Does Satan enjoy Hell? In the Judeo-Christian construct.
October 7, 2010 11:55 AM   Subscribe

Hey guys. Now I'm not a religious person by any means (I feel that has bearing on the nature of the question). I've been reading Joyce though, and his characters often have trouble with certain aspects of Irish Catholicism. It got me thinking: in the Judeo-Christian construct of heaven and hell, God and Satan, we are informed that heaven is the location of all bliss and hell of all evil. Or something like that. What I'm wondering is, from that perspective, does Satan get any fun out of being in hell? I mean, plenty of things deemed "evil" are also pleasurable, at least to the primary individual. Does he have fun down there? Or is it just pure, no-playing-around-and-god-dammit-stop-smiling evil?
posted by quickasfoxes to Religion & Philosophy (23 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
As I understand and remember from my evangelical upbringing, Satan is not in Hell at the moment. He was given dominion of the earth by God temporarily, and is engaged in deceiving God's people into losing their salvation and preparing for Armageddon (the war against God described in Revelation.) According to Revelation, after he loses the war he will be bound and cast into the lake of fire. I'm pretty sure he's not supposed to like it.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 12:15 PM on October 7, 2010 [2 favorites]

Oh, and as I remember a pastor of mine saying: Satan is not the king of hell, he's the chief victim.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 12:16 PM on October 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

I've sometimes heard people say that Satan wants all men to be as miserable as he is - that he is deriving grim satisfaction from thwarting God's ambition for His children.
posted by SMPA at 12:20 PM on October 7, 2010

There's popular culture Hell (which sees Satan as ruling over a kingdom of devils in it) and then there is Biblical Hell (which is the final place of punishment for Satan, fallen angels, and any humans who reject God's rescue plan.)

So, to answer your question, not even satan has fun there. And the reason Satan plagues people is it's his only way to get back at God since God loves us.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 12:24 PM on October 7, 2010 [2 favorites]

It seems to me there is a second part to your question-that is, sin is pleasurable for a season so Satan in his present state probably has some grim enjoyment out of his cruelty and evil-ness.

But not for too much longer.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 12:25 PM on October 7, 2010

Okay, I knew there was a reason I had heard that. I'm Mormon. Duh.
posted by SMPA at 12:29 PM on October 7, 2010

There's sort of two different answers: the doctrinal answer and the cultural answer. The doctrinal answer is as liketitanic and Serene Empress Dork put it. In fact, those exact wordings were used by my priests and nuns and monks and stuff so that must be in the training manual.

But Catholicism as it is practiced deviates substantially from the official doctrine. Like, I don't think the Pope would endorse burying an upside-down statue of St. Joseph in your yard when you want to sell your house, but this is hugely common in America, even among non-Catholics. Saying a prayer to St. Anthony when you can't find your keys, anything botanica-related, I don't think that stuff is 'Official' but everyone does it. In this sense, yes, Satan is basically like the Noid, except instead of ruining your pizzas he ruins your soul.
posted by jeb at 12:35 PM on October 7, 2010 [2 favorites]

Does this guy look happy to you?
posted by crocomancer at 12:37 PM on October 7, 2010

I do not picture Satan as a happy fellow.
posted by SLC Mom at 12:46 PM on October 7, 2010

You speak of the Judeo-Christian version of hell, but there is practically nothing in common between the Jewish and Christian visions of hell. In Judaism, the soul's sentence in Gehinnom (Hell) is usually limited to a twelve-month period of purgation before it takes its place in the loose concept of Heaven. Actually, there is little discussion of "hell" at all in Judaism, but in my understanding, generally the period in Gehinnom is conceptualized as a period of reflection and review, rather than vicious suffering. It's not a direct answer, but I wanted to clarify that part of your question.
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 12:53 PM on October 7, 2010 [3 favorites]

In Dante's Inferno, isn't Satan frozen in a lake of his own tears in Hell's icy heart? It's not scripture, but it might reflect a certain understanding of the Devil's emotional state.
posted by deafmute at 12:55 PM on October 7, 2010

I think the only fun Satan has is tormenting/tempting people (and Christ) during life.

