Friday, July 29, 2016

SATAN AS METAPHOR

Do atheists worship Satan?  Certainly not, but it’s not quite as simple as just that.  For them Satan is not a real being.  Instead he is a metaphor.


There are some Christians who believe that atheists do in fact worship Satan.  I assume their reasoning is that, since atheists deny the existence of God, they must instead worship God’s archenemy, Satan.   But if I were to ask any of my atheist friends, they would be quick to point out that they believe neither in God nor in any other supernatural agency, so of course they don’t worship Satan. 


Well, but what about so-called Satan worshippers and so-called prayers to Satan that have been given in lieu of more traditional invocations at governmental meetings?  


First, as to Satan worshippers, there may be a few such individuals who do believe that Satan is a real deity to whom they have pledged their allegiance.  Those persons are, by definition, not atheists, and I simply do not understand their behavior, unless it is tongue-in-cheek or simply to draw attention, real possibilities for many of them. 


As to prayers to Satan at governmental meetings, I was able to find a recent video of one such “prayer."  I think the video is worth watching for what it is and is not.  The speaker, who sang his invocation, asked that people be judged by their actions, not by their beliefs, and he pled for the support of the quest for knowledge and of agnosticism.  That was basically it.  There was no worship of Satan, nor were there any blasphemies or curses against Christians, a fear that some in the audience had expressed, holding up crosses like exorcists during the invocation.  At all times the speaker was polite, only asking that those who objected be quiet enough so that his invocation could be heard and then thanking the audience for doing so.


The video is interesting in its own right, but it is also interesting for pointing out the manner in which many atheists do view Satan.  They see Satan as metaphor, as a symbol for the importance and propriety of humanity’s quest for knowledge.  They see Satan as a symbol for the primacy of knowledge over arbitrary obeisance to authority.


Recall the Adam and Eve myth.  (As an aside, it’s not at all clear from the Genesis account that the serpent who beguiled Eve was Satan, but Christian and Jewish scholars have since decided that the serpent was Satan.  Whatever.)  In the story Satan argues that the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil would give Adam and Eve knowledge, and indeed it did.  God recognized this as well, admitting that the pair had “become like one of us, knowing good and evil.”  



First, as an aside, I find the quoted passage quite interesting, raising a number of questions.  What did Adam and Eve not know about good and evil prior to eating of the fruit?  What does it mean to know good and evil?  Why did God refer to Adam and Eve as becoming “like one of us” rather than “like me”?  Who else was God talking to or about?  Is the text saying that the fruit by its unique qualities somehow wrought a kind of physical change in Adam and Eve?

Second, the myth serves as an apt metaphor for the choice between God’s demand for blind and arbitrary obedience, on the one hand, and Satan’s advocacy for knowledge and self-reliance, on the other.  For atheists and other advocates of free thought, the choice is an easy one.



© 2016 John M. Phillips

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