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This question is regarding the Catholic view.

Why did Satan and the other demons rebel against God? What do they get out of it?

Demons are outside of time so they perceive everything in one eternal moment. They do not have physical inclinations that could lead them to sin. Unlike humans they perceive all of their knowledge at the same time, which means they couldn’t forget or not take into consideration the fact of God’s omnipotence and their own damnation for disobeying Him. Wouldn’t they also know that the only reason God allows them to rebel against Him is to bring some greater good out of it, which would defeat the purpose of their actions? Wouldn’t it have been in their personal interest to not rebel against God since hell is the worst thing and it far outweighs whatever they got out of rebelling? This makes it seem like they were irrational, but how can atemporal, omniscient beings be irrational?

some quotes from Catholic Answers:

When the angels made their initial choice to love and serve the Lord or not, they perfectly saw—according to their angelic natures—the irrevocably eternal consequences of their actions. That is, they were given the power by God to make a clear and irrevocable choice to love and serve him or not. Some chose well, while others chose very badly.

They understood the world and their decisions immediately—according to Thomas Aquinas, they have no active and passive intellect (I, 54, 4)—and the exercise of their free will is instantaneous and final.

I don't know whether they are strictly atemporal or not, but whatever they are, the nature of their decision was such that there was no going back despite God's infinite mercy.

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    Why do you think sin is primarily linked to physicality? Also, demons are not omniscient or omnipresent. Apr 19 at 11:32
  • @MikeBorden I don't think physicality is necessary for sin, but it makes sense that physical beings sin since we have bodily inclinations, we can forget things, and we can be deceived. I just find it hard to comprehend why angels would rebel against God. As far as I understand the Catholic teaching, demons are omniscient and omnipresent. This is because they are non-physical which means they are present everywhere at all times which means they know everything that has happened and will happen, and they know it all at once since they do not experience the passing of time.
    – wmasse
    Apr 19 at 15:14
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    I don't see where in Catholic theology devils are presumed to be omniscient.
    – pygosceles
    Apr 19 at 15:30
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    Agree with @pygosceles and Mike Borden. To wmasse: Are you sure demons are outside time and are omniscient? See 5 Myths about Angels and Demons. Apr 21 at 0:05
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    @GratefulDisciple I added to the question in response to your comment.
    – wmasse
    Apr 22 at 0:22

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The Catechism states:

391 Behind the disobedient choice of our first parents lurks a seductive voice, opposed to God, which makes them fall into death out of envy. Scripture and the Church's Tradition see in this being a fallen angel, called "Satan" or the "devil". The Church teaches that Satan was at first a good angel, made by God: "The devil and the other demons were indeed created naturally good by God, but they became evil by their own doing."

392 Scripture speaks of a sin of these angels. This "fall" consists in the free choice of these created spirits, who radically and irrevocably rejected God and his reign. We find a reflection of that rebellion in the tempter's words to our first parents: "You will be like God." The devil "has sinned from the beginning"; he is "a liar and the father of lies".

393 It is the irrevocable character of their choice, and not a defect in the infinite divine mercy, that makes the angels' sin unforgivable. "There is no repentance for the angels after their fall, just as there is no repentance for men after death."

394 Scripture witnesses to the disastrous influence of the one Jesus calls "a murderer from the beginning", who would even try to divert Jesus from the mission received from his Father. "The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil." In its consequences the gravest of these works was the mendacious seduction that led man to disobey God.

395 The power of Satan is, nonetheless, not infinite. He is only a creature, powerful from the fact that he is pure spirit, but still a creature. He cannot prevent the building up of God's reign. Although Satan may act in the world out of hatred for God and his kingdom in Christ Jesus, and although his action may cause grave injuries - of a spiritual nature and, indirectly, even of a physical nature - to each man and to society, the action is permitted by divine providence which with strength and gentleness guides human and cosmic history. It is a great mystery that providence should permit diabolical activity, but "we know that in everything God works for good with those who love him."

You will find little official teaching about the why. You could say the Catholic Church is focussed on Christ, men, salvation and not so much on why Satan did what he did. We know he did, but what he got out of it?

