What's the best way to talk about the devil to an atheist?

Alot of key theological points in christianity revolve around the devil and how he is constantly trying to take people away from God. However, the word “devil” or “satan”, when mentioned to an atheist often results in alot of eye-rolling and them tuning you out as if you were talking about fairies or leprechauns.

Some Christians change the name from “satan” or the “devil” to something less commonly used (such as “the adversary”) as a means of overcoming this. Though this only works to a degree.

Is there any other better ways of talking about the devil to an atheist, that won’t result in them thinking you are crazy?

I’m no theologian but I certainly understand the difficulty

I think talking about the devil won’t get very far since atheists don’t believe in God to begin with. maybe you can start with the existence of evil or something like that.

I am not really sure though, maybe someone else will come along and give a better opinion

Try referring to it as negativity. Use the word negativity at times to offset using those other names.

Plant the seed. Let God decide how and when it will take hold.

You can recommend that they Google “real exorcisms”, then I would pray for them and leave it at that.

Mike

And you are surprised? Fairies and leprechauns are at least not irrational. God, on his own is already a hard “sell”, but to couple it with the devil makes it impossible. Why would a “loving, caring, benevolent” God allow his arch enemy to roam around free and endanger his “beloved children”?

What would you do if there would be a psychopathic child molester roaming around in your neighborhood, whom you could either “smite” or brainwash into a nice kind person? Would you just sit on your behind and let him prey upon your “children”, some of whom will end up in eternal torment?

You know, I read once: “with a loving boss like God who needs the devil”?

They are going to roll their eyes regardless of what you say. Just tell them the truth when necessary and disregard their mockery besides making reparation for it.

Do we believe that Satan exists as an entity?

I would venture “Prince of this world”, at
least they will understand THAT. This
world is a fallen world under a fallen angel,
all this will be done away w/ when Christ
comes again to RENEW creation and usher
in the Kingdom of God with His people, the
Church, the NEW CREATION, with Zion
as it’s capitol

I would suggest you refrain from any mention of the diabolical…the closest you might be able to stretch the scenario may be if you commented on overcoming a typically self-absorbed human-nature…that might be devil enough for most individuals…

I would talk to them about conscience, how they feel when they do something wrong, and not about God or Satan.

Or I would be their friend and try to be there when something bad happens in their life. Then you can be Christ instead of talking about Christ.

-Tim-

Tell them to play with the weegee board for a few hours. :stuck_out_tongue:

With all due respect I think you have a really poor understanding of what Christians believe God and Satan to be.

Tell them that stories that personify concepts that people often see as abstract, can help us communicate higher realities. You can use ‘forces of evil’ or the culturally acceptable ‘dark side of the force’.

One of the reasons that George Lucas created Star Wars is to give young people a culturally acceptable way to describe theological ideas that are usually considered unacceptable in our modern society. Art has always had that role, to allow us to discuss socially unacceptable things by placing them into a fictional context.

Yes, ‘dark side of the force’ will do nicely.

It’s a simple literary mechanism. If somebody doesn’t believe that something is real, then place the notion you wish to communicate within a fictitious setting and they will focus on the moral of the story rather than getting lost in ‘prove it’ and ‘how do you know’ and endless arguments about ‘evidence’ that miss the entire point.

Atheists have not yet encountered God. So to them he doesn’t exist. Respect that and just leave it at that. But they can still understand how the ‘dark side of the force’ in Star Wars attempts to draw people to their own ultimate destruction.

Maybe you are right. It would have been more helpful if you pointed out what MY UNDERSTANDING is and why is it REALLY POOR? It is fine to criticize someone, but it is much better to explain the “why”.

Since you did not do that, I will show you what “my understanding” is. Then you can show me why is it a “very poor” understanding. It is “my understanding” that Christians believe:

  1. God is infinitely good and infinitely powerful.
  2. God wishes (but does not want) to have everyone be with him in some (unspecified) eternal bliss.
  3. God abhors evil, and therefore will not allow anyone, who is not “pure” to get to heaven. (Hence the purgatory and the hell).
  4. Satan is the ultimate evil, the “Father of Lies”, and/or the “Prince of the Earth”.
  5. Satan has one goal: to get as many people away from God as he can.
  6. Satan is free to roam the Earth and spread his lies.

Anything incorrect so far? If so, please correct me. If not, let me continue.

