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Symbeline's avatar

What is the Devil?

Asked by Symbeline (29576 points ) May 30th, 2011

Inspired by ETpro’s question

I’m looking for answers by both Christians and Atheists. (and people of other beliefs, or lack thereof, that does not relate to those two)
Who is Satan? What does he do, what does he want, what’s his problem? How do you see him as? Does he look like anything? Is he really some being somewhere, using deceit and evil to harvest souls? Is he a metaphor for societies, past and present?
If he’s not real, why have we created him? If he is real, what can you tell me about him? Is he some freaky goatman, or everyone’s worst fears? What is Hell?
The Devil; what is he to you? I am indeed an atheist, but I’m seriously looking for serious answers, and this is not meant to offend, whatsoever. I know religious stuff can get messy around here, and I don’t want this to happen in this question. I’m really wanting to know what the Devil is to everyone.
As well, if anyone is knowledgeable in mythology, history and religious oriented elements about Satan, that would be cool, too.

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35 Answers

MilkyWay's avatar

It’s a person at halloween who wears this.
No, seriously, I don’t know.

tranquilsea's avatar

I believe the devil was created to explain why some people do evil things. Especially previously good people. It’s to difficult to believe that we are all capable of evil, it’s much easier to blame some third party creation.

Symbeline's avatar

@queenie Hawt. XD

@tranquilsea Aye, that’s my personal guess, anyways. Blame everything on Satan, he’s one convenient mutha to have around.

TexasDude's avatar

I have always interpreted the idea of Satan as the embodiment of chaos, disorder, and “opposites” I guess, as opposed to just being pure evil. That seems more nuanced, and there is a literary precedent for it. Like, if the world were run according to D&D alignments, Satan would be chaotic evil or even chaotic neutral.

Symbeline's avatar

@Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard I see, it does make sense. We’re pretty good at the whole balance thing and giving it an image, and Satan did exist in different forms long before Christianity was born, with same said purposes.

Also D&D, that would be cool if you could cure cancer just by sleeping in an inn for a week. XD Or am I thinking of Final Fantasy…eh either way.

ninjacolin's avatar

He’s a mythical figure from history. Used to be the guy who influences you to defy goodness, rightness, truth and the like.

I don’t mind personification for metaphorical purposes. If I were to reclaim the icon, I would say he’s the personification of ignorance itself. Not ignorance in the innocent “surprise birthday party!” way but ignorance in terms of.. like racism, sexism, things like that.. fallacy in general.

I always think the only people who do “wrong” things are people who are ignorant of a reason or means to do other things.

Blackberry's avatar

Symbeline, I know you’re too smart for this question. But my opinion is that the “devil” is an imaginary concept to explain the struggle between good and evil.

Symbeline's avatar

@ninjacolin In that sense, God is also responsible for racism and sexism and the like. Unless we don’t understand His message, and the Devil takes advantage of that. That hardly matters if they’re just metaphorical personification and not actual beings though, since in the unbeliever world, the same factors and elements still come up, but under some other name. I’m all confused now lol.

@Blackberry He’s also quite imaginary to me, but rather as a solid side on a balance of justification. Interesting about the whole struggle between good and evil though. How so?

Cruiser's avatar

The Devil is your own personal demons/bad habits that you do not take ownership over.

bkcunningham's avatar

A fallen angel. Lucifer, the day star, the king of Tyrus, was the worship leader in heaven. He was the anointed cherub that covereth the mercy seat. He was brought down after thinking he would be the most high and would be worshiped like God. Pride and vanity were his downfall.

tinyfaery's avatar

The boogeyman that will get you if you don’t listen to your daddy (a god).

Symbeline's avatar

@Cruiser Nice. How did that turn into an evil being everyone knows about?

@bkcunningham I was told that Satan basically invented war. Makes sense coming from your answer.

@tinyfaery Well that’s creepy. In my case, I’ll use my mom though. XD

Joker94's avatar

Well, to me he represents everything that God doesn’t. God represents love and kindness to me, whereas SeƱor Diablo represents hatred and cruelty. Which is pretty pathetic when you think about it. I mean, c’mon, a guy who can only spew hatred and jealousy? He sounds like a flippin’ teenager. Also, I imagine the Devil’s sense of humor is waaaaaay darker than God’s.

wundayatta's avatar

I see Satan most often portrayed as a tempter. He stands for the temptations we feel to do things that society won’t condone. He serves as a way of externalizing our impulses to do these anti-social things. We don’t like to think we are bad people, so if we can say we fell prey to temptation, then it seems as if it is not all our fault.

Of course, depending on what culture you’re from, different things are considered temptation. In the US, we have a very dysfunctional relationship with sex and pleasure. It is so easy to slip because we love pleasure. But pleasure is bad. Bad. Very bad. Satan is tempting us. We must keep our hands to ourselves. No, not even to ourselves, but ourselves above the waist only.

Satan also stands for pure evil. Pure, unspeakable evil. It stands for the unimaginable things that the most depraved people can do. The tortures and the murders. Satan stands for the things we can not possibly understand because they are too horrific.

