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Devil Statue Is No Joke

You might have heard that some Satanic provocateurs had a nine-foot bronze statue unveiled in Detroit, in honor of the evil one. The event, which drew 700 people, was “harmlessly festive,” [1] judged a writer for Time.

He should speak to Father James Martin, SJ. Though he is one of the most recognized voices for progressive Christianity, Fr. Martin takes Satanism with a seriousness that you rarely find in liberal Christian circles. He writes in America that the Detroit devil-worshipers and those who find it all amusing are “playing with fire.” [2] Excerpt:

These people have no clue what kind of forces they are dealing with. In my life as a Jesuit priest, and especially as a spiritual director, I have seen people struggling with real-life evil. In the Spiritual Exercises, his classic manual on prayer, St. Ignatius Loyola calls this force either the “evil spirit” or “the enemy of human nature.” Sophisticated readers may smile, but this is a real force, as real as the force that draws one to God. Moreover, there is a certain identifiable sameness about the way that the “enemy” works in people’s lives. I have seen this. And after all, Ignatius’s comments reflect not only his own experience in prayer, but also his experience in helping others to pray. He was even able to describe some of the ways that the evil spirit works, and this also jibes with my experience: like a spoiled child (wanting to get his way); like a “false lover” (wanting us not to reveal our selfish motivations and plans); and like an “army commander” (attacking us at our weakest point). Pope Francis has also spoken frequently [3] about the presence of evil in the world and of Satan. Again, some may laugh, but the pope is, again, speaking about something that is not only part of Christian belief, but quite well known among spiritual directors.

In other words, I’m not describing only about my belief, but my experience. Evil is real. How Satan fits into this, I’m not exactly sure, but I believe that a personified force is behind this. There is a certain “intelligence,” if you will, and a sameness, as St. Ignatius identified. As C.S. Lewis said about Satan, “I’m not particular about the horns and hooves, but yes I believe.” Me too.

Read the whole thing.  [2]

This reminds me of two separate conversations I’ve had in the past two years with Haitian taxi drivers — one in New York City, the other in Boston. I wrote about the NYC one here.  [4] And I wrote about the Boston encounter here [5]. An excerpt from that post:

He said one of the oddest things about living in Boston is the blindness of so many of the people there to the supernatural. “I drive people from Harvard and MIT all the time,” he said. “When they find out I’m from Haiti, they want to talk about vodou. They don’t believe any of it.”

From the backseat, I saw him smile, in a “those poor fools” kind of way.

“I tell them, you need to go to Haiti and see for yourself. This stuff is real. When you see it with your own eyes, you don’t doubt it.”

He told me a few extremely creepy stories about things he has seen, and that happened to his family there. He became grave, and said that there is very real, very dark spiritual power in vodou, and that we Americans are far too naive about spiritual reality.

“When my sons became 15, I took them to Haiti to show them,” he said. “I told them, you need to know for yourself what’s really out there.”

The implication was that being raised in America, they are blind to a dimension of reality with which they, and all of us, have to struggle, no matter where we live.

You may learn how real this stuff is the hard way. Sometimes, that’s the only way to learn. In college, a friend of mine did an internship in a psychological rehab center for teenagers. She was not particularly religious, but told me how without question the most damaged of all the kids the staff treated were the teenagers who had been deeply involved with the occult. Playing with fire, indeed. Good on Father Martin for taking this public stand.

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242 Comments To "Devil Statue Is No Joke"

#1 Comment By Franklin Evans On July 29, 2015 @ 3:31 pm

Eamus:

A lot of the people talking up the occult in discussions like this apparently don’t really believe it at some level, because if they did, they would be at least be thinking about serious counter-measures — and would presumably favor some expansion in our current secular understandings of concepts like “evidence.” We keep hearing that there’s real evidence for claims about the supernatural and demonic — X number of witnesses, experiences you just can’t deny etc.; just read the thread. OK, well, if it’s real evidence, why shouldn’t it be admissable in court? Isn’t that the proper forum for evidence, especially evidence of awful harms or wrongs?

I have a different perspective. It comes with a serious cognitive barrier combined with a personal belief system that while relatively easy to explain (compared to Catholic doctrine, for example) it begs the same questions (and a few more besides).

I inhabit a natural world. I believe that I am of it simultaneously with being in it. I believe that my experiences are natural, and I have no motivation to sub-categorize them because some of them are impossible to share with others. It is the perennial problem with courtroom testimony: assuming the witness is not lying and believes implicitly in their experience, it remains possible that their words of description will fail to convince others of veracity of the experience.

This is the fact of mundane, everyday experiences. How, then, should I hold myself to such a standard when attempting to convey experiences of the spirit?

Science offers the same caveat, and attempts to mitigate it by the requirement of experimental repeatability. A murder incident cannot be repeated in a courtroom in exactly the same way it happened. An encounter with an entity of spirit — ghost, demon, faerie, etc. — is likewise impossible on demand.

That’s poor justification for the alternative, “Well, it’s just too bad that you weren’t there.” I concede that without some sort of reliable evidence your skepticism remains valid and unanswerable.

I’ll give you my personal perspective. I apologize for the length.

I had a visceral experience that included physical evidence of a transient nature. I shared that experience with three others. That evidence was witnessed by others who were not present during the experience. To this day, I give myself the benefit of the doubt and hold the possibility that I was delusional during that experience, that the evidence had some mundane explanation.

However, that remains the strictly minority option, as it were. I’ve had several similar experiences since then. I find it rationally sensible to keep to my first option, again as it were: I experienced something that can best be understood within my belief system.

#2 Comment By KD On July 29, 2015 @ 3:50 pm

Eamus Catuli:

Traditionally, demons tempt people into committing sin. [This is different from demonic possession.] Each sin is associated with a demonic power, lust, gluttony, vainglory, sloth, etc.

If we look at the human being as divided between Reason/Logos, and the Passions/Pathos, the unrestrained passions seem to be doing pretty well for themselves in the modern period. Further, many people reject the existence of the Logos altogether.

Hell, the so-called partisans of “Reason” today are their best advocates! They are slaves to forces they don’t even acknowledge, and they can’t even conceive of what true freedom might taste like!

#3 Comment By Eamus Catuli On July 29, 2015 @ 4:00 pm

@Irenist, the 11D chess analogy makes your point with your usual vividness. Does it also answer the question in my later comment, i.e. why the demons seem relatively so weak? Is it because we’re seeing only a tiny corner of the chessboard? But, granted that we should take Copernicus’ and related insights (the size of the universe, etc.) on board, you still see the human drama as a focal point, the locus of cosmic salvation, if I’m understanding correctly. So shouldn’t we expect that the demons would be especially active in our world?

Also:

The index of how much more seriously we take the demonic than the political is that we believe battling the demonic to be the mission of Christ’s Mystical Body, the Church, while we leave the political to mere politicians.

