When men find that they have no enemy left but themselves, they will project their shortcomings onto a perceived nemesis.
There is an idea presented in Christianity that there is a grand war between good and evil playing out and that our souls hang in the balance. The idea is so catchy that many have made a good living off of it. From evangelical ministers to the Left Behind book series to a score of films addressing the idea, people seem to eat up this drama they're being offered.
Now as a play or movie, or any general work of fiction, this grand battle makes for a so-so plot at best. But taken literally this plot can only be the work of an imbecile, and I'll happily explain why.
You see, in order to build to this plot our contrived protagonist in the form of an omniscient and omnipotent god must first manufacture a nemesis. And it is at this point that the idiocy begins. Up to this point there is no conflict and as such, there isn't much of a story. So in order to create conflict our god, creator of all, must also create a nemesis or antagonist with which to do battle. Any logically minded person can see this is an imbecilic course of action. Why create conflict where none exists? Nevertheless, our contrived protagonist creates Satan, because punching yourself in the face seems less silly if you first name your hand and claim it has a mind of it's own.
War is a Battle Between Evenly Matched Opponents. Anything Less is a Massacre
If we can manage to wrap our minds around the idiocy of creating a nemesis, we can move on to the next bit of idiocy. Remember how god is supposedly omnipotent and omniscient? Given that premise, it is impossible for god to create a worthy adversary for himself. You see, god is all powerful and all knowing and as such he cannot create a being who has equal or greater power or knowledge than himself. It isn't that god physically can't do this, but rather that to do so would completely undermine his claim to superiority. Either god is the supreme being, or there's no reason to worship him if there is something greater than him.
If god can't create a worthy nemesis, then what is the point in the "battle"? In the end, if we accept any of these premises we must also accept that god can end the "battle" with nothing more than a thought. So why do battle at all? Is it simply that god likes to battle? Maybe Yahweh has a lot more in common with Zeus and Odin than we give him credit for. Maybe he has a taste for conflict. After all, we're talking about a being who supposedly created conflict in a perfect universe. Given all the human conflict carried out in his name, I would say that if such a god exists, conflict is the name of his game.
Philosophy Sheds New Light on Old Ideas
Of course biblical literalism is idiocy. To take these ideas as literal is to miss the point entirely. You see, under this horrible plot and storyline is a valid philosophical message. If we take the time to read between the lines, we see a message about a very real conflict. The ideas of good and evil reside in the human mind. What this tale means to explain to us is what is known as a personal crisis of conscience. It means to remind us of the internal struggle we each face. We do battle between what is "good" and "evil" within ourselves daily. The protagonist and antagonist are both present within each of us.
It may seem like the stupidest thing ever to create one’s own nemesis, yet we humans do it daily. The old saying that we are our own worst enemies is very apt. On a daily basis we act in ways we know will end up causing conflict or that we know aren't in our best interests. Quite often we have the bad habit of projecting our failures onto others and treating them as if they are our nemesis or the cause of our distress. All too often we fail to address the conflict within ourselves and why we have failed to listen to our conscience. We constantly seek out the "devil" in our lives and overlook the "demons" within ourselves.
There are two paths of understanding one can take here. We can either buy into the literal idea that there is a war between good and evil that we are truly caught in the middle of. Or, we can understand the philosophical implications that we are engaged in an internal struggle between our instinctual drive and our conscience derived of a seemingly higher consciousness. That first path is one on which the traveler is a slave to the path and has no choice but to follow. The second path is open and allows the traveler to go whichever direction he chooses, with none to blame if that choice proves to be an error but also none but himself to exalt if the path leads to somewhere beneficial.
Photo Credit: Tracy Wong