the tyranny of satan

I rarely listen to the radio anymore, my presets had disappeared, and I couldn’t remember which stations they were, so I was hitting the scan button. “… to escape the tyranny of satan” caught my attention, and I stopped. The commentators were discussing a mass exodus from a faith whose tenets included the belief that all disease and hardship came from satan, and that if you were sick or unfortunate, that you had done something to deserve it. Parishioners would have anxiety attacks whenever something went wrong, afraid to tell anyone for fear they’d be thought of as sinful. Conversely, they also believed that when their pastor had a heart attack at the pulpit and dropped dead right there, that satan had taken him because he was too good. Fortunately for these terrified souls, it’s apparently perfectly acceptable to decide one’s current faith is too stressful and seek out a congregation that interprets the same words from the same god in different ways, so, they did.

Up until this point, it wasn’t really clear that the men speaking were pro-religion at all — in fact it sounded like they were describing the reasons religion is just a really, really bad idea. But then the conversation turned to the glorious, unquestionable perfection of their kindler, gentler version of the almighty. For some reason (remember, these are the free-of-satan’s-tyranny folks), this alleged love was exemplified by none other than Job. They talked about how their sweet lord dished it out and good old Job took it, then chuckled ruefully about Job’s folly when he finally broke down and questioned why god had murdered his children, destroyed his home, and left him destitute. They smugly related how their awesome god put that arrogant so-and-so Job in his place, and how Job finally apologized for his inappropriate outburst of … utter normalcy. And they were completely in favor of all of this (except maybe the normal bit).

They went on — yes, I was still listening, gripped by a horrified fascination as they mused what a great (albeit unknowable) planner that their god was, which led them to the story of a three year old girl in their church who had died recently after three rounds of chemotherapy, and how the mother wrote a lovely tribute … I don’t know how to put this delicately … thanking her god for giving them three years with this child who lived in almost constant pain and medical torture, and for taking her home where she wouldn’t get poked anymore — at which point I may have snapped a little and yell/asked the radio why in the hell would she even think that? If his “gifts” include babies whose lives are so brutal that their short duration is actually a blessing, who’s to say it’s not just a giant poke-fest up there in the clouds?

Even though by this time I knew they were actually preaching *in favor* of religion, and that they were speaking from the perspective of a church where people from *worse* churches came for refuge, the whole show could just as easily been an atheist object lesson on the evils of religious nonsense. Only nonsense is too nice a word; yes, it made no sense, but there was a darker side of it, a deeper evil. The framers of the Judeo-Christian mythology created a system which terrorizes its victims with nothing more than the ordinary ordeals of life, and then cunningly twists it so the injured, the devastated, the bereaved are compelled to pen heartfelt thank-you notes for innocent children’s horrible deaths.

At some point I reached out and smacked the radio button to shut it up.

7 thoughts on “the tyranny of satan

  1. Ah…the infamous Word of Faith Movement. It was also known as the blab it and grab it, name it and claim it sect (that's being polite–I used the word “freaks”).
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Word_of_Faith
    They definitely had some twisted doctrine like if you got cancer it’s because of sin in your life. They kind of backed off of that when the wife of one of the big boys (I can’t remember if it was Kenneth Copeland or Kenneth Hagin) got cancer.
    What time did you tune in? Was it between 3 and 4p.m.? If so, you were probably listening to the Bible Answer Man or Hank Hanegraaff of CRI. http://www.equip.org/
    All I can say is if there is a God you can’t really blame him that some of his people are idiots.

  2. It was actually in the evening, on my way home from work. I usually stream from Last.fm but my phone battery was running low – that'll teach me to go out without a charger!

    It was pretty horrifying. People having panic attacks, terrified of everyday life, running from room to room trying to pray out the demons … that's … that's not as stupid as it is … BATSHIT INSANE.

  3. I suppose it's possible that this kind of theology might have some kind of very limited (and warped) comfort-value — everything that happens is ultimately for the best. In that sense it's like the Hindu belief in reincarnation — all the apparent unfairness of life is ultimately just because it's a punishment or reward for what the individual did in a previous existence.

    But in the same way, it comes at the price of monstrous psychic pain — if you get sick, you must have done something terrible to deserve it. And of course it collapses immediately at the slightest logical analysis, so the believer has to work very hard to avoid noticing any of the illogic in the concept.

    Actually my biggest objection to this kind of thinking is that a world of people who thought this way would be a very passive world. People who think disease is a just punishment will not work to find cures for disease. People who believe suffering serves some purpose of cosmic justice will not work to rid the world of suffering. They will be like Job. They will blather about the dangers of man's hubris in thinking he can change the world, and they will know their place. They will be caterpillars that never become butterflies.

    1. That was exactly the point I wanted to make when I kind of trailed off at the end, because I'm way overworked this week — but yeah, the whole mentality is pointed straight toward lazy-mindedness, what is the motivation to solve problems or improve things if everything is part of some distant, mysterious being's unknowable plan? If it was up to these folks we'd still be living in the bronze age with 35-year average lifespans, but we'd still suck at counting so we'd think it was like, 900 or something (in much the same way as “40 days and 40 nights” was a way of saying, “it was a long time and we lost count but … hey, 40 is a nice number!”)

      I think of it as a passive/aggressive thing, though. More on that later, I need to get to work :)

  4. Also, if Satan punishes people who are bad, doesn't that mean Satan represents justice? Do these people think Satan is God? And if Satan punishes people for being bad, why would he kill the pastor for being good?

    Anyway, I agree with you that in practical terms there's not much difference between the tyranny-of-Satan bunch and the other bunch that was critiquing them. Whether suffering is a just punishment or a blessing in disguise, either way it's just your alloted fate and the proper response is to passively accept it. I prefer people who get off their asses and fight back.

    This is why I take such an interest in medical research — it's basically the human brain telling nature itself “We're stronger than you and we're not taking any more of your crap.”

  5. Here is something even crazier. I know a lot of Christians who believe that the legs of baby lambs used to be broken by shepherds. When the poor lamb was healing, the shephered carried the animal on his back and care for the lamb. This was done in an effort to make the lamb dependent on the shepherd. It is a urban legend. No good shepherd would have done this because, before antibiotics, the lamb might have died from infection or a poorly set leg.

    But a lot of Christians take the story and apply it to God's relationship to them. In other words, if you question God or start doing something he doesn't like, he will cripple you and force you to be dependent on him.

    Do a search on the words, breaking lambs leg and Christian. A lot of people speak about how beautiful the analogy is. Um… no….it is frightening, sick and disturbing.

  6. Here is something even crazier. I know a lot of Christians who believe that the legs of baby lambs used to be broken by shepherds. When the poor lamb was healing, the shephered carried the animal on his back and care for the lamb. This was done in an effort to make the lamb dependent on the shepherd. It is a urban legend. No good shepherd would have done this because, before antibiotics, the lamb might have died from infection or a poorly set leg.

    But a lot of Christians take the story and apply it to God's relationship to them. In other words, if you question God or start doing something he doesn't like, he will cripple you and force you to be dependent on him.

    Do a search on the words, breaking lambs leg and Christian. A lot of people speak about how beautiful the analogy is. Um… no….it is frightening, sick and disturbing.

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