Blitzkrieg #7: Metal vs. Religion

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, metal gave me the strength to accept my budding Atheism during my youth.  I wish I could say there was some epiphanic moment that came late one night while listening to Reign in Blood, but the truth is that metal’s part in the formation of my beliefs was much more subtle.  Reflecting back on those times, I’ve come to realize that my Atheism manifested itself long before my love of metal did, and that metal only helped to cement those beliefs.

I went to Catholic school from kindergarten all the way up through my senior year of high school.  A lot of people still have some interesting ideas of what Catholic school is like, but I can assure you there were no draconian nuns in black lording over us with yardsticks and paddles, nor were we forced to go to church every day.  That doesn’t mean that the presence of the almighty didn’t loom over us on a daily basis.  We did have an extra period for religion class,  and although we didn’t go to church every day, there were still multiple opportunities to kneel before the saviour, any excuse to have a mass in the gymnasium or set up confessionals in the auditorium.

I tried my damnedest to believe.  I folded my hands, closed my eyes, drank the grape juice, ate the stale crackers (why does the body of Christ taste like cardboard and glue?), and none of it worked.  I participated willingly in the three c’s, communion, confirmation and confession, but felt no closer to any “God”.  For the longest time, I felt like there was something wrong with me, like I was the only one in the world that didn’t believe.  There was nothing I could do about it, no one I was comfortable talking to.  If there were others like me, they were keeping it well hidden.

And then metal came along.  I saw the video for Metallica’s “One” and my whole world changed.  Here was a song about a man devastated by war, with no limbs, unable to speak, confined to the prison of his own mind, begging God to help him.  But God doesn’t help.  There is no salvation, no divine intervention, no light at the end of “One”, only a life in hell.

At the time this was strictly a musical epiphany.  The (anti)spiritual implications of this moment didn’t occur to me until years later.  As I mentioned earlier, there was no single moment where everything clicked, but there can be no denying that Metallica started me on the path towards being more comfortable with my (lack of) beliefs.  Metallica was a gateway into a world I previously didn’t know existed, a world where others not only didn’t believe, but openly defied the so-called lord.  This has what I had been searching for my whole life, but the journey towards atheism wasn’t without its detours.

With the embrace of heavy metal came curiosity about Satanism.  How could it not when Slayer was screaming in my ear about being “Born of Fire” and Danzig was wondering aloud “Am I Demon”?  I had spent so much time having God shoved down my throat, that it was high time I checked out the opposition.  I remember feeling a mixture of guilt, nervousness and excitement when I picked up a copy of The Satanic Bible at the local B. Dalton’s, as well as some astonishment at the fact that a bookstore in the asshole of the Midwest actually had the thing in stock.  I pored over LaVey’s words, finding myself agreeing with much of what he said from a philosophical standpoint, but not really seeing the need for all the ritual and assorted other bullshit that seemed to come along with it.  Not long after, I would go on to the Church of Satan’s website and discover that they expected a hefty payment in exchange for full membership.  Turns out they’re just another church that wants your money in exchange for a false sense of belonging, no different than every single other church out there, regardless of denomination.  This, combined with the fact that LaVey’s ideas essentially amount to “Nietzsche for Dummies” dressed up in pentagrams and devil costumes, brought me to the conclusion that I had just as little use for Satanism as I did for Christianity.

In spite of my rejection of Satanism as a belief system, I continued to find its aesthetics appealing, as I do to this day.  Pentagrams, baphomets and the like went right along with the horror movies, comics and heavy metal that I loved, and all the coolest metal bands seemed to use that symbolism (or variations thereof) to great effect.  But this isn’t an essay on aesthetic choices, and the point is that although I was steeped in music that defied and often openly attacked Christianity using the symbolism of opposing belief systems (Satanism, Paganism, etc) that I had equally little use for, I could (and still do) appreciate and identify with the need to rebel against the Christian status quo.  What better tools to rebel against something as over-the-top as Christianity than loud distorted guitars, unholy cookie monster growling,  grisly, blasphemous album art and songs about sin and the devil?  Atheistic black or death metal wouldn’t be nearly as powerful.

