Friday, August 10, 2012

Devil the scapegoat

Virgin and Child and the 9th commandment, German, Rhine Land c. 1440-50, detail of the stain glass window in Burrell collection.
After reading a bit on the devil I am now sure that it is the ultimate scapegoat. There has always been a ruler of the underworld or an evil god but usually they were part of a bigger reality, monism could acknowledge that evil is a natural and necessary part of life. The devil, it seems, came in to existence the second someone said god is all merciful, god is all good (and happy clappy). Jeffrey Burton Russell describes the devil as the ultimate evil the example he uses to show that ultimate evil is an extract from Brothers Karamazov in which a mother tortures her young child. 
To me this approach seems dangerous because at its roots it rejects the idea that people are selfish and often do bad things to pursue their interests or in the words of Dr Cox from Scrubs:

Another problem is that good and bad are subjective - there is no such thing as universal evil just as there is no such thing as universal justice. Roald Dahl has a short story which depicts the subjectivity of every individual. The story tells about a young woman in labour and as she and her husband try to get to the hospital everything seems to be against them. The reader becomes emotionally involved and with every paragraph more upset with the cruel nature and the unjust world. Then despite the odds the happy ending is pronounced and then the story takes a U turn, I personally started hoping that the child was never born and feeling guilty that I wanted the story to have a happy ending. Everything is subjective and in retrospect somethings that seem great might turn out to be the worst things that happened. Good and evil are just a point of view.
My thesis will never be concerned with what is evil, with what the devil is or is not, yet it does not mean that I do not ponder the question. I myself will probably never be able to summarise an opinion as elegantly as Joseph Campbell in 'The Hero with a Thousand Faces' :
The crux of the curious difficulty lies in the fact that our conscious views of what life ought to be seldom correspond to what life really is. Generally we refuse to admit within ourselves, or within our friends, the fullness of that pushing, self-protective, malodorous, carnivorous, lecherous fever which is the very nature of the organic cell. rather, we tend to perfume, whitewash, and reinterpret; meanwhile imagining that all flies in the ointment, all the hairs in the soup, are the faults of some unpleasant someone else.
or in other words the devil is a by product of human hypocrisy and the inability to accept and embrace our faults. 


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