So I was discussing the similarities between certain drug trips and early descriptions of God-encounters in the bible when I somehow ended up on this train of thought: How would you know that anything in the bible was the work of God and not the work of the devil? As I have mentioned before in one of my posts, I’m not remotely religious. In fact I often describe myself as being an anti-theist. That being said, this post isn’t meant to reflect any personal dispute I have with religion. For as much as I utterly despise religion, I do thoroughly enjoy talking about it as well as looking at all the different points of view.
Now, even though I’ve heard the stories in the bible many times and read a large portion of it myself I’m certainly no expert so if you see an error or a misunderstanding, please point it out to me. It seems the obvious place to start this post is with the main man himself: the devil.
My understanding of the devil is that he just wants chaos. He wants God to fail by luring as many of his creations to the “dark side” through temptation and lies and other devilish things. To give some examples that the internet quite helpfully supplied me with: He casts doubt on God’s goodness (Genesis 3:1-5), He distorts and prevents effective Gospel message (Acts 13:8-9), He uses the fear of death to hold men in bondage (Hebrews 2:15), He suggests ways that don’t involve suffering (Mt. 16:23; Mt. 4:1-11), He imitates signs and wonders (2 Thess. 2:9; Mk. 13:22), brings persecution (Rev. 2:9; 1 Pt. 5:8; Lk. 22:31), dissension over doctrine and causes rifts (Rom. 16:17-20) and finally, he imitates religious roles (2 Cor. 11:14-15; Mt.13:28,30; Rev. 2:9). According to the bible, these are some methods the Devil uses to trick us into following the wrong path. You may be wondering to yourself why the devil (if he is responsible for certain parts, if not all of the bible) would tell us the tricks he himself uses? He is the Father of lies (John 8:44). The Devil apparently only uses the truth when it would add to his deception. What better way to remain undetected than to throw all his cards on the table and carry out the biggest bluff in history? As the famous quote goes “…the Devil doesn’t come dressed in a red cape with pointy horns. He comes as everything you’ve ever wished for…” Many view this God as being all-loving, all-powerful and willing to forgive any sin (apart from one), tell me that isn’t what a lot of people wish for…
I am going to take some time to look at a few prime examples of stories from the bible that reflect this potential truth about the devil (and when I say truth, as a non-believer I mean within this completely hypothetical scenario). First I want to take one of the points I raised earlier regarding the devil: it is said that he likes to cause dissension over doctrine and cause rifts (Rom.16:17-20). There are estimated to be around 33,000 denominations of Christianity (or if we want to be generous, 6 major groups e.g. Roman Catholics, Orthodox, Protestants etc). One of the many flaws of Christianity (or any religion) is the differing number of viewpoints. If this faith was supposed to be guided by God then there shouldn’t be this much disagreement over issues such as suicide sending you straight to hell or the existence of purgatory. These things should have been made clearer because an all-knowing God who exists out-with our view of time would know that these rifts would be created leading to a less unified religion which is ultimately becoming weaker and weaker within Western societies. This is of course ignoring all the other religions that have existed, currently exist and will exist which is a conversation for another time because that opens up a whole other can of worms. Let’s imagine for a moment that the devil wants to divide humanity up in terms of belief so that there is more dispute, violence, hate, questioning of faith etc. What better way to do that than by creating these rifts? Before I carry on to my more literal views of the bible, do you know how the church used to (and in some areas of the world still does) view people suffering from schizophrenia? The church viewed these people as possessed by demons as a result of their sins. The mental illness was viewed as the work of the devil and was often treated with exorcisms and an encouragement to pray or repent one’s sins. Before we began to fully understand mental illness, schizophrenia (as one example) was seen as a sickness of the soul rather than a sickness of the mind. Often these people were locked up in horrendous conditions and left to die. What is it that led to this I wonder? For those of you unaware, schizophrenia has two major symptom groups: negative symptoms (which tend to be forgotten about but include things like a lack of emotions or an inability to make eye contact: basically things that make day to day living more difficult) and positive symptoms which includes hallucinations, delusions and disorganised thinking. You may be wondering why I mention this but the idea of hallucinations and delusions being the work of the devil himself or of his demons will be relevant later on.