Well, now, but wouldn’t that mean that there’s no particular purpose in legislating on a whole range of other matters as well? Why don’t we leave murder to the church, then, instead of asking the state to investigate and prosecute? Or abortion, which the pro-lifers keep insisting is (a) a terrible sin that (b) the state must prohibit?

Are you suggesting that the demons don’t actually do material but only spiritual harm? That would make sense of your church/stage division of labor, but I don’t think it’s a view widely shared among the commenters here.

#4 Comment By KD On July 29, 2015 @ 4:01 pm

Poets describe the world in terms very different from the descriptions of scientists. Is the perspective of the poet therefore false, should it be rooted out of the language? It is clear, based on their words, that Poets must see the world very different from scientists. Should we ban poetry? (Some have suggested it.) Should we build a world where poetry has no place? Would that make the human race richer or poorer?

Obviously, a true poet is inspired, but not always from the same source.

#5 Comment By Turmarion On July 29, 2015 @ 4:04 pm

Eamus, a good book for one skeptical of supernatural phenomena to read is George Hansen’s [6]. I never disbelieved in supernatural phenomena such as miracles, but I had a narrower view of them, and tended to write off paranormal stuff totally. Hansen’s book really altered my thinking on a lot of that.

Blake, heck, Augustine even thought that umbaptized children go to hell (see the section [7] under “Teaching of St. Augustine). The idea of Limbo (which, as Benedict XVI pointed out, was never actual dogma) was a sort of a “patch” on the theological OS since even theologians who were happy to send most non-Catholics to burn for eternity in hell had qualms about innocent children. He was a great theologian and saint, but he had some repugnant ideas.

#6 Comment By KD On July 29, 2015 @ 4:11 pm

Plutarch on Superstition:

“Consequently, as regards the subjects of our inquiry, Atheism being an ungrounded opinion that there is nothing essentially happy and incorruptible, appears to bring round the soul into a state of insensibility through a disbelief of the Deity; and its object in not believing in gods is the not being afraid of them: whereas for Superstition (Godfearing), its very name shows it to be an opinion involving passion (feeling), and a conception that engenders fear which humiliates and crushes a man, inasmuch as he believes there are gods, but that they are spiteful and mischievous gods. For the Atheist appears to be one that is insensible to what is Divine; the Superstitious man to be sensible in the wrong way, and thereby perverted. For want of knowledge has produced in the one a disbelief in the Benefactor; whilst in the other case it has superadded the fear that the same Power is a malignant one. Consequently, Atheism is Reason deceived, Superstition a passion arising out of false reasoning.”

#7 Comment By Eamus Catuli On July 29, 2015 @ 4:14 pm

@KD:

Traditionally, demons tempt people into committing sin. [This is different from demonic possession.] Each sin is associated with a demonic power, lust, gluttony, vainglory, sloth, etc.

OK, thanks for that, but then what’s all this I’m reading on this thread about ghostly visitations?

Should we build a world where poetry has no place?

No…. but should we build a legal system where people can be convicted of capital crimes, or children can be accused of witchcraft, torn from their parents and thrown out of their villages, on the basis of a poem someone wrote about them?

@Franklin Evans:

I had a visceral experience that included physical evidence of a transient nature. I shared that experience with three others. That evidence was witnessed by others who were not present during the experience. To this day, I give myself the benefit of the doubt and hold the possibility that I was delusional during that experience, that the evidence had some mundane explanation.

Yeah, that’s interesting and all, but you probably understand that skepticism arises in part because reports of the supernatural are always more or less like this. They’re personal anecdotes, “physical evidence of a transient nature,” or something really inexplicable that happened to someone’s Uncle Fred, or something that happened once in some town in Indiana that five separate people witnessed and it even appeared in the local paper. They’re never anything like, “Remember that time when Mike Huckabee was on TV talking about his faith in Christ, and all of a sudden he turned into a lizard for a few seconds, and spoke words that sounded like nonsense but when played backwards were unmistakeably a prayer to Lucifer in Old Church Slavonic? And millions saw it happen live, and then the whole world saw the video?” Given the omnipresence of demons and dark forces in the world, it’s just odd that we never even once seem get a report like that.

#8 Comment By Irenist On July 29, 2015 @ 4:45 pm

@Franklin Evans:

That pun was worthy of Asimov’s tale of “Shah Guido G.”

@Hector_St_Clare

did she cause the collapse of the Soviet economy too?

No, that was typical human venality among apparatchiks, the problem of economic coordination in the absence of price signals, the Afghan quaqmire, trying to compete with SDI, etc.

People who recruit Jesus, Mary and the holy angels for worldly political struggles annoy me almost as much (though not quite as much) as these wicked Baphomet-worshippers and Miss Jenn-o-cide.

Well, Our Lady of Fatima herself asked that Russia be consecrated to her Immaculate Heart. She enlisted herself. That said, as a general matter I heartily agree with you: it is idolatry to conflate patriotism with piety. In this instance, while I think that atheistic communism was the sort of diabolical wickedness I can well imagine Our Lady enlisting herself against, I don’t think for a moment either that our political history is all that important in the grand scheme of things, nor that the diabolical wickedness of our own polity is anything she was enlisting herself for: one can oppose Leninism and Stalinism without endorsing Wilsonianism or Reaganomics.

@Blake Blount

When I explain that Augustine is a major reason I am Reformed, most Catholics deny that he was a “Calvinist.” (Pardon the anachronism.) Very few Catholics will ever admit to what you said.

This Catholic thinks it’s hard to deny that there is a great deal that is proto-Calvinist in Augustine’s views on predestination, damnation, etc. (Indeed, IIRC not a few Eastern Orthodox theologians have opined that it was Augustine’s emphases that set us Latins (or “Franks,” if they prefer) down the road to the Reformation to begin with. I think there’s a great deal to that, and not to Augustine’s credit.)

Of course, the Church generally formally promulgates doctrines in response to heresy. Thus, because Augustine never lived for either great debates like those between Luther, Calvin, Arminius, and the Fathers of Trent, or even smaller debates like those between Suarezians and Molinists within Scholasticism, Augustine’s views were sufficiently inchoate on many of the matters debated (justification, nature vs. grace, etc.) that almost all the disputants could claim his quoted writings for their own, with varying degrees of requisite ingenuity. But I’ll concede, and you may quote me, that on many such matters, particularly the hellfire stuff, Augustine quite obviously seems to have had a Calvinist temperament, even if he didn’t live in an era when one’s views on such matters would be as systematic as they became in the Reformation and Counter-Reformation.

Now, whatever his Calvinistical temperament on damnation, however, Augustine did not hold the full set of Calvinist views. In particular, he held the authority of the See of Rome in high regard, and seems to have had a view of the sacraments far more in line with Catholic dogma than Calvinist. That said, of course the leading Reformers were generally quite erudite Patristics scholars; they weren’t mere Bible-thumpers. I don’t doubt that a respectable case can be made that at least some of what Augustine wrote quite easily bears a Lutheran or Calvinist interpretation. Certainly, both Luther and Calvin seem to have been deep students of Augustine in particular, and to have shared much of his temperament.

