DEADLY SINS AND SPIRITUAL ABUSE: WHY YOUR “SINS” DON’T EVEN EXIST
The “deadly sins” have never actually killed anyone as far as I know. This makes them less deadly and more just petty, but I can see why “the seven sort of bad habits” isn’t as marketable.
Once upon a time I’d planned to call this blog “Sin Is Good.” After all, what Satanist doesn’t love being contrary?
Come to find out though that the truth is more complex. Sin is not good; it’s not bad either. Your sins are neither enjoyable nor harmful, and they’re certainly no mark against you in any cosmic ledger.
I can’t even say that our Satanic idea of sin is gradient or nuanced, because the truth is as stark as it gets. In the ultimate contrarian masterstroke, it turns out sins don’t even exist. Plan your Lent calendars accordingly.
Thanks to the snappy scriptwriting of Andrew Kevin Walker, most modern Americans can name the so-called Seven Deadly Sins with only minimal meditation.
In Sacred Origins of Profound Things, Greek theologian Charles Panati writes that Evagrius of Pontus created his list of Eight Wicked Human Passions in 375. The list included “sadness,” which is a pretty tough sell, and “acedia,” for which dictionary publishers still thank him.
Pope Gregory the Great–also noted that weird story about the time he made a tablecloth bleed to the presumed distress of his laundry crew–narrowed the list down to seven but still included sadness.
By the time ultimate misery tourist Dante finished Purgatorio around 1320 “sadness” had become sloth instead. Which I honestly don’t like any better, so maybe I’m just hard to please.
Unlike the sinners of Inferno, the victims of Purgatorio are perversely cheerful about their torments. “Until god has been satisfied, I bear this burden here among the dead because I did not bear this load among the living,” a sinner pressed under a huge rock explains in a bout of all-time Olympic-grade victim blaming.
Whereas the Bible prohibits particular actions–no murdering, no sabbath breaking, no boiling a goat in its mother’s milk, real practical everyday stuff–the “deadly sins” are character flaws, the closest most mainstream religions get to acknowledging the concept of self-harm.
The Satanic self-care blog “Go Hail Yourself” published a lengthy treatise on deadly sins this week. “Some define sinning as anything that takes them further from their god,” it explains. And thus, “To sin is to be closer to hell, to failure, to the devil, whatever.”
It feels subversive and amusing to promote what other people designate sinful behavior. “The so-called sins all lead to physical, mental, or emotional gratification,” old Anton LaVey, sixties grifter extraordinaire, wrote in his Satanic Bible.
Of course, as Go Hail Yourself also points out, Anton just tried to replace the church’s sins with his own list of “Satanic Sins,” which is equally prescriptive and short-sighted. (Although the creepy-sounding advice to “choose a master wisely” bears some fruits he probably didn’t intend.)
“Each of these sins has certain necessary advantages. They need to be practiced with skill,” Princeton psychologist Sheila Kohler writes with similar sentiment. Gluttony, Kohler says, is merely “appetite,” while pride is corrective.
On an episode of Black Mass Appeal last year we tried a similar exercise, attempting to wring utility out of each prohibition. Sometimes this is easy: lust is a hot industry for a reason, after all.
Other concepts I admit I struggle with. Greed, for example, probably really is counterproductive. Kohler calls it a symptom of frugality, whereas George Carlin declared, “Coveting creates jobs, so leave it alone; Your neighbor gets a vibrator that plays ‘o come o ye faithful,’ you want one too.”
But I think that great dead pope probably was on to something when he tried to undermine most avarice. I don’t particularly like saying that, but it also doesn’t matter.
The problem with “sins” is not whether they’re secretly good or bad for you. The problem is the whole thing. Look at that definition again: “anything that takes them further from their god” and “closer to the devil.”
And of course, there are no gods or devils. Hence, there are no sins. I can’t get further from god for the same reason I can’t get further from R. Kelly’s understanding of basic consent; there really is no there there.
The big danger with sermons about either deadly sins or safety sins is not that they’re prohibitive, presumptuous, patriarchal, or anachronistic. Usually they’re those things too, but that’s burying the lead.
The problem is that it’s all just bunk to begin with. Nothing you ever say, do, think, or feel is ever going to endanger your soul any more than it will imperil your impossible object. Telling people otherwise is an act of abuse.
“I’m still subconsciously afraid of hell” despite being an atheist, ex-born again (dead again?) writer Elizabeth King admitted in the Washington Post in 2016, and “the idea of god pesters me.”
And yeah, of course. That’s what decades of mental abuse do to you. What else can we expect?
Contrary to what I thought when starting this blog, sin is not good. It’s not bad. It’s not there at all.
“Sin” is a word that helps unreal things fake reality long enough to hurt you. “Satan” is the word for what helps you eventually see that nothing is there.