The Course of Reason

Antitheist Apologetics

August 31, 2011

This is an antitheist apologetics post by Seth Kurtenbach.  It is meant to show how easily one can make a ridiculous theological argument.  Of course I don’t endorse any of the premises that follow, but many theists do, and so I show that by twisting faith-based beliefs one can conjure up almost any argument.


Thanks to Anthony A. for posting this on the SASHA wall. A theist might respond by saying that satan’s torture/torment of evildoers is not done as an act of punishment, but merely because it gives him pleasure to torture and torment. Without just intentions, the infliction of suffering on evildoers is not itself just, but is merely the infliction of suffering on evildoers.

For example, suppose it is just to punish murderers by killing them. Suppose also that a prison guard happens to have access only to murderers, and kills them because killing them gives him great satisfaction. He does not kill them out of a sense of duty, or because it is just, and these reasons play no motivating role in his actions: he would kill them even if they were innocent. One might balk at calling him a good guy. In this way, it is possible for satan to inflict suffering on evildoers without being a good guy.

However, if this is the case, then it seems that the guy ultimately in control is allowing a lot of unjust suffering to happen at the hands of satan, allowing satan the satisfaction of torturing people. God is supposed to be all powerful, and in virtue of this power he can prevent satan from torturing anyone, and yet he allows it. This is like the prison warden knowing about the rogue murderous guard, being able to prevent the guard’s transgressions, but allowing them to continue. Is the warden justified in allowing this to go on? No, he should stop the rogue guard and administer the punishments himself, to ensure that justice is done rather than power abused.

So, if satan tortures evildoers, then either he does so justly or unjustly. If justly, then he’s a good guy. If unjustly, then god unjustly allows it to happen. If satan is a good guy, then god is a bad guy, because it is assumed that they are on opposing sides. Therefore, either way, god is unjust.  Bummer, theists!  Wrong team!

This post originally appeared on the MUSASHA blog




About the Author: Seth Kurtenbach

Seth Kurtenbach's photo
Seth Kurtenbach is pursuing his PhD in computer science at the University of Missouri. His current research focuses on the application of formal logic to questions about knowledge and rationality. He has his Master's degree in philosophy from the University of Missouri, and is growing an epic beard in order to maintain his philosophical powers. You can email Seth at or follow him on Twitter: @SJKur.


#1 Malimar on Wednesday August 31, 2011 at 8:40am

According to most theology I'm familiar with (also Dante, whose works, though famous, are not canonical), Satan doesn't punish evildoers. He's a prisoner in Hell just like all the other evildoers.

The only actual scriptural reference for this (the Deceiver getting thrown into the lake of fire) that I could find was in the book of Revelation, so I'm not sure if it's supposed to be history or prophecy.

But even in the rest of Scripture, Satan is never responsible for torturing evildoers. He tortures pious Job plenty, sure, on God's orders, and tempts folks to sin once or twice, but torturing evildoers? Never.

A lot of religious people are under the impression that Satan is the boss of Hell. I don't think any serious theologian agrees.

#2 Seth Kurtenbach (Guest) on Thursday September 01, 2011 at 8:35am

"A lot of religious people are under the impression that Satan is the boss of Hell."

Yes, they are the targets of my criticism; not theologians who work out these kinks professionally. In my experience, the credulous public has beliefs that largely differ from those of theologians. I should have made it clear that my "theological" argument was not referring to the academic profession, but to any argument based on faith in a personal god. For example, the conservative christians in america argue against gay marriage based on theological grounds, so I consider those to be theological arguments; yet, few theologians proper would endorse such arguments, I think.




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