Satan—Is He Real?
DO YOU believe that Satan exists? If so, it seems you are part of a dwindling minority. “By the 1980s belief in the Devil had disappeared except among conservative Catholics, charismatics, conservative Protestants, Eastern Orthodox, Muslims—and a few occultists.” So states the book Mephistopheles—The Devil in the Modern World, by Jeffrey Burton Russell.
Not everyone, though, has stopped believing that Satan is real. “The devil is still alive and at work in the world,” said Pope John Paul II in a recent speech in Italy.
Is the pope correct? If so, Satan is in a good position to do what he wants in the world. If people do not believe in his existence, they will not oppose him. No wonder Cardinal Ratzinger, a foremost Vatican authority on doctrine, stated: “The devil can take refuge in his favorite element, anonymity.”
Does Satan really exist? If we believe the Bible, we have to answer yes! Satan is referred to many times by name in that inspired record. For example, the Bible writer Paul, warning of “false apostles” and “deceitful workers” in the ranks of the Christian congregation, wrote: “And no wonder, for Satan himself keeps transforming himself into an angel of light.” Paul viewed Satan as an intelligent, deceptive personage.—2 Corinthians 11:13, 14.
Why is it, then, that Satan’s existence is not taken seriously by most people today? Likely, it is a reflection of the spirit of the age. Living as we do in what some have called the post-Christian era, atheism, hedonism, materialism, and communism have replaced religious faith in many societies. Millions of people no longer believe in God, viewing his existence as unnecessary to their personal philosophies. And they have discarded Satan along with God. Some religious people in Christendom, even though they claim to believe in God, feel that belief in Satan is out-of-date in this 20th century.
It is noteworthy, however, that rejecting God is by no means new. Some 3,000 years ago, the Hebrew poet David wrote: “The senseless one has said in his heart: ‘There is no Jehovah.’ They have acted ruinously, they have acted detestably in their dealing.” (Psalm 14:1; 53:1) In another place he stated: “The wicked one according to his superciliousness makes no search; all his ideas are: ‘There is no God.’” (Psalm 10:4) Even back then, people acted as if God did not exist. And the logical conclusion must have been that if there is no God, there can be no Satan.
Some Still Believe
As already noted, however, some do still accept the belief in a literal Devil. There are those who believe the ancient Zoroastrian teaching of dualism, saying that good and evil, God and the Devil, must always have existed side by side. Others even say that good and evil are both facets of the Godhead. And there are still many in Christendom and Islam who believe in Satan’s existence. Indeed, for many of these, he still exists as a winged spirit entity with horns and tail who supervises the destiny of those “immortal souls” assigned to “hellfire,” much as depicted in works by the famous French illustrator Gustave Doré.
In fact, for some, belief in Satan goes even further. They worship him—either by name or by means of satanic or demonic rites. For millenniums, witchcraft and sorcery have been identified with Satan worship. Even in our modern, skeptical age, Satanism still flourishes. Hence, before we discuss what the Bible says about Satan himself, let us consider some facts about modern Satanism.
[Picture on page 3]
A Buddhist portrayal of a satanic “hell”