Coming from these points it would be rational that God would smite Satan, or send him into a re-education camp somewhere in North Korea. :slight_smile: After all, even the worst possible humans are sparkling white compared to the “ultimate evil”. Not even the worst child-molester, rapist and murderer is as “bad” as Satan.

We, limited humans try to deal with the bad people as best as we can. We limit their freedom by separating them from their potential victims, we place them into jails and prisons. We even try to re-educate them, with very limited success - after all our abilities are extremely limited.

So, why is the allegory I presented shows a “poor understanding” of what Christians believe? Where did I commit a factual or logical error? Looking forward to see your or someone else’s enlighting answer.

Solmyr - You would do well to get this into your head: We have a world to understand, not a world to impose. We encounter realities and have to make sense of them, not create a world based on our own thought. Your idea of justice is based on an idea of order among persons. Whence cometh such an idea?

To the OP’s question - Life is about attaining glory. We attain glory by fighting. We can’t fight without opponents. The Devil is one of those opponents. He is pure spirit… There are things that are dead matter, living matter, sensitive living matter, rational/spiritual living matter, and, we would say, God, pure uncreated spirit. There is a gap though between God and rational/spiritual living matter (man), where it seems fitting that there would be pure rational/spiritual beings. Since we believe we have indeed encountered and continue to encounter such creatures, in good ways (as some of the most notable mystics have), or in bad ways (like in cases of real possession, some of which have been extremely well documented), we conclude that there really is something in that gap between God and man. Since humans can choose whether or not to serve God and are allowed to continue to exist and do evil if they choose not to serve Him, why should it not be so for the angels? And we believe we encounter that based on experiences that many have had, both in Scripture and outside of it.

A lot of them think we are crazy for believing in God so they are naturally going to think the same for believing in the devil.

If the subject was raised by an atheist I would just say, God is the ultimate force of good and perfection, and the devil is the ultimate force of evil. Otherwise I wouldn’t even mention it.

That is fine. How can you hope to convey your understanding of the world, if your words have no meaning or have variable meaning? It is a generic concept that a “good” being does not allow “evil” roam freely, if he can prevent it. You wish to make an exception for this rule - namely God. The OP was a question about how to approach atheists about the concept of the “devil”. You can’t succeed until you can reconcile the “good” God with the “evil” Satan… The bible does not seem to be helpful, since it depicts God and Satan as good buddies, who have a bet at the expense of poor Job and his family.

The principle of reciprocity. But the point is not about “justice”, it is about reconciling the alleged “love” with allowing “evil”. And that is where the apologists fail, miserably. Even if there would be some valid argument for the existence of God, the existence of the devil would destroy that argument. You can’t assert the existence of a self-contradictory being.

That is not the usual idea. Life is about “love”, and there is no need for a fight to love someone. This kind of “war” mentality starts to wear rather thin. "War " on poverty, “war” on drugs, “war” on cancer… everything is seen as a “war” on something. :slight_smile:

As for the encounters with the “good” or “evil” entities, if that is possible and “extremely well documented” (???), let’s have the invocations to grab them demons by the scruff of their neck and yank them over here, so we can examine them and create an “anti-demon-spray” to get rid of them… Is “holy water” not good enough any more?


And then two questions would arise:

  1. “why did God CREATE the devil”? and
  2. “which one is stronger”? The answer would be: “God is stronger”. So the next question would be: “Why does God allow the devil to exist?”… and then you have no RATIONAL answer.

Solmyr - I don’t even know where to begin.

That is fine. How can you hope to convey your understanding of the world, if your words have no meaning or have variable meaning?

It is a generic concept that a “good” being does not allow “evil” roam freely, if he can prevent it. You wish to make an exception for this rule - namely God.

The OP was a question about how to approach atheists about the concept of the “devil”. You can’t succeed until you can reconcile the “good” God with the “evil” Satan…

The bible does not seem to be helpful, since it depicts God and Satan as good buddies, who have a bet at the expense of poor Job and his family.

I don’t understand the first bit. What are you talking about?

God is not a being. You still don’t understand that, despite several attempts I’ve made at explaining this. It is SUPER relevant for discussing goodness and God. Even if you don’t believe in act and potency (which is ridiculous), you should still be able to understand the argument if you applied yourself to making sense of it. I don’t see that you have. In any event, good beings let evil things happen all the time. Daddy lets Johnny fall on the bike because that way he learns. Extend to a cosmic scale, and you’re starting to get it. Free choices are what hurt people in the end anyway.