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St. Thomas Aquinas answers the question "What did the angel [Lucifer] seek in sinning?" (Summa Theologica I q. 63 a. 3), saying: "the devil desired to be as God". The Devil did not seek to be equal to God; in his angelic intelligence, he knows that's not possible, but he sought to be like God. St. Thomas explains that one can desire to be Godlike without sin, but whenever one tries to be like God in what pertains to God alone, usurping Him—e.g., "playing God" like evil scientists do—then that is sinful.

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  • + 1... a useful answer... but it is important to note that Aquinas adds "he sought to have dominion over others; wherein he also perversely wished to be like unto God." In that sense he also sought to be like humans, to whom God gave the blessing of dominion. May 14 at 18:20
  • @DanFefferman "he also sought to be like humans" Yes, maybe. Satan was envious that the Second Person of the Holy Trinity took on a human nature; he thought He should take on an angelic nature instead.
    – Geremia
    May 14 at 18:22
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What does Satan get out of being evil?

Answer: A morbid sense of satisfaction that he and his satellites are creating a maximum amount of destruction amongst the souls of mankind by leading as many as he can to dwell with him in Hell. Satan does not know what love is and uniquely desires to diminish God’s glory in heaven! To this end he tempts all men to fall into sin and hopes they refuse to saving graces that Christ Jesus gained for all mankind on the Cross. This is his end game and his is all he gets out of being evil.

Be sober and watch: because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, goeth about seeking whom he may devour. - 1 Peter 5:8

Satan hates all God, the Holy Angels, the Saints in Heaven, the Virgin Mary and all men as well as the Church founded by Jesus Christ. He has no love!

I would like to offer two private revelations as Catholic sources that although not an obligation of faith to believe in, but do have some insights to show Satan’s dispositions towards men and the Catholic Church.

The first is the is taken from the famous vision of Pope Leo XIII in 1884!

On October 13, 1884, exactly 33 years to the day before the Miracle of the Sun in Fatima, Pope Leo XIII had a terrifying vision of the future of the Church. With a handful of cardinals and Vatican staff members in attendance, Pope Leo XIII had finished celebrating Mass in the Vatican Chapel. He suddenly stopped at the foot of the altar, his face having turned ashen white, and remained there standing for about ten minutes in a trance-like state.

Later, when asked what had happened, Pope Leo XIII said that as he was about to leave the altar he heard two voices. One voice was of a kind and gentle nature, while the other voice was guttural and grating. He listened to the voices, which seemed to emanate from the tabernacle, and overheard the following conversation:

The voice of Satan in his pride, boasted to our Lord:

“I can destroy your Church.”

The gentle voice of our Lord:

“You can? Then go ahead and do so.”

Satan:

“To do so, I need more time and more power.”

Our Lord:

“How much time? How much power?

Satan:

“75 to 100 years, and a greater power over those who will give themselves over to my service.”

Our Lord:

“You have the time, you will have the power. Do with them what you will.”

After having the vision, Pope Leo immediately went from the Vatican Chapel to his private office and wrote the “Prayer to Saint Michael”, giving with it the instructions that it be prayed after all Low Masses.

The practice of reciting this powerful prayer after Mass continue for decades, until it was officially suppressed after Vatican II. Removing the obligation to recite this prayer (along with the three Hail Marys, the Hail Holy Queen, and the prayer for the Church) after Low Mass did not mean forbidding its use either privately or publicly, and Pope Saint John Paul II recommended its use, saying:

“Although this prayer is no longer recited at the end of Mass, I ask everyone not to forget it and to recite it to obtain help in the battle against the forces of darkness and against the spirit of this world.”

The Terrifying Vision That Led Pope Leo XIII To Write The Saint Michael Prayer

The second is from the not so well known Letter from Hell!

Although I hate the devil, I like him because he and his helpers, the angels that fell with him at the beginning of time, strive to cause the loss of the people on earth. There are myriad demons. Uncountable numbers of them who wander through the world, like a swarm of flies, without their presence even being suspected.

It does not fall to us who have been condemned to tempt you; that is left to the fallen spirits. Our torments increase every time they bring another soul to Hell, but hatred is capable of anything.

Other examples from the saints can be found here and there.

