This article is copyright © 2006 Geifodd ap Pwyll.
I believe in the existence of Devils. But unlike most people who believe in Devils, I do not believe that they are these evil beings who want to run around and kill everybody. I believe in them as essentially benevolent deities of carnality, intellectual power and progress. They are dark yet beautiful spirits that, strangely enough, actually work for the advancement of humankind. They are not really these stupid fallen angels that want to destroy humanity and the world. Instead, they are mysteriously sentient forces that mastermind every deviation from dogmatic thought that occurs among human beings, and that inspire all of human advancement. They are the gods that rule the Earth. Even the Christian Bible itself refers to Satan as "The God of this World!"
The entire reason that people are led to believe that Devils are really these evil and destructive beings is because they are scapegoated by conventional religionists. The term "scapegoat" itself comes from an ancient Hebrew ritual practiced on the Day of Atonement. This ritual involved the sacrifice of two goats. One goat was ceremonially slaughtered as an offering to the god of Abraham, while the other was "laden" with the sins of the tribe and driven into the wilderness as a live offering to a Devil they called Azazel.
According to the apocryphal book of Enoch (which reflects the beliefs of the Second Temple era), Azazel was a spirit who left heaven and descended to earth because he lusted after mortal women. A whole bunch of them actually did this, but Azazel was their leader. And when these spirits came to earth, they taught and instructed human beings in several arts of civilization (including but not limited to various sciences, cosmetics and martial warfare). The conventional religious leaders of the Hebrews, however, blamed all "evil" in the world upon Azazel and his fellows for this very reason. Azazel didn't actually do anything "bad" in any humanly meaningful sense; if anything, he helped human beings in much the same way that Prometheus did in Greek mythology. Yet he became a scapegoat for all that's wrong in the world.
Azazel was not the first idea of a spiritual being that is the "supreme enemy" of the Abrahamic religions. The first was Leviathan, a gigantic serpent that is pretty much identical to Apep of ancient Egyptian religion. The religious symbolism of a "dragon of primordial darkness" who creates opposition against authoritarian religious regimes recurs throughout almost all cultures of the ancient Middle East. This being was blamed by the Egyptians for bringing foreign invaders against their country, and He was also blamed by the Hebrews for destroying Jerusalem through the Babylonians. Later on, when the Serpent became known as "Satan" in Christianity, He would be blamed for opposing Christians through the Roman government. However, there is no evidence, outside of scripture, to demonstrate that this being is really responsible for causing foreign invasions or such. The people who suffered these events chose to ostracize and scapegoat this spirit so that they could make the harsh realities of this world more "bearable" for themselves. Human beings have an ugly history of scapegoating others - both their gods and their fellow humans - in order to make themselves feel better.
"Satan" was originally a common noun that simply meant "accuser" or "adversary." It was not used to refer to a specific adversary of Yahweh, but to any being that acted in an adversarial manner to anyone else. Often, the term "satan" would be used to describe an angel sent by Yahweh to ostruct a human or humans in some way, such as the angel of the Passover, or the angel that wrestles with Jacob. Later on, particularly in the time that Christ supposedly lived, the Serpent Leviathan was given the name "Satan" as a proper noun, indicating the belief among Christians that He is the ultimate adversary of the biblical god. And by that point in time it was actually believed that this particular being rules the entire Earth. Even the New Testament itself refers to Satan as "the God of this World."
Much later, it would be established as church doctrine that Satan was really a fallen angel with horns and cloven hooves that had rebelled against the Abrahamic god. It would appear that here, the ideas of the Serpent Leviathan and the angel Azazel were melded together. But remember that originally, Azazel left heaven by choice because He apparently liked women. And after the departure from heaven, He eventually decided He liked all human beings and shared divine knowledge with them, making them smarter and more civilized (but always while reminding them of their basic animal natures as well). Satan advances humankind, yet is blamed by the Abrahamic religions for all "sin." Apparently, humanism forms a large portion of the Abrahamic idea of "sin."