If you don’t want to understand it, you won’t understand it. You could read Job that way, but that would be a radical departure from how it’s historically understood.

The principle of reciprocity.

But the point is not about “justice”, it is about reconciling the alleged “love” with allowing “evil”. And that is where the apologists fail, miserably.

Even if there would be some valid argument for the existence of God, the existence of the devil would destroy that argument.

You can’t assert the existence of a self-contradictory being.

Reciprocity, eh? So everyone gets what he dishes out? Eye for eye, tooth for tooth? Is that the extent of it? Even if you did think that, which you probably don’t (but is suggested by your word choice), it would still imply a belief in an order, an “ought.” Why ought there be this “reciprocity,” whatever you mean by it? Could it be because human beings have purposes, and that those purposes come from and are directed toward God, Who is the measure of reason and therefore the ultimate rule of justice? Or is it “just cuz, that’s fair, ya know.”

The point is all about justice. You are implying that if there is a God it is WRONG for Him to let the Devil exist, because it is DISORDERED, namely, it harms human beings. And God OUGHT to “love” instead. So skimming over justice is a bad idea.

Refer to my first post… We play with the hand we’re dealt. We don’t create our own world. That’s quite a bizarre claim, anyway, not only for the obvious reasons dealing with the absurdity of the clause “If there wasn’t a God, then xyz.” A “valid” argument is a successful argument. And, likewise, supposing we follow the “common wisdom” then if there is a “Devil” then there MUST be a God. Think before posting! Come on.

This last bit is worded very poorly, but I assume you mean that it is “self-contradictory” for God to create something that is evil. In a sense, you are right! Strictly speaking, God does not make evil. Evil is a lack of some good. On the other hand, God causes things that cause evil. There are many distinctions to be made therein, and they require quite a bit of attention. Christ cast a shadow on a plant, is that evil? In a way. God sent plagues on Egypt, is that evil? In a different way. Judas betrays Jesus, is that evil? In a yet different way. God causes all actions in at least some indirect way, but he never causes their moral deficiency. That is a subtlety that requires real attention if it is to be understood. The larger point to be made is that God is the source and measure of goodness, since He is the Creator. The useful, the pleasant, and the worthy (the three kinds of goodness), are all present in any action of God. It is always useful for His purposes, those actions of His are always spiritually pleasant if rightly perceived, and always worthy on account of their perfect weight, order, and measure. These are some of the beginner’s principles for understanding this issue. Again, God’s goodness is wrapped up in His not being “a being.” That is CRITICAL, and as far as I can tell, completely lost on you.

That is not the usual idea.

Life is about “love”, and there is no need for a fight to love someone.

This kind of “war” mentality starts to wear rather thin. "War " on poverty, “war” on drugs, “war” on cancer… everything is seen as a “war” on something.

As for the encounters with the “good” or “evil” entities, if that is possible and “extremely well documented” (???), …

let’s have the invocations to grab them demons by the scruff of their neck and yank them over here, so we can examine them and create an “anti-demon-spray” to get rid of them… Is “holy water” not good enough any more?

No, it is not.

Yes, it’s about love too. No, you don’t always need to fight, but you must always be willing to sacrifice, which would always imply a fight of some kind, even if against oneself.

So?

A particularly well known case is St. Joan of Arc. Read the proceedings from her trial, and do some background reading on just what is going on in that exchange… Who are the players, what is their background, what is at stake, etc.

It’s called an exorcism, and, despite the movies, they always work when done right. But we don’t get to “uncreate” demons. God could, but chooses not to because it obviously works out to a greater expression of His glory and the better good of mankind, despite being rough in the here and now.

Obviously, eh? You know that this is the worst kind of argument, you can come up with. “Obviously” the existence of the Holocaust was better than preventing it… because if the prevention would have been better, then God would have prevented it. This kind of “reasoning” would justify anything! Torturing infants for fun? Sure, why not? It is for the grater “glory” of God. That it is “being rough” for the infants “here and now”? Big deal! Why should we care if it is for the “greater glory of God”. Poisoning the water supply of New York? Why not? It would enhance the “glory” of God. **Anything and everything could be explained AWAY with your “greater glory of God”. **

Your argument is the “best possible world” argument in disguise. If there is sufficient amount of rain, then that is good. If there is a deluge, than that is good. If there is a drought, then that is good. Because if it would NOT be the best possible solution, then God would interfere. Everything that happens enhances the “glory” of God.

And then you are surprised that rational people do not take your argument seriously.

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