This is the first of a series of weekly Sunday posts with a Christian slant. They will be from my own perception, applying my own intellect, rather than taken from other sources of commentary. I hope they will be illuminating, especially to those who are not Christians themselves.
As long-term readers here will be aware, I do try to be as informative as I can be, with a 'clean' and often original approach that doesn't slavishly follow what others have written previously (at least, to my knowledge) but using this powerful tool I have – my brain – to get to the core of an issue.
I think my track record speaks for itself...
The Battle for Souls
The Universe didn't just magically appear out of nowhere, made from nothing and having no purpose. There is no conceivable reason for that to have happened, and it certainly wouldn't have resulted in a cosmos anything like what actually exists, even if it had happened for some unaccountable reason.
Therefore it surely has to have been created, with at least one overarching purpose, and is in the form it is for very important reasons – not that we are likely to be able to grasp more than an inkling of that from where we stand, but we have the innate intellidence to recognise that truth.
Similarly, those of us (myself excluded) who are parents recognise the need to let our offspring go their own ways and be their own people, without undue intrusion or interference. How much more that must count with an entity capable of creating an entire Universe and us along with it is impossible for us to fathom.
Thus we have a seemingly detached 'good father' who nonetheless devised a way to become three separate parts, right from the outset of the 'Universe Project' as we might call it, so that he could come among us in our own form, and leave behind a 'Holy Spirit' who has been in the world for around two thousand years now. These underpinned the then emerging updated religion of the Jews that became Christianity.
Against this backdrop is the opposing force of Satan, the devil, also known as Lucifer.
In the battle for souls, which is certainly how Satan looks upon it, he did what any competent strategist (if sufficiently malign) would do: he spread misinformation by encouraging and assisting in the creation of a number of false ideologies, in various parts of the world, over the centuries.
The idea as I see it was twofold: to split off potential adherents of Christ and his Heavenly Father, and for others to come to the conclusion that as they all differed, none could be right. Thus atheism spread, the labelling of true faith as 'superstition', and all the other cop-outs from rational thought (though often dressed up as 'rational' themselves, but in reality only pseudo, as none of them can explain either the Universe or us).
He had started well before the coming of the Christ, and by that era had established a number of successful (and, one can surmise, many more unsuccessful) faiths and philosophies that acted like religions (e.g. Buddhism), all seemingly benign and positive in outlook – at least if one didn't look too deeply.
.After the coming of the Christ, the devil must have been getting desperate, as although the false leads he had in effect sponsored were having quite significant impacts, there was now the Good News (Gospel) with which to contend. This needed a much more aggressive approach, effectively compelling anyone born into any place dominated by the new 'faith' to either follow slavishly or suffer a painful death.
It has to have been particularly difficult in practice as (a) there was no reason whatsoever for any new religious expansion or addition between the first and second comings of Christ, and (b) it needed the right kind of seriously flawed and, indeed, corrupt (and even more corruptible) human individual to act as the conduit for foisting this oh-so-obviously fake pseudo-religion onto the masses.
Eventually, after several centuries, someone suitable was found: a warlord who could be inveigled into even more serious murder and other nasty stuff, including a way to overcome a former moral restriction that the perverse nature of this individual strongly desired could be overcome somehow.
As for the devil's desperation: when he was dictating this new religion to the prophet on the mountainside, part of that was that those born into communities controlled by the new faith were not allowed to choose to leave. As a strong disincentive, a painful death was to be meted out to any who tried to leave.
Does all of that negate the other religions? Not necessarily; as despite their probable origins, people can live decent and God-aware lives despite the intended outcome of the evil one. He is just a big failure, and in a curious way this twist is further evidence of that. Humanity, especially when allied with God, is better and stronger than the devil – though of course not everyone can resist evil, even the more severe kinds
The specifics of the 'warlord' example I touched upon above are not in themselves all that important: it is the method the devil used that should keep us all alert to his ways. I have fallen prey to his 'whisperings' in the past, so am well aware of how easy it is to be lulled into a trap if 'sold' a right-sounding message without at the time being aware of its origin. He still attacks me frequently, both directly and by getting others to act against me, so again I can speak from personal experience on this.
There are others I know who have had their own encounters with Satan, and those are so obviously genuine (in the 'you couldn't make it up' category) that a consistent picture of the true battle going on for human souls is revealed even more clearly than simply taking it on trust from scripture.
This is real, it affects all of us, and none of us should fall into the trap of 'throwing the baby out with the bathwater' by 'tarring all with the same brush' (how's that for a mixed metaphor?), usually done for reasons sparked by the activities of (necessarily flawed) human beings rather than the faith itself. That's a common failing with agnostics in particular, and atheists in some cases as well. They've all missed the vital clues that surround our lives at all times...