With all of this talk of rebellion, defiance and attack, I reckon I need to clarify things a bit.  I don’t hate Christianity, I simply find it absurd.  I’ll never understand why people feel the need to have a God in their lives.  I personally don’t need to play make believe in order to know that I should help out my fellow man and treat others the way I would like to be treated.  It’s called common courtesy.  These ideas of morality, community, respect for people and property, etc were around long before people concocted God as a tool for controlling one another.  There will always be superstitious and weak-willed/minded folk that need to have the idea in their head that a cosmic “Big Brother” is watching their every move in order keep them in line or to explain the unexplainable.  I don’t take care of my family or help someone in need because that’s what God wants me to do, or because I’ll go to Hell if I don’t.  I do it because I want to, and because it is the right thing to do, and a sense of right and wrong has nothing to do with religion, it is inherent, a part of our very being.  Certain animals, such as primates and dolphins, exhibit behaviors similar to those discussed in this paragraph, and I don’t recall seeing any of them in church during my years in Catholic school(although mass would probably have been a lot more entertaining w/ gorillas and dolphins involved).  That reminds me of another bone I have to pick… one of the last straws for me came in high school when my religion teacher tried to tell us that our dead pets didn’t go to Heaven because they didn’t have souls.  If I can’t have my dog, goldfish, etc in Heaven, then why the fuck would I want to go there?!  Maybe I do hate Christianity after all…

Okay, enough about the damned souls of pets, let’s get back on topic.  All of this brings us to my thoughts on Christianity in metal and Christians listening to metal.  I don’t necessarily have a problem with Christian themes in metal, as these tend to manifest themselves as universal concepts of good versus evil. Black Sabbath and many of the traditional doom bands that they inspired, such as Trouble and Place of Skulls are fine examples of this, although Place of Skulls got a little too preachy with their lyrics for my liking after their first two albums.  Christian black metal on the other hand, is beyond ridiculous.  Black metal is an inherently Satanic form of music, it was encoded in the genre’s DNA by its architects.  Death metal makes slightly more sense, since Jesus Christ was arguably the first zombie to appear in fiction, but death metal should be about death, it should be about pain, horror, gore and sickness from a visual, lyrical and musical standpoint, and if you go too far outside the parameters, it ceases to be death metal at all.  There seems to be a lot of Christianity in the metalcore scene for some strange reason, and I have no explanation for this phenomenon because I haven’t paid attention to metalcore in many, many years.  I do recall that during my brief flirtation with metalcore, I sampled a few of these bands in an effort to understand this trend in heavy music and keep an open mind, but unfortunately conviction doesn’t always equate with talent, and I think we can all agree that metalcore has proven to be by-and-large a completely disposable genre, the metal equivalent of MTV-approved pop music.  It makes sense that it would be embraced by the Christian status quo and used as a youth propaganda/control device.

I don’t understand why Christians would listen to black and death metal, unless they’re not very good Christians.  I’ve heard the “lyrics don’t matter” explanation thrown about, but let’s be honest, that’s just a fucking cop-out, an excuse for Christians who want to dabble in something that’s probably considered taboo by their peers.  Worse yet, anyone who says lyrics don’t matter (Christian or not) is missing the entire point and is no better than the jock/frat boy asshole who just listens to metal as a soundtrack to mosh and crack heads to.  If you are not at least attempting or better yet unwilling to absorb the totality of the work in all its aspects, then why fucking bother?  Granted, metal lyrics can be juvenile and in some cases an afterthought, but they are still a part of the whole. Would you look at every part of the Mona Lisa but her face?  Would you only read every other chapter of Bram Stoker’s Dracula? Would you only watch the first and last scenes of Fulci’s The Beyond? I don’t think so.  Why should metal be any different?  If Christians are ok with experiencing art in this incomplete manner, that’s their own business, but I will never understand it.  Furthermore, what about blasphemous album artwork?  What about band interviews with anti-religious statements from the artists? Do Christians who listen to this stuff put blinders on, or live in some kind of protective Christ-bubble?  It seems to me that it would be awfully difficult for a Christian to fully immerse themselves in underground metal.

