The language of ideas constantly changes and adapts to help us understand the world around us. Labels become more or less useful. For example, modern, romantic Satanism is sometimes described as a careful dance of both hedonism and altruism. “Sin Positive,” is one of those fun phrases that is both self explanatory and open ended enough to prompt a discussion about what it means to you, individually. The idea came from the term “Sex Positive,” which will receive heavy attention in this new series.
“You will always be fond of me. I represent to you all the sins you never had the courage to commit.”
– Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray.
Introductory Side Note: While you are waiting for more posts on this series, Please check out this wonderful podcast episode by Black Mass Appeal, which discusses the idea of the 7 Deadly Sins: https://blackmassappeal.com/2018/06/12/episode-23-lucky-number-seven/
(And be sure to subscribe to my Newsletter, to the right, as well as the YouTube Channel, or follow on Facebook or Twitter, so as not to miss part of the upcoming Series!).
Why discuss sins and virtues?
To discuss the idea of sin in the positive light is to embrace adversarial concepts (sinning intentionally) in the context of progressive, enlightenment era values. One of the goals of my blog, and the goal of this new series, is to discuss the idea of sins or sinning in a rational way which can inspire self care, confrontation and improvement. Utilizing blasphemy alongside the ever-changing symbolism of religions new and old, is to carry forward philosophical ideas that are as just as artful as they are necessary. The ideas of sins and virtues can be tools that we can use to explore new, better ideas or to identify and reject authoritarianism in religion.
Why enforcing a lifestyle according to a list of sins is inherently dangerous
Demanding that others adhere to a list of Sins for moral guidance is an extremely dangerous concept for sever reasons. First, you’re undermining someone’s individual ability to determine right from wrong and you are infantilising them in the process. If you argue that all of humanity requires a God to tell them what is moral and what is not, you’re asserting that nobody is “correctly,” capable of decision making or truly deserving of free will. The idea that you can be closer to God or spiritual wholeness by adjusting your behavior leaves very little room to acknowledge actual illnesses or disabilities which might affect someone’s behavior. If something is wrong, socially or morally, chances are there is a reason for it and that reason should be determined rationally and addressed accordingly, not “prayed away.”
Some define sinning as anything that takes them further from their God’s all encompassing divine light. To sin, then, is to be closer to hell, to failure, to the Devil, whatever. For someone to assert this idea they are also possibly stating that they themselves don’t believe that they are capable of differentiating right from wrong without that intervention. To use Godliness as an excuse to behave in a manner that doesn’t harm yourself or others is to admit your own inability to be a functioning and healthy member of society without taking responsibility for it. Atheists and nontheists who take pride in asserting for themselves their own moral code, take personal responsibility for the risks and consequences associated with their actions. I would therefore much rather trust society in the hands of the Godless, who are capable of this sort of decision making, then those who are not capable of it without divine guidance.
This is why I also find the Church Of Satan’s list of “Satanic Sins,” to be foolish and hypocritical. For example, CoS states that Stupidity is a sin. This example is not just problematic in that intelligence is primarily a genetic trait which people do not have control over (and we won’t get into CoS’s disgusting history in supporting ideas of genetic superiority). The second “Satanic Sin,” is pretentiousness, which is laughably ironic. Some amount of pretentiousness, like some amount of pride, is useful and appropriate. I’ll be the first to admit that Satanists are usually pretentious by nature (especially Laveyan Satanists, seeing as he’s responsible for the Satanic Sins).
This also stinks of the same religious superiority complex as Christianity. CoS’s entire attempt to reject Christian authoritarianism by simply replacing the list of Cardinal Sins with their own Satanic Sins cannot be taken seriously. If you are to reject the cardinal sins, you might want to also reject any other list that attempts to shame and control.
If you consider yourself to be a follower or member of the Church of Satan, but reject these ideas, then please pat yourself on the back instead of taking offense. You’re welcome to leave a comment.
Why tenets are cool, but rules aren’t.
Having a list of positive and affirmative values that can inspire you to be a better person is a lot easier to swallow and interpret individually then a list of rules of things which you should not do. Having values and adhering to them out of choice is arguably the most beneficial (and sometimes only beneficial) aspect to organized religion.
Contrasting those values with negatives is to put up a second wall or gate of expectations meant to limit you instead of to inspire you. Just as we are able to utilize our personal will to determine right from wrong, we are able to add context to the personal values that guide us and lift each other up. We should never strive to be stuck in place between two frames of constricting thought, but only move forward, adjusting the bar as we proceed.