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The root of sin, in Catholic theology, is concupiscence.

In its widest acceptation, concupiscence is any yearning of the soul for good; in its strict and specific acceptation, a desire of the lower appetite contrary to reason.

In that sense, even sin comes from a twisted desire for goodness. People don't set out to be evil, but they become evil when their desires do not align with God's will and they eventually determine to oppose Him. We get a clue of how this applies to the angels from the letter of Jude:

6 The angels too, who did not keep to their own domain but deserted their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains, in gloom, for the judgment of the great day. 7 Likewise, Sodom, Gomorrah, and the surrounding towns, which, in the same manner as they, indulged in sexual promiscuity and practiced unnatural vice, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.

This implies that the angels were motivated by lust. This seems to be based on Gen. 6 and the Book of Enoch, which describes these events in considerable detail.

1 And it came to pass when the children of men had multiplied that in those days were born unto 2 them beautiful and comely daughters. And the angels, the children of the heaven, saw and lusted after them, and said to one another: 'Come, let us choose us wives from among the children of men and beget us children.' (Enoch 6)

Of course, the idea of angels begetting physical children cannot be taken literally. But it terms of motivation, going back to story of the Garden of Eden, here is a possibility: Before the Fall, Lucifer was the closest one to God. But after Adam and Eve were created, he (as a servant to God) sensed that God loved them (his children) more. His feeling of jealousy grew as Adam and Eve matured. He was especially attracted to Eve, because of her beauty. So he ventured to seduce her to eat of the forbidden fruit, thinking that in so doing he would become like god to her and Adam. The Bible (Isaiah 14) hints of this when it says:

How you have fallen from the heavens, O Morning Star, son of the dawn!... 13 In your heart you said: “I will scale the heavens; Above the stars of God I will set up my throne; I will take my seat on the Mount of Assembly, on the heights of Zaphon. 14 I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will be like the Most High!

Applying this to the OP's question: Lucifer's motivation was to maintain his position as the closest one to God. The other angels likewise were motivated partly by a desire for power and partly by disordered love (lust). What did they get out of it? Something like what a physically mature man gets when he ventures to seduce a young girl: A feeling of power and the hope of love, based on the misguided belief that they will be worshiped by those they seduce and dominate.

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    I see two problems with this post. Satan is a spiritual being and is not influenced by concupiscence. The Book of Enoch is considered Apocrypha with the Catholic Church.
    – Ken Graham
    May 14 at 14:23
  • @KenGraham... the Catholic Encyclopedia says concupiscence originally means "any yearning of the soul for good." But more directly, it means "a desire of the lower appetite contrary to reason." Both definitions apply to angels as well as humans. Augustine emphasized it is disordered desire, not desire itself, that is the problem. May 14 at 14:49
  • I cited Enoch because it amplifies Jude and Genesis 6. In addition Augustine and other church fathers considered it to be authentic. But you are correct that is considered apocryphal at best. May 14 at 14:49
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Whilst ABM's answer does well to quote the Holy Scripture of the Christ, they neglect one important facet which is crucial to decoding the answer to this question (and it is a good question if I do say so myself). Satan exists as a diacritical opponent to the Holy Light of the Christ himself, and as such is established within the Bible and within my own readings and conversations with the Lord as both a supporter of His kingdom (insofar as he creates the necessary alternative, in order for the Lord to give us free will and choices to choose from) and a detractor (obviously evidenced by Satan's evil misgivings and deeds).

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    This doesn't answer the question at all.
    – jaredad7
    Apr 22 at 21:14
  • Thank you for the feedback. I am trying my best to learn. Why anyone even asks questions on this site instead of just directly asking the Lord through the Power of Prayer is simply beyond me.
    – budgie5434
    Apr 23 at 13:40
  • This is some interesting food for thought, but it does not address the motivation behind evil spirits, which was the OP's question. Apr 26 at 3:40
  • "through the Power of Prayer is simply beyond me" If the power of prayer were sufficient at all times for all people to understand Truth, Christ wouldn't have appointed the Twelve to teach all nations, God wouldn't have sent the prophets and there would be no Scriptures.
    – eques
    May 6 at 0:24

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