I don’t feel like any of that is an especially great concession. Certainly, none of it threatens my Catholic faith. But if you care to quote it as the words of a Catholic, do. May God bless you.

#9 Comment By TB On July 29, 2015 @ 5:04 pm

Satan is the shadow we cast when we walk in the blinding sunshine of ignorance.

[NFR: You sure that that those blinding beams aren’t emanating from an Angel of Light? — RD]

#10 Comment By Reinhold On July 29, 2015 @ 5:39 pm

“When I explain that Augustine is a major reason I am Reformed, most Catholics deny that he was a “Calvinist.” (Pardon the anachronism.) Very few Catholics will ever admit to what you said.”
It’s been a while since I read Augustine’s anti-Pelagian writings, but the reason most Catholics might ‘deny’ that he was a Calvinist is because his intent was to avoid the opposite extreme of Pelagianism, that being proto-Calvinist predestination, and to advance something known as ‘compatibilism,’ as summarized in Augustine’s statement that the will has to freely submit to the the grace that God offers it. Of course, some have pointed out that nothing in Augustine’s work suggests that the will to receive God’s grace is NOT itself God-given; so there’s the issue of, as you say, the will itself submitting only because God has granted you the inclination, raising the specter of predestination all over again. The scholarly literature on Augustine is somewhat interesting, split between those who defend his compatibilism and those who think, as you do, that he affirmed full predestination.

#11 Comment By Irenist On July 29, 2015 @ 6:20 pm

@Eamus Catuli:
Great points, and great questions.

Yes, fine, as long as everyone takes that view, I see no real danger in all this. You do provoke a question I’m curious about, though: why do only “a small minority of claims” involve actual demonic influence? I mean, if the demons want to overrun the world, why aren’t they able to — or at least, able to do enough harm to make more of the claims valid, and perhaps to make their presence obvious in ways that virtually no one would be able to deny? Are they just really weak, or are they not very good at their job, or what?

In Book XX of “The City of God,” Augustine discusses the Gospel and Apocalyptic passages in the New Testament related to the idea of Satan being bound for a millennium. First, unlike today’s Rapture-believers, Augustine rightly takes the millennium in which the saints reign with Christ to refer to this, the age of the Church Militant, Suffering, and Triumphant—which is the Kingdom of God. Second, Augustine says that from the Resurrection until the advent of Antichrist at the end of days, Satan is “bound.” There are many ways to take this, but one way I take it is that the demons are in fact weaker than they used to be. In the centuries before Christ, the demons could go around performing showy marvels of the sorts reported in the annals of many peoples, and so awe them into submission. In these years of Our Lord, they can’t get away with that anymore. Thus, a “stealth strategy” of performing as few marvels as they can (barring those macabre horrors that, as demonic tempters, they are too incontinent to resist) so as to inculcate materialist atheism would seem to me to be just the strategy you should expect from the Enemy during the centuries of the Church age in regions to which the Gospel has been brought. (In regions not yet evangelized, or where the populace isn’t ripe for modern secularity, I’d expect them to continue the old strategy locally, while not doing anything flashy enough to alert the secular sorts in other nations to their existence.)

Back in the 1990s, a friend of mine owned the rulebook for a live action role playing game called “Vampire: The Masquerade.” IIRC from skimming through her copy of that rulebook lo those many years ago, the game world revolved in part around a conflict between a minority faction of vampires who wanted to openly lord it over the rest of us, and the heretofore historically dominant faction that wanted to “masquerade” as regular humans and just manipulate history behind the scenes sort of “Illuminatus!”-style. What I’m proposing here is that before the Resurrection, the demons were in the open domination business, and now they’re in the “masquerade” business, since the old method wouldn’t get much result in a world where (a) they performed enough marvels to make belief in the supernatural testable and uncontroversial, but (b) Christ can and will compel them to submission should any of their victims take their demon problems to the Church. Given (b), we’d most of us rightly take the attitude we see in Paul and Luther to demons: scornfully laughing at them. Thus, “masquerade” is the best tactic they’ve got, and they’ve been moving more and more toward that tactic as we’ve moved into modern secularity. Indeed, their moving increasingly toward that tactic over the last two or three centuries is one of the big parts of the unseen chess match that I take to have moved us into modern secularity to begin with.

We keep hearing that there’s real evidence for claims about the supernatural and demonic — X number of witnesses, experiences you just can’t deny etc.; just read the thread.

Someone upthread rightly pointed out that the accuracy (perhaps even veracity) of the “Exorcist” story in St. Louis has been questioned. I confess I haven’t looked into it, but I don’t know that there ARE any demonic cases that have left behind evidence suitable for a court of law. Perhaps. But given my own hunches about a “masquerade” strategy during these centuries of Lucifer Bound, I’d actually be mildly surprised if any of them had left good evidence.

Now, of course, this whole masquerade business probably makes a secular reader want almost to scream something about Sagan, extraordinary claims, extraordinary proof, invisible impalpable dragons in the garage, Russell’s teapot, and so forth. And indeed if I didn’t already believe Christianity to be true, I would have ZERO reason to entertain such an “invisible garage dragon” sort of theory: conceded. OTOH, as I have described, the whole tactical point for the Serpent is to be taken for Sagan’s garage dragon. So, yeah.

well, if it’s real evidence, why shouldn’t it be admissable in court? Isn’t that the proper forum for evidence, especially evidence of awful harms or wrongs?

Well, first, as I said, I’m not really part of the “real evidence” brigade. But even if I were, the state is far too blunt an instrument to deal with these things. A cruel word at the wrong time can devastate. It’s a real harm. But should the state be involved?

But of course, if you start admitting occult evidence, you’re partway back to Salem, and who knows who’s going to find himself at the wrong end of that: at Salem, it was eventually the colony’s officials themselves; in Africa in recent years, it’s been innocent and horribly abused children.
So, to prevent that, over the past few centuries we have painstakingly constructed a liberal, enlightened order of law and government that does not credit or act on such evidence. Our demon-curious friends here are free-riding on that order, taking advantage of the protection they know it gives them to play what’s essentially a variant of some fun little children’s games. They’re not proposing a serious analysis of what’s actually going on in the world, but giving themselves what our friend Loudon calls “feelz.” To coin a phrase, it’s a kind of Moralistic Therapeutic Occultism.

The question of whether the devout are free-riders on secularity is a fair one. In many respects I think we are: certainly, left to our own sinfulness, we orthodox would probably forget the lessons of history in a few centuries and resurrect the Papal States or some other folly if we could get away with it. We’re rather bound demons ourselves, so far as that goes: the nonviolence secularity forces upon us is salutary. It forces us to be better Christians than we want to be: witness the BenOp.

