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In S011E08, the Doctor says, offhandedly, that she's "not a great believer in Satan."

However, in "The Impossible Planet" and "The Satan Pit," the Doctor met the Beast, which, while not precisely the same entity as the one from Abrahamic lore, has the general physical appearance, possesses people, and basically calls itself Satan.

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She also must have heard about its son, Abbadon, from Captain Jack Harkness.

Why, then, does the Doctor say this?

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    Maybe the new writer wants to ignore those stories, feeling them to be too religious. – Klaus Æ. Mogensen Nov 26 '18 at 9:11
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    I haven't seen the episode so this is speculation based on the context in this question. Saying she's "not a great believer in Satan" doesn't mean she doesn't believe in him at all. Also it could mean she's not a [great] follower of Satan. – TheLethalCarrot Nov 26 '18 at 9:50
43

Because even in the episode "The Satan Pit", the Doctor refuses to accept that this being really is Satan.

I accept that you exist. I don't have to accept what you are, but your physical existence, I'll give you that

And from the end of the episode

Rose: What do you think it was, really?

Doctor: I think... we beat it. That's good enough for me.

While he refers to having encountered Satan in Series 4, this seemed to be more for the purposes of showing off (like Sarah Jane referring to the Loch Ness Monster in Series 2) than him actually accepting the creature's identity.

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    If it walks like a Satan, and talks like a Satan... – Chloe Nov 26 '18 at 23:14
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    @Chloe -... Therefore...a witch? – Adamant Nov 27 '18 at 2:03
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    @Chloe You could say the same for the Daemons. Or the Siren. Or really quite a lot of "myths and legends" that have appeared in Doctor Who over the decades in various forms of media. That's what the 10th Doctor was alluding to when he says "I've seen fake gods and bad gods and demi-gods and would-be gods..." – DoctorPenguin Nov 27 '18 at 14:29
  • @JTPenguin - You could, exactly. I like Doctor Who as a good science fantasy show. It's when it starts going for a hard-science outlook despite it not being consistent that it gets weird. – Adamant Nov 27 '18 at 18:05
  • Actually, most serious and educated Christians wouldn't see such a being as Satan either. This popular depiction of Satan, with horns and red skin and fangs comes from popular culture, not the Bible. – vsz Nov 29 '18 at 7:07
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I'm guessing she's referring directly to the Abrahamic Satan. She doesn't believe in him because she knows he's just an idea resulting from the mental projection of The Beast, who is basically just an extremely powerful alien.

If miracles by Angels turned out to be the work of angelic-appearing aliens, I would say I don't believe in Angels because I know the true source (even if they are effectively the same).

I should note that when I say "Angels" I mean the bible ones, not the statue ones.

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    +1 Terry Pratchett Wizards don't believe in gods in the same way that most people don't find it necessary to believe in, say, tables. They know they're there, they know they're there for a purpose, they'd probably agree that they have a place in a well-organised universe, but they wouldn't see the point of believing, of going around saying "O great table, without whom we are as naught." Anyway, either the gods are there whether you believe in them or not, or exist only as a function of the belief, so either way you might as well ignore the whole business and, as it were, eat off your knees. – Binary Worrier Nov 26 '18 at 10:46
  • Saying you don't believe in Satan because he doesn't live underground seems like quibbling to me. A lot of people thought supernatural beings literally resided in the heavens, back in the day. – Adamant Nov 26 '18 at 18:00
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    @Adamant: The important point is that it ISN'T supernatural, just as for instance a giant squid isn't, however exotic it might seem to land-based mammals. – jamesqf Nov 26 '18 at 18:16
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    @Adamant This is already a show about a spacefaring, time-travelling, body-transforming, immortal being who happens to end up on Earth between 1850 and 2100 a stunning proportion of the time. The only thing scientific about any of it is writer fiat. The Doctor presumably doesn't believe the religious trappings that go with "Satan", even if based on a real thing. I don't believe that Captain Jack Sparrow is a real person, even while I believe that Johnny Depp exists. – Upper_Case-Stop Harming Monica Nov 26 '18 at 22:14
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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Null Nov 27 '18 at 18:05
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To the Doctor, the Beast does not qualify as a supernatural devil-figure, not even if it might have been the entity identified as "Satan" in human Christianity, and not even if it might have been the root of all the evil on Earth or all the evil within Mutter's Spiral Galaxy. A Time Lord's understanding is deeper than that, and her horizons are broader. Gallifreyan science probably includes everything the Beast was capable of in its conception of "natural". Also, she's been places where the local evil had nothing to do with the Beast. Lots of them, I'd imagine.

This is an application of the converse of the oft-quoted Clarke adage that "sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." If you appear to be a supernatural being even to a Time Lord, you're probably indistinguishable from Cantor's Absolute Infinite.

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    Satan is the tempter, not the root of all evil. – RonJohn Nov 27 '18 at 1:33
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    @RonJohn That depends on which theology we're using, and I don't think it affects my point. – zwol Nov 27 '18 at 13:11
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    How many theologies of Satan are there? Whether or not you believe the Bible is True, it's pretty clear that Satan's purpose is to tempt people using their own greed and selfishness (which is the root of all evil, according to 1 Timothy 6:10), not to be the root of all evil. Thus, your answer is theologically wrong. – RonJohn Nov 27 '18 at 15:28
  • @RonJohn Broaden your horizons beyond Christianity. And it still doesn't affect my point. – zwol Nov 27 '18 at 15:53
  • @RonJohn ... however, I have attempted to clarify what I mean with the first few sentences. – zwol Nov 27 '18 at 16:05
2

The Doctors problem is with this philosophical framework. Even if she knew for a fact the beast from Satan's Pit actually was the same one from Abrahamic Lore, and yes she's met actual magic wielding witches in The Shakespeare Code, her problem isn't about identity. It's about labels. "I don't like her, so she's either a witch I can hang, or an innocent soul I can save by drowning her now before she falls into Satan's grasp."

The Doctor is desperately trying to get them out of this incredibly convenient so-long-as-you're-in-power framework of thinking so that they can help her save the world from a muddy end. The Doctor needs companions. Ones that think. Not ones that use labels as an excuse to turn off their brain.

So I don't think Satan is at the top of her list of fun famous names to awkwardly drop into a casual conversation with a witch hunting King James.

"Satan? Oh I've met him. He can get in your head and doodle on your face but mud's not really his style".

No. Just no.

  • If you're trying to get people to think rationally, doesn't that not mean hiding reality from them? – Adamant Nov 26 '18 at 18:05
  • @Adamant Getting people to think rationally is about not hiding their reality from them. That which they can observe. A rational thinker wouldn't believe that there was a buoy at (0, 0) just because I said so, for instance. – wizzwizz4 Nov 26 '18 at 18:45
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    They might if you were both in the Coast Guard. ;) – Adamant Nov 26 '18 at 19:11
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    Context, it's not just a thing, it's everything – Morgen Nov 27 '18 at 5:52
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The linguistic point missed by the other (far more knowledgable) answers is that if I say "I believe in love" or "I believe in the power of love", I don't mean I accept the existence of 'love': I mean that I believe it love the capacity to transform people and their interactions, with far-reaching consequences cascading down timelines.

So by saying they're not a "great believer" in Satan, the Doctor conveys that whatever else is the case [mainly what @Parrotmaster wrote and its first comment by @BinaryWorrier, as well as the accepted answer], this Satan guy isn't as high on their list as say Daleks.

  • You have a slight mistake in the sentence here " I mean that I believe it love the capacity" caused by the "it" I think but I'm not sure what you meant to say. – TheLethalCarrot Nov 28 '18 at 11:27

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