The first bible character I’m going to take a look at is Moses. Probably most famous for freeing the slaves of Egypt (mainly thanks to the 1998 film The Prince of Egypt, at least from my experience) he is less well known for being outraged at his generals for allowing all the enemy women to live, before turning his attention to the children and saying “Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him. But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.” (Numbers 31:17-18). Now we could speculate all day about what Moses and his generals had planned for the virgins they were allowed to keep for themselves, it isn’t hugely relevant to the point I shall be making momentarily. Moses first encountered God in the form of a burning bush: “There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up”. Now to me this just screams “devil”. I mean if there is one thing we associate with hell: it’s fire. Out of all the ways God could have chosen to communicate with Moses, he decides to appear in fire itself in a bush that is burning but not being burnt. We know that the devil wants to manipulate mankind to turn their backs on God. This can be seen as early as the Garden of Eden when the snake (A.K.A Satan) is introduced as “more cunning than any of the creatures of the field that the Lord God had made” (Genesis 3:1). So this cunning creature or being has already by this stage caused the suffering of man-kind by convincing Adam and Eve to go against the word of God by eating from the tree of knowledge. Does it really take a stretch of the imagination to think he could do the same to a Shepard in the desert? I wouldn’t say so. Now, at this time in Egypt the Egyptians worshipped their own Gods such as Ra, Osiris and so forth but the slave population who were apparently building monuments for the Pharaoh (who was seen as a God-like being himself) consisted of Hebrew Slaves (or Israelites). Why would the devil be interested in them? You may wonder. Well, apparently the Israelite population in Egypt (just of the families that are mentioned) number a mere 70 but within only 4 generations they have 600,000 men of fighting age. Therefore we could assume they had at least double that in their overall population so 1,200,000. Now maths was never my strong point, especially with something like this but from what I’ve attempted to work out, even if each couple in every generation had 20 children, it wouldn’t add up to this many. For arguments sake, let’s say that this was accurate (since my maths could be very wrong) this population leap would be spotted by anyone who had need of an army. Moses one day kills an Egyptian and flees as a fugitive into the Sinai desert. It isn’t until Moses is 80 (yup, 80) that he is contacted by this fiery bush demon. Perhaps it takes a certain act to allow the devil to contact you. Maybe Moses killing the Egyptian created the conditions under which Satan could call out to him. I mean regardless of whether the Egyptian deserved it or not, Moses would have been plagued by guilt over taking another man’s life. So the Devil then appears in this bush and tells Moses that it is time for the slaves of Egypt to rise up and escape. Of course the Pharaoh refuses to allow the slaves to be free which is where the ten plagues come in. Just in case you are unfamiliar with them, here they are: water into blood; frogs; lice; wild animals; diseased livestock; boils; thunderstorm of hail and fire; locusts; darkness for three days; and the death of the first born. Once again you’ll notice that fire plays a role in “God’s” work. Ignoring the first nine of these plagues, I’m going to look at the last one. God killed the any firstborn son from any household that was not marked with lamb’s blood (why an all-knowing God needed to be given a sign such as this is beyond me) which resulted in the death of Pharaoh’s son along with many more in Egypt. Now if this God was truly God, he is all-powerful and all-knowing. So he would have known that the Pharaoh wouldn’t release the slaves until the tenth plague. If we assume that the Pharaoh needed to see his own son die as a result of God’s will, why would all the other children have to die as well? The bible doesn’t mention that the Pharaoh was even aware of the mass infanticide that had just taken place when he decided to let the slaves go. I propose that within this idea that it was the devil carrying out these deeds, he needed there to be a rift between the slaves and the Egyptians. More so than merely by their class, he needed them angry and at war. By killing many sons of Egypt, the devil allowed the slaves to feel like justice had been carried out (although I can’t say I fully understand the idea of killing someone’s child for their actions) while the Egyptians would ultimately feel sadness followed by rage. After all this, there was no reason for them to believe that their Egyptian God’s did not still exist. So they would see these murders as an act of another God, of the slave’s God. They would want vengeance which is ultimately what this led to. The ten plagues were meant to invalidate the Egyptian Gods. He imitates signs and wonders (2 Thess. 2:9; Mk. 13:22), brings persecution (Rev. 2:9; 1 Pt. 5:8; Lk. 22:31); he imitates religious roles (2 Cor. 11:14-15; Mt.13:28,30; Rev. 2:9). Sounds like it could be the devil to me. Although Moses and his encounter with God (or the devil) is certainly an interesting on to look at, I couldn’t leave out possibly the most important character in the bible: Jesus.
