Even if you don’t believe in a literal devil, think about it just for fun: How would you stick it to the One who chucked you, the most beautiful angel of all, out of heaven just because you’d become a little prideful?
There are some obvious tactics, I think.
If I were Satan, I’d begin by solidifying my base -- those who have no interest in a God of any sort, or at least the holier-than-thou God of Christianity.
I’d whisper in the ears of their opinion leaders – primarily the intellectual elite – telling them that science mustn’t allow for the supernatural, that absolute truth (if it exists at all) can’t extend beyond science, and that anyone who disagrees with such truths is a lunatic along the lines of the William Jennings Bryan character in the film Inherit the Wind.
I’d urge them to get busy and promote these ideas far and wide, in order to stamp out the backwaters of biblical literalism, with all its ignorance and intolerance -- clearly holding back human progress. “Fundamentalist religion is responsible for most of the ills of mankind,” I would assure them. “Just look at the Crusades and the Inquisition.”
Next, I’d skim off those potential converts who were most prone to temptation by enticing them into overtly rebellious activities that the Bible clearly condemns – encouraging adultery or drunkenness, self-centeredness or greed, to mention just a few examples of the rich minefields of human sin. To prevent them from becoming so sick of themselves that they might repent and turn to God, I’d keep whispering in their ears about what horrible, hopeless perverts they are. “Might as well grab all the gusto you can,” I would hiss, “’cause there’s no way you’ll ever make it to heaven.” (Note the nifty double deception here, in reinforcing the misconception that it’s one's personal goodness that’s the ticket to paradise.)
Then I might go after those who are so wrapped up in this world that they don’t give spiritual things any thought. I’d nudge as many of them as possible into the “nobody can possibly know the truth” camp of hard-line agnosticism, an increasingly popular place to hang one’s intellectual hat these days. I’d encourage them at every turn to squeeze every last moment out of this life, turning away from anything that threatens their pleasure and relentlessly battling anything that might cut their lives short.
Having taken care of all this low-hanging fruit, I would let the rest go to church, as their consciences dictate. But I’d do whatever it takes to get those churches teaching false gospels – watering down the real gospel by saying nothing about repentance or substitutionary atonement or evangelism, for instance, or better yet explicitly denying these things altogether. I'd get them to de-genderize their hymnals and call God "she" -- or "she or he," should a Big Contributor balk at the use of exclusively female pronouns. And then I’d shower those who preach such lies with material wealth and the adulation of thousands to keep them on message for the long haul.
So far, so good: I’ve wrested a huge chunk of the human population away from my Enemy!
These tactics alone would probably take me 90% of the way towards accomplishing my objective. It would be enough to make the average demon take a little vacation.
But Satan, of course, is no ordinary demon. He is the Prince of This World, and there are always more targets to attack.
So maybe you really don't believe in Satan. But you have to admit that it's kind of interesting, the way what we see in our world today just happens to match what an enterprising devil would do. But don't worry, it's probably all just coincidence ...