Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

If I were the devil 

By LAURETTA HANNON, Commentary | Published December 20, 2023

In 1965, Radio Legend Paul Harvey recorded a piece titled “If I Were the Devil.” It became his most famous recording. Here’s my version. 

If I were the devil, I’d have four points of attack. 

Lauretta Hannon

The first thing I’d do is distract you.  

Seduce you with phones, computers, and even watches to bombard you with alerts, entertainment, trivial communication, and sophisticated lies labeled as news. This is my bait to lure you into a perpetual state of consuming, responding and reacting emotionally. Now it’s so easy to deceive you because you’re never really present; you’re preoccupied.  

You’re even looking at that phone or watch at meals with your family and friends; in church; and in other sacred places such as the woods or smack-dab in the middle of the most profound moments of your life. 

Once in a continuous state of distraction, your spiritual footing collapses, and you quickly lose sight of your higher, deeper purpose. Oh, how I love that. 

If I were the devil, the next step is to deceive you, of course. 

In this phase, I can make you believe a mountain of falsehoods, all tailored to your individual weaknesses. Perhaps I convince you that it’s fine to spend an hour on TikTok instead of in Scripture and prayer. That you can attend church whenever you feel like it. That Christ doesn’t love you. That not everyone is a child of God; some lives are dispensable. And my favorite: that the Holy Eucharist is nothing more than a symbol. If you start to believe that one, it’s not long before the remaining pillars of your faith fall like dominoes. 

If I were the devil, my third act is to divide, to foment disunity. 

Now we’re at the fun part for me. I delight in watching you all drowning in the shallow waters of this culture I have constructed. In your mind, it’s us vs. “them.” I get you anxious and afraid, feeling threatened or victimized by “the other.” You’ve entirely forgotten that there are no others. You don’t question anything that causes you anger or despair—or most importantly, that separates you from God and your fellow man. 

At this point, you focus on nothing but the storms; you think goodness is a lost cause; that death is triumphing over life. Any sense of gratitude you once had has evaporated (along with your joy). I would say that I’ve stolen your peace, but you actually handed it right over to me. 

And finally, if I were the devil, I would have you so disheartened you can’t recognize things like mercy and grace and redemption. You’re discouraged and overwhelmed and see only what I show you. You never turn inward anymore. You can’t sit still with yourself. Your God tries hard to get your attention, but I’m on an endless loop in your ear, hissing words to convince you of your hopelessness and helplessness.  

In short, you are enslaved. My chain is tight around your neck, keeping you busy yet barren. Judging and comparing yourself to others; obsessively measuring steps instead of savoring the walk; emptying what’s left of your energy into mindless pursuits. 

Distracted, deceived, divided and discouraged.  

In the end, I can claim victory because I have won the one thing you’ve neglected throughout my four-point attack: your very soul. Going forward, I’ll do anything to keep you here in the filthy swill of my habitation.  

Why? Because this is war, and all it takes to crush my chains is for you to remember–and call on–the mighty power of your God. Speak the name above all names, and my cunning artifices shatter. If you ever realize this, I am done for. 

“Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” —Phil 2:9-11  

Lauretta Hannon is a parishioner of St. Bernadette Church, Cedartown. Named the “Funniest Woman in Georgia” by Southern Living Magazine, she is a bestselling author. At work on a book tentatively titled “A Priest Walks into a Waffle House,” Hannon can be reached at