Three Myths About the Devil
by DANIEL CHARLAND
Whether or not someone is a Christian, pretty much everyone knows about the concepts of Heaven and Hell. The most basic understanding is that Heaven is the place where good people go when they die, and Hell is the place where bad people go.
The image of Hell is so strong that it’s been appropriated by popular culture for decades. The concept has often been distorted in the process. Sometimes the distortion happens accidentally or out of ignorance, but sometimes it’s a deliberate twisting of the truth. To clear up a few things, here are three myths about Hell — and its ruler, Satan.
Myth 1: “Satan doesn’t actually exist”.
Some people, even some misinformed theologians, believe the devil doesn’t actually exist. They say he’s merely an artistic depiction of human evil — a projection of the natural sinfulness of man. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Those who believe it have fallen right into Satan’s trap. No one can protect themselves against an enemy if they don’t believe the enemy exists.
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “Behind the disobedient choice of our first parents lurks a seductive voice, opposed to God, which makes them fall into death out of envy. Scripture and the Church’s Tradition see in this being a fallen angel, called “Satan” or the “devil.” The Church teaches that Satan was at first a good angel, made by God. The devil and the other demons were indeed created naturally good by God, but they became evil by their own doing.” (CCC 391)
Myth 2: “Satan is equal in power to God”.
This myth admits the existence of Satan, but says he has as much power as God — that he’s the god of evil, if you will. This is simply not the case. Satan is merely a creature — a very powerful creature to be sure, and one who could easily dominate us were it not for the grace of God. Nonetheless, he is merely a creature. He cannot create like God can, but only corrupt, distort, and mock the things that God has already created.
Again, the Catechism is clear on this point. “The power of Satan is, nonetheless, not infinite. He is only a creature, powerful from the fact that he is pure spirit, but still a creature. He cannot prevent the building up of God’s reign. Although Satan may act in the world out of hatred for God and his kingdom in Christ Jesus, and although his actions may cause grave injuries—of a spiritual nature and, indirectly, even of a physical nature—to each man and to society, the action is permitted by divine providence which with strength and gentleness guides human and cosmic history.” (CCC 395)
Myth 3: “Satan is a heroic rebel”
This myth is the most damaging of all. It is the view taken by many in modern times who openly side with Satan in their religious faith. This faulty view sees God as a tyrannical figure who selfishly desires our service and puts restrictions on us, with cruel punishments if we dare be our “true selves”.
Even political leaders sometimes embrace this concept. Saul Alinsky, in his book “Rules for Radicals” includes a dedication to the “first radical known to man who rebelled against the establishment and did it so effectively that he at least won his own kingdom — Lucifer”.
Lucifer, of course, was Satan’s name before his fall. The incorrectness of this myth is something that needs to be made clear: Satan isn’t on your side. He hates all humans, because we are created in the image of God. God created us out of love, and only wants the best for us. Satan, in contrast, delights in luring people away from God — and depriving them of the happiness of heaven that was intended for them — by working to make them hate God as much as he does.
Hopefully, this column has helped clear up any confusion that you may have had if you ever bought into any of these myths. In this time of cultural turmoil and conflict with God and His Church, it is important for the faithful to understand the truth and not be deceived. May God bless us all.