In God's Problem, author Bart Ehrman states that the inadequate Biblical explanation of suffering is what led him from Christianity to agnosticism.
Is is possible to take the flip side of that argument to suggest that the presence of evil is evidence of a personal Satan? Before you dismiss this as a completely whacky idea, let's look at one example of what I see as evil - the unchanging hatred of Islam for the Jews.
(I need to present a big alibi before I even begin. I'm not insinuating that all Muslims hate Jews. I am talking, however, about core teachings of Islam that affect the attitudes and actions of hundreds of millions of people).
I've long wondered why Islam harbors such hostility for the Jews. Many Muslims in the west claim this is linked to the current Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Muslim clerics and educators in the Middle East are much more honest. The speaker in this interview, addressing a group of young children, states clearly "our hatred towards the Jews is perpetual and continuous" because they did not accept Muhammad as a prophet. memritv.org contains dozens of similar interviews.
In 1986 I went to Tunisia and tried to learn the Tunisian dialect of Arabic. An oral storyteller named Abdallah Laroui had lived earlier in the century and recorded hundreds of Tunisian folk stories that were played every day on Tunisian radio. I used to record and listen to them. Some of them were about the Tunisian Jews; Tunis had large communities of Jews who had lived there for centuries before they were forced out following the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 and the disastrous Six-Day war of 1967. Whenever Laroui would mention the word "Jew", he would immediately follow it with the expression "hashek". This is similar to the English "God forbid", as in, "If you ever get cancer, God forbid", but means more than that. It has the additional connotation of "may this never happen to you", or "may you never become one of them". Laroui would repeat "hashek" every time he mentioned something distasteful, like a pig...or a Jew. "There was a Jewish shopkeeper living in La Goulette, hashek (may Allah never allow you to become one of them)."
Why did Laroui repeat this word after every reference to a Jew? It had nothing to do with 20th century politics, but was a reflection of long-held social attitudes towards Jews. It is similar to the call-in shows to Arabic TV shows that I have listened to where older Saudi women without hesitation use the word "kalb" (dog) to describe Jews, or just use both words as a noun-adjective phrase, "hathal-kalb al-yahudi" (that Jewish dog).
At Muhammad and the Jews, Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3, I described the experience of the Jews of Saudi Arabia as the result of their refusal to obey Muhammad. One could argue that Muslim hatred for Jews is the result of that refusal. But could there be an additional spiritual, supernatural element?
Traditional Christian theology is that Satan tries to destroy what God builds. Some theologians even see the activity of Satan in the first two verses of the Bible. Instead of, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, and the earth was without form and void," they prefer, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, and the earth became without form and void" (after Satan got his hands on it and messed things up). Genesis 3 contains the story of Satan in the form of a snake, again trying to destroy what God had built.
Now the story starts to get interesting. God informed the snake (or Satan) that he would put enmity between "the seed of the woman and your seed". Although one could argue this is the reason many women do not like snakes, the story is usually interpreted to mean there will be two lines of people, the people of faith and the people without faith (or, the people of false faith). Several chapters later, Abraham is chosen by God to be the father, or ancestor, of the people of faith. The line is further narrowed down when Abraham has two sons, Ishmael and Isaac. Again, Isaac and his descendants become the chosen people of faith, with Ishmael and his offspring left outside the covenant. The descendants of Isaac were the Jewish people from whom Jesus was born, and the descendants of Ishmael were the tribes of Arabia from which Muhammad was born.
Back to the idea of Satan the destroyer; nothing is more destructive than imitation. Nothing destroys the value of a hundred dollar bill more than a counterfeit bill. What if there was a real, personal Satan who tried to imitate what God did by producing a counterfeit that would not only deceive, but would also enable Satan to destroy the true? If Abraham and his seed were the people of faith, why not create a counterfeit that would not only be close enough to deceive many but would also help obliterate the true?
How could one do this? First of all, by imitating the original story as closely as possible, but applying it to another person. The Bible says Abraham was prepared to offer Isaac as a sacrifice to God; the Quran says it was Ishmael. The Bible says Abraham gave Isaac the blessing of the favored son; the Quran says Abraham and Ishmael went to Mecca where they built the kabah. The Bible says the descendants of Isaac were the chosen people; the Quran says the descendants of Ishmael are "the best of peoples". The Bible presents David as the Prophet-King; Muhammad dreamed of the same role. The Bible describes Jesus as the God-man; the Quran presents Muhammad as the Perfect Man.
A sinister plan carried out over thousands of years by a personal Satan to counterfeit and destroy the plan of God? It's an interesting idea.