Satan, Pride, and the Denial of the Goodness of the Body

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Traditionally the fall of Satan was due to pride. Often this pride is portrayed as anger at God for granting such favor to human beings when the angels, according to Satan, were the only ones worthy of being God’s children. I would further speculate that Satan was jealous of God granting such favor to an embodied, material being. Matter could not possibly rise to the level of spirit, and Satan bristled at the prospect.

I have been reading some writings of Aleister Crowley, who was alleged to be a Satanist but who actually was more of a Gnostic. Like the ancient Gnostics and like some contemporary New Age writers, he constantly disparages life in the body, labeling it as an illusion that will be replaced one day by a higher spiritual consciousness without the body. I hear similar views at meetings of parapsychological groups, not as much from the scholars but from laypeople who support the field. While I believe parapsychology and psychical research to be legitimate, some of the people who follow the field are de facto or de jure Gnostic. They believe that one day human beings will transcend the physical body and ascend to the realm of pure spirit.

Now if Satan hates the idea of bodily life ascending to God, would it not be logical for him to disparage life in the body for human beings? Would it not be logical for him to deny the bodily resurrection of Christ and the general resurrection of all human beings? He may believe these things intellectually–after all, Satan is theologically orthodox, but in his temptation of human beings he would deny those beliefs. He would try to get them to deny the goodness of matter and the goodness of the body. He would try to get them to believe that only by rising to the realm of pure spirit can a human transcend bodily limitations. He would work to spread the notion that humans are pure spirit, part of God, and that matter will never inherit the Kingdom of Heaven. This is not to exalt human beings, for Satan knows that human beings are irreducibly bodily. But if he gets humans to deny that fact, he has them in his cloven hoofs–exactly where he wants them. When they are surprised after death at the resurrection of their bodies, then they will face the God who made them and loved them as body-soul unities, with the body just as essential to their identity as the soul. If they submit, perhaps God will save them by His grace. But if they refuse, following Satanic advice, and claim that they could not possibly live with a material body and be truly glorified, it is difficult to see how God could save them and let them go to Heaven. Denial of the goodness of matter–and of the body–is the fruit of Satan, not God.

The Devil and America

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, U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania.

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The Left as well as some on the Right have given Rick Santorum a hard time for his statements suggesting that the United States is under Satanic attack. He now claims that his 2008 statements are no longer relevant today, but that seems to be a political move. Mr. Santorum is being labeled as a nut case because of his comments. I suggest that he is quite sane.

Since the Second Great Awakening beginning in the late eighteenth century, the United States has been a religious country, and de facto a Christian nation influenced by Evangelical Protestant piety. There was a generally accepted moral code, traditional in content, on which the vast majority of Americans agreed. Many Americans may not have practiced the moral code very well, but the point is that they acknowledged it. People should honor their commitments, especially marriage. Abortion was wrong, and if many women got abortions anyway (which was common in Hollywood given the non-pregnancy clauses in many actresses’ contracts), these same women knew that abortion was not the sort of thing they should be doing. Sexual ethics were in principle conservative, with any sexual activity prior to or outside of marriage morally forbidden. Child-rearing was considered an important task for women, and after the Industrial Revolution in effect kept women from making a direct economic impact on the family in terms of increases resources, it was thought best to pay the husband a living wage so his wife could stay home and take care of children. Admittedly this was not an ideal situation, but it was a way to preserve the key role of women in child-rearing. Crime, though rising rapidly after World War II, was not at the extreme levels to which it rose from 1965 onward. Almost half the nation went to church every Sunday. Network television offered religious programming from Father Fulton J. Sheen to NBC’s “Herald of Truth” with Batsell Barrett Baxter from the Churches of Christ. Public prayers were common as well as public Christmas as Easter displays, even on state or federal property. Most American presidents acknowleged the Christian heritage of the United States, even labeling it a “Christian nation”–the first president to explicitly reject that attribution was Mr. Obama.

Although the more bohemian of the intellectual classes did not appreciate the Christian focus of the United States, especially writers and artists, most intellectuals of the time, even the liberals, would be considered “conservative” by today’s standards. Even some bohemians, such as Jack Kerouac, were politically conservative and searching for God. Mr. Kennedy’s administration did not seem to be a significant break with the past.

After President Kennedy’s assassination, followers of the Frankfurt School of Marxism, whose goal was the destruction of Christian and of Western Civilization to prepare the way for the Marxist revolution, infiltrated colleges and universities, in part through Students for a Democratic Society. These individuals had a huge crop of the first baby boomers hitting colleges and universities in 1964, many of whom had never suffered hard lives and many of whom had been reared by permissive parents. It was a volatile mix. Almost fifty years have passed since the revolution against traditional Christian values began in earnest in1964. Marriage, instead of being considered a sacred union, is now considered to be no different that other contractural agreements. The United States Supreme Court legalized abortion in January 1973 (following the U.K., which passed the “Abortion Act” in 1967). 1.5 million unborn children a year were killed until the recent drop in the abortion rate, which is now around 1.3 million a year. Sexual ethics is in shambles; sexual sins are no longer a matter of someone who knows better yielding to temptation. Rather, they are celebrated and those who commit sexual sins do not consider their actions to be sinful. Contraception, designed for married couples who did not wish to have children at particular points in their lives, spread to unmarried individuals and the sexual revolution was on. Crime exploded after 1964. The intellectual class, much of the media, and artists and writers hold views that as late as 1965 would have been considered radical. Now they are mainstream and traditional Christian views have been pushed to the margin to the point that the United States government may get to the point of openly persecuting traditional Christians.

