God and the Devil

Some brief thoughts on God and the Devil for the end of winter.

I’ve always thought of the devil as much more interesting than God. This opinion goes back to my earliest childhood memories. This is not to say, however, that I am a devil worshipper, or even a supporter of that nefarious fellow. It’s just that I find him much more interesting to read and talk about than God. Let’s face it, God is kind of boring, at least the way he’s re-presented to us by religion. I’m not interested in perfect entities; I’m interested in flaws, broken spirits, broken bodies, and sin. Sin is seductive, whereas God’s love is, well I’m not sure what it is since I don’t have it.

I spent nearly five years as an alter boy at St. Mary of the Assumption Church in my hometown. For much of that time I fully intended to become a priest. I remember that my brother and I would play church in our bedroom (we shared a room). I would play the priest and he the alter boy. I used to take some water from the sink and perform the turning of the water into wine. My brother was a faithful alter boy and I was happy in my role as a chosen man of God. Now, many years later, I look on those moments with an odd mixture of nostalgia and horror. It seems to me now that had I chosen another path I would have made a perfect cult leader rather than a priest.

At some point the role of the bad guys began to appeal to me. I started to ask for more monsters and less heroes for Christmas and birthdays. I sided with Darth Vader in Star Wars (the original movie) and a host of other bad guys. My favorite childhood superhero was not Superman or Spiderman, but the Hulk, a misunderstood monster. One of my favorite films was Planet of the Apes, and I loved the apes and hated Charlton Heston. I never once dressed up as a hero for Halloween, but as devils, Dracula, and even an ape from Planet of the Apes. (I do have a picture of myself at the age of three or four dressed up as Batman, but even Batman’s status as a “hero” is suspect.)

The devil was something else. I was curious about him, but also scared of him. I blame my religion for putting an unnecessary fear into the mind of child. If God is good, and God created all things, then he created the devil too. Therefore, the devil cannot be all that bad, just misunderstood. Sure, Lucifer led a revolt of angels against God, but God also asked Abraham to sacrifice his son to test his love. If that’s not evil I don’t know what is. With God it’s all about “Me,” but with the devil we get a sense of equal opportunity.

God has somehow managed to stay on top, but the devil is always right behind him. Why humans do the things they do may have much more to do with the devil than God, and because of that assumption, the devil becomes the much more interesting concept. We remember Iago more than Othello, Grendel more than Beowulf, Saddam more than George Bush Sr. Evil is provocative, whereas pure goodness is anything but. In the end we may have to account for our sins, but while we live it’s a much more interesting world with the devil running around loose.

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