Satan Is Good, God Is Bad: Our Shifting Moral Compass and Why Atheists Are Throwing the Devil Under the Bus

Rolling_Stones_Sympathy_for_the_DevilDerek Murphy writes at Holy Blasphemy:

I went to Skepticon 5 expecting a group of heretics that would get a kick out of my inversed reading of Milton’s Paradise Lost, which claims that Satan is the hero of the story (which was actually the mainstream reading before it became the “mistaken reading”, and is now coming into vogue again by top Milton scholars).

I was surprised to find that Satan makes atheists uncomfortable. Atheists already have a huge image/perception problem, with the religious proclamations that people can’t be good without God and that therefore all atheists are “evil.” Christians already think of atheists as nearly synonymous with Satanists; hence atheists have an uncomfortable relationship with Satanists and don’t want to be associated with the Devil.

Even more so than the term “Atheist”, “Satanist” has an immediately powerful negative connotations. And on the one hand, I definitely think that those people who wish to create a secular political and social force big enough to stand up to religious groups that are trying to make their faith-based beliefs govern the private lives of the rest of us, need to think about how they are perceived because it does impact the message being shared.

But there is still a very good reason to rescue Satan from his eternal cell of automatic-guilt; punished for a crime he was created to commit, as essential to the Christian plan of salvation as Jesus himself, and stereotyped into a boogey-man of evil and terror in order to frighten people into the arms of God.

Why should we give Satan a second chance, a new trial?

Why should we listen to his voice at all?

Because the term Satan is a wall, a barrier, a defense.

Religious people used to use the words “God” or “Holy” or “Divine” to sanctify their beliefs and values, and those terms were unquestionable. Why? can be answered by “Because God said so.” Humanists, atheists and skeptics have trampled this apparent barrier, forging through the taboo protecting sacred topics from inquiry and doubt, and demanding answers through rational discourse. As a result, Christians and the religious have lost one of their most precious defenses – the appeal to the tautology that God and Holy and Divine are automatically synonymous with the term Good – and inviolable, because “Good” is a universally positive statement that no one can disagree with or question.

But the flip side of this same theme is that of Evil, represented by Satan. Christians will call atheists “Satanists”, and atheists have to struggle to prove that they are not evil, they are not Satanists, that in fact they have positive moral values. But strangely, the literary figure of Satan has always represented some of the same values that humanists and atheists champion – like freedom, equality, the right to choice, to representative politics, the right to bear arms and rebel.

Trying to distance itself from Satan, who is actually an ally and forerunner to the movement, a powerful influence on the development of the very values humanists proclaim, is a failed project and appears disingenuous. Atheists are already quick to judge God and remove his protective labels of “Good” by identifying and criticizing the depravity of his actions recorded in the Bible and other literature – why shouldn’t they take the obvious and natural next step of taking a deep and penetrating look at the devil and questioning the common social assumptions concerning his actions? Shouldn’t the religious identification of Satan with evil values automatically lead atheists to question its validity and predict that Satan – as the polar opposite of the God they deny – represents the values that they hold dear?

Instead, atheists and Christians alike continue to condemn Satan as evil and allow the traditional stereotype that he is a liar, untrustworthy, sinful, etc. to stand. But if our society agrees universally that Satan represents negative values, isn’t it all-too-easy for everyone to continue making the counter association between God and Good values? Somehow Satan, God’s nemesis and opposite, has been completely cut off from the moral discussion concerning belief in God, and while God’s virtuousness and existence is being challenged, Satan’s deviousness is not.

Read more here.

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  • doodahman

    Nice overgeneralizations doof. You talk about what other people believe and think and you don’t even know them. And what is your claim to know? That those people have a belief about what other people THEY don’t know believe and think.

    Doctrinally, you can’t even tell the difference between Christian dogma and Manichaeism which was designated a heresy oh, like a thousand years ago. Didn’t you get the memo?

    False premises underlying absurd generalizations. What nonsense.

    • seth

      like it matters what you believe when you discuss a water walking bread breaking fish cloning master of all salvations o jezuz? please do tell me more about this believe you have that includes death penalties cuz god said so…
      a christian dogma? reminds me of ray comfort’s banana solution. lal

  • Tchoutoye

    Satan makes atheists “uncomfortable” for no other reason than the fact that in order to accept Satan you have to accept the existence of a God. Why let Judeo-Christian myths in through the back door for some puerile posing with a purely literary construction that is the rebel Satan?

    • zero

      Siding with Satan – though I prefer Lucifer – does not acknowledge the existence of their god. Instead it aligns me squarely against the culture and mores that their church has imposed upon us. The Promethean myth is the old story of the fight against the hegemony.

