Is the Devil really the bible's unsung hero?
At first glance, that's absurd. He's the bad guy. The ultimate evil. He's the fallen one, the adversary, the embodiment of all that is wicked. He's the cause of everything that's bad and ugly. He rebelled against god and chose to instead fight him. Right?
Well of course that's what anyone of the Christian faith (well pretty much any of the Abrahamic religions that mention him) would have you believe, and make no mistake, they believe it too. But what if we look at this a little deeper, what if we take away the name (and along with it, the negative connotations and emotions evoked) and just look at the story objectively instead. It get's pretty interesting.
Here we have an angel, in fact, not just any angel, but an Arch Angel. Now the angels are gods most perfect creations, they know nothing but god's will. The Arch Angels are the best of the best, the A team, if you will. Now this is what we see of the devil before his "fall". The angels live in heaven which is, by definition, the most perfect place ever created. So what, you may ask, would posses (pun intended) a being of great power, that knows only god's will, and resides in the most perfect place, to rebel and leave that place and his creator?
We have a few options here:
1: The Devil is evil and greedy, he wanted more power.
2: God, in his omnipotence and omniscience, created him for this purpose.
3: The Devil was asked by god to do this to show us humans the dichotomy of good and evil. In other words, god needed an opposite to keep everything in balance, a yin to his yang.
4: The Devil wanted to stand up for man, he wanted to educate man, not be his intellectual slave holder.
Clearly this doesn't represent every possible conclusion one could reach, but it's a pretty broad and fair assessment of the case.
I'm certain that most believers will tell you the answer is clearly option #1. After all, this is what the good book tells us right? The Devil was cast out because he wanted to make his throne above gods. Now that is a big no, no. We all know god has one mean temper, and anything that can been seen as a slight against him, will surely be used against you, and this is a fairly obvious one. Thus the devil, along with his followers, are cast out and sent to Earth. Why not send them to Pluto or another solar system for that matter? That's a different question for a different day.
Now there is bound to be a few apologists who will tell you that #2 is the most likely case. After all, there is nothing that god can't do, his knowledge is limitless and his power is boundless. If the devil rebelled, god must have wanted it. Which is what leads me, interestingly, to option #3. Perhaps a better answer is that the devil is a willing participant in a cosmic morality test created by god and he just plays the role of bad guy. It's like a cosmic good cop, bad cop play. Sure the devil seems like the prince of darkness, but that's just because he's a really good actor (he's the lord of liars, right?), and just like any good actor playing the role of bad guy, you hate him by the end of the movie! Bravo!
Finally, we come to option #4 and one of my favorites. From this perspective we have a tyrannical god who creates man for seemingly one purpose, the be worshiped by him. Now the devil goes down and has man eat fruit from a tree that god has forbade them to eat. According to Wikipedia:
The Eden story, which takes up chapters 2 to 4 of the Book of Genesis, tells how God creates the first man and puts him in a paradise-garden in Eden (which may be the mythological garden on the sacred mountain of Zion). Before making the first woman, God tells the man that he may eat the fruit of any of the trees in the garden except that of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. God then forms the first woman (named Eve) and Genesis 2 ends with a note that the man and woman "were naked and felt no shame". A talking snake subsequently tempts the woman to eat the fruit with the promise of knowledge. The woman and the man both eat, become aware of their nakedness and make coverings for themselves. God, aware that the first humans now have knowledge, banishes them from the garden lest they eat from the Tree of Life and become like the gods.
It is not clear what kind of knowledge is involved, but the three major candidates are: (1) knowledge of everything, through the mental capacities which lead to human culture; (2) moral capacity; and (3) sexual knowledge, since the man and woman recognise their nakedness on eating the fruit.
So the bible never explicitly says what all knowledge is gained from eating the fruit. It's also worth mentioning that clearly the bible has a biased point of view. So it's not a reach to claim that perhaps the devil was trying to teach man, to educate him, rather than see him be mindless worshipers of Yahweh.
Now think about the bravery and selflessness involved in such an act. To willingly and openly defy a deity that literally knows everything, can do anything, and is quite literally everywhere at once just to educate a lesser being. God's tyranny continues long after the devil does this however. God goes on to murder countless people in the Old Testament before he wipes out all living things in the flood. And yet the devil still chooses to defy god and fight on man's behalf. The devil kills all of 10 people in the Old Testament (I spoke about this in a previous article) while god commits genocide after genocide.
Ultimately, the question is analogous to asking why Lex Luthor opposes Superman, in that regardless of the answer, it is merely a work of fiction. There is no difference in me claiming that Lex Luthor is the unsung hero of the Superman comic's under the premise that he stood up against an (seemingly ) all powerful being. Luckily there is no Superman cult (that I'm aware of) that demands allegiance at the risk of eternal torture.