He imitates signs and wonders (2 Thess. 2:9; Mk. 13:22). I have two ways of looking at Jesus in relation to the devil. If we imagine for a moment that the devil can interact with the world but God cannot. Perhaps he can send things in but he can’t just change things as he pleases or send messages whenever he wants. What if Jesus truly was the son of God BUT while Jesus was on Earth he never actually interacted with his father. Instead the entire time the devil was simply leading Jesus to the cross. Perhaps Judas was simply doing the work of the devil. I mean Jesus being the true son of God or not creates a whole new divide among the religious community. Not to mention that since Jesus being the son of God is really just God in mortal form, what better way to deal with him than to get him crucified? My other point of view for Jesus is this: Jesus was never the son of God. He was either the devil himself or one of the devil’s demons inhabiting a body. I mean everyone followed a star which is always seen as so holy…but what is a star? A giant burning ball of gas, that’s what. Hell doesn’t seem too far off what you’d experience by being near a star. I feel like there is too much that could be discussed here so I’ll try and stick to the basics. Let’s look at a moment at the miracles performed by Jesus: sure Jesus did some good things such as giving everyone bread, healing the blind and curing the sick…but he also carried out some miracles that I find highly questionable for a holy figure such as creating wine “for all to partake of”. I mean let’s not ignore the fact that alcohol is poison. While I’m sure you may argue that drinking is normal, it’s a social custom, they weren’t getting wasted etc. I can’t help but feel Jesus could have conjured up a more healthy substance than poison. Another famous miracle that Jesus performed was raising people from the dead. From what I can see he raised at least three people (himself not included): “The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.” (Luke 7:15); ““Go away. The girl is not dead but asleep…he went in and took the girl by the hand, and she got up.” (Matthew 9:24-25); “The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.” (John 11:44). I mean don’t get me wrong, I completely understand that an all-powerful God would have the power to raise people from the dead…but, why wait until Jesus is there to do it? I mean Jesus asks for his Fathers help when raising Lazarus from the dead, yet as far as I’m aware Jesus is the only one to raise people from the dead in the bible. Let me just quote a small part of the bible that I feel relates to these points: “When you come into the land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominable practices of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord. And because of these abominations the Lord your God is driving them out before you. You shall be blameless before the Lord your God, …” A necromancer? Sounds a lot like our old buddy JC, don’t you think? Tells fortunes or interprets omens? Once again, Jesus fits this description pretty well. So is God telling us that Jesus is in fact sent from hell itself to trick us all OR is the devil trying to trick us into thinking that Jesus should be seen as a witch when he is really the son of God? I mean what really is the difference between magic and miracles? Rather than use my own definitions, here are literally the first definitions of each after a google search: Magic: “the power of apparently influencing events by using mysterious or supernatural forces” and miracles: “an extraordinary and welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is therefore attributed to a divine agency”. It sure seems like both Moses and Jesus could be accused of magic. Of course our definitions are different to those back then but I believe the point could still be made that there is no real distinction other than your belief that one comes from a holy, Godly place while the other is used by witches and wizards to cast their evil Satan-summoning spells.
