Theologians may argue about the existence of Satan. But from personal experience, I know that the dead rat assed bastard not only exists but, but on numerous occasions, has sat right across from me.
Relax, it’s not aunt Abigail. As tempting as it is to see evil incarnate in her greed and disagreeable nature, she lacks the ability to do awful things while imagining that she does well. And for garden variety evil, I think that doing horrible things while humming hymns pretty well covers it.
I’d argue that the devil in people can’t engage in sufficient self-inquiry to realize that it is not so, just because they believe it. So they act on their beliefs firm in the conviction that their actions are correct. There is little of the mercurial in this. There is not enough introspection to raise the ability to internally question the correctness, appropriateness, or wisdom of action.
So you see, we all know the devil. You say, Aha! It’s that self-righteous person in the next pew in church! Well maybe. But religion is too easy a target. I knew an economist who thought that Christmas and birthday presents were a waste of resources; give money. His wife and children disagreed and maintained that sentiment and feeling entered in the process of giving a gift. He was unable or unwilling to entertain that he might be mistaken. I knew a brilliant Ph.D. who thought that only her academic discipline held the truth of human nature. She negatively critiqued all who disagreed to the extent that she spread malicious lies about them—all the while thinking that she did well.
Aristotle maintained that “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” Unfortunately, garden variety evil is not so sophisticated. There is no entertainment, internal dialogue, or questioning. Instead, it sings the Hallelujah chorus in the morning and does reprehensible things to employees, small children, and animals in the afternoon.
Evil wears no mask. Remember, it does not see itself as evil. It’s not a comic book evil doer. Most times, evil walks around looking just like you or me. A friend once said to me that evil gets up in the morning just like we do, puts on its pants one leg at a time, and sets out to do good.
Scary thought, isn’t it?