Cheating the Devil

So I was combing my hair immediately after I read this Sinfest comic. If the devil can’t deliver then he can’t take your soul right? Could sell one’s soul for anything they want and Eternal life/Entrance into Heaven? Thereby nullifying the contract whilst still getting what you wanted?

You really wanted to sell your soul, get an MBA degree…

There was an episode of The New Twilight Zone in which Sherman Hemsley played a mathmetician stuck on a difficult problem. A demon (Ron Glass) offered to help if he (Sherman) could give the demon a task he could not do. If he could not, the demon got Sherman’s soul.

He tells the demon to “get lost”

Mr. Blue Sky’s post reminds me of a mind puzzle I read awhile ago. I can’t remember the exact way it went, but it was kind of like this:

A man had three sons. The man wanted to be able to put his sons through college, but didn’t have the money. So he made a deal with the devil. The devil would give him the money in exchange for his soul. When the devil came for the man’s soul, the man’s first son begged the devil to let the man stay with him until a candle burnt to the bottom. The devil agreed. When he returned, the second son made a similar bargain. When the devil returned again, the third son made the same offer. The devil began to refuse, but the son showed him that the candle he wished to use was no more than a small stump. So he lit the candle. And the devil never came back. Why not?

The third son blew out the candle; thus, it could never burn down to the bottom.

I remember one where the the deal is that if the man can come up with a question the devil can’t answer he gets whatever he wants.
He asks the devil if the proof of fermat’s last theorem is correct.

Taking for granted that there’s a God and Devil and heaven and all that…

Nah, it won’t work, for one simple reason: by contacting Old Scratch and striking a bargain in the first place, you’re doing something so evil you won’t be allowed into heaven anyway. Satan wins by default.

Ah, but that’s the problem Dr. Faustus encounters. He does not become damned because he sells his soul, he becomes damned because he declares himself as so evil that he cannot be redeemed. Which is not possible. Everyone can be redeemed. There’s a name for that kind of sin of pride, but I can’t remember it.

This idea seems to show up in some Irish sayings, too… “May the Devil know you’re dead a half hour after you get into Heaven.”

Q: Isn’t tweaking Satan considered a good act?

Legomancer , I think the name for that kind of overweening pride is hubris .

Actually, Fermat’s Last Theorem has already been proven correct, iirc. “Already” being something like 2-3 years ago…

Ha, all of you have missed the best one, which is Larry Niven’s The Convergent Series. This is really ingenious

The protagonist managed to put a pentagram on the Devil’s belly. It turns out that the Devil must appear inside a pentagram, so he has to appear in the pentagram on his belly. But he can’t, since the pentagram is on his belly. So every time he tries he becomes smaller, and smaller, and smaller.

That’s easy. What’s the last digit of pi?

There isn’t one. Or, if that kind of thing is allowed, one could just ask the devil, “Fluzzinlikins?”

That would be “The Devil and Simon Flagg” by Arthur Porges, 1954.

My favorites were always “Threshold” by Henry Kuttner, and the brilliant short-short “Nellthu” by Anthony Boucher.

Wow, didn’t realize so many people had put so much thought into "tweaking satan. "

Go dopers. =)

There is a legend of Jack O’Lantern in which he tricks the devil into promising that he won’t claim Jacks soul. He then finds out that because of his misdeeds, heaven wants no part of him so he winds up immortal but cursed. I think the OP idea would work something like that. You could decieve the devil, but he’d get the last laught.

Also, I don’t think that the devil could promise you entrance into heaven as it would not legally be his to promise.

The deal with the devil story has many variations. My favorite title was one that appeared in F&SF quite a few years ago, “The Last – This Is It, No More – The Last Deal with the Devil Story.”

There’s also “The Devil and Daniel Webster” and hundreds of others.

So are you stating that a nonsense question is the same as one that isn’t?

This issue is addressed in the movie Bedazzled. When Elliot is in jail, the mysterious cellmate tells him he can’t have sold his soul to the devil because

It wasn’t his to sell in the first place.