Friday, April 3, 2009

Does Satan Exist?

(ABC Nightline recently conducted a 4-person debate called "Does Satan Exist?" You can watch the entire debate here.)

SKEPTIC: Interesting debate. Although her organization does have a catchy name, I thought the woman from "Hookers for Jesus" was totally nuts.

PREACHER: The lady may be nuts, but her faith worked for her, didn't it? My advice is don't knock faith in God's power over Satan when you are too afraid to try it out for yourself.

SKEPTIC: Well, I certainly don't knock her faith. Whatever works for her is great. And I'm not "afraid to try it out" for myself. In fact, I went the God route for a long time, but came to discover that it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me. But to the question at hand - Does Satan Exist? - I would have to say that Yes, he does exist, and his real name is Dick Cheney. I mean, what else could explain this man's evil behavior?

PREACHER: Couldn't you have found a better candidate for Satan than Dick Cheney. He could maybe stand in for one of his lackeys, but not more than that.

SKEPTIC: You might be right. Rush Limbaugh is a more likely candidate for the job. But to be serious for a moment...Yes, Satan does exist, but only in the minds of those who choose to invest their belief in him. For some people, he becomes a very useful excuse for when things go wrong in life. It allows them to escape taking the responsibility themselves. That's why Annie, the "Hookers for Jesus" representative, who spent a good chunk of her life in the sex trade, can feel better about herself by believing that it was Satan who made her sleep with all those men for money. It was Satan who got her hooked on drugs, and it was demons who raped her. This woman obviously has had some traumatic experiences in her life, and if becoming "born again" helps her feel better about herself, that's great. But I didn't see her take any responsibility for her actions. I thought Deepak Chopra made a salient point when he observed that "healthy people don't need Satan."

PREACHER: Satan's existence isn't determined on whether a human being needs him or not. Biblically speaking, he exists objectively, from the beginning to the end. Although people can be under his influence to the point of not being able to control themselves, nowhere in the Bible suggests that we can blame Satan for our sin. I know that he is a great deceiver. One of his favorite ploys is to convince us that he doesn't exist. If that doesn't work then he tempts us to think that he and his demons are in everything and everywhere (like the former preacher in the video used to be before he saw the "light"). I suppose it boosts you ego to claim that you are able to take responsibility for all your actions.

SKEPTIC: I'm not sure how my ego got into the conversation, but what's wrong with taking responsibility for your actions instead of using Satan as a scapegoat?

PREACHER: Actually it has a lot to do with your ego. Your ego is the real reason you aren't able to accept Jesus Christ as Lord. Satan is the great tempter and deceiver. He cannot force us to do anything, but he is very good at deceiving us into believing and doing what he wants. One way he uses that is very effective is appealing to our ego. That is what he did with Adam and Eve, but he tried it and failed with Jesus. When we follow Satan's deception, then we become his lackeys. Certainly some people use Satan as a scapegoat, but admitting the existence of Satan has nothing to do with trying to shirk your responsibility to do what is right. In some cases like the lady in the debate, one's own bad decisions lead into a quagmire of bondage to demonic forces. When she realized she was in a helpless situation, she called out to Jesus and experienced the power of His grace. After you experience that kind of transformation, the arguments of skeptics sound just ignorant.

SKEPTIC: It's not my ego telling me that religion has no real foundation for belief. It's my brain cells doing the talking. They're stubborn little devils (pardon the pun), and they just won't allow me to base my whole life on ancient myths and superstitions. Sorry. And by the way, I don't believe that Annie was "in a quagmire of bondage to demonic forces." I think she just had a good, old-fashioned nervous breakdown and went a little nuts. It happens to the best of us, I suppose. If her belief in a 2000-year-old man who claimed to be God helps her recover from her mental illness, then more power to her.

But I understand why people are into the whole Satan thing. Every story needs to have conflict. Every superhero needs a bad guy to make the good guy look, well, good. Batman has his Joker, Superman has Lex Luther, and God has Satan.

Preacher: May I be so bold as to ask if you have the supernatural ability to verify that the supernatural never occurs?

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