"Just when you'd think they were more malignant than ever Hell could be, they could occasionally show more grace than Heaven ever dreamed of. Often the same individual was involved. It was this freewill thing, of course. It was a bugger."
So, I was reading the comments on one of Susanne's posts, and a comment Suroor made about some Muslims believing that Iblis was a metaphor for the evil and proud side of human nature. I know plenty of Christians who believe the same thing, only insert Satan for Iblis. (I know they're kind of the same role, but not at all the same character.)
Anyway. I think, on the one hand, references to the devil *can* be metaphors for human nature's dark side. On the other, I really do believe that there is *a* Devil. Satan, Lucifer, the Morning Star, whatever you want to call him. And that he used to be the best and brightest angel, but that he fell. Now, I'm not sold on the whole, fell because of his desire to *be* God, thing. I mean, I know. It's what we're told, but on a certain level, it doesn't work.
I've made this argument before, but I'll reiterate it here, for the record. Mankind was created with free will. God did not want automatons worshiping Him, He wanted us to *choose*. Otherwise, why bother with free will? But, if God is all that exists, and all the angels are on His side, then what is there to choose between? If you don't know that there's an option, you can't make a choice. So there needs to be someone *offering* the choice. Enter Satan. I think of it more as a job, than anything else. Someone needs to be standing there offering you that other path in order for you to make a choice. Otherwise, free will is pointless.
"He rather liked people. It was a major failing in a demon. Oh, he did his best to make their short lives miserable, because that was his job, but nothing he could think up was half as bad as the stuff they thought up themselves. They seemed to have a talent for it. It was built into the design, somehow. They were born into a world that was against them in a thousand little ways, and then devoted most of their energies to making it worse."
I don't think that the Devil and his minions run around causing all sorts of disasters and evil things. I think, for the most part, it's just us. Sure, they're there to tempt us, to offer the darker path, but we make the choice. *We* do the deed. It's on us.
"There were people who called themselves Satanists who made Crowley squirm. It wasn't just the things they did, it was the way they blamed it all on Hell. They'd come up with some stomach-churning idea that no demon could have thought of in a thousand years, some dark and mindless unpleasantness that only a fully-functioning human brain could conceive, then shout "The Devil Made Me Do It" and get the sympathy of the court when the whole point was that the Devil hardly ever made anyone do anything. He didn't have to. That was what some humans found hard to understand. Hell wasn't a major reservoir of evil, any more than Heaven, in Crowley's opinion, was a fountain of goodness; they were just sides in the great cosmic chess game. Where you found the real McCoy, the real grace and the real heart-stopping evil, was right inside the human mind."
(all quotes from the Best Book Ever Written - Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett)