By Alexis Record
“What are demons again?”
“They’re like invisible spirit creatures.”
“Invisible? So they don’t exist.”
“What do you think?”
“What’s the evidence for them? Claims don’t count.”
“Oh you’re a smart one.”[This section is all about demons! Are you getting tired of demons? Rid yourself of all that’s unholy with Alexis Record’s magical blessings! They are sold here for only one easy payment of $9.99. Protection against demons guaranteed!]
Let’s talk about demons! Since I’m wordy AF, we’ll take the long-way round. (You know you love it when I process my fundie issues.)
Thinking back to when I was a believer, one aspect of my faith I had real trouble trying to explain was my Bible’s dearth of knowledge or truth outside of its day and age. For instance, not once do we get a single hint by any author of any biblical book that germs are a thing. Imagine reading this during your morning devotional:
“Thus saith the LORD, do verily perform the washing unto thy hands since by it ye reduce the sundry and divers infections.” (Recordians 1:1)
Funny aside: I once visited the Jordan River in Israel since it was the setting for Jesus’ baptism. I had plans to get baptized there but that changed after putting a few fingers in the disgusting water. That was in 2004; by 2010 environmental groups would make headlines by begging people not to touch the water since it was so polluted. If God can magically clean baptismal water in holy sites, he’s not. Maybe it’s because he’s too busy clearing them of the real cause of disease: demons!
Even the best, most stretched interpretation cannot make the Bible produce modern medicine. We’ve discussed how the Bible depicts future events as taking place in an Iron Age setting. (Same time period it was written in.) We should have a world very much like Narnia that will end the same way Narnia ends—without hospitals or highways. I had to rely upon laughable apologetics to defend these anachronies. A pastor once told me that maybe the prophets interpreted their visions of modern technology using their limited understanding of the world. Torch or lamp could mean flashlight or computer screen. Light is light, right?
This led to my second big problem with Scripture: The Bible is badly written. Where was the H. G. Wells-equivalent to describe these future scenes? Wells lived 150 years ago and was a science fiction writer who wrote about televisions, phones, email, nuclear power, and genetic engineering in a way that made perfect sense before any of it was even invented! How was Wells a better prophet than God’s own?
It’s not only that the writing is often lacking in substance; it’s occasionally downright piss poor. I have diagramed quite a few passages (back when I was studying biblical Greek) that were so badly constructed it was impossible to accurately glean specific meaning or application from them. I was told this was because God did not always inspire the best, most educated writers, but instead used humble ones with limited vocabularies and inferior grammar skills. (Only the Holy Spirit could interpret these word salads from on high.) In a similar way, Aslan does not recruit the most experienced or educated kings, diplomats, or warriors.
1 Corinthians 1:26-27 even boasts about its believers’ deficiencies saying that not many were learned or wise “by human standards” (making God’s standards waaaaaaaaaaaay lower than ours BTW), and that this was intentional so that fools could “shame the wise.” If this doesn’t make any sense, um, job done I guess? It’s like the biblical writer doesn’t get how shame works. It’s not like people read faulty arguments or logical fallacies in religious literature and feel embarrassment for themselves.
“Although some passages in the Bible are lyrical and gripping, many would get kicked back by any competent editor or writing professor— kicked back with a lot of red ink.”
Why? Because it includes, in her brief list:
“Mixed messages, repetition, bad fact checking, awkward constructions, inconsistent voice, weak character development, boring tangents, contradictions, passages where nobody can tell what the heck the writer meant to convey…”
I guess God writes in mysteries ways! Heh. See what I did there?
Instead of godly knowledge that exceeds human minds delivered to us neatly packaged, we get four contradictory stories of a man named Jesus who spends a large chunk of his ministry defeating demons in order to heal people. Healing and demons are thoroughly connected and placed together linguistically like peanut butter and jelly. (Luke 9:1-2; 13:31-32; Acts 5:15-16) Demons are even presented as specific illnesses or conditions such as muteness (Mark 9:17), deafness (Mark 9:25), blindness (Matthew 12:22), seizures (Luke 9:39), paralysis or inability to ambulate properly (Acts 8:7), and, the more obvious, mental illness (Luke 8:27-28). This whole or partial misattribution of physical ailments and conditions to the supernatural not only contradicts scientific findings, it subverts efforts to look for evidence-based explanations in the first place!
The New Testament writers had no excuse for this. Ancient Greeks, the same group mocked by 1 Corinthians for being too wise, had already been busy studying disease, disability, and the human body. They had started out just like their Jewish and Christian neighbors by believing illness was divine punishment, yet they had advanced well beyond childish explanations. The Greeks used reason to apply their theories to their patients, checking which remedies affected which symptoms. Armed with plenty of evidence, they established medical schools hundreds of years before the New Testament gave us Jesus with his demons.
