The Problem of Devil
by Alex Knapp
Fred Clark continues his discussion of Hell by discussing the idea that demons are employees:
Let’s stipulate that the damned are to be tortured for eternity. OK, then, who exactly will be doing the torturing? It seems unseemly to imagine God directly involved, personally poking the gangrenous flesh of sinners with a heavenly pitchfork. And it’s unimaginable that this eternal duty could be delegated to the angels, who desire nothing more than to spend eternity in the presence of God, singing praises. Nor could this task be delegated to the saints. They’re saints, after all, and thus such an assignment would be for them an eternal punishment nearly rivaling that of the souls they would be assigned to torment.
This job, if it must be done, is clearly devils’ work. Only a fiend could carry out such an assignment. Only a demon — a monstrous, soulless, malevolent and wholly unholy creature — could devote itself to eternal torture, unrestrained by mercy, unhampered by revulsion or repugnance.
And thus we come to the paradox of pitchforks. Any creature capable of eternally wounding another creature with a pitchfork lacks the authority to wield that pitchfork, rightfully belonging at the other end of it. The pointy, business end of it.
What the paradox of pitchforks means, of course, is that this enduring bit of folklore doesn’t really work. It doesn’t solve the problem it sets out to solve. It kicks the can a bit down the road, but doesn’t ultimately address the uncomfortable question it arises to deal with, namely the disturbing thought of God’s culpability in this unholy devils’ work.
I find the concept that demons and devils are the mental equivalent of a teddy bear to hide those who believe in Hell from coming to grips with the fact that the God they believe sends people to Hell is also the one doing the torturing. Honestly, I don’t think this is the case for most people.
When you get right down to it, the evolution of Satan from a tempter/trickster figure in the Bible into a majestic figure of evil doesn’t have its roots in this type of psychology. More likely, it has its roots in Zoroastrianism. Zoroaster, the very first prophet of monotheism, taught that all creation came from Ahura Mazda, and no evil came from him. The source of Evil is Ahriman. Both Ahriman and Ahura Mazda have a coterie of supernatural beings that help them in the battle of Good vs. Evil, including the active participation of humans.
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