That readily conceded, our libertine and Enlightened (dis)order (which partakes of far too little in the way of either liberally educated magnanimity or spiritual enlightenment) is quite correct not to credit such evidence, in much the same way that the Church does not “credit” scientific hypotheses. It is not that the Church disbelieves scientific hypotheses, but that they are simply outside of its purview, neither to be credited nor denied. Likewise, the courts of man’s cities ought neither to credit nor deny occult claims: they are simply outside the state’s cognizance. To act otherwise is not merely to invoke the specter of Salem (as it were) but to commit the secular equivalent of the Church’s self-embarrassment w/r/t Galileo. (Was the Galileo affair as bad as Whigs say? No. Was it still an embarrassment? Yes!)

To try to steelman your point, I think what you may be picturing is something like this: A young lady shows up covered in bruises. She says her beau beat her. He says she’s possessed, and the bruises are the marks of a malign spirit. So you wonder why, on my premises, the state ought not to bring in the local exorcist, rather than trying and jailing the beau as a beastly batterer. Here I think we’re dealing with simple prudence. No legal system is perfectly just. But while you and I may dispute whether the number of physically harmed victims of demons is either zero (which I take to be your position) or, in the present age, very, very close to zero (my position), in either case the number is close enough to zero that I’d prefer to take my chances on a false negative in a case like this maybe once every century or two, rather than bring us back to Salem. Now, if physically violent demonic possessions were ubiquitous, I’d change my position. But then, if they were, so would you—there’d be plenty of evidence of them to convert everyone to Christianity, or at least to some sort of supernaturalism.

the 11D chess analogy[:] Does it also answer the question in my later comment, i.e. why the demons seem relatively so weak? Is it because we’re seeing only a tiny corner of the chessboard?

I suppose it does. And you’re generously trying to understand my viewpoint to even ask! But I think the (Lucifer Bound -> masquerade stratagem) hypothesis is probably the bulk of it. Of course, by the very terms of the 11D chess analogy, I can be expected to have very meager insight, mere fleshly mortal as I am, about this sort of thing. So who knows? Not I. An example Hector_St_Clare will appreciate: What role, exactly, did Our Lady of Fatima play in the fall of the Soviet empire? Haven’t the foggiest! I merely take her at her word that she was up to something, and I presume whatever it was consisted mostly of moves on the part of the chessboard I cannot (and am not meant to) see.

granted that we should take Copernicus’ and related insights (the size of the universe, etc.) on board, you still see the human drama as a focal point, the locus of cosmic salvation, if I’m understanding correctly. So shouldn’t we expect that the demons would be especially active in our world?

Good question. I don’t know. If Livy, say, was less of a fabulist then moderns take him for, the unbound demons of yore seem not to have confined their malign marvels to God’s people Israel. I take us humans as something like the latter day Habiru—a minor people in an obscure corner, but one destined, perhaps, someday to bear a great message (in our case, the Gospel) to the wider cosmos. God chose slaves for his people, and founded his Church on that sinner St. Peter. It seems in keeping with His style to choose us Earthlings, generally: he seems to like us losers. Now, are the demons especially active here? In terms of marvels, it would seem not. In terms of such doubtless diabolically guided catastrophes as the Shoah, the gulag, the Great Leap Forward, or the killing fields of Cambodia? For the sake of any other incarnate sentients in our cosmos (if there are any), let us hope such things betray an unusually large amount of demonic activity, and that their worlds are far less troubled than ours.

wouldn’t that mean that there’s no particular purpose in legislating on a whole range of other matters as well? Why don’t we leave murder to the church, then, instead of asking the state to investigate and prosecute? Or abortion, which the pro-lifers keep insisting is (a) a terrible sin that (b) the state must prohibit?

Murder (including abortion) is a violation of both natural law and Divine Revelation. Something like Sabbath-breaking, OTOH, is not. Thus, murder is a proper concern of the state. Sins purely involving impiety, idolatry, etc., are not.

Are you suggesting that the demons don’t actually do material but only spiritual harm? That would make sense of your church/stage division of labor, but I don’t think it’s a view widely shared among the commenters here.

The New Testament tells me that demons sometimes do physical harm. So do the various exorcism reports, at least some of which I imagine are true. But I don’t think direct physical harm is really their core business focus anymore. I think they’ve mostly spun that off to subcontractors like Hitler of late.

#12 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On July 29, 2015 @ 8:57 pm

the so-called partisans of “Reason” today are their best advocates! They are slaves to forces they don’t even acknowledge

Obviously you are Protestant, because no Catholic or Orthodox would so lightly dismiss reason. Roman Catholic theology, in particular, is full of reason.

You aren’t my kind of Protestant, of course. Reason is not a force. Reason is a method. IF there are demons or devils, they may have a method, but they are a force. The distinctions are immense and significant.

I do agree that Aristotle was misplaced in his efforts to reason his way to an understanding of the structure and nature of the universe, and the Roman hierarchy was wrong to rescind their condemnation of Aristotle. The limits of reason are approximately the limits of the available evidence. There may be more, but reason cannot take you there.

#13 Comment By TB On July 29, 2015 @ 10:11 pm

Me: Satan is the shadow we cast when we walk in the blinding sunshine of ignorance.
[NFR: You sure that that those blinding beams aren’t emanating from an Angel of Light? — RD]
____________________

My belief approaches the absolute but, no, I am not certain.
You, I suspect, have no doubt.

#14 Comment By Eamus Catuli On July 29, 2015 @ 10:36 pm

Irenist, that is such great stuff. A masquerade strategy! That had not even occurred to me. But it makes perfect sense.

As you can imagine, being as I am a Saganist, part of me — well, most of me — also finds it completely insane. But then I would, wouldn’t I? Because that’s exactly how they do their nefarious work! It’s really a brilliant nonrefutable hypothesis.

So let me just say, as I often do (or think to) in light of your comments: (a) thanks, that was great reading, and (b) I hope you’re wrong. But (c), I completely share this sentiment:

In terms of such doubtless diabolically guided catastrophes as the Shoah, the gulag, the Great Leap Forward, or the killing fields of Cambodia? For the sake of any other incarnate sentients in our cosmos (if there are any), let us hope such things betray an unusually large amount of demonic activity, and that their worlds are far less troubled than ours.

Yes, let us sincerely hope!

#15 Comment By dominic1955 On July 29, 2015 @ 11:23 pm

Turmarion,

“Now “not automatically damned” has a narrow and a broad interpretation.”

Not really. It could have a lot of interpretations actually. But, and the OP can chime in to correct either of us, I think he was just making certain necessary distinctions to correct a misunderstanding of the teaching.

“The broad one, which most Catholics in this country probably hold, is that at most a Protestant (say) is only in formal, not material, heresy, and is thus not outside God’s grace unless he had a full and exhaustive understanding of Catholic teaching and fully and definitively rejected it.”

Maybe, but I’d also say there are a lot of variations to that “side”. Some are full on indifferentists, some quite a bit less so. Small point, formal heresy is the one you are fully culpable for, material is the “accidental” one but that was probably just a typo on your part.

“Functionally, this is a sort of mild indifferentism, or as Rev. Timothy on the Simpsons said, “As long as they’re Christians.”