So to the apologists out there, no, Jesus isn’t metaphorically equating germs with tiny demons. (Where do they come up with this stuff?!) What’s actually happening is that modern (at the time) medical advancements were intentionally being replaced by ignorant promotions of religious fuckery.
Like the invention of Hell, demons didn’t exist in the Old Testament; the New Testament authors created them largely out of whole cloth. Hundreds and hundreds of years later CS Lewis would have to include these elements in his religiously-loaded stories because the foundational tale of Jesus includes them.
We’ve just read about atheist bad guys who don’t believe in either Aslan (a deity) or Tash (a false deity, demon) and refer to the whole supernatural thing as Tashlan. Lewis cannot let children reading these books take any time to process this so no sooner does our new dwarf friend mention overhearing a belief that Tash is not real than the demon itself flies past our group of heroes!
“It seems, then, that there is a real Tash, after all.”
Belief in demons is alive and well today. As a newly married teenager, my mom once thought she saw a demon in her apartment hallway when she was in a semiconscious state. Her pastor confirmed it had to be one and encouraged her to get rid of it by literally burning my dad’s records that contained worldly music. Goodbye Journey, Pink Floyd, and demons!
I once thought I saw a demon in the dark window of my childhood home on Halloween night—a night I was repeatedly told was evil. Thoughts of demons kept me up a lot as a scared child. As a teen I wrote a (super hilarious) research paper for my Christian school on how my religion was true and cults were false. I interviewed my pastor for some money quotes (which I thought counted as proof) when he noticed the library books I had checked out for this project. He warned me that demons hunted at libraries and could enter me through those books. He specifically instructed me not to hold one book on Satanism so close to my body. It was the kind of thing that would give Frank Peretti a wet dream.
All of this is really embarrassing, but there’s more. I didn’t grow up in a Christian tradition that was too far out there, but as a young adult I prayed demons out of a building in Ireland with a church group. During my missionary training in Papua, New Guinea I even learned how to pray against demons who lived in the tribes we were trying to “win for Christ.” Another time in the Middle East a man shared his testimony with a group of us Bible students that included descriptions of the demons he claimed to have seen in his ceiling. The fact that extreme religiosity and spiritual delusions were directly tied to his specific mental illness didn’t stop whoever was in charge from disqualifying him from speaking to students.
I recently read about a Christian church leader who claimed a demon was responsible for him murdering people. It’s likely the pastor’s beliefs stopped him from getting help and allowed him to scapegoat his behavior. A religious system that includes these elements can provide a safety net for vile people to land.
Tash, our Narnian demon, has four arms, twenty curved fingernails, and a head of a bird of prey. This description of Tash is different than my mother’s hallway demon and the mentally ill man’s ceiling demon, but they are all scary in some way the person describing them finds horrible. Demons are grotesque because they are products of fear.
Tash is funny to me since the Bible doesn’t physically describe demons once, but does describe angels who have multiple eyes, six wings, and the faces of eagles making Tash closer to an angel than not. The Bible has no qualms about making God and his ilk evil or scary. Lewis would love if all the pretty things were good and all the things he didn’t like were bad, but he’s unintentionally pointing out just how messed up God’s supposed Word is. (Satan is described in the New Testament as a lion, so Lewis is already on shaking ground with Aslan.)
The dwarf speaks to the group, “People shouldn’t call for demons unless they really mean what they say.”
That’s the lesson here that was drilled into my head all growing up. You could summon a demon unawares. Like the hymn says, “Be careful little eyes what you see… little ears what you hear… little feet where you go.” Exactly how one avoided demon possession was nebulous. You could get one by not following the rules, Trick-or-Treating, having sex (that’s a big one), or even by holding library books. One must stay deep within the church’s authority to remain safe.
Our unicorn then makes a curious remark that I didn’t catch until a second reading. He wonders, “Who knows if Tash will be visible to the Ape?” Not once does it say that Tash can turn invisible, but our heroes seem to intuitively know this can happen when unbelievers are looking. (2 Corinthians 4:4 says God blinds the minds of unbelievers from seeing these things.)
After Tash has gone, our party decides to head back to Cair Paravel. They like the idea of leaving the demon to haunt the ape and Calormenes for a while. They assume Tash will bother them subtly and invisibly, like how demons bother us atheists. That’s why we’re all miserable and plagued with mental illness. I’m linking to studies that say this isn’t the case, but don’t be swayed by science over Scripture.
That’s the devil tricking you. Everybody knows.
Reading with Little Bit: A Critical Look at the Chronicles of Narnia