One of the most common myths about demonology is the idea that the Roman Catholic Church or Christianity in general, “invented” the ideas of Satan, Hell and demons to scare people into believing in God. Setting aside theological questions of whether or not Satan exists the claim on a whole can be addressed and completely dismissed by a study of religion.
For a start the name Satan itself predates Christianity since its origins are in Hebrew scripture. While it’s become a common fallacy to associate Christianity and Judaism as a single religion doing so ignores a number of relevant differences between the belief systems and the fact that while Christianity is less than two thousand years old Judaism has a history going back 3,000 years. Satan appears several times in Judaic scriptures although his role is usually more of a prosecuting attorney arguing against human beings. Even here though, notably in the book of Job, he appears as tormenter acting harshly towards human beings. Aside from this the concept of a great force of evil appears several times in kabbalahistic texts and the apocryphal works. In particular the book of Enoch is worthy of mention here. It expands on the events of Genesis 6: 6 laying out the story of a group of angels who fell from grace due to lust after human females fleshing out the belief that demons come from this fall not the better known story of Lucifer. Given that the oldest parts of the book of Enoch are generally dated at 300 BC this clearly demonstrates that the idea of fallen angels is older than Christianity.
Aside from Judaism the notion of evil spirits can be found in a great many religions that predate Christianity. Zoroastrianism, a dualistic religion dating back to around the 5th century BC suggests the existence of two separate deities: Ahura Mazda the creator and source of all good, and Angra Mainyu an evil and destructive deity. Both of the beings were seen as having lesser spirits that served them and their purposes. In Hinduism and Buddhism beings are referred to known as rakshasa who along with their king Ravana are seen as unrighteous spirits who are in conflict with the gods. Even going back to the oldest known records the grimoires (books of magic) found in Babylon refers to evil spirits that caused disease along with rituals for protection and casting them out. In short even a brief study of world religion can produce a number of malevolent beings that share common characteristics with the Christian idea of demons making it clear that the idea was not started with Christianity.
Like demons the idea of Hell also predates Christianity. Most religions in the world have some concept of punishment for the wicked after death in Judaism for example Gehenna (originally a valley where trash was burned) is often depicted as a place of torment for the wicked. In Greek mythology it was believed that while most of the dead went to Hades those the gods found to be particularly wicked were condemned to a prison deep beneath the earth where they were tormented for their crimes (known as Tartarus). Other religions have different concepts of the nature of the punishment but the majority believes that those who anger the gods or who are wicked will be punished for their crimes. Again demonstrating Hell is not a uniquely Christian concept.
While none of these points address the question of whether or not Hell or Satan actually exists the basic point stands. To claim that Christianity invented these concepts to scare people proves little beyond that the speaker is generally ignorant of religions that predate Christianity by hundreds or even thousands of years.
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