If they are making the distinctions between formal and material heresy, they aren’t going to just say, “As long as they’re Christians.”

“The narrow interpretation–which I assume you hold–would say that “invincible ignorance” would apply only to someone who’d never even heard of the Church, or who had psychological impediments (mental illness, retardation, etc.) that prevented them from being able to grasp that the Church claims to be the One True Faith and seek it out (and under this logic, even if you disbelieve the Church’s claims, you still are culpably responsible for at least learning about them and responding to them).”

But you paint way too broad of a stroke with that. What you are describing is more of a Feeneyite interpretation, but it is not the only “strict” interpretation. On this matter, I would agree with Bl. Pius IX and say that, quite frankly, we do not know the extent of invincible ignorance or precisely how it applies and to whom. We cannot read souls and we should not go so far as to say who in particular is invincibly ignorant and who is not because I just don’t know and cannot know.

“In a nutshell, the narrow interpretation would be that heretics and apostates, as well as non-Catholics and non-Christians in general, are in most cases most likely damned. There are exceptions, but they’re probably few.”

I’d say it in a different way, you oversimplify it too much. We know, by Divine and Catholic Faith, that the Catholic Church is the One True Church outside of which there is no salvation. The Church has constantly and consistently taught that it is necessary for salvation, anyone who is saved is saved through the Church as the Church was established by Christ as the one conduit for grace that He Himself won for us on the cross. Putting oneself outside of this one Church (as formal heresy or apostasy objectively does) will lead to damnation unless that sin is properly forgiven (either by ordinary means of sacramental confession or extraordinary means of a perfect act of contrition in extremis) before death. Baptism has also been constantly taught as being necessary for salvation, as one enters the Church through it and all sins (Original as well as intentional ones committed after the age of reason is reached) are remitted by it. Thus, it merely stands to reason that if a person is not a Christian (i.e. not baptized) they will not be saved unless the grace of baptism is supplied through conversion and water baptism or through extraordinary means in extremis. As the Council of Florence taught, even just unremitted Original Sin damns a person.

“Most Christians, Catholic or otherwise, hold the broad interpretation above, which is in a phrase, “Most good people go to heaven regardless of creed.” A very large minority, though, hold that most non-Christians, as well as most Christians of the wrong sort, go to hell. Yes, none of us knows; but as to opinion, we’re in one camp or the other.”

But you run roughshod over all the necessary distinctions and lines of reasoning and as such, your gross binary distinction is all but worthless. No, I’m not in one camp or the other because I cannot sign off on something so lacking in proper accuracy.

“My point was that the commenter seemed to be taking for granted that most people hold the broad view and that any who hold the narrow view are kooks and outliers.”

But that isn’t what he said. Again, he’s welcome to chime in at any moment to say what he did indeed mean.

“I will apologize over dragging your wife into it–that’s not really fair, and I what you say above in that regard is true. I did take you as saying, when you originally brought that up, is that her being a Methodist is an extra strike against her (not the words you used, but I think it’s a fair representation). I have to admit that that’s opaque to me; but whatever. I think your overall perspective is morally and theologically appalling (as no doubt you think of mine); but in the future I’ll keep personal relationships out of it, since that was really out of bounds.”

It is a strike against her, but the only thing I take exception to was the scare quotes as if what I believe is so beyond the pale that someone cannot even imagine such a thing. I can imagine and even understand why people believe a lot of things they believe even if I find them ludicrous-its really not that hard to do!

#16 Comment By dominic1955 On July 29, 2015 @ 11:49 pm

Reinhold,

“It’s been a while since I read Augustine’s anti-Pelagian writings, but the reason most Catholics might ‘deny’ that he was a Calvinist is because his intent was to avoid the opposite extreme of Pelagianism, that being proto-Calvinist predestination, and to advance something known as ‘compatibilism,’ as summarized in Augustine’s statement that the will has to freely submit to the the grace that God offers it. Of course, some have pointed out that nothing in Augustine’s work suggests that the will to receive God’s grace is NOT itself God-given; so there’s the issue of, as you say, the will itself submitting only because God has granted you the inclination, raising the specter of predestination all over again. The scholarly literature on Augustine is somewhat interesting, split between those who defend his compatibilism and those who think, as you do, that he affirmed full predestination.”

The main problem with trying to shoehorn St. Augustine into being a Calvinist is, well, all the rest of his writing. I think the Jansenists had a much better claim to St. Augustine than the Calvinists ever did because of his understanding of the Sacraments and, well, the fact that he was Bishop of Hippo and in communion with the Roman See.

But, as is usual, they focus in laser like on his writings on predestination and grace. Without the wider context, sure, I can see why some would try to say that St. Augustine was a Calvinist but without the wider context, such claims are wildly irresponsible. I would think they are also fairly pointless-who said that whoever can claim St. Augustine somehow therefore has the authority to be the Real Church? Who says St. Augustine, doctor of the Church as he is, is even THAT important? The Calvinists and Jansenists grasp at St. Augustine-and to what end?

They also fail to see a rather obvious issue-when Pelagianism is the heresy du jour for St. Augustine so it does make a lot of sense that he’s going to be hammering against it and hard. Also, much like St. Thomas Aquinas and the Immaculate Conception, he doesn’t have the advantage of the Church formally declaring a “side” as the correct understanding of the doctrine. Other than that Pelagianism is heretical, the precise nature of grace and salvation and all that was not all hammered down. St. Augustine was doing the theological work, which was later built on and refined.

Same thing happened with St. Athanasius. He hammered the Arians (his heresy du jure) and this focus in response to this rising heresy was the groundwork for the Christological debates to come. However, his theology of the nature of Christ is necessarily embryonic to some degree such that later heretics/stubborns (Monophysites I believe) could latch onto his defense of Christ’s divinity as an end and not a starting point. In defending the divinity of Christ, he had no intention of destroying or downplaying the humanity.

#17 Comment By Captain P On July 30, 2015 @ 1:12 am

It’s nice (although funny in a thread about a statue of Baphomet) to hear some cordial discussion of Augustine and his relationship to Calvinism and predestination. I’d just like to point out that Augustine didn’t invent that doctrine out of whole cloth- he was synthesizing themes from Pauline epistles, particularly Romans.

Notably, Paul said in Romans 7:18 “I know that no good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh.” “Flesh,” of course, is the antithesis of the Holy Spirit in Paul’s formulation, so what he means is that without the Holy Spirit, there is no good in him. Now, all we Christians agree that Paul wrote the truth. So, if even Paul’s nature did not have anything good in it separately from the Spirit, he was “totally depraved” – i.e., there was nothing in him free from the effects of sin.

Really, the whole book of Romans and parts of Ephesians, as well as even parts of the Old Testament (particularly Ezekiel) give strong grounds for the doctrine. The fact that it has widely been ignored by the churches does not make it heresy.