He casts doubt on God’s goodness (Genesis 3:1-5). Of course one of the big goals of the devil is to tempt people away from God. By making them doubt just how good God really is they will begin to question him and his existence. If we continue on the assumption that much of what is in the bible was actually the work of the devil rather than God, we can see a clear pattern beginning to form, particularly in the Old Testament (but by no means limited to it). As we already mentioned, the devil is the most cunning creature that God ever made. So let us take a look at a couple of examples that have different meanings depending on how you look at them:
Noah and the flood: Of course a famous story, we hear how God chose one man and his family to be the only surviving members of mankind after a flood meant to wipe out humanity and land-based creatures. At this time God regretted creating mankind for they had turned evil and thought about committing evil deeds all the time (how an all-knowing being can have regrets is a bit beyond me since nothing happens that he doesn’t want to happen) and God decided to wipe mankind and all land animals off the planet with a giant flood. Noah appeals to God and basically saves him and his family by building a giant ark. I’m sure you know the rest…two of each animal…rain…bird with a branch…Anyway, this is often viewed as the tale of Noah rescuing the animals. What about the other animals and the other humans? First of all, most of the aquatic life would be wiped out due to the salt and fresh water mixing, not to mention the change in the temperature. Secondly, every single animal that couldn’t fly would be killed which is a lot of animals and ultimately a lot of death. Thirdly we have the humans who are also drowned by the actions of God before undoubtedly being sent to hell for all eternity. I can accept the logic behind humanity being wiped out. They were evil and didn’t worship God or respect him or beg forgiveness. Why did all those animals have to die? Were they carrying on some sort of evil that would keep humanity evil? Were the animals evil? Did they have sinful thoughts on a regular basis? I don’t believe that everything in this story could be the devil. I think either God planned on wiping out all of humanity and land based animals but the devil saved them so that even though most of God’s creatures would die, there would continue to be human souls to corrupt OR the devil caused the flood and God was the one who got Noah to save two of each animal. My reasoning for either of these being true is that God (being all-powerful) must have known the evils that would still come from allowing Noah and his family to live. I mean if you look at just the bible stories that take place after this they are full of evil. I mean he had to intervene many more times after that. Just look at the present day: Where is our flood? It seems to me that God didn’t stop things being much more evil than they were back then. Furthermore, if God (being all-powerful) needed to wipe out humanity, he wouldn’t have needed to kill all those animals. I mean even if you believe that animals do have a soul or don’t have a soul, we all know that animals can suffer. They can feel pain and they can feel fear. I honestly cannot imagine many things more terrifying than the world beginning to flood when you can’t swim very well or at all. I mean you’d try and maybe you’d get by for a while but eventually your muscles will start to ache or the cold temperature will slowly kill you or maybe you’ll drown straight away or simply be eaten by some of the aquatic animals who are now floating above land masses. We know from other bible stories that God can unleash plagues that kill specific family members. We know he can cause thunderstorms of hail and fire or cause animals to become diseased. Are we really going to ignore the fact that he didn’t just make a virus for humans that could wipe them out? As I mentioned at the start, this isn’t meant as a rant at religion but you need to understand my point to see why it makes more sense that the devil was involved in this in some way.
