Priest: "A lot of adults never grow up when it comes to religion. They could never accept that Satan is just a symbolic externalization of the evil that lurks in all of us."
Widow:"But where does that evil in us come from?"
Priest: "From the merging of the spirit and the flesh. The spiritual part of us comes from God and wants to return to Him. The physical part of us is like a wild beast that wants what it wants when it wants it and doesn't care who gets hurt in its drive to get it. Life is a process of striking a balance between the two. If the spiritual part prevails, it is allowed to return to God when life is over. If the baser drives and emotions of the physical aspect taint the spirit too deeply, it is not allowed to return to God. That, Carol, is hell. Hell is not a fiery place with pitchfork-wielding demons. It's a state of being bereft of God's presence."
I found it interesting that the priest said that very few Jesuits believe in the existence of an actual Satan or Hell. It had the ring of truth to it, and I had always associated jesuit thought with a more intellectual approach to catholocism.
This crutch of needing to give yourself up to god in order to become a truly good person and to get to heaven is one of the most fundamental disagreements I have with xian thought. It leads to blaming god when things don't go well and writing problems off to "God's Will".
I find that attitude even more clearly in Islam. While xian fundamentalists have the country song "Jesus Take the Wheel" (Really? Your car starts to skid on ice as a metaphor for you life being out of control, and your best advice is to close your eyes, throw up your hand, and hope god steers your car/life away from the ditch. Really? But I digress.) muslims have the expression Insha'Allah or As God Wills.
I see that a lot in news reports and interviews on TV, and have had Muslim friends and acquaintances use it in situations where I think they would have been better off trying harder for the results they wanted. I think a touch of that attitude peeved Winston Churchill when he was talking about the muslim culture's "fearful fatalistic apathy."
How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy. The effects are apparent in many countries. Improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce, and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live. A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement; the next of its dignity and sanctity. The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property—either as a child, a wife, or a concubine—must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men. Individual Moslems may show splendid qualities. Thousands become the brave and loyal soldiers of the Queen: all know how to die. But the influence of the religion paralyzes the social development of those who follow it. No stronger retrograde force exists in the world. Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proseltyzing faith. It has already spread throughout Central Africa, raising fearless warriors at every step; and were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science—the science against which it had vainly struggled—the civilization of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilization of ancient Rome.
Oh well, just railing against the Nine Billion Names of God on a Wednesday.