- About TFT
Friday Thing Archive
- Politics
- Media
- Culture and Society
- War On Terror
- People
- Places
- World
- Popped Clogs
- Music
- Books
- Film
- Etc
Help And Info
- Contact Details
- Advertising
- Jobs
- Privacy Policy
- XML Feed

Home > Culture and Society

Hellhound on my trail

"When the demons came out of the man, they went into the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned. When those tending the pigs saw what had happened, they ran off and reported this in the town and countryside..."

(Luke 8:34)

"...blues fallin' down like hail
blues fallin' down like hail.
And the days keeps on worryin' me
there's a hellhound on my trail."

(Robert Johnson)

5 December 2003

In the village of Bosobe in the Congo, more than 60 people have died having been administered a potion designed to ward off evil spirits. The potion was administered by the village priest.

According to the Democratic Republic of Congo's health minister, Yagi Sitolo:

"Sixty-four of the approximately hundred people who drank the potion have died. We have sent two doctors and a Red Cross team to the site..."
Strangely, after doing all this good work, the priest has fled. Chased screaming through the darkness by a thousand cackling spirits, no doubt.

The priest may have taken his pastoral role a little far, and should probably have read up a little more about which mushrooms make your liver fall out and which don't, but he was driven by good Catholic doctrine: the spirits are out to get you.

And this isn't just a Catholic thing - the evangelical right wing of Anglicanism can be just as nuts. This is from a recent leader from the Daily Times newspaper of Nigeria:

Therefore, we call on the Christian faithful here and elsewhere, to guard their loins against the wiles of the evil one, and, in the name of all that is good, noble, holy and honourable speak with one voice against the ordination of Gene Robinson.

That's right - you've got to: "guard your loins against the wiles of the evil one" - amazing talk. It's as if Satan is flitting through the world, in a pair of backless PVC trousers, trying to coax people into the evil of gayness.

This is what Gabriele Amorth (the Vatican's official exorcist) told the Sunday Telegraph recently: "I speak with the devil every day. I talk to him in Latin. He answers in Italian. I have been wrestling with him, day in and day out, for 14 years." (Hmmm. Wrestling with the devil while he whispers to you in Italian? Sounds a little gay, Gabriele, don't you think?)

Now, Satan is so obviously made-up that discussing him is about as worthwhile as debating the personal morality of Catwoman, but letís have a stab at it.

Satan got booted out of heaven, and for some bizarre reason was allowed to set up his own kingdom, Hell. Exactly why isn't clear; maybe God was outsourcing punishment of non-believers. Anyway, the important thing is that Satanís minions, devils or demons to you or me, were sent out to tempt people away from God and do evil. This makes sense in a bonkers kind of way because if you're not given the opportunity to be evil (as well as good) you're not a moral agent.

But Satan was by no means a permanent fixture of religion. As Bob Carroll, creator of the excellent Skeptics Dictionary points out: "It is no accident that Satan reached the peak of his career at the same time the Church did, during the thirteenth century."

The more mental elements of the Christian church still subscribe to a literal view of Satan and evil - he exists as an actual entity, as do his demons. When you drink that delicious pint of Stella, thereís an invisible demon at your side encouraging you to do it. This literal view of evil is probably where the cartoon image of an angel/devil on each shoulder comes from. (We're happy to stand corrected if you're doing an MA in Animation and Theology and know otherwise).

But on the whole, modern Christians and people in general shy away from the medieval view of Satan and evil. The consensus is that people do evil things, but they aren't under the sway of a supernatural force of badness. Even the gays. And the concept of evil as a force that can take over human beings certainly doesn't fit with modern ideas of morality and punishment.

Or indeed science, psychology, atheism and not believing that fairies live at the bottom of your garden.

Note: We believe in fairies.

Comment on this article: letters@thefridaything.co.uk

Subscribe to The Friday Thing for free

Bad words ahead The Friday Thing is a weekly email comment sheet. Casting a cynical eye over the week's events, it is rarely fair and never balanced.

A selection of articles from each week's issue appear online, but to enjoy the full Thing, delivered by email every Friday - as well as access to almost five years of back issues - you'll need to subscribe. It's absolutely free.

"Razor-sharp comment and gossip." - The Sunday Times

"Hilariously cynical..To describe it as 'irreverent' is to do the newsletter an injustice." - The Observer

"Sharp, intelligent, opinionated, uncompromising and very, very funny. Just like 'Private Eye' used to be." - Alec McKelland

"Wicked" - Channel 4

"Ace" - Time Out

"'We rise once again in advocacy of The Friday Thing. We realize that some of you may be unwilling to spend [your money] on plain-text comment, but you're only depriving yourself." - The Minor Fall, The Major Lift

"Subscribing to this at the beginning of the year was undoubtedly one of the better decisions I've made. Superlative, and utterly marvellous. I look forward to Fridays now, because I can't wait for the next issue. Fucking fucking brilliant." - Meish.org

"Featuring writers from The Observer, Smack The Pony and The 11 O'Clock Show... will continue to attract new subscribers sight unseen" - NeedToKnow

"The Friday Thing is so good it's stopping me from doing a bunk of a Friday afternoon." - Annie Blinkhorn (The Erotic Review)

"So now" - The Evening Standard

"Damn it, you rule. May you never, ever back down." - Paul Mayze

"Ace" - PopJustice

"Snarky" - Online Journalism Review

"Can you please stop making me laugh out loud... I'm supposed to be working, you know!" - Tamsin Tyrwhitt

"Your coverage of stuff as it spills is right on the money." - Mike Woods

"Popbitch with A-Levels." - Tim Footman

"In an inbox full of trite work-related nonsense, TFT shines from under its subject heading like the sun out of Angus Deayton's arse." - Nikki Hunt

"A first rate email. It's become an integral part of my week, and my life would be empty and meaningless without it (well, *more* empty and meaningless anyway)." - Mark Pugh

"Genius, absolute bit of class. And you can quote me on that." - Lee Neville

"If you're hipper than hell, this is what you read." - MarketingSherpa

"The most entertaining email I've had all week. Great tone." - Matthew Prior

"A massive and engrossing wit injection." - idiotica.co.uk

"I wouldn't know satire if it bit me on the arse. But I did like the Naomi Campbell joke." - Matt Kelly (The Mirror)

"Has had an understandably high profile among people who know about these things." - Guy Clapperton (Guardian Online)

"Satirical sideswipes at the burning issues of the day." - Radio 5 Live

"Puerile and worthless... Truly fabulous... Do read the whole thing." - Stephen Pollard

© The Friday Thing 2001-2008 - All Rights Reserved