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Along with belief in a benevolent supernatural being, many devout Christians also believe in its supernatural anthesis, Satan. God and Satan represent metaphorically the battle between good and evil. To nonbelievers, they are nonsensical creations of human imagination, but to many religious believers, they are as real as the Sun and the Moon.

Many years ago, I attended the memorial service for a good friend who had died of cancer of the tongue. Dan was in his mid-fifties when he died.  He and his family were devout evangelical Christians. I worked with Dan for many years before he retired early to become an ordained pastor in his church. At the service, his son rose to explain Dan’s early death. He blamed it on Satan. The cancer attacked his tongue, a clear effort to silence his preachings. I was stunned that an adult actually believed such nonsense, but the young man was deadly serious, and warned us of the dangers that Satan represented to believers. He did not try to explain why God had not protected one of his advocates.

Belief in Satan is common in the evangelical/fundamental sects of Christianity. Republicans have harnessed it and use it quite effectively, claiming that the Democratic Party is “Satan’s party,” and that liberals in general are influenced by Satan. Fundie preachers in the Bible Belt thunder from their pulpits that Democrats are Satan worshippers, warning their followers not to vote for Democratic candidates. That would seem to violate IRS rules about tax-exempt organizations meddling in politics, but the IRS has been reluctant to confront such violations. I suppose they are afraid of even further cutbacks in their funding. Many on the Right advocate elimination of the IRS completely, which would make tax laws meaningless. Laws that are not enforced are worse than worthless, because they breed disrespect for government authority. As recent events have shown, that disrespect has reached dangerous levels in this country, especially among those on the Right who advocated and supported the armed insurrection to overturn election results that they didn’t like. Many of those thugs who broke into the capitol on January 6th were devout religious believers.

Belief is Satan has influenced other parts of our culture. There is even a musical interval that has been attributed to the sulfurous one. In musical terms, it’s called the tritone, but it has another name: The Devil’s Interval. Some readers probably know what that is, but for those who don’t, let me provide a short tutorial on Western music.

Our music is based on what is known as the “equally tempered scale,” a series of twelve tones at equally spaced intervals. The series is repeated in “octaves,” making up the range of frequencies audible to human ears. When two or more tones are played together, some of the combinations, depending on their intervals, are generally pleasing to us. We call it “harmony.” Other combinations are not harmonious, and we call them “dissonant.” The Tritone is definitely dissonant. As the name suggests, it consists of three steps on a major scale. I don’t want to get sidetracked into major and minor keys, whole steps and half steps. If you can’t follow this, you can Google it.

One example of a tritone would be the tones represented by the notes C and F#. Some classical composers have used the Tritone in diabolical settings. The first one that comes to mind is Danse Macabre, a piece by French composer Camille Saint-Seans. It is often played around Halloween by classical music stations. It is a devilishly captivating piece.

Turn on your speakers and listen to the short violin solo after the first few bars of introduction in this recording.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qNMzBnuBC6Y

It sends shivers up and down your spine, right? That’s a tritone. It’s delicious.

There are many other examples. Here’s a link if you would like to hear more:

https://www.npr.org/2017/10/31/560843189/the-unsettling-sound-of-tritones-the-devils-interval

Christian music avoids the tritone. That is why I like the tritone so much.

It is a gift from the devilish one. Thank you, Satan. (wink)

 


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