Satan the tempter. Satan the horrifier. Satan who, like Pandora, allows trouble into the world. Satan the sex fanatic. Satan who has many faces and many guises. Satan who represents that which people are most ashamed of.

Symbeline's avatar

@Joker94 Nice. Haha, Satan is an emo. XD

@wundayatta GA. Although if I’m to consider the news and man’s history, there are a lot of damn depraved peeps out there. :/

AstroChuck's avatar

It’s in the details.

wundayatta's avatar

@Symbeline Oh, I don’t know. I think depraved people represent perhaps less than a thousandth of society. It’s just that when they do what they do, it gets all the publicity.

Joker94's avatar

@Symbeline Maybe even an emo fratboy. A violent, humping, hedonistic, emo fratboy…

Only138's avatar

I AM THE DEVIL….and I’m here to do the Devil’s work. ;)

Symbeline's avatar

@Only138 Okay that’s just too fucking classic lol. Love it. :)

@wundayatta Ah, yeah, fine point. That also happened a lot even back when the media as we know it now didn’t exist.

@Joker94 Sad, but it’s true in many cases, at least as I’ve heard it.

ETpro's avatar

It is interesting to see how the concept evolved from the first mention of Lucifer in the Old Testament to his very real, local and malvolent character presiding over a newly acquired lake of fire in the end of the New Testament. Like God, he is in my opinion and invention of man. He and God are both assigened very human traits. Both personify part of what we see in ourselves and the society around us.

Cruiser's avatar

@Symbeline In the same way that not everyone share the same reverence of the devil. Some need the black and white, good vs evil Devil in the Bible and then allow their own sins to be the responsibility of their priests during confession to absolve them of their sins, where there are people like me who don’t need the horned one to carry the burden of my mistakes.

King_Pariah's avatar

Satan = Id

God = Superego

mazingerz88's avatar

The “Devil” is also a supernatural thriller movie shown last year, based on a story by M. Night Shyamalan. Not bad at all in my opinion. : )

But seriously, If one believes in God then it almost follows one has to believe in the Devil as well. They’re opposite forces. Simple enough, right?

But then one may start to realize that the Devil is not equal to God and he was just created by God, then betcha by golly wow, God has a game going on here! He wants his humans to go through an obstacle course set by the Devil so we can prove to him our real worth. Still sounds quite simple plus that does make a lot of sense too. No pain, no gain, right?

But then, once in a while some people will start thinking that whatever bad thing they do, they do it on their free will. Free will remember? What a great “truth” free will is! These people may even begin to think that they don’t need Satan to tempt them to do anything since they know exactly why they did what they did. They don’t need to fear Satan. They fear their own flawed human selves. They fear what they are capable of. They also do not blame anyone else. They blame themselves. Sometimes these rational people even end up being agnostics or aetheists.

But then there will always be people who need to explain why they did such and such evil thing, and explain it by attributing it to well, you know… : )

meiosis's avatar

The devil is fiction’s greatest baddy…

ddude1116's avatar

I think of Ol’ Luci as God’s little brother in the most drastic of sibling rivalries. Lucifer thought he’d be at level with his brother, and God didn’t dig that so he told him to scram and cut him off from fortune. So now, Lucifer sits in hell counteracting all his brother does, partly from revenge and partly to keep him in line, because He’s still His brother and he still cares for him, and for us. Neither God nor Lucifer are role models, God just got there first. And where God is more of a serious and guarding figure, Lucifer is more aloof and fun. They’re the same roles in opposite points of light.

Blackberry's avatar

@Symbeline I was really drunk when I typed that, so now I don’t even know what that means lol. I think I just meant the classic struggle of god vs. Devil: the devil explains the bad, god explains the good etc.

Symbeline's avatar

@mazingerz88 Nice. I never liked the idea of free will to explain all the cruelty and darkness that God initially created. I mean, yeah we have a choice in what we do, but the outcomes are not very generous unless you do what is commanded of you. It makes me think of something that may not be relevant to what you’re saying, but kinda like society; get a job and make money, or live in poverty. Hm.

@ddude1116 Again, the idea of a balance, and opposites, cool. Christians aren’t the ones to have come up with it, I’m pretty sure the Chinese were way ahead of them.

ddude1116's avatar

@Symbeline Yeah.. I blatantly took adapted that from Buddhist scripture..

ETpro's avatar

@ddude1116 Thanks for a most fanciful answer. :-)

roundsquare's avatar

The guy on the other side of the chess board.

Or, more usefully, Satan is an image of a person who always values his own wants over those of society.

ETpro's avatar

@roundsquare That’s powerful. Is that shown in a definition somewhere?

roundsquare's avatar

@ETpro Thanks. I just made it up actually. Feel free to use it though.

ETpro's avatar

@roundsquare Thanks so much. I have added it to my obscure words and clever definitions spreadsheet, and probably will use it. With proper attribution, of course.

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