What are the supposed Sins and Virtues, and according to whom?
The Seven Deadly Sins, or the Cardinal Sins, or whatever you wish to call them, were invented as an attempt to dictate morals and, in a very ignorant and naive sort of way, to inspire civilization in society. In our outdated, binary, black and white, divided world, these sins contrast to a list of “seven virtues,” which have a few variations.
I’d like to start off by stating that I do not believe in the idea of sins or sinning just as I do not believe in the ideas of Good or Evil. There is only suffering or lack of suffering (or if you will, the intentional relief from suffering). The goal of this viewpoint is to attain pleasure for yourself without harming others.
Good and Evil are childish ideas that attempt to simplify human nature, which is something that we do not, and probably cannot ever, fully understand. Certain philosophical ideas, however, including the usefulness of altruism, have enough scientific evidence to be considered reasonable and rational. While Good or Evil may not truly exist as some universal force which we cannot control (though how convenient would that be?), we should celebrate our improving understanding of human nature and of that which we absolutely can control.
In the same way that I believe that many self-identified theistic people do not actually, literally believe in a clearly defined supernatural deity, I believe that most people who abide by organized theistic religion don’t actually understand or literally adhere to the idea of sins or sinning. Just the same, let’s discuss these ideas, because social standards and political policies which serve to control, oppress and actually cause harm still stem from prejudice and ideas of moral superiority. In rebellion to these standards and oppressive policies of theocratic authorities came ideas like “Good Without God,” and other phrases. The ongoing campaign to prove that atheism might be just as if not more moral than theism, is one worth fighting for. Turning the idea of sinning on it’s head and dissecting it is one way to continue that fight.
According to any common, standard list, the seven sins are pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath and sloth. This list is so familiar to our culture that, even outside of the religious practice of Christianity, we have become accustomed to view these things with such disdain that instead of looking inward at where these behaviors stem from and what their purpose is, we attribute the morals of our society to abiding by them regardless of their theistic-religious bias.
Theologians had a harder time deciding how to contrast these vices. According to cardinal and theological virtues, the contrasting list includes: prudence, justice, temperance, courage, faith, hope and charity. It is obvious why Christianity would claim these to be the seven “heavenly,” virtues, but, like in most things symbolic or religious in nature, they did not invent this concept. Additionally, I reject the idea that good moral values are a holy, theistic or heavenly thing and not entirely humanistic by invention and nature. The first four words are vague ideas that have been associated with moral behavior since the Greek philosophers Aristotle and Plato. Christianity simply tacked on the rest to capitalize on the idea of morality and enforce authoritarianism of faith.
Another variation of the “holy virtues,” which contrast these sins was introduced in a poem called Psychomachia (“The Contest of the Soul”) by Aurelius Prudentius Clemens in early 5th century AD. The Psychomachia suggests that the virtues which oppose these vices are: chastity, temperance, charity, diligence, patience, kindness, and humility. These changes were made so that they could battle the sins, as characters in his poem’s story. If you combine the list of sins with the list of virtues, you’ll find that each one can be embraced in positive and negative lights and some are much more appealing than others.
Why should we care about sins in Satanism?
While most civilized people can probably agree with Aristotle and Plato that justice, temperance and courage are valuable traits, obviously all three lists are subject to personal interpretation. Every idea that you take in to yourself and your life should be done thoughtfully and in moderation. Striving for balance and recognizing the values of living in a non-binary, non-black-and-white-world, is inherently Satanic. Modern, romantic Satanism embraces change and progress as much as we reject any ideas of any moral authority policing our own personal values. To be rational, empathetic and benevolent is to reject the idea that we can be judged by what pleasures we enjoy in life instead of by the concrete consequences of our actions.
Satanism is, in many ways, hedonistic and self-centered. Like anything else, hedonism and a self-centered worldview should be embraced in moderation, and modern Satanism acknowledges that fine balance in its social evolution toward enlightenment values. There is room here to consider as many perspectives and as much history of ideas as possible as we continue to evolve our views of individualism and sovereignty.
We should each, individually, consider these supposed sins and these supposed virtues and determine what they mean for us uniquely. We should decide for ourselves how to conduct ourselves in accordance with ever-evolving empathy and reason. Also, we should have fun and enjoy the pleasures of having embraced blasphemy while we are at it, so as to lead by a noncomformist example in our otherwise conformist world. This is how we confront stagnation and spur social progress; this is how we practice Satanism.
🖤 Go Hail Yourself!
(PART TWO TO BE CONTINUED)