Garwulf’s #12: The Devil in the Details

    So it’s early February, and I’m sitting around the house with nothing to do. Having just seen The Ninth Gate for the umpteenth time, I decide to wander onto the Internet and look at its official website. It’s a nice site, and there were some fairly interesting links that I followed, just to see what they were.

    I’m telling you this so that you’ll understand exactly how I ended up spending an hour zipping through the website of the Church of Satan.

    (Don’t worry; I’m not in any danger of becoming a Satanist; I’m too busy being an infidel for that.)

    Yes, my dear readers, there actually is a recognized Church of Satan. It is a fringe religion, and after reading its credo, I have to wonder if it isn’t the single most misnamed faith on the continent.

    Imagine a group of Wiccans (nature worshipers with a Druidic background) who have decided they just can’t live without an inverted pentagram somewhere. So, having changed the lord of darkness into a strange sort of nature deity, they now have an excuse not only to use a pentagram, but also to occasionally cast a nasty spell at somebody who has annoyed them (something Wiccans aren’t allowed to do).

    There you have it: the Church of Satan (at least, what I perceive them to be from their literature). No animal or human sacrifice, no harming somebody unless they’ve come after you first, no being generally nasty to thy neighbor. If the devil actually did come up from Hell and saw this group, he’d scratch his head and wonder who they were actually worshiping.

    (Mind you, I say this with a grudging respect; any religion that considers “stupidity” to be its worst possible sin becomes instantly okay in my book.)

    However, no matter what the Church of Satan tries to make out of the devil, the actual mythology behind the lord of darkness still manages to strike fear into the hearts of millions. Lucifer is a fallen angel, cast out from Heaven after he tried to usurp God himself. A figure of temptation and evil, he is the opposite of Jesus and the saints, a force of infinite darkness struggling against a messiah of goodness and love.

    As it turns out, real Satanism (meaning devil-worship based on Christian mythology) is probably itself just a myth. After all, considering that the payoff in the end is some temporal power, then being burned at the stake and roasting in hell for all eternity, somehow real Satanism doesn’t seem very attractive to anybody with any degree of sanity whatsoever.

    Is it any surprise that symbols of the devil manage to disturb and terrify many fundamentalist Christians? And what happens when they see these symbols on a computer game?

    Back when Diablo.org was still alive (sadly, it has been dead for a few months now), a rather interesting question was posted on the forum: is Diablo Satanic? The discussion immediately became intense and heated.

    One person related a story about a mother in the Bible Belt who caught her son playing Diablo on his computer. She took the CD, poured holy water on it, wrapped it in some sort of leaf, and placed it on the mantle. Apparently, it rests there to this day.

    However, extreme reactions aside, the question remains. When one wanders through the Diablo world, there are inverted pentagrams, grisly remains of sacrifices on alters, and monsters from some sort of demonic nightmare. Diablo himself has a name meaning “devil” in Spanish, and while he may look like a cross between a T-Rex and a porcupine, he also looks very much like one would imagine Satan to be.

    (Okay, Satan in a mad rage, after taking over and crossing the bodies of a T-Rex and a porcupine. Are you happy now?)

    And yet, with all of this imagery, I don’t think Diablo is Satanic. Not at all. In truth, it is exactly the opposite.

    It isn’t the fact that the imagery is there, but rather how it is used. The hero isn’t wandering around congratulating the demons on a job well done, but is slaughtering them left, right, and center instead.

    Is Diablo Satanic? Absolutely not. In fact, I would call it the ultimate in Christian wish-fulfillment.

    Just think: you play a mortal hero (albeit with superpowers that can put some comic-book characters to shame) who actually can go down into the depths of the underworld and kill the Devil. It’s not just saving the world, it’s saving the world from the source of evil itself. It’s freeing damned souls, crushing demons, and taking back all the loot they took from good, hard working people (most of whom do not work as Hollywood studio heads).

    As I said, the greatest Christian wish fulfillment of all time. It really is sad, though, watching the reactions of the fundamentalists, who would probably enjoy the game once they realized what it truly is. They are missing out on a great deal. However, that doesn’t mean we have to.

    Let’s fulfill a dream. Let’s go kill the Devil. Who knows? Perhaps somewhere there’s an evil Devil-worshiper pouring unholy water on a Diablo CD…

    Disclaimer: Garwulf’s Corner is written by Robert B. Marks and hosted by Diii.net. The views expressed in this column are those of the author, and are not necessarily the opinions of Diii.net.

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