Well shit, this has gone so far off the rails at this point, I might as well just sit back and enjoy the train wreck.  Unfortunately it is difficult to discuss my own beliefs and how they tie into the music I love without some healthy criticism of others.  If you don’t like it, don’t read it.  But I am curious to know how Christians metalheads cope with being involved in a genre that for the most part openly rejects/attacks them.  My brother in metal blogging the Full Metal Attorney has done a nice job of explaining how he balances his Christ-loving beliefs w/ being a metalhead, and although I fundamentally disagree with everything he says, I have utmost respect for his willingness to put his beliefs on display for the metal world to see.  I’d like to hear from others.  Does the art and entertainment you enjoy enrich/enhance your beliefs in any way?  Should it or are they two separate worlds?  Specifically how does metal fit into it all?  Do you give a shit?  Tell me.

To be continued?

——————————————————————————————-/

The soundtrack to the conceptualization and writing of this piece was as follows:
Deicide – Legion
Wolvhammer – The Obsidian Plains
Samhain – November Coming Fire
Nunfuckritual – In Bondage to the Serpent
Skeletonwitch – Forever Abomination
Atheist – Unquestionable Presence
Krisiun – The Great Execution

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35 thoughts on “Blitzkrieg #7: Metal vs. Religion

  1. I don’t even know I came upon this blog but hey, I’ve got something to say.

    I’m a Muslim (haters PLEASE control yourselves). And a metalhead. I listen to all the things Metallica and Iron Maiden and everyone else has to say, but I don’t really lose my faith. May be its because of the exposure we get when we’re kids that we have strong faith?

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  2. I for one fucking hate Christianity, and often bring into question those that follow it so closely. I don’t see it as anything more than restraints. That’s merely the way I think though. I suppose others it could be something to make them hopeful or whatever. That doesn’t matter to me much. It only interests me how these people can go on abiding by ‘His word.’

    My whole family except for my mom was Christian (or some meaningless denomination of it) so, I got my fair share (and still do) of Christian babble headed my way. I once considered myself Christian, but there was always, always doubt about the whole thing. In 2nd grade during some Christian mass in the gymnasium, I remember thinking that I was going to Hell because I just doubted that I was worthy and that I praised enough. Those thoughts matured into doubts of the whole belief system, and then I said fuck it. I’d rather not align myself with any religious title. Metal certainly enticed me into further defying the religion. As an avid black metal fan, I’d say it worked.
    I generally don’t give a shit what people do though.

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  3. I really don’t want to get drawn into another long discussion, so I won’t. I assure you I could address each and every one of your arguments quite handily, Alex. I can almost guarantee we would not come to any kind of agreement, but you would be able to see the logic behind it well enough.

    Well, actually, I don’t know enough about global warming to express any opinions on the topic, but as for everything else you’ve brought up–I could. But I won’t, at least not today. Comment threads are turning out to be an extremely inefficient way to discuss these kinds of issues.