Abraham’s sacrifice of his son: We all know this famous story. Abraham was commanded by God to sacrifice his own son as a sign of devotion (or something along those lines). One way or another, Abraham was meant to kill his son. As he went to do this, he led his son (along with two servants) to the place God wanted him to go. Just as he was about to stab his son with a knife, God stopped him. Apparently Abraham had shown his willingness to obey God and he was not to kill his son anymore. I find two things very interesting about this story. The first point is why did God need Abraham to prove his faith? God knows everything that is going to happen: he knows what we think and how we feel so he already knew that Abraham would be willing to sacrifice his son so this entire story is in itself unnecessary. That is unless it wasn’t God that wanted Abraham to kill his son. What if this being that contacted Abraham (which from the description in the bible it appears only he could hear) was in fact the other guy: the devil. As I mentioned with Moses, he couldn’t act as a vessel for the devil’s magic until after he had killed a man. We often hear of sacrificial elements in most religions but one in particular is devil worshipping. What if the devil requires an act of an immoral nature? Moses kills a man just as Abraham showed a willingness to kill his own son. Perhaps all it takes is this act and then the devil gains entry to that person’s life. Perhaps at this point he is able to manipulate the physical world more so than usual. The second point I wish to raise is from the same section of Genesis just after “God” stops Abraham from killing his son: “I will certainly bless you. I will multiply your descendants beyond number, like the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will conquer the cities of their enemies. And through your descendants all the nations of the earth will be blessed—all because you have obeyed me.” (Genesis 22:17-18). To those of you who believe, do you think your God would give those who obey him the numbers to conquer the cities of their enemies? I think this relates back to my earlier point about the devil trying to create an army of the damned.
Moses and the plagues (in particular killing the first borns): I already mentioned this but I wanted to mention it again simply because it is relevant to this new point. Many look at the plagues as being a way of freeing the slaves of Egypt but is there ever really a justified reason for killing children? I mean no all-loving good would carry out such a deed. Unlike an evil figure who may be trying to create tension and hatred among mankind in an attempt to lure them down the path to hell.
I have two final examples that cast doubt on God’s goodness in a way only the devil would use. Nowadays we hear that even though sinners succeed in this world they will be punished in hell. This hasn’t always been the case in the bible as there have been times when God has intervened in such a way that I could only suspect someone else pulled the trigger: “Elijah answered the captain, “If I am a man of God, may fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty men!” Then fire fell from heaven and consumed the captain and his men.” (Kings 1:10) and “Then the Lord rained down burning sulphur on Sodom and Gomorrah—from the Lord out of the heavens.” (Genesis 19:24). I mention both of these for two reasons. The first reason is quite obviously the fire element to these brutal deaths. The second reason is a little more related to modern day. Although they are differing beliefs among Christianity, one thing I often hear is that God doesn’t send us to hell, we send ourselves by sinning. Yet here God is quite literally bringing hell down upon these men and cities.
Brings persecution (Rev. 2:9; 1 Pt. 5:8; Lk. 22:31). Just to define the term so that my points makes sense, persecution is defined as ‘hostility and ill-treatment, especially because of race or political or religious beliefs; oppression’. The following points that I’m about to mention couldn’t fit that description any better:
My first example would be the crusades. Regardless of what your view of the purpose of the crusades may be (I’ve heard people argue it was a series of defensive missions while others argue that it was similar to a religious “cull”), the fact remains that the crusades are a brutal example of religion being used to rally troops. The Pope at the time made it clear that those who fought and killed enemies during the crusades would be forgiven their past sins in the eyes of God. Basically it was like a get out of hell free card. Now you could blame the Pope for making such a claim, you could blame the Vatican, you could blame the soldiers who raped, tortured and killed innocent and often unarmed people all in the name of defending their peaceful religion…regardless of who you choose, from the devil’s point of view things are working out pretty well. We have clear hostility and ill-treatment because of race or religious beliefs. Is this not exactly what the devil brings? I’ve tried to find an actual estimate of the number of people that died during the course of all the crusades but the numbers seem to vary from 1 million to 3 million to 5 million. So let’s just leave it open at 1-5million.
Of course we couldn’t talk about persecution without mentioning the several inquisitions that took place throughout the Catholic Church’s history. For those of you unaware of what the inquisitions were, I shall try and sum them up to the best of my knowledge. There essentially reached a point where challenging the doctrine of the church could lead to you being put in prison for life or simply executed. The accused individual would have to testify against themselves and lost certain rights such as the right to face your accuser or the right to counsel. While initially all it took was two witnesses to “open a case” so to speak, new methods began to be used during the 13th century to extract confessions out of the accused (I’ll give you a clue, they didn’t hug them until they confessed). Penalties could result in small consequences or as was often the case: being burnt at the stake. Anyone who was executed for their “crimes” would also have all their property seized by the church. I can only imagine the fear and paranoia at that time. During the 15th century, the Spanish Inquisition became independent of those going on in Rome. For anyone who watches Game of Thrones, you will probably be aware of the Faith Militant in King’s Landing. That is pretty much what the Inquisitions were. They would hold you, put you on trial, make you repent as a sinner and if all that failed they would burn you alive and steal your things.