#18 Comment By TB On July 30, 2015 @ 7:58 am

Devil Statue Is No Joke
______________

“The duty of comedy is to correct men by amusing them.” -Moliere

#19 Comment By Turmarion On July 30, 2015 @ 10:14 am

dominic1955, I was not trying to write a theological treatise (the comment was still way longer than I intended), and I was writing on the fly (hence the inadvertent mix-up between formal and material heresy, which I do indeed understand). Yes, there are oodles of distinctions I could have made, and of which I’m aware, but once more, I was writing broadly, not writing a textbook.

Put it like this: You have in the past said that you tend to be OK with the massa damnata theory. It sounds kind of like you’re walking it back here, but maybe I misunderstood you either back some time ago, or now. If your opinion is that the vast majority of mankind is damned (regardless of what we know, which is little, or of what we may hope), then I disagree, even on non-universalist grounds. If your perspective is more agnostic, then I can’t object to that. After all, what we don’t know far exceeds what we know.

[T]he only thing I take exception to was the scare quotes as if what I believe is so beyond the pale that someone cannot even imagine such a thing.

One can in an abstract way imagine why so-and-so believes X, and the logic that brought him there without emotionally grasping it. Upthread Siarlys notes the problems that Aristotle caused, and I’d add this interesting article right here at TAC. My point is that faith is not completely or even mostly about syllogisms and logic. The word “heart” in Hebrew indicates the whole mental and emotional makeup of man.

So for example, I can understand the logic whereby a Carthaginian couple would sacrifice their child in time of emergency. I can understand why they’re doing it, to an extend. Emotionally, though, it’s just inconceivable. I think of my own daughter, and I can’t even begin to see how someone could do that to his own daughter or son.

Likewise, I understand, theologically and philosophically, the rationale whereby the most exteriorly good, loving, noble, and morally excellent person can nevertheless go to Hell merely because he/she is not baptized or is a heretic or apostate or belongs to the wrong Christian church. I have to say that in terms of really emotionally grasping such a view, that indeed is beyond the pale to me. Totally opaque. Just makes no sense except logically, which is the least important way, really.

Now of course you’d probably dismiss me as a squish prone to getting the vapors over the least bit of nastiness; and I could say you’re a coldly clinical “code fetishist” (see the Alan Jacobs article above); but calling names doesn’t prove anything. It’s just the genetic fallacy. I think that our feelings–which God gave us and which are an integral part of us–tell us things that all the philosophy and theology in the world can’t. Le coeur a ses raisons, and all that. That doesn’t mean we are slaves to our feelings, or that we sometimes don’t have to override them or do or believe things we don’t like–reality is very harsh. Still, I don’t think in cases like this that “Oh, you just think that because it makes you feel bad” is necessarily a valid argument. Sometimes our deepest intuitions and feelings–not the roiling surface emotions–are more accurate than all the philosophy and theology on Earth.

In any case, I’ll leave it at that. We must agree to disagree.

#20 Comment By grumpy realist On July 30, 2015 @ 11:17 am

From what I’ve read, a heck of a lot of what Augustine cobbled together was in a frantic attempt to provide some form of spiritual support to the Christian church since the Imperial Christianity concept was shot down with the sack of Rome.

The City of God concept–brilliant argument, but reading it makes me think of a post-facto Monday-morning quarterback rationalization saying yes you got your ass kicked in a football game but only physically, while spiritually you actually won over the other team…

#21 Comment By KD On July 30, 2015 @ 11:29 am

Siarlys Jenkins, I wrote:

“If we look at the human being as divided between Reason/Logos, and the Passions/Pathos, the unrestrained passions seem to be doing pretty well for themselves in the modern period. Further, many people reject the existence of the Logos altogether.

Hell, the so-called partisans of “Reason” today are their best advocates! They are slaves to forces they don’t even acknowledge, and they can’t even conceive of what true freedom might taste like!”

There is nothing in what I wrote that denigrate the true principle of Reason, or the authority of Reason. On the contrary, I am attempting to point out what is often extolled as “Reason” today is nothing more than houses of cards built on a mud flat.

As far as the need to believe in demons, I am trying to suggest that what used to be understood as demonic has been displaced by mental health categorization. You may not need to believe in demons if you believe in mental illness (you can see Thomas Szazs’s writings if you want the deconstruction). All we have done is shifted from a personalized metaphor to a de-personalized medical metaphor. You are still using concepts to talk about the same phenomenon–its not like mental illness is “really” a physical disease, because it is diagnosed based on anti-social or self-destructive behaviors, not anatomy.

But remember, the germ model of medicine is itself related to demonology. Greek doctors in Antiquity rejected out of hand anything like a germ theory of illness because it was too much like demons (which only the ignorant believed in a Classical times). After all, you have an external agent causing illness, and the Greeks believed it was inner imbalance.

What is the difference between a germ and a demon when you think about it? [I suppose, a demon is granted a higher level of cognitive function.]

As far as demonic influence and possession, difference between natural and supernatural rests on our willingness, consciously or unconsciously, to open ourselves to influences (sources of inspiration). Some people can open themselves almost completely, a kind of trance state, which often leads to behavior in which someone does not “act like themselves”. But it is all voluntary, demons have only the power we give them.

Thus, it relates to how we conceptualize the psyche, which is of course, not scientific or empirical.

#22 Comment By KD On July 30, 2015 @ 11:56 am

If you have someone who has a clear personality, and they fall into a trance, and begin behaving in ways different from their ordinary behavior, the natural thing is to view this as the habitation by a different person.

We can invoke an “unconscious” [and where is that located?], but the point is the external observe notes behavioral changes, they don’t have insight into the “unconscious”. Moreover, these behavioral enactments typically follow pre-existing cultural and social scripts, so my unconscious is your unconscious, there is intersubjectivity. So I am inclined to go with the demon concept as the natural one, however perverse this is to a modernist. But I can say almost the same things in the language of modern psycho-babble, “unconscious disturbance” blah blah.

Demonic possession is simply a label we put on behaviors. If you don’t want to use the label, fine, but that is no more “rational” than someone who does want to use the label.

Demonic temptation relates to a language of inner experience, so there is no scientific language here.

The comparative sociology is between a inner-directed man (based on conformity to conscience) versus an outer-directed man (based on conformity to social norms). The inner-directed person uproots the demonic influences and is thereby capable of true, dispassionate reason.

If you look at Freud and the mental health establishment, it is in large part about demonizing the inner directed person, and replacing it with an outer-directed person managed by experts. Politically, this is the shift from classical liberalism to either totalitarian social engineering or the modern liberal therapeutic managerial state. Demons in the past related to inner experience, inner temptation, that one overcomes. They were not human beings. Demons today are people, the non-conformists who resist the fruits of progress. You see this in both Nazism and Communism and the enemies of the SJW’s.

#23 Comment By Eamus Catuli On July 30, 2015 @ 1:05 pm

Demonic possession is simply a label we put on behaviors. If you don’t want to use the label, fine, but that is no more “rational” than someone who does want to use the label.