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  4. I wish I found this post (or the site in general) earlier as it’s interesting. I won’t add much as the responses are now sparse , but while reading this piece, I remember the interview with Kerry King and Tom Araya in Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey where Kerry talks of his atheism and Tom admits being a believer yet the idea of the album named “God Hates Us All” doesn’t bother him as it’s good title. The guy has sung all those anti-religious songs for so long, yet it doesn’t seem to bother him that much. I wonder how he does it (outside of seeing dollar bills…)

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  5. NOOO!!!! You had to bring up Global Warming! Why?! lol Honestly, I hate that theory (there are so many reasons why, but I’ll not go into them here; this discussion is already much bigger than the topic that started it)
    Anyway, The causality issue is a little different than you seem to think. As far as modern science is aware, the dimension of Time is constrained to our universe, so anything outside of the universe is free from the restraints of cause and effect. Now that’s not to say that Time doesn’t exist in the higher dimensions, but it will almost certainly not function in any way that we can understand. That’s why most physists agree that anything pre-BB is essentially meaningless.
    For how can God be omni-omni (quickest way to say omni-everything, right 😛 ), I have to say, “Since when is God benevolent?” Honestly, God (if you believe that he exerts his will into the human realm) has caused nations to destroy each other. Look at the Old Testament; God told the Hebrew people to wipeout entire nations (ex. the Canaanites) and to destroy everything they owned. That isn’t what I would call benevolence, that sounds a lot like malice (or vengefulness, depending on how you interpret the Bible). And besides, evil is our fault (again, only if you believe the Bible, and that God gave us free will), so it has nothing to do with God’s benevolence.
    So, another fo my two (maybe three?) cents worth.
    PS: I’m actually a Theist, so I do believe that God has continued to have an influence on the universe since the Big Bang.

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    • I brought it up b/c it’s a foolproof bullshit detector. If someone doesn’t accept the Theory of Evolution or Anthropogenic Climate Change (which is the term I should’ve used instead of “global warming”) then I can basically ignore them. “Theory” in scientific parlance doesn’t mean “hypothesis” as people use it in everyday parlance, it means it’s been thoroughly tested and not disproven (or, it’s a fact). That person may as well say “there’s no way the Earth revolves around the Sun” because I cannot, on an intellectual level, take them seriously.
      You say, “God has caused nations to destroy each other.” That statement is asinine. Belief in God has caused that, but nothing else. If you believe that there is a God that interacts with the physical world, you have to show how that is done. What, exactly, does God interact with? Bosons, fermions, the Planck-length strings? What does this supernatural being interact with to make shit in our universe do its bidding? Nothing.
      I’ll say this: if you pulse low levels of electricity to a person’s temporal lobes, that person will begin to have epiphanic episodes, messianic hallucinations (aural & visual), seizures, etc. This simulates what is called Temporal Lobe Epilepsy. There is every chance that so-called prophets throughout history have “suffered” from this disorder, but since people didn’t understand biology well enough to know that’s what was happening, they came up with other theories like god-like entities were trying to communicate with or through them.
      Oh, and you bring up Time and I’m not sure why. I didn’t mention it and that has nothing to do with causality as I’m discussing it (There are physicists who don’t even believe time exists in our universe, though I haven’t had a chance to explore that and it’s pretty fringe anyway). The BB is essentially an event horizon so we can’t (currently) examine information if it exists on the other side. My point is that there is every possibility that other universes with other laws of physics exist and that a multiverse is an eternal thing (that is, nothing created it nor will it be “destroyed”).
      I dunno, either way positing that the God of Abraham created this universe and continues to have any control over it is unimaginably ludicrous. If you were born in India or China or Namibia or some remote indigenous Bolivian village you wouldn’t believe in the God of Abraham and you’d have been raised to believe something else. You were born (presumably) in a place where Christianity was dominant and you continue to accept the premises of Christianity as if they are true and not as if they just happen to be one of many antiquated, archaic ways of understanding the world.

