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Chris Jepson

Columnist Chris Jepson

An apology for the devil: It must be remembered that we have heard only one side of the case. God has written all the books.

—Samuel Butler

I was reading an editorial written by Al Gore in last Sunday's New York Times. He was talking about the climate and, in passing, made a brief observation about hurricanes. It inspired in me the following joke:

An alarmed Floridian breathlessly asked his neighbor if she wanted to hear the good news first or the bad news first concerning the environment.

Thinking this was a joke and not wanting to be the punch line she hemmed and hawed, "Uh, uh, uh, ah jeez, oh, OK, the bad news first!"

"The bad news is they are going to be more intense!"

Puzzled, she asked, "Well, what's the good news then?"

"There's gonna be fewer of 'um!" Hah-Hah!

Hurricanes! Florida is going to have fewer hurricanes but they are going to be more intense and more deadly.

Something to look forward too, huh? Hah-Hah!

Man, Oh, Manischewitz, what is the planet coming to these days!?

Earthquakes, tsunamis, extreme weather, wars, uprisings, violence, rape, pillage. If locusts and plagues show-up, would any of us be surprised?

The devil is afoot, is surely among us. No doubt about it. Satan's been a bad boy of late, not content to merely tempt us with earthly delights (erotically hum a few bars of "I'm in heaven" in your girlfriend's ear), the ol' goat has unleashed a plethora of natural catastrophes of truly biblical proportions.

What a bum rap the devil's been handed. It's all compared to what, isn't it? Consider the quote by Havelock Ellis, "A religion can no more afford to degrade its devil than to degrade its god." When you reflect on that idea you see the infinite logic in it. For a god to be truly "divine," does he not require an equivalent, seductively powerful opponent? For, after all, how would we know "the good" without the option of "the bad?" If goodness were the only choice we were presented as human beings, well, what would be the point of organized religion?

That's a conundrum for me. If God is both omnipotent and omniscient then the evil (devil) in this world is of his making? Correct? But "no," that is not the acceptable explanation for evil.

Epicurus proffered the following:

Is God willing to prevent evil,

but not able?

Then he is not omnipotent.

Is he able, but not willing?

Then he is malevolent.

Is he both able and willing?

Then whence cometh evil?

Is he neither able nor willing?

Then why call him God?

It is hard not to appreciate the logic of Epicurus' assessment of God but on a bad day why not succumb to, "It's all Satan's fault!"

This is what I do not understand (comprehend). The exoneration of God for how things turn out. God establishes the game (life), the rules (biblical exhortations) and the players (us). Everything is of God's making, yet for some inexplicable reason, he is left faultless when things turn out, well, dreary. You're omnipotent, you're omniscient, yet you (God) are "upset" with our (human) choices? Hmmm? God must have planned on being upset right from the git-go knowing full well exactly how beastly the 20th century was going to turn out.

Is Satan not the ultimate fall guy for God? Why not blame it on Satan? "The devil made me do it." The devil as the quintessential "strawman." Consider (reflect). God plays a little three-card monte on us but the real deception is not the deft manipulation of the cards but in presenting Satan as the card dealer. What was that famous line from "The Wizard of Oz"? "Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain." Uh, kids, Satan, poor stooge that he is, is just a bit "character" player, a convenient, toss away explanation, the penultimate scapegoat for how things turn out on Earth.

I recommend that everyone read Mark Twain's unfinished "Letters from the Earth." It is as good a fictionalized account (for after all, what else could there actually be?) of/for Satan's role in this world as any. And you will laugh.

Mark Twain observed, "Satan hasn't a single salaried helper; the Opposition employs a million."

Ironically, or would that be tragically, if I were to identify a truly "satanic" force on the planet, one would have to look no further than organized religion. Example:

Perhaps you have heard of last year's Brazilian medical case of the 9-year-old girl who was repeatedly raped by her stepfather. Let me repeat, a 9-year-old girl is repeatedly raped by her stepfather. She finds herself pregnant with twins (this 9-year-old child) and the girl's mother decides her child will have an abortion and she does. Carol Glatz of the Catholic News Service writes, "After doctors in Recife, Brazil, aborted the twins of the girl, who had been repeatedly raped by her stepfather, Archbishop Jose Cardoso Sobrinho of Olinda and Recife announced the excommunication of the girl's mother and the doctors involved, saying the abortion was "a crime in the eyes of the church."

Don't-cha just love this stuff? The attending doctors had determined that her 9-year-old body was simply not mature enough to safely deliver twins, that this little girl could have died if her pregnancy continued. She was four months along and had been reporting pain. The doctors performed an abortion.

This is what Olimpio Moraes, one of the attending physicians said, as reported by Reuters on March 5, 2009, "As doctors, we could not allow a girl of 9 to suffer like this or until she paid with her own life."

Yet the Catholic Church says this is unacceptable. Let the little-girl-mother suffer, let her die. If "need" be. Abortion is a "crime in the eyes of the church."

Last week, a year after these events in Brazil, the Vatican was embroiled in controversy over this issue as five members of the Vatican's Pontifical Academy for Life called for the resignation of Monsignor Renato Fisichella (the Vatican's top bioethics official) because this priest had defended the doctors and the mother's decision to intervene in order to save the little-girl-mother's life.

We are left with two distinct options.

If Satan is afoot, we have to look no further than who sometimes wears the clerical collar. And, alas, there is a profound rottenness in Denmark (the church)!

Or, an unapologetic, misogynistic priesthood of men locked into a defenseless dogma of sheer insanity and claiming to be the holy spokesmen of the one true God who continue to wreak terror on many of Earth's most vulnerable — it's females.

Which do you prefer as the "logical" explanation?

Poor Satan.