Really? I thought it was a causal theory, not just an alternative label. If I say that someone is behaving the way he does because he’s a space alien from the planet Remulon, is that also just a label? Seems to me I’m making an argument — and almost certainly a wrong one — about why it’s happening.

#24 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On July 30, 2015 @ 1:24 pm

KD, I grant that you put the word “Reason” in quotation marks. But I think you know that there are those, mostly Protestant, who believe “That sounds like human reasoning” is sufficient argument to dismiss any postulate offered by an opponent. You should be a bit more clear on whether you believe “Reason” to be a house of cards built on a mud flat, or whether you find the concept being mis-used by advocates who don’t know the difference.

As for demonic possession, I don’t claim to know there is no such thing. I haven’t experienced it. Possibly that is because I live in a manner that does not attract demonic attention, or possibly by the grace of God who knows I couldn’t handle it, or possible because there is no such thing.

As it happens, I am a skeptic of the field of psychiatry. I am most of all skeptical of any field that in essence requires a baseline of how people “should” think in order to define deviations from that norm as a “psychiatric disorder.” There are some reasonably defined clinical biochemical conditions that cause the mind to be disordered. The fact that a patient meticulously takes their medicine because it helps them be themselves, rather than making them into a zombie, is an important distinction (and one that I’ve had to observe recently in my own family).

To either say “Don’t listen to the doctors, they don’t have faith,” or “There are no demons, this must be a diagnosable mental illness,” fall short of being 100 percent reliable. This means one should be very restrained about compelling any course of treatment, spiritual or medical.

#25 Comment By Franklin Evans On July 30, 2015 @ 1:50 pm

[8] at least to me. Ahem. 🙂

KD, I’m right with you in principle, though I don’t follow you as closely into your socio-political extension.

I do wish to expand one principle in my own words: whether we use “demon” to represent an external entity, or demote it to metaphorical implications, it works both rhetorically and logically.

I do like your use of (and how you used) intersubjectivity. It captures my point about the denigration of subjectivity in our present context.

Movie spoiler alert…

Eamus, the climactic ending of the movie “The Howling” features the transformation of a woman into a werewolf on live broadcast TV. It serves not as a rebuttal of your point — ’cause fiction is not real life — but as a caution. People will routinely reject the evidence of their senses, in this hypothetical scenario because it simply cannot be believed. We are at an impasse, my friend, and should the opportunity arise for me to invoke such evidence on-demand, chances are excellent that I will decline to cooperate.

#26 Comment By Reinhold On July 30, 2015 @ 2:27 pm

dominic1955, I largely agree with what you wrote. I was trying to give a Calvinist on this thread an idea why Catholics might resist Augustine being called a proto-Calvinist, due to his clear, though nonetheless confused, attempt at compatibilism. Even if you just focus only on the anti-Pelagian writings, it’s not so much hammering on predestination as it is trying to walk a very delicate line between free will and full predestination. You get lines about how God doesn’t bend the will of His own accord, but just floods the heart with mercy until the free will gives in, and so on. So I think it’s a mixed picture even just in those writings themselves.

#27 Comment By Peterk On July 30, 2015 @ 3:16 pm

might I suggest Fr. Malachi Martin’s book “Hostage to the Devil”. This book kept me up all night. finished it in one reading. if after reading it you don’t believe that evil exists in this world then you are part of that evil

#28 Comment By Dr. Diprospan On July 30, 2015 @ 3:48 pm

I would commented on the topic this way: good and evil – two different sides of the same coin. Do not rush to do good and the evil won’t be.
Kind Americans want to do good for the whole world, that’s why so much evil revealed itself on the planet. But while America has David Blaine, the country may not be afraid of Satan and witches practicing voodoo.
One day, David visited Haiti to understand the situation on the ground:

#29 Comment By PMMDJ On July 30, 2015 @ 3:49 pm

“So much of conservatism is built on this silly notion that the world is out to oppress conservative Christians. The idea that real Satanists are out there just feeds that narrative that the world is out to get them, meaning they can hardly help freaking out and calling even more attention to Satanists.

“Satanists turn conservative disingenuousness over on itself. As the court found, the original decision to put the Ten Commandments statue up at the Capitol was a direct attempt by conservative Christians to suggest state endorsement of Christianity, which directly contradicts the state constitution’s ban on using public money to push religion.”

-full story [9]

#30 Comment By KD On July 30, 2015 @ 4:17 pm

Eamus:

“Really? I thought it was a causal theory, not just an alternative label. If I say that someone is behaving the way he does because he’s a space alien from the planet Remulon, is that also just a label? Seems to me I’m making an argument — and almost certainly a wrong one — about why it’s happening.”

Read Hume. There are no causes in nature.

Read the Law. There is the “but-for” cause (secondary cause) and there is the “proximate cause”, the agent responsible for the conduct. Of course, liability can be proportionate to the fault of agents, etc.

Guess what the law recognizes? The insanity defense, when the will of the agent is “overpowered” by mental illness.

Guess where the “insanity defense” originated: Ecclesiastical law, trying to get around forfeiture of estates of suicides, supposed something along the lines of demonic possession, madness, as a way of getting widows and children of suicides their money. [Madness has always been the work of demons historically.]

The whole problem of criminal law, for a committed naturalist, is that if the human organism (the whole) can be reduced/explained by the actions of the parts (e.g. naturalistic account of cells/molecules, etc. behaving mechanically in accordance with the laws of physics and chemistry), then the agent disappears, drops out altogether, as do, of course, all social norms. [You can’t have a law without a law breaker.]

You have a wind up clock, you can destroy it in gas chambers, you can put it in re-education camps until it keeps time like the regime, but you can’t blame it for its actions, that is mean and unenlightened.

On the other hand, if you have an agent, then you imagine that what can override an agent can only be construed as another agency [not naturalistic]. Of course, nothing to say big pharma can’t manipulate the body of the agent, and change behavior, anymore than you can’t change the fuel injection on a car and change its driving characteristics.

Bottom line, the war against demons is not a war against supernatural agencies, it is a war against agency and free will, and a war against English Common Law and Constitutional Due Process norms.

#31 Comment By KD On July 30, 2015 @ 4:23 pm

Short article from psychology today on the genealogy of madness:

[10]

#32 Comment By KD On July 30, 2015 @ 4:33 pm

Eamus Catuli:

I am sorry, we are forced to admit “apparent agency” that gets taken over by “apparent other-agency” causing real “other behavior”.

Of course, don’t ask how you distinguish an “apparent” or “illusory” cause from a “real” cause. If you look at English usage, you can’t generally have an illusion or an appearance unless you first have a “real thing” that the appearance or illusion resembles.

If no such “real thing” exists with respect to agency, then “apparent” is surplusage, yes?

#33 Comment By KD On July 30, 2015 @ 4:44 pm

Spinoza’s God/Nature conflation stems directly from his mechanistic metaphysics. There can be no efficient causes in nature, as nature has no independent agency. The only efficient cause is the coming-into-being of the machine (thus, the God) and the machine (nature), which has to be the way it is by necessity (eternal and immutable in some sense).