I bet that any notions of him taking pleasure in hell are drawn from imagery of pagan satyrs.
posted by bonobothegreat at 1:13 PM on October 7, 2010

A really interesting take on Satan as a character is in Milton's Paradise Lost -- which is the story of Lucifer/Satan's being cast out from Heaven, and of humanity's temptation that leads to Adam and Even being cast out from the Garden of Eden. That link goes to a nice site with introductory materials and a splitscreen presentation of the poem alongside explanatory notes; Wikipedia on Paradise Lost also has a nice quick introduction.
posted by LobsterMitten at 1:15 PM on October 7, 2010 [2 favorites]

I'm not religious either, and some of my memory might be fuzzy, but:
From what I understand, Hell is described as the absence of God. The fiery pit of doom bit is only inferred/cultural.

I think the intended meaning is that without God, there is no love or good feelings, so Hell would be bad. But if you feel like playing with interpretation, it could also be what Satan and his followers want since they'd no longer have to deal with God.
posted by vienaragis at 1:29 PM on October 7, 2010

If you consider hell to be a separation from God (as mentioned above), there's an easy way to 'see' it. Watch the movie "Wristcutters." It's on DVD. In the film, people who have killed themselves end up in a world where things are drab, colors are muted, and it is physically impossible to smile. They just *exist* there.

It's a good movie, too. :-)
posted by tacodave at 1:30 PM on October 7, 2010

I mean, plenty of things deemed "evil" are also pleasurable, at least to the primary individual.

Somebody like CS Lewis would argue that you're misunderstanding what the "core" of sin is. And that popular culture does, and that most nominal Christians probably do.

Sin isn't, at its core, those naughty but fun things [Lewis might argue]. It isn't, at its core, about the thrill of doing something forbidden that you really enjoy, or about things that are really good and fun but that Big Stupid Doodyhead in the sky forbids just to make you miserable.

Instead, the real dark, beating heart of sin is, for someone like Lewis, the sort of hard-heartedness where you're bitter about everything and everyone and nasty to everyone and, the point here being, you hate it yourself.

Something to this effect is in one or another of his books, but I forget which.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:00 PM on October 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

Well, first of all it's worth noting that "Satan" is a construction derived from several different entities/stories in the Bible. For example, there's nowhere in the Bible that says the 'serpent' in Genesis is Satan, but the two are commonly thought of as one in the same. Generally, "Satan" was originally Lucifer, a high-ranking angel who became power hungry and, when he threatened to become as powerful as God, God sent him to a place absent of God and his love - Hell.

Satan, then, can be seen not so much as an individual (in the same way that many Christians don't necessarily think of "God" as being a sort of individual creature, or whatever) but as an opposition to God, and an opposition hungry for power. It's unclear whether he has dominion over the Earth, presumably this is where God and Satan are battling it out, each claiming power over it (i.e. the temptation of Christ, where Satan tempts Jesus with control over all the lands and Jesus says 'but they are already mine...').

From what I understand, Hell is described as the absence of God. The fiery pit of doom bit is only inferred/cultural.

Yeah, this is generally true, although there's plenty in the NT, especially there towards the end, that references Hell as the "Lake of Fire" and having plenty of "gnashing of teeth" - so the fire pit thing isn't totally cultural, though, like the idea of Satan, it's a derivative concept.

Stronger in Christian doctrine is the idea that Hell is isolation - from God and everyone else, forever. And it hurts. It's not as if when you die and go to Hell you would meet Satan. He's in there suffering somewhere too. Why he is able to be in 'Hell' and still act upon the earth, ostensibly, is probably because he's an angel in origin (or so goes the myth) - but I'm just surmising here. Of course, it's also unclear whether Satan is currently in Hell or will enter Hell during the second-coming.

To answer your question: the question doesn't have an answer because it's framed around the pop-notion of Satan. Then again, all talk of "Satan," in the Christian sense is based on some tacit and unwritten agreement that all the dark forces referenced in the Bible are this one thing.
posted by Lutoslawski at 2:04 PM on October 7, 2010

