the devil made me do it


I’ll admit that the world is a crazy place that seems to be full of evil that is typically ascribed to the temptations of Satan, Lucifer, Baphomet, or the legions of beings of other names which describe the devil and his minions. Off and on over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been researching the origins of this idea of evil and have come to the conclusion that the devil as a tempter just doesn’t exist.

I believe that evil is very real, but it arises not from an external source, but from mankind itself.

I know that this will be a very unpopular idea. There is a certain comfort in believing that evil originates from outside of us, but I think this belief is a denial of our responsibility for our parts in making this world as dysfunctional as it is. We humans are tenacious believers that we are the “good guys,” no matter how many gyrations we must do to justify what we do. The other day on the radio, a researcher said that the more creative a person is, the more likely he (or she) will tend to see himself as one of the “white hats,” even if he should have holes cut in the hat for horns. Anyway, how else could opposing sides in a war all believe God is on their side and against the enemy?

Lest you think that I am not a believer in God, I believe that the deity exercises a kind of benign neglect towards all creation. “Good” and “evil” are human concepts, not divine. We want to divide the world into pure light and dark, but the reality is that all vision depends on highlights and shadow.

As bad as I know the outside world is, I just don’t see it here. I spend week after week in seclusion, and I believe I am as quarantined from evil here as I am quarantined from disease. Sure, we have bad things in the vicinity such as rattlesnakes and scorpions, but they are only bad when these creatures come into contact with me or my dogs and I find them to be inconvenient to my purposes. Nature has no principles; it makes no distinction between good and evil. If I weren’t in the picture, these creatures would be just fine.

Mountain lions have killed visitors, but it is the visitors who are trespassing in territories the lion considers his. We have had people murdered in the Big Bend, but it is usually human scumbags that kill or hurt others as a matter of free choice. I have even heard accounts of people who have committed ritual murders to “please” the devil, but it is most likely these heinous acts simply satisfy the perpetrators’ perverted and delusional ideas.

It is a simple question of being where you are safe and far from animals and people and phenomena of nature that are likely to hurt you.

As I mentioned in a recent post, the belief in the devil arose with the belief in monotheism. The only way that our ancestors could reconcile evil with an “all-powerful-and-good deity” was to adopt a belief in an “all-bad entity” who was conceived as a “fallen angel”—a sub-god—and thus avoid belief in a co-equal, dualistic god of evil such as believed in by the Zoroastrians.

Zoroastrianism was founded by the Prophet Zoroaster (or Zarathustra) in ancient Iran approximately 3,500 years ago. Ahura Mazda, the all-good god was counterbalanced by Aura Mainyu, the god of evil. Some scholars believe that key concepts of Zoroastrian eschatology and demonology influenced the Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. It was certainly similar to a belief in the devil among those religions.

In any event, “good” and “evil” are not objective truth, but subjective. As Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn has written, “The battle line between good and evil runs through the heart of every man.”

Yet this battle line is tremendously important, not only to ourselves but to others—perhaps many others. M. Scott Peck writes: “The whole course of human history may depend on a change of heart in one solitary and even humble individual—for it is in the solitary mind and soul of the individual that the battle between good and evil is waged and ultimately won or lost.”
The sad truth is that it is easier for me to live a good life out here than it is for someone who has remained in the outer world and all its distractions and temptations. It is simply a matter of deciding to be good, and there are no countervailing forces out here which encourage me to decide otherwise. Most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil.

4 Responses to “the devil made me do it”

  1. August 16, 2015 at 12:53 pm

    Excellent post, Dan. Your title applies perfectly to a sad story who takes place in Wisconsin, involving two 13 year old girls with very serious mental concerns. Here you will find a link to the latest developments of this story who started more than one year ago.

  2. 2 Erik Roth
    August 17, 2015 at 6:39 pm

    I do agree and commend as well said, certainly that all responsibility lies with ourselves, personally.

    Yet the phenomena of forces in Nature, within and without us, are more than meets the eye, to put it over-simply.

    Consider this, probably put forth with a wry twinkle in that eye: “If the devil doesn’t exist… how do you explain that some people are a lot worse than they’re smart enough to be?” ~ Wendell Berry, “Jayber Crow”

    • August 17, 2015 at 7:06 pm

      There is a saying that God never gives us more than we can handle. This is nonsense.

      Some people, many people, fail despite their Herculean efforts. Is this the work of the devil? I don’t think so.

      Before I published this post, I asked my housekeeper if she thought there was a natural evil in this place. She promptly told me of having gotten a flat tire from a sharp stone in the road. At the time, she cursed this land as “evil,” but the place had no special intention to target her tire for puncture. She was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.

      Shit happens and sometimes you’re killed by a landslide or a falling branch.

      • 4 matt
        August 18, 2015 at 8:00 am

        Wait, Dan, are you forgetting that I too had a flat tire there? And then there’s the mysterious matter of Max’s missing tail? Hmm!

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