He distorts and prevents effective Gospel message (Acts 13:8-9). I did have a whole section I was going to write here about missing/destroyed gospels but I can’t seem to find the information again as a point of reference. I do wonder though, how different the meaning of the bible is now as opposed to its early editions or even to its original passages and gospels. I mean what you have to take into consideration is that the bible has been translated from dead languages, it’s been re-translated more times that anyone would be willing to count, it’s been edited by kings and it’s been edited by popes. Not that anyone would want to admit it but the bible is an ever changing publication. Words gradually become emitted, translations over time become forgotten (for example, I’ve heard people mention that the original word for “apple” in the bible also translates to “mushroom”, while “eden” translates to red” which has led some to believe that the original stories were referencing mushroom trips). Certain gospels have been ignored entirely because they contradict others such as the gospel of Judas which paints the picture of Judas being one of Jesus’s most devoted followers. If the devil really can tempt us and lure us, then I’m sure he could plant the idea that leads to the bible being altered.
In summary, I believe that when using the bible as a teaching or historical tool, there are certain assumptions that never seem to be considered in relation to these beliefs: Firstly, that many of the experiences relating to the main biblical figures could quite easily be the work of a cunning creature who God cast out from heaven. This can be seen simply by looking at the effects that these people had on humanity while also looking at the various mentions of the devil within scripture. It would seem bizarre that people or passages that are meant to guide humanity on the right path would have such disastrous consequences. I mean we’ve seen the people of the world divided, persecuted, tortured, raped, murdered, drowned, burned, deceived, suffer plagues and been made to doubt the beliefs they hold so dear. Does this sound like the working of an all-loving God? My second point is more philosophical: how would you ever know that it was God and not the devil? If you pray and feel like your prayers have been answered (either by action, thoughts, voices) there is literally no way you would know for certain. Some of you might say “I just know it is God. I can feel it.” While your personal feelings may convince you that this is true, don’t you think the devil could trick people the same way? I mean the serpent in the Garden of Eden convinced Adam and Eve that God didn’t mind if they ate from the tree of knowledge. Furthermore, any visions that any individual has had throughout history whether documented in the bible or mentioned at church could quite easily have been the devil as well. This seems even more likely when you consider that hallucinations and delusions were considered signs of possession by demons; demons of course being the devil’s version of angels who drift around doing his bidding. Perhaps the devil’s influence over the years has faded, I mean humanity is beginning to realise that it’s unacceptable to own slaves, to stone people to death, to sacrifice people, etc. Yet in many parts of the world, Christianity is being used for evil purposes such as extortion, child molestation, homophobic and racist attacks (and these are just in Western societies). In parts of the world such as Africa, the crimes and atrocities being committed in the name of Christianity are awful. I’m not seriously claiming that your religion is run by the devil (much like Hydra running Shield in the MCU). For me the ideas that God allowed Christianity to happen or the devil has been running it all along are both equally ridiculous. I do however wonder what makes you think that my point is inaccurate? I’d be interested to hear how YOU know that everything that the bible mentions and everything you believe today are the work of God and not Satan. I’m fully aware that my information could be inaccurate or perhaps I’ve taken things too out of context or misunderstood them entirely. As I mentioned at the start, let me know if that is the case. Even if all my points are backed up by misquotes and misguided understandings, I fail to see how my point wouldn’t still be possible.
-“ With or without religion, good people can behave well and bad people can do evil; but for good people to do evil — that takes religion”