Other instances of Abrahamic opposition toward humanity occur throughout the entire Bible. The Hebrews have their god punishing Adam and Eve for eating the Fruit of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, which they were tempted to do by a snake. All the snake did was give Adam and Eve the power to determine moral truth for themselves, apart from the help of any divine spirit. But apparently, the Hebrew religious leaders did not want their followers to believe it's possible to have morality without the Abrahamic god. However, there are millions of people in the world who do not worship Jehovah, or who don't even believe in him, yet who are good and moral people (often more good and moral than many self-proclaimed Christians). People can have morals without having the Bible. But conventional religious leaders do not want people to know this; they want people to think that they must surrender their souls to their god so they can be "morally cleansed."
I don't know about you, but something sounds suspicious here: the snake, who is often identified with Satan, gives Adam and Eve the power to know what is right and what is wrong by themselves. But this is defined as the "original sin," through which "death came into the world." Why should having the power of moral independence be considered "evil," and why should feeling guilty for having it be "good?"
The Hebrews also had their god knocking down the human architectural feat called the Tower of Babel. They also have him commanding his prophet Abraham to ritually sacrifice his only son Isaac as an offering for the Lord (and, even though he supposedly never intended for Abraham to really kill the kid, what kind of a god demands that parents be willing to murder their own children for him?). They later have him wiping out all the innocent newborn males of Egypt because one man (the Pharaoh) refused to do what the Hebrews wanted. Their scripture also claims that the Abrahamic god commanded the Israelites to kill every man, mother, and male child of their neighboring civilizations, and to enslave and molest the virgin girls. And later on, the Christians have their god bloodily sacrificing his own flesh-and-blood son and telling people that the man died for them, and they must believe in him or they will burn in hell eternally for the "sins" of one little lifetime. Sounds like a horrific act of terrorism used to frighten people into obedience, if you ask me.
And why is it so quickly believed that Jehovah is really the Creator god? I myself do not know if such a god exists or not, but if it does it cannot possibly be the Christian god. The Christian god is claimed to be a personal entity who has a specific interest in human affairs. I doubt very much that any Creator god that is ultimately responsible for the existence of everything would have such an interest, because there is a LOT of everything and human beings are like a speck of dust in the midst of the cosmos. I find it much more logical to think that a personal god interested in human affairs would only exist on a smaller-than cosmic scale, meaning that any such god is lesser than the theoretical Creator god. This would mean that the Judeo-Christian god, who is always concerned with "saving" people from their "sins," is not really the Creator but simply a lesser god. This perspective is more fully articulated on Diane Vera's Church of Azazel website, specifically in her articles, "The Here-and-Now Principle in Theology" and "Post-Copernican Natural Theology".
I do not believe that the Old Serpent is really a "rebel" against the Creator. Fundamentalist Christians accuse Satan of wanting to be worshiped as the supreme God, but this is really only what they project onto their scapegoat. They are the ones who want their own god to be worshiped as the supreme God, for he is the one personal deity who is most well known in monotheistic religions today as "God" with a capital "G." But if he is a personal being, he cannot be the supreme God; if he is not the supreme God, their claim of his being God is just that: a claim.
And yet conventional religionists have always used their scapegoats as "boogeymen" with which to frighten their followers into submission. People are made to think Satan is the one who is trying to destroy them, and that only fools them into continuing the age-old cycle of scapegoating others. If the Prince of Darkness is truly the opposite of what fundamentalists consider to be "divine," then He must be a much more logical and humane god than theirs! And what's funny is that this can be determined by studying Judeo-Christian mythology itself.
That's essentially why I worship Satan, whom I also call Azazel, Lucifer, and Apep. For me, worshiping Satan is a deliberate "slap in the face" to all people who continue the tradition of scapegoating others. By worshiping the "Patron Saint of Scapegoats," I am declaring all counter-subversion ideologies to be void. To me, Satan is a dark yet benevolent god who gets a bad rap for doing things that are helpful to humanity. He stirs human beings to fundamentally question all dogmas and fixed ideologies, thereby causing them to advance beyond the superstitious power that holds them back from progress. He is Dark, yet He brings Light. He is the ultimate Enemy of all tyrannical religious regimes, and He is the Promethean friend of Man. He leads us out from oppression, and He puts the fear of Man in the hearts of the gods.