Monday, July 5, 2010

The "Devil's Dominion" (I) - The Unhealthy Fundie Obsession over Hell and Demons

Below: Behemoth became the perfect demon to get pregnant with baby demons. More could be procreated.

Why are the Christian fundies so preoccupied with Hell and Satan? You'd think those two entities were their favorite realities given how often they invoke them. Often just to play a fear or control card because they've exhausted rational arguments. See also the video:

So the question becomes, why are they invoked so often? Is it that the fundamentalists simply lack the intellect or IQ to fashion a persuasive case for belief without them? Or is it more complex? If one examines the history of how Christianity arose, and especially various offshoots skewed from it, this isn’t hard to process.

In its earliest years, Christianity was under severe pressure and its members often found themselves at the end of a torturers’ pliers, or in a burning cast iron stove, or facing lions and jackals in the Coliseum of ancient Rome. Things didn’t improve very much until the ascent of Constantine to Emperor.

The Christians then found a friend but they had to make theological accommodations. First was that the celebration of their own nativity had to be fused with that of Constantine’s Sol Invictus cult. That meant that the approximate date of the winter solstice (when the Sun is technically “reborn” after it crosses the Tropic of Capricorn heading north) or December 25th.

With the fall of Rome, and the ascent of the Roman (Catholic) Church, no further checks were applied and anything went. The first thing that had to be done was to shore up belief and increase converts. The best way to do that was to use language that instilled fear.

Understand now that up until about 200 A.D. the most common afterlife belief among Christians was reincarnation. (Actually, more a case of metempsychosis, in which a pre-existing soul would seek out a new body to be born in and do this over and over). We know that Origen of Adamantius taught it, as well as Clement of Alexandria.

The problem was that this doctrine allocated “too much time for men to seek God” in the minds of many Church higher ups. They therefore had to create a way to push people to embrace God faster and fall into line. This emerged at the 2nd Council of Constantinople when the doctrine of Hell first made its appearance. By a lopsided vote, Hell was henceforth to be the primary doctrine and destination of the human afterlife, along with Heaven. The good and just would go to Heaven and the unjust and those nasty, disgusting unbelievers to Hell. No loose ends... well, except for those unbaptized infants, for which "Limbo" was invented. (Later incorporated as part of heaven, but not the "beatific vision". Go figure!)

This solved the problem of pressure applied to laid back churchgoers and also put forth a single, one time edict (“judgment”) that sent sinners into a final punishment. This was a novel step. Hitherto all the pagan religions from Horus and Osiris worship to Mithraism had a hell, but it was only a temporary stop- until the soul mended its ways.

For example, the Egyptian god Osiris considered and treated Hell as merely a series of separate or distinct terms of punishment, nothing final. Christianity, by contrast, was uncompromising. Forced to yield and compromise so much during Constantine’s reign, the Church fathers from Irenaeus to Tertullian had had enough. NO more. We want an everlasting furnace and we're gonna get it! Plus all the demons and devils we can invent to man it!

Punishment in the afterlife was henceforth to be final and total. There would never be any liberation from Hell, and it would last forever. Those cast into the “darkness” had to not only suffer forever, but remain eternally separated from God in the Beatific Vision. It could be no other way.

While the idea of Hell had taken root, it still needed some form. This was delivered after Dante Alighieri wrote his ‘Divine Comedy’. Therein he set out the seven circles of Hell, and also how and why each particular set of sinners would be punished. (For example, the gluttons- given tiny mouths the size of pinholes - were always to be tied up and bound barely inches from a nice juicy morsel of food- barely out of reach. Forever and ever they’d remain in this condition, unsatisfied).

Subsequently, it was realized that you couldn't just create Hell and leave it. It had to be populated, and so “Satan” was invented. Most of the properties of Satan already existed, and were found in ancient Zoroasterianism and Mithraism. Many of their chief tormenting counterparts of Lucifer (e.g. Pazuzu, Belial) were taken from those religions and set up as helpers of Lucifer in Christianity's plagiarized version.

Eventually, Christian theologians - with endless time on their hands and nothing positive to energize their brains- worked out whole hierarchies for Hell. Basically, if one examined them, they pretty well resembled what one beholds in modern corporations. The "head CEO" was Lucifer or “Beelzebub” who – as the Christian top Devil- was to lord it over all other circles and levels. The 2nd hierarchy was to be ruled by Carreau, the Prince of Powers. His specialty was “hardening human hearts”(Lauran Paine, ‘The Heirarchy of Hell’, p. 62)

The third hierarchy was under Lord Belial. Each hierarchy had its own prince under Satan (Lucifer) and its own specialty for temptation. Probably the total number of Devils in all the hierarchies numbered two thousand, if one omitted their (demonic) “choirs” or sub-orders, which members were to be known as “demons”. To these were allotted the real dirty work of human possession. (Dirty work because a demon never knew when he might be violently ejected from his host!)

Other (converted) Church Fathers, such as Augustine, also insisted in elaborating the Hell vision using the fictions from their own backgrounds. For example, Augustine's Manichean teachings (after his conversion) held that any sexual pleasure whatsoever was diabolical in origin. However, it could be countenanced IF a baby was the end product. Otherwise, the offending parties were "trafficking with demons". (He cites at one point, for "proof", the demon Asmodeus, who slew seven men in 7 beds with seven women, but not when they were sitting at a table. Evidently, the demon had never received any orders from his hierarchy on what to do if all the humans were seated at a table!)

A recurring problem over time was that the number of heretics, apostates and other wretches appeared to keep growing while the basic Hell hierarchy remained fixed. It was then decided, probably by Tertullian or Irenaeus, that sub-orders needed to be added to the hierarchies to increase the number of demons. The problem was that the issue of how and whether demons procreated, was never resolved. How did a demon procreate with another?

If both were spirits how did the new demon life begin? Was there such a thing as a "demon baby"? (Actually, the demon Behemoth was largely invented to give birth to demon babies. Note the uncanny resemblance to the symbol for the Republican Party!) If so did it have little paws or claws with which to crawl around on? Little horns to twitch? If pure "spirit" what were it capabilities? Was it confined to tempting (or possessing) only infant or tot humans? (Maybe accounting for the "terrible Twos" parents sometimes see).

All these matters had to be seriously worked out and they took time. Working out demon reproduction and its mechanics was no mean task for the greatest brains in Christendom!

Meanwhile, as the winds of Protestantism began to circulate, new problems had to be solved – especially before the complete “Witch Hunter’s Bible” – The Malleus Maleficarum, was written. Such issues included whether a bolus of meat could be possessed by a demon and for how long. If such a bolus were forcibly expelled from an apostate’s mouth, did that mean a demon had been exorcised?

All these demonic details had to be sorted out. As silly as they sound, however, they're no where near as daft as the basis for the Fundies’ "Hell". Never mind they'd never offered a scintilla of evidence for such existence (other than renegade quotes that marked late additions in the Bible, in order to cow unbelievers).

Anyway, we'll explore that next!

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