fast offerings are an interesting thing. Once every month, the Mormons fast. Yeah, that’s not really common in Christianity. But the Mormons are far from Christians, as you’ve already noticed. You have to skip two meals at this one particular Sunday in the month, usually the first Sunday of the month. The amount of money you would have spent on those meals you give as fast offerings, which are used to feed the poor in your area and in other poor areas. This of course is a very wonderful thing. Two things bother me though. First is that poorer Mormons also have to do this. They of course don’t give as much, but still it bothers me. Their leaders have ten Rolexes on both their arms, and these poorer Mormons have to give to poor people? Second, I don’t know if these people do it because they want to do it, or if they do it for the sake of gaining everlasting life. This gesture of helpfulness becomes a hollow shell when speaking of a great deal of religious people.

Part 11: Family Night

Monday, following day. Crappy day. And god didn’t make it much better. I was getting an overdose of that dude. That’s because I had willingly started another project. I went to meetings with conservative Christians. Conservative Protestants. The ignorance they spouted was far over that of Mormons. At least that of the Mormons I had met. But when it came to Mormons who didn’t try converting people, then it was about the same level of idiocy. Why did I spend all this time with these whackoes? I don’t know. I’m a highly intelligent person. Maybe there was some kind of opposite powers attracting here? That’s a fundamental law of physics. Don’t blame me, blame physics.

After the meeting with the crazy Protestants, I headed for Family Night. The subject of the night was music. Woo! No not really. The elderly couple, who happened to be the Stengers, complained about modern music being too loud and non-religious, so we all got to pick our favorite hymn from the hymn book and then we would all sing it. Fun. But it was a very good opportunity to meet other young Mormons. They were all pretty decent people, and I also liked the Stengers very much, despite their old-fashioned looks on music. We also played some games, and generally had one or two too many laughs. I have to say I really enjoyed myself. The Stengers had also prepared some food for us. Thank you Jesus!

After Family Night we played some mean floorball. To be honest I really wasn’t much for floorball. I would’ve wanted to play basketball instead, or handball. I never really understood why floorball was so darn popular. But nevertheless, it was nice to get to play a team sport. I hadn’t done that in over a year. These Mormons really knew how to play. And they were really fit. Of course people who don’t smoke or drink alcohol, and even keep a healthy amount of meat in their diet, are physically healthier than others. There’s no denying that. According to studies Mormons live 8 to 11 years longer than the rest of the population. With High Priests who have never smoked or consumed alcohol, this number is even greater.

After the game I realized I needed a new pair of pants. I had sacrificed them when making a way cool goal by sliding after the ball and whipping it past the goalie. The friction had also made my skin tear a little. Hey, stop whining, Jesus suffered more on the cross.

When dropping me off at my home David asked if I would be coming to church next Sunday. I told him I’d try to make it, but that I had way too much to do, so we would have to see whether or not I could make it. I really had way too many things to take care of. And I needed a day to rest too, just like god.

Everything rolled on like normal. I met the missionaries twice a week, was urged to read and pray more, and to keep the Word of Wisdom. Then god would give me some sign of his existence and that the Mormon faith was the one true faith. At one point the thing happened I knew would happen sooner or later. They asked if I wanted to get baptized.