The most unfortunate belief to evolve in religion is that evil is caused by some diabolical entity, or entities, with supernatural powers. This concept allows people who knowingly commit antisocial acts to attribute their actions to an outside force, thereby absolving themselves of accountability; it permits an easy escape from one's own conscience and enables an individual to continue with their negative behaviour.
Various religions have approached the subject of evil in different ways. The Abrahamic (Western) beliefs use Satan, created in the late writings of the Old Testament, as the personification of evil. Originally the ancient Hebrew religion maintained that evil came from God, as punishment for man's evil misdeeds; but a crisis in the Hebrew faith made it necessary to change the doctrine. In 597 BCE Jerusalem surrendered to the Babylonians, and the city was subsequently destroyed in 586 BCE; this began half a century of Jewish captivity and exile.
By the end of this period it was beginning to look like Yahweh (the god of Abraham) was unjustly tormenting the Hebrew people.
Reading the books of the Old Testament from the period encompassing the exile demonstrates the doctrinal problems the religion was experiencing. The followers began to assume a "doomsday" attitude, and concluded that God had broken his covenant due to the disobedience of his people. After decades of trying to appease Yahweh without success it became apparent that the religion, in its present form, provided no hope to the believers.
In 539 BCE King Cyrus the Great of Persia conquered Babylonia, and freed the Jews in 538 BCE; earning himself a messiah reference in the Bible. The Persian duality concept of good (ormazd) and evil (ahriman) led the Old Testament writers to develop a similar doctrine; and between 538 BCE and 518 BCE, the contemporary characterization...