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  6. I know that I’m cominig into this discussion late, but I’d like to put my two cents in.
    First off, let me state that, while I believe in God, I don’t ascibe to any one religion. I believe they all are from the same source, but have focused on different aspects and brought them to the focus.
    For the topic of science/religion, I believe that if someone were to truly look at all the knowledge we’ve gained from science, they would come to the conclusion that there must be some sort of divine cretaor being. The best way to show this is to go back 13 billion years to the BIg Bang. Take a look and then apply what we know of the laws of physics. I gaurantee you’ll scratch you’re head and say “Wait, what? WTF, how did that happen?” because the BB is not possible without a massive rewrite of our understanding the fundamentals of the universe. I won’t go into details here (I may do a blog post about it one day) because it would be far too long. You don’t have to agree, but I challenge you to take a real good look at it and then decide.
    To the whole “Was Jesus real/Was he God?” thing, I honestly doubt that Jesus was truly a physical manifestation of God. Throughout the old testament of the bible we see numerous Jesus-archetypes, those who were prophecied and saved the Hebrew people from one form of oppression or another (Noah, Joseph, Moses etc). All Christians get so hung up on Jesus being “the son of God” that they fail to realize that there were others, shall we say “prototypes,” long before his birth. Could it be that Jesus was just another man who was called by a divine being
    to bring about another reform? I’ll leave that up to other people to decide, but I know what I believe.
    There’s so much more to say, but it’s all starting to get clouded by what I’ve already written down, so I’ll leave it here for now. I eagerly await reading the rest of your opinions.

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    • The problem with ascribing causality for the Big Bang to a god-like entity/intelligence is that you then have to account for the cause of that intelligence. If you don’t then you’re still saying some sort of intelligence can arise from nothing, then you’re back to the same dilemma of cause/effect. You can cut out that middleman by eliminating the god-like entity.
      Hindu cosmology posits a cyclical universe that doesn’t fall into the trap of cause/effect and, on the whole, more closely matches our observations of actual phenomena in the universe. We’re not sure of the mechanisms of this, but if you follow contemporary cosmological debate, this is essentially what’s being discussed.
      Another issue with this—and it’s what FMA brought up with his statement that things seem too “perfect”—is that what we observe is in no way perfect, it’s simply the universe seems to undergo its own sort of evolution. Less adaptive phenomena cease to exist or do not come into existence in the first place because of the physical/mathematical laws of this particular universe. There is every reasonable possibility that other universes exist with different physical/mathematical laws. Unfortunately, our own evolution merely allowed us sensation in this universe (i.e.; we can’t sense in higher dimensions or see x-rays or hear certain frequencies). Humans evolved in a way that made life on the African savannah easier and that’s pretty much it.

      Another point I’d like to make is in response to FMA’s final statement: What does religion address that science cannot and vice versa? If you’re positing something supernatural you have to account for how supernatural phenomena interacts with natural phenomena (that is, you can’t really have supernatural anything because it fundamentally wouldn’t be able to interact with our universe and then wouldn’t be worth thinking about or paying attention to). I’m a pretty extreme Naturalist, which means I see the universe as bits of information interacting with one another in increasingly complex ways and those interactions account for all phenomena.

      A last point—and Mauen, you’re basically a Deist, so this doesn’t really apply to you because your “God” doesn’t interact with us, it just set the Universe in motion—if the God of Abraham does, in fact, exist, one has to account for that old Epicurean paradox (the problem of evil): how can God be simultaneously omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent?

      Having said all this, I’m not into preventing people from being Christian (or any other religion) as long as they don’t attempt to impose their personal religious rules on the greater society. Also, if you believe in evolution and global warming and don’t legislate against female bodies, I’m cool with you exploring the boundaries and paradoxes of your own belief systems.

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  7. @Full Metal Attorney, Alex C and Miskatonic – I just wanted to say thank you guys, I really enjoyed reading the discussion that took place here! Being that I haven’t studied or thought much about church history, theology, etc in a looong time, I decided it was better just to sit back and see where you guys took this thing. Thanks for an interesting and informative read, this is the type of thing that makes doing this blog worthwhile.