  • David Tiffany

    “…hence atheists have an uncomfortable relationship with Satanists and don’t want to be associated with the Devil.”
    To rebel against God (which is what atheists are really doing) is to be in association with the Devil.
    http://atheistlegitimacy.blogspot.com/

  • Reasor

    I’m an atheist, and I find the character of the Serpent in the Garden of Eden fascinating. (That seems to be what we’re really talking about, although the story predates the addition of the character of Satan to the mythology.)

    The story is one of authoritarian Patriarchy cracking down on free thought, which says we need not live like wild animals, that we can learn the difference between good and evil for ourselves, in what might as well have been a retelling of the invention of monotheism and the enforcement of its dictates on whatever fertility cults came before.

    God or the Elohim are so clearly the villains of the story, unless one has been carefully taught since childhood to believe that there’s truly nothing more to morality than obeying someone who claims to speak for God and who has the muscle to enforce obedience.

    • lunasea

      It’s definitely an odd story…

      • Adam’s Shadow

        “Whatever you do, DO NOT EAT FROM THIS GIANT TREE RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF THE GARDEN OF EDEN; don’t ask why, just DON’T DO IT.”

        The Tree of Knowledge: the original big shiny red button that says “Do Not Press.”

    • Monkey See Monkey Do

      I think its actually a really interesting creation myth which is why I have been arguing we shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bath water when it comes to religion. Lots of philosophical meaning can be extrapolated from ancient mythology (religion). It can also tell us quite a bit about human psychology, sociology etc. “God or the Elohim are so clearly the villains of the story” This is what many in the gnostic tradition taught. Mystical schools of thought on the whole were the harbingers of free thought. Whether it was Gnosticism, Sufism, Kaballah, or the eastern mystic schools of Taoism etc.

  • James Phillip Schmitt

    the figure of Satan as a pervasive powerful force is relatively modern. medieval art depicts him as a rather buffoonish character who is defeated by common sense attitudes.

  • Simon Valentine

    how to [sicnot] learn binary

    now in fruit form

    yes it grows on trees
    money grows /from/ trees

    • jose chung

      was laid to make the taker mad…

  • jasonpaulhayes

    First of all, most Satanists are atheistic or secular humanists. Deity doesnt play an inherant role in the core philosophy.

    Christ has pulled his bloody, woolen shroud over the rotting eyes of the masses, to keep his followers on the march and always looking for this “Devil”. Its brilliantly simple and ensures they never look for the beast in the one place he does exist… in their own hearts and minds!

    • kowalityjesus

      That is NONSENSE. Every Christian knows the temptation of evil, even Jesus was tempted by the Devil.

    • alkemyst

      No. An atheist, by definition, denies the existence of all mythical deities, including Satan. Satan is a Judeo-Christian invention; in myth originally the “inquisitor” or “accuser” working for God. In more recent traditions, he has come to personify evil, though Satanists sometimes offer him up as a symbol of goodness. None of this matters to an atheist, or a secular humanist. We don’t attach mystical origins to our thoughts, feelings, or behaviors.

  • Juan

    I really enjoyed this piece and found myself in agreement with the author.
    All hail the dark lord! m/

  • zero

    Twit.

  • Daniel Gill

    Satan as embodying the hallowed fear in the face of the sacred is very moving to me. and i think if you secularize the uncanny power of the Unknown, Chaos, and the haunted feeling, you are missing something powerful about his mystique. the Underworld , like Milton’s Hell, is full of lamenting sorrow, which is a counterpoint to the sublime through which some believe, as I do, you can commune with these spirits and reach a state of enlightenment. the threshold to the other-world , utterly fear inducing, is fundamentally satanic.

    • Julian the Apostate

      Yes! So far, on this entire thread, this is the one comment worth reading.

  • http://www.braintarts.wordpress.com/ MichaelL65

    Rebelling against something that does not exist? Did you go to the Kirk Cameron school of stupidity?

  • DeepCough

    I don’t hate Satan one bit. Anyone who has read Dante’s Inferno should know that the First Circle of Hell is just a place for Atheists to chill, no contrapasso (ironic punishment), no torment, no damnation, you get to hang with all the smart people
    until the end of time. For that, I will always say “Hail SATAN!”

    • kowalityjesus

      Have fun. ugh

    • godozo

      All that is true. You also have the knowledge of a fuller happiness which you know about but are forever barred from experiencing. It’s not unpleasant, but the awareness of that extra something missing haunts the inhabitants of that realm until the end of the world.

      • DeepCough

        Well, it sure beats getting gnawed by the Devil himself.

  • DeepCough

    You confuse Atheism with Maltheism.

  • InfvoCuernos

    I enjoy satanic imagery because nothing puckers the christians’ anuses like a Satanic t-shirt. Besides, sex, blood, goat horns, what’s not to love?

