Nightline and the Devil

Last night, Nightline proclaimed that they would be airing a “great debate” over the existence of Satan. I really hope Ted Koppel was otherwise occupied, because what his successors broadcast bore no resemblance to Koppel’s various great debates and town meetings. If Koppel had done last night’s show, it would have featured Satan and God, or at the very least the Pope and Anton LaVey. Koppel would have advised the networks that the broadcast would be running over its usual time by at least an hour, and it would have actually included the entire debate.

Instead, we got slightly more than half an hour of mostly voice-over from the moderator summarizing whatever the participants said. And the participants were a bunch of second-stringers with not a serious theological brain among them.

Well, if you want to look up Rabbi Hirshfeld on Beliefnet, you can get a somewhat more literate treatment of the subject (though Hirshfeld attributes the bit about G-d fashioning good and forming evil to the Jewish liturgy of the good old days, rather than to the original source, Isaiah 45.)

Anyway, does Satan exist? For the earliest picture of his M.O., see the Book of Job, in which Satan is clearly one of G-d’s operatives. From the point of view of an occasional practicioner of criminal law, I find it easy to see the Satan of Job as an overzealous and sleazy prosecutor who is not above engaging in entrapment to keep up his win-lose stats. But I’m not sure I believe in this overblown Ken Starr wannabe. It was hard enough believing in the real one.

OTOH….yes there is evil in the world, and some of it really seems to have no rational explanation. Genocide, for instance, or child abuse. Or torture. It is easier to believe that such things are caused by diabolical possession than by elements that can be found in the nature of all human beings, from Mother Teresa to Adolf Eichman. If there is no devil, then all of us are capable of serious evil. Nightline not only missed that point, it trivialized the entire issue.

Jane Grey

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