The Real Alternative



Pope Sylvester II and the Devil in an illustra...

Pope Sylvester II and the Devil in an illustration of c. 1460 via Wikipedia

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Seventy percent of American Christians believe in the Devil according to a Gallup poll, compared to less than 5% of American Jews who believe in the Devil, according to Rabbi Allen S. Maller of Temple Akiba in Culver City, Calif.

Belief in the Devil among Christians did not vary much by age, and educational differences were limited to only 15 points; 55% of Christians with postgraduate degrees believed in the Devil compared to over 70% with only a high school diploma. Among Jews neither age nor level of education made any difference, said Rabbi Maller and Orthodox Jews were no more likely to believe in the Devil than Reform Jews.

Rabbi Maller pointed out that in the Jewish view Satan is not a Devil, (an independent source of evil in opposition to God) but rather an angel of God whose role is to tempt and test people. Without temptation humans can’t produce evil or good out of their own free will. Satan never forces a person to do evil. Satan gives us the opportunity to do evil, and when we resist doing evil, we have the opportunity to do good. No pain, no gain.

Satan makes sweet and fattening foods taste better than those foods that are healthy for you. Life is full of temptations and tests. When we fail; blaming the teacher or the test is a cop-out. Blaming the Devil or God is also a cop-out. God tells us to choose between the blessing and the curse. The choice is ours and so are the consequences.

Satan, according to the book of Job, is included in the Heavenly Court, among God’s disciples, because Satan is God’s agent of temptation, enabling us to overcome our self-centered desires and thoughts. If good was always more attractive than evil, we would have no reason to freely choice good, and therefore no opportunity to be moral.

Rabbi Maller’s web site is:


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  1. Thanks Rabbi, interesting post. It reminds me a bit of Carl Jung’s view of Satan as a non-integrated aspect of God. But, come to think of it, Jung’s view differs from what you present here.

    There are Catholic saints whose (apparently) autobiographical writings tell of Satan and hell, and these depictions are not very nice! Critics could say that these saints are perceiving on the basis of their psychological and cultural limitations. This wouldn’t necessarily nullify their spiritual work, but it would relativise their cosmological claims.

    And then there are those who say we shouldn’t intellectualize but rather, accept on faith the truth that Satan is a stinker, totally opposed to God.

    I think that intellectualizing in some instances might lead us away from God. But in other instances, I believe it’s necessary to use the intellect in order to avoid well-worn assumptions.


  2. Pingback: Beauty in Simplicity « Meanderings

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