  • kowalityjesus

    interesting

  • alkemyst

    I wonder whether you understand atheism. As an atheist, I do not challenge the “virtuousness” of God, as I do not believe this entity exists. Subsequently, why would I challenge the “deviousness” of Satan, whose existence I likewise do not acknowledge. It’s pretty nonsensical to say that Satan, a mythical invention, is an “ally and forerunner to the movement” of skepticism and atheism, whose precepts are based on challenging the notion that qualities like morality and good will, even evil are not naturally human, but delivered in some way from inhuman entities.

  • James Williams

    Accepting that atheism & Satanism are going for the same goals still requires me to defer to the Christian belief that there is some supernatural, external force guiding my decisions, and there simply isn’t. You may as well try to convince me that if I’m “good” then after I die I’ll spend eternity at Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, & if I’m “bad” it’ll be the endless torture of a Nicki Minaj concert. It’s superstitious nonsense made up thousands of years ago by tribesmen (whose greatest technology was a sharp stick) and people still believe these archaic stories about the origins of the universe, our planet, and our tiny place within it. If I’m good then I’m good, if I’m bad then I was bad, not the victim of the devil channelling his will through me. Not Satan, not God, just me.

  • Damien Quinn

    Atheism is a belief, at least in the way a persons mind works. Atheists (generally) believe in an absence of supernatural entities altogether, making the Devil’s existence as threatening to themas God’s. Identifying with him is identifying with something that is fundamentally polar opposite to their belief.

    In a way, saying they should identify with Satan is like saying “Hey, I know you’re straight but I think you and my friend Eric have a lot in common, you’d make a great couple.” Atheists just don’t swing that
    way.They might go for a beer with Satan if they met him, but they’re not
    inviting him in for coffee.

  • Tony Peart

    Since god does exist then Satan and the rest of story is also not more or less important than Aesop.s Fables or Mother Goose Most believers don’t all believe the exact same thing and don’t understand what it is they believe .
    The term God could be better understood as “The Boss” in the modern western version .
    In the beginning was the word ,and the word was THE’BOSS . Got more of a Ring to it .
    The Wholly Bable was assembled by a committee at the Council of Nicaea 325 AD.
    Constantine told the seven Churches to get their story straight . Constantine was Sol Invictus

    The cult of Apollo was big Chistianity was the geek religion . I find the history of all this fascinating The author Robin Lane Fox covers this well . A lot more interesting than what the fun-dies and evangelicals misunderstanding King James literary English see.

    What is significant is that is technically the worlds first state religion and has been used as a political tool ever since.

  • Tony Peart

    All religious myth is allegoric parable, why would anyone buy into the Idea that this literal ?

    ” Where did you hear all this ?”. From a burning bush ? You got any more of that bush ,man?

    This story does not match the Archaeological or historical evidence no matter what.
    If there was something to this there would only be one Christian Church not 43,000

    with everything from The Pope to kissing snakes.

  • Daniel Gill

    When you guys are throwing the word Satan around it’s important that you get across wich Satan you are talking about. the Satan of Paradise Lost is everybody who has lost a dear friend in a tragic way, and their death, a punishment by God, hypothetical theology here, was fundamentally unfair. and the emotion as I said which is a counter-sublime feeling, which is unique along with the grieving for the loss of someone and the feeling of the uncanny of the ghost bound up together, if that is the Satan we are talking about then that is the emotion through which communion happens and from that comes enlightenment and immortality

  • jnana

    if you live in a community where the majority are spiritual, and make rules based on what the spiritual life means to them, and you are not spiritual and don’t like their rules, what makes you think yer minority decision should hold sway?
    i’m not saying I agree w/ their decisions, but democracy means the rule of the majority of people, and the majority believe in some kinda spiritually. if you don’t like the dictates of the majority, then drop out and forge a separate society. don’t ram your beliefs don’t their throats thinking you can change them. just teach by example.

    • Christopher Brooks

      You would have a good point if we had a democracy that respected the right of individual secession and the right of people to separate from the nation-state and form their own communities. Unfortunately, we don’t..

      • jnana

        really? what about the amish? if you wanted to buy a bunch of land w/ a group of people, you could create a small state, you just gotta pay taxes. nothing is stopping anyone(except for $)

  • jnana

    one of the biggest satanic lies is tricking people into believing in evil’s omnipotence. its the same thing the gov’t through the NSA are currently doing

  • James Nimmons

    well satan doesn’t exist..so why even bother? i mean i am comfortable with satan..i think satan is cool ike santa claus is cool..as a concept. As soon as satanists start congesting schools and courts with stupid lawsuits and wastes of tax dollars then they too will get the FFRF and aclu called on them..

    • James Nimmons

      But they will never do that because satanists at least aren’t boring..

      • jnana

        Satanists aren’t boring? sure they are. they say nothing that hasn’t been said by the decadent upper classes thousands of years ago, and still said by the same to this day.
        it is funny that so many Satanists are against the corporate and political leaders who profess Christ but who walk with the devil. they have simply succeeded, where other Satanists are still playing D&D

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