Just about everyone has heard the phrase “the devil made me do it” as an excuse for bad behavior.
Yet as Canadian author James R. Brayshaw points out, “I was shocked to learn that the simplest reading of passages that undergird Christianity’s doctrine of Satan had nothing to do with a supernatural entity who aims his evil arrows our way. After publishing my first book on the topic, said Brayshaw I began to aim my arrows at the false doctrines of the Church. Not at the wonderful people that go to these buildings he added, but rather at the errors and inconsistencies.”
This reporter had the opportunity to speak with Brayshaw. And, he noted that what many people don’t realize is that the depiction of the devil that is so familiar in our western culture is really a pagan invention, adopted and incorporated into Christianity over time. As some scholars, like Herbert C. Brichto point out the Jewish concept of Sheol was what most people believed, it was simply a netherworld. Sheol refers to the common grave of humans. It was when the Jewish Scriptures were translated into Greek and Hellenistic culture influenced Jewish culture is when the ideas of Hades and the Greek concept of the underworld became more common.
Brayshaw also noted that in the New Testament the word Satan or devil in Greek actually is “adversary.” In just about all religions around the world, there is some sort of reference to evil.
But the heavy emphasis on the personification of all evil into a person is the work of age-old storytelling, going back centuries. A well-known example of this is the work of Italian-Renaissance poet, Dante Alighieri. Much of his literary imagery comes from pre-Christian and pagan sources, not the Bible.
Another poet by the name of John Milton and his epic poem “Paradise Lost” also lends itself to the religious mind of many in our Judeo-Christian culture. Add in the infamous Witch Trials of Salem, along with all the other “witch burnings” throughout Europe and there it is a frightening depiction of evil at work, “in the air” just about everywhere.
Despite the Age of The Enlightenment, the Scientific Revolution and our current advances in high tech forensic science, religious fundamentalism remains. And, some could argue, it is on the rise. Just recently, The Daily Mail in the United Kingdom reported that Destiny Church leader Brian Tamaki of New Zealand believes that the COVID-19 pandemic is the work of the devil.
The Book of Revelation, commonly referred to as The Apocalypse is another contributor to the ongoing sense by some religious groups that the devil is alive and well. Interestingly, the Book of Revelation is not part of the four Gospels which neither of the four says much about the details of hell. And for that matter not much is said about heaven either.
Only, that heaven is commonly thought of as “Paradise” which in the mind of most Middle Eastern people for ages has implied a garden or an oasis, much like what is mentioned in the Book of Genesis with the garden of Eden.
As far as hell is concerned, Jesus mentions the “fires of Gehenna” which was commonly thought of as like a garbage dump, or a place of purging. Perhaps, that fine line between heaven as a garden and hell as a garbage dump certainly gives reasons to ponder. And, it would certainly emphasis how much our spiritual concepts rely upon what is here on earth, how we live in the here and now and not some “other worldly” spiritual place.
“My wife and I host an internet radio show that deals with all the issues surrounding the existence of Satan,” said Brayshaw. “We’ve seen people experience true freedom from fear and confusion when they learn Satan is not real. One reader put it this way ‘When I stopped believing in Satan demons stopped chasing me.’ Quoted Brayshaw.
He went on to say…”Another listener sent me a note telling how his young son explains to friends that his nightmares are gone because he found out Satan isn’t real. I truly enjoy researching and for those of you who are interested in finding out the truth about Satan I would be happy to share what I’ve learned. Get in touch and I can send you out an e-book for you to begin exploring this thousands year old lie about Satan.”
Brayshaw has a series of books in addition to his podcast. To learn more about him and the information his years of study has brought to light, visit his Imagine No Satan web site.