Is this the Region, this the Soil, the Clime,
Said then the lost Arch-Angel, this the seat
That we must change for Heav'n, this mournful gloom
For that celestial light? Be it so, since he
Who now is Sovran can dispose and bid
What shall be right: fardest from him is best
Whom reason hath equald, force hath made supream
Above his equals. Farewel happy Fields
Where Joy for ever dwells: Hail horrours, hail
Infernal world, and thou profoundest Hell
Receive thy new Possessor: One who brings
A mind not to be chang'd by Place or Time.
The mind is its own place, and in it self
Can make a Heav'n of Hell, a Hell of Heav'n.
What matter where, if I be still the same,
And what I should be, all but less then he
Whom Thunder hath made greater? Here at least
We shall be free; th' Almighty hath not built
Here for his envy, will not drive us hence:
Here we may reign secure, and in my choyce
To reign is worth ambition though in Hell:
Better to reign in Hell, then serve in Heav'n.
posted by mr_roboto at 2:31 PM on October 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

I agree with LobsterMitten -- Milton had a huge influence on the way Satan is portrayed outside of doctrine, to the point where the modern cultural concept of Satan has more in common with Milton than with Genesis. His Satan was tragic and extremely vengeful, but also proud and unbending; while he was unhappy in Hell, the poem suggests that Hell suits him just the same. The beginning of Part 4 is all about this:

Me miserable! which way shall I flie
Infinite wrauth, and infinite despaire?
Which way I flie is Hell; my self am Hell; [ 75 ]
And in the lowest deep a lower deep
Still threatning to devour me opens wide,
To which the Hell I suffer seems a Heav'n.
O then at last relent: is there no place
Left for Repentance, none for Pardon left? [ 80 ]
None left but by submission; and that word
Disdain forbids me, and my dread of shame
But say I could repent and could obtaine
By Act of Grace my former state; how soon
Would higth recall high thoughts, how soon unsay [ 95 ]
What feign'd submission swore: ease would recant
Vows made in pain, as violent and void.
This knows my punisher; therefore as farr
From granting hee, as I from begging peace:
So farewel Hope, and with Hope farewel Fear,
Farewel Remorse: all Good to me is lost;
Evil be thou my Good; by thee at least [ 110 ]
Divided Empire with Heav'ns King I hold
By thee, and more then half perhaps will reigne;
As Man ere long, and this new World shall know.

Starting with Milton, there's a long tradition of depictions of Satan as a figure of cruel and tragic joy -- Baudelaire's Litany to Satan (scroll down for English) is a fine example. You're not going to find that in the Bible, but it's a part of the popular conception of Satan just the same.
posted by vorfeed at 2:53 PM on October 7, 2010 [3 favorites]

Just to add further to the distinction between Judaism and Christianity here's a diagram of how ancient Jews viewed the universe (and another). Everyone went to Sheol, not just the wicked, and early Judaism may have been polytheistic (like most Canaanite religions) with multiple places such as Sheol and Abaddon. It wasn't until Jesus meek and mild that the threat of Hell came about as we understand it.
Does he have fun down there? Or is it just pure, no-playing-around-and-god-dammit-stop-smiling evil?
Do remember that the Christian idea of sin and virtue is somewhat divorced from the actual suffering and well-being of people on earth because of supernatural considerations. For example, coveting your neighbour's oxen is sinful but may not be harmful. Taking the lords name in vain may be a sin but also a relief when you hit your thumb with a hammer. Homosexual acts may be sinful but loving. Christian Hell may be bad only within the context of their definitions, and there may be pleasure in hell.

What I find more interesting is the bogus justification for sending people to hell in Christianity.

(I'm not superstitious so this is all a myth to me but like all belief-based reasoning you won't be able to find an objective answer, just assertions and tradition, so I presume my answer is as good as anyones)
posted by holloway at 3:52 PM on October 7, 2010 [3 favorites]

In Christopher Marlowe's Dr Faustus, when Faustus asks why Satan tempts mankind, Mephistopheles replies that misery loves company.
posted by feste at 6:42 PM on October 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

C.S. Lewis's The Screwtape Letters is what you want. It's a nice short read, occasionally very witty, and explores the concepts of sin, hell and Satan in accessible and anecdotal form.
posted by stuck on an island at 3:16 AM on October 8, 2010 [2 favorites]

Emanuel Swedenborg is all but forgotten figure in Christian mysticism, but he wrote a great deal about his visions of the afterlife and some which addresses this directly. These excerpts on the subject should explain the general principles well enough.

Shorter answer: yes. Even shorter answer: no.
posted by wobh at 5:05 AM on October 9, 2010

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