Even throwing random quantum variation into the mix, there are still no efficient causes in nature if take naturalism/reductionism seriously. Moreover, if you rule out of court “how the contingent/random universe came into being”, then you don’t even have God as an efficient cause.

So go out and shot some people you don’t like in the name of science–its not your fault anyways–and plead the insanity defense. Or read Clarence Darrow’s closing in the Leopold and Loeb trial.

#34 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On July 30, 2015 @ 4:49 pm

Eamus,

I don’t know if you’re asking serious questions here, but I’ll assume you are. I’m not going to read through the entirety of a depressing thread, but here’s where I’m coming from.

1) I have zero doubt that the devil and his angels exist, any more than I doubt that Jesus Christ was God. My Christianity is not of a particularly orthodox variety, but the direction of my heresy is in the direction of the gnostics, which is to say that I think that Orthodox Christianity underestimates the power of supernatural evil and the demonic, not that it overestimates it. Some of the gnostics believed that the devil created the physical world, and while I wouldn’t go so far as that, as someone who studies the natural world and is aware of how brutal, cruel and wasteful nature is, it’s hard not to think they had a point.

First off, that a particular belief might lead to unpleasant consequences (witch trials, etc.) isn’t an argument against the truth of the belief. There are lots of things which are unpleasant, but also true. I believe in the devil and his demons for several reasons: that Jesus personally spoke with the devil and spoke about him as a real person, that we have lots of other firsthand accounts, that the existence of natural and moral evil (to the degree that we see them) necessitates a supernatural source, and perhaps most importantly that it makes logical sense to me that there are more than one supernatural agency in the world, and that if they have free will, some of them would logically have chosen evil. None of that is affected by the existence of things like witch trials, child exorcisms, etc., one way or the other.

Why don’t the devils show themselves more often? Beats me (you could say the same of God), but I would guess that part of the reason is that Jesus came to earth and died for us, and that since then they are fighting a rearguard action. I have no doubt that before the Incarnation, the devil and his legions intervened more directly in human affairs. I think now they do so indirectly. The remarks on this thread to the effect of ‘militarism is the real evil, not the devil’ are really pretty funny. What do you think is the ultimate source behind things like militarism, greed, Nazis, etc.?

As for witch trials, I’d say first of all, that in the grand scheme of Christian history, they were a fairly trivial sideshow, and I don’t think they detract from the existence of the devil any more than the Moscow Trials detract from Marxism. For most of its existence, the Catholic Church flatly denied the existence of witchcraft. (They gave in in response largely to popular pressure from the grassroots in the early modern era). That isn’t to say that demons don’t exist: it’s to say that I don’t think there is strong positive evidence for the idea (and there’s a lot of logical reasons to disbelieve it) that people can control them and use them to wreak havoc. I’m sure the devils wreak lots of havoc, but I doubt that magicians can summon them up and control them. Even if they could, it would be nearly impossible to determine when such things were really happen. The devil isn’t a tame lion, any more than God is. I don’t think the state should be in the business of rewarding saints, nor in the business of punishing sorcerers.

Given that, what should we do about the devil? I don’t think there’s a lot we can do, or should do: supernatural evil is going to do evil regardless of anything we do, and all we can do is trust that Jesus has won the ultimate victory. But we can certainly start by avoiding deliberately consorting with evil entities, or by invoking them by name.

[NFR: All I will say here is boy, I hope you make it to St. Francisville one day. I cannot wait to spend some long nights around the table talking with you. — RD]

#35 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On July 30, 2015 @ 5:04 pm

Johan’s argument here is really hilarious: “Most educated Europeans don’t believe in the devil! Why don’t you share the prejudices of your tribe?”

Most Europeans don’t seem to believe in GMO crops either, which is almost as dumb as disbelieving in the devil. Generally, I feel like people should make up their own minds based on the evidence and on appropriate Bayesian priors, not simply swallow the prejudices of the tribe. If Johan and others have evidence or arguments against the existence of the devil, I’d be interested (well, not really, but marginally) to see them. TLDR: “what most people [I know] believe” is not an argument.

#36 Comment By Eamus Catuli On July 30, 2015 @ 8:14 pm

People will routinely reject the evidence of their senses, in this hypothetical scenario because it simply cannot be believed.

True, Franklin; I just want the demons to get out there and try a little harder, though. I don’t think they’re really giving 110%. Maybe it’s not their fault, maybe it’s bad coaching.

#37 Comment By Eamus Catuli On July 30, 2015 @ 8:24 pm

Also, you know, it might be that any one visible demo of the demons’ power wouldn’t do it, that it might take several in succession or take some time to sink in. But people can have their minds changed. Anyone with any education knows that the earth goes around the sun — it’s common knowledge now — even though almost no one has any evidence from personal observation on this that’s any different from the evidence people had in 1400. But influential people found the reasoning for it persuasive, schools began to teach it, and over the course of a few generations it came to be taken for granted. Likewise, I think a succession of people turning into werewolves on TV, or on every third street corner, would eventually start to impress even the most jaded among us.

#38 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On July 30, 2015 @ 10:36 pm

I’ve been meaning to say for a few days now, whether there really is a devil or not, whether Satan is that devil or not, that statue in Detroit is a pathetic joke. Its a badly done anthropomorphic bit of bric-a-brac. If there is a devil seeking those he can devour, he’s laughing his head off over this image.

#39 Comment By Eamus Catuli On July 30, 2015 @ 10:50 pm

@Hector:

First off, that a particular belief might lead to unpleasant consequences (witch trials, etc.) isn’t an argument against the truth of the belief. There are lots of things which are unpleasant, but also true.

Thanks, but I’m not sure why you’re telling me that; it’s not something I would ever question. Irenist, I think, gave what are probably the best answers (from the side of “believers”) to the questions I actually did raise. You might want to read just that exchange if not the whole thread.

#40 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On July 31, 2015 @ 12:47 am

Eamus,

Irenist gave a good responses, to which I would ‘concur in part, dissent in part’, but I wanted to chip in too. I think people often confuse belief in the devil with belief in witchcraft, which are separate things. Like I said, for more than half of its twenty centuries of existence, the Roman Catholic Church explicitly denied witches and witch trials (while of course accepting the existence of demons and the Devil).

#41 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On July 31, 2015 @ 12:49 am

RD,

I would love to! I plan to be at the ESA meeting in New Orleans in 2015, but hopefully I’ll come before that. I’d love to try cooking a dinner together with you and Julie. If you have okra on hand, we can cook it South Indian style!

#42 Comment By TB On July 31, 2015 @ 8:18 am

“Augustine even thought that unbaptized children go to hell.”
_______________

That he did.
It is this deeply internalized self-loathing Christianism and Islam perpetuate that I find so very unnatural and degrading to the human condition. The original sin of the secondary Abrahamic religions is Original Sin.
The “devil” is just a projection of our fear engendered by our self-hatred. These “Satanists” are only holding up the mirror for us. That’s why they so frighten us.