Now I, at least, am a traditional Christian (though God knows I often am not a very good one). From my point of view, the world turning upside down since 1964 is due to human free choices, of course, but choices guided by forces hostile to the good. Although belief in Satan and in demons is not in the Christian Creeds, such a belief is part of the official beliefs of the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Churches, the few traditional Anglicans left, and among many Evangelical Protestants. I share that view that Satan is a fallen angel, hostile to God, hostile to good. The sheer extent of the revolution since 1964 cannot only be explained, in my opinion, by natural forces and human choices unaided by any outside powers. Thus, I believe that the evil parts of the 60s revolution–abortion, divorce, sexual sin approved, extreme self-centeredness, the Pelagian “human potential” movement–have overwhelmed society due to the influence of Satan and those supernatural powers that are under his control. The sheer missionary zeal of bohemian artists, for example, cannot be explained totally in terms of their own powers. True, their choices are free, but one of the influences that led them to make free choices consistent with evil is, in my opinion, demonic–literally, not figuratively. Thus, while I have my disagreements with Mr. Santorum (especially on the issues of torture and war), I believe he was correct in 2008 when he said that the United States was under demonic attack. It is at least a possibility for those Christians who do not have a pick-and-choose religion.

Halloween

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Jack-o-latern

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Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays, and I refuse to allow Fundamentalist Christians, both Protestant and Catholic, to spoil it for me. It is because of that that I am writing my second post on this topic.  I am quite aware that October 31 is the eve of All Saints Day. Why should that face forbid Halloween parties and trick-or-treating? Some Fundamentalists behave as if Halloween is the doorway to the Satan‘s closet. They claim that the holiday began in devil worship; therefore, those who celebrate Halloween today are celebrating a Satanic holiday. Now this reasoning is as fluffy as the neural structure of many Fundamentalist Christians because it is a classic case of a genetic fallacy. It is not legitimate to argue from the origin of a practice that the practice has the same meaning today. The same reasoning applies to holidays. Even if Halloween began with Satanic worship (which is historically false anyway), it would not follow that trick-or-treaters are engaged in Satanic worship today. What is the harm in dressing up like monsters and skeletons and presidents and going out to ask people for candy? I enjoy the ambiance of Halloween, the ghost stories, the horror movies and books that come out this time of year. I enjoy giving candy to trick-or-treaters who drop by my house (as long as they don’t try to double-dip). I do not own a Satanic altar on the side, nor do I use one owned by someone else.

Halloween has its roots in a Celtic fall festival associated with nature religion. The pre-Christian Celts were “pagan,” but paganism is not the same thing as Satanism, the early church fathers notwithstanding. True, from a Christian point of view, nature religion confuses the creature with the creator, but it does except the existence of some kind of transcendent and it recognizes the awe people sometimes fell in a beautiful or sublime natural setting. As C. S. Lewis remarked, there is a dignity to high paganism even if its theological premises are flawed and/or incomplete. Paganism has nothing to do with the worship of evil demons, at least in its classic forms. Even if the Druids had a fall festival that marks the roots of contemporary Halloween celebrations, it does not follow that that is what Halloween means today. Even if there are contemporary Druids who engage in pagan rituals on Halloween–and there are–this does not mean that a child saying “trick-or-treat” is a pagan practice. Neither are similar holidays, such as the Day of the Dead in Mexico, which is practiced by Roman Catholic Christians.

Children should take proper safety precautions–if they do, then I say, “Go ahead and have fun!” If a Fundamentalist Christian objects, that is that individual’s right under the law, even if his case were weak. The Fundamentalist needs to be careful in judging others and calling them pagans or Satanists without adequate evidence. Their zeal can move them to the borders of slandering the children who are only out having fun. My word to the Fundamentalists about Halloween is to “lighten up!”

Mixed Feelings about “The Exorcist Files”

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A woodcut from 1598 shows an exorcism performe...

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The Discovery Channel will be premiering a series, The Exorcist Files, which will consist of dramatizations of actual exorcisms conducted by the Roman Catholic Church as well as commentaries from both exorcists and theologians. Depending on how the program is presented, such a series can have both good and bad aspects. On the good side, the series may convince some people that a spiritual world exists. Open-minded agnostics may read further about the phenomenon of exorcism and come to believe in God, a necessary preamble to the Christian faith. This is probably the motivation the Vatican had in cooperating with the series producers. In a radically secular society, it is sometimes necessary to convince people that the world is more than a space time matter-energy framework.  Also, if the exorcists are shown to be successful, this will reveal the Roman Catholic Church’s ability through those in Holy Orders to expel demons in the name of Jesus Christ.  People curious about the ancient churches’ (Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Anglican) use of exorcism may be converted to those bodies–and others may find conservative Protestant groups more amenable. Another positive effect could be that people believe in the reality of evil and will take its threat more seriously.

Overall I believe that the positives outweigh the negatives, but there are negatives. Some people who watch the series may falsely believe that Satan‘s influence or demonic influence in temptation lessens one’s responsibility for sin. This is false; even if one source of temptation is demonic influence, an individual always has free will to resist the temptation and is responsible for the sin if he doesn’t resist. Another danger is that individuals will become so fascinated by demonology that they will make it an idol that dominates their lives and interferes with their relationship with God. Others may be so attracted to demonology that they are drawn into the darker aspects of the occult. However, these dangers pale in light of the massive secularization, first of Europe from the 1789 French Revolution onward, and the United States today, where regular church attendance has dropped into the high 30% range and where there is a growing movement toward agnosticism and toward outright atheism. If The Exorcist Files can do anything to reverse such secularization, then more power to it.