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  8. I’m not sure I would say I believe the universe is inherently meaningful. I would have to think on that. I am at heart a skeptic, and I don’t believe you can come to any kind of conclusion about the existence of God based purely on examination of the physical aspects of the universe, although there are things about it that seem too perfect to be merely accidents. Scientific thought tells us apparent coincidences should be met with skepticism. The difference is you take the thought process that leads you to, “Well, that’s just the way it is because it is that way. If it were different, we wouldn’t be here to ask the question.” I just find all the coincidences that led us to exist to be a bit too much. From different perspectives they both look like convenient hypotheses, I suppose. But as I said, examination of the physical universe is not the most fruitful way to think about it, because religion as I understand it has very little to say about the things science addresses, and vise versa.

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  9. Well, I appreciate this conversation because at least now I have a better recognition of how far apart these metaphysics/ontologies really are. You believe in an inherently meaningful universe whereas all evidence leads me to believe in an inherently meaningless universe (upon which we project meaning) and I don’t really see how those can be reconciled with one another.

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  10. I’m not even sure why I went down the examination of the universe route with you. It’s not going to convince you. In any case, the examination of the human condition is ultimately the most convincing route.

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  11. On the universe: You are saying that the fact of all these coincidences in the universe that led to our existence are just that, coincidences. Like when people tell you how lucky you are to be born in a country where people’s needs are met, but obviously someone had to be born there. I understand what you’re saying. But I need only consider water. It has many unusual characteristics as a climate moderating force among other things. I need not consider its abundance on the planet which has complex life, as that could be explained away as mere coincidence. But water itself, when contemplated, reveals itself as too unique and amazing to be mere accident. This is of course only one example. Contemplation of the universe itself is not the only reason for belief. There is also contemplation of morality or of the early history of Judaism and Christianity.

    On morality: You are right in the sense that morals can generally be summed up as being good to one another. Everyone understands the same rules regardless of culture. Even in cultures that have long been isolated, the rules are more or less the same. These don’t need to be taught. What is taught or learned are the minor variations in morality. As an example, children know they should not physically hurt one another, and they know this without being told. In our culture, we teach them that sharing is also something you should do. As another example, even a child who has no reason to “know any better” will still feel hurt (and often guilty) about being molested.

    On Jesus: No one else would have recognized him and believed it, so of course his own people are the ones who attested to it. And they are also the ones who were executed for not recanting their story. If it were not true, then why stick to the story under such circumstances? I’m sure you’ve heard the argument before, but it is entirely convincing, especially when you consider Thomas. He is made out to be kind of a bad egg, but I feel somewhat of a kinship as someone who is not easily convinced, but is convinced anyway.

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  12. @ Alex: Morality is not learned, and it is universal. There are only petty differences. The differences are what was learned. The discussion of sin/salvation/submission/etc. is only tangential to the topic of morality.

    I honestly don’t know how you can look at the universe, see how perfectly everything fits together, and say, “It just happened!” Ludicrous. I suppose that is where we must diverge.

    @ Miskatonic: That is new and interesting information about Mormonism, but I dispute any comparison of BOM to the Bible. The monetary units and most of the places mentioned in the Bible actually exist and have been found. There is a nation of people who experienced the things mentioned in it. The idea of it being different because it’s so far in the past doesn’t hold up when you consider that an entire nation of people believed they had eaten food that appeared on the desert sand every morning for 40 years. How do you convince them of that? The same thing goes for the first-generation Christian martyrs, an argument I’m sure you’ve heard before. It’s also pretty tough to compare a guy who raised the dead to a guy who used a stone to search for buried treasure.

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    • it’s far less ludicrous than Christianity or any argument from design. I mean, the universe did “just happen” and it’s still happening and it will continue to happen for billions of years (the earth won’t though, because it will be swallowed by the sun as the sun dies). we don’t look at rivers and marvel at how genius rivers are for flowing close to major cities. the universe would exist with our without us here, we’re a wonderful accident and when we’re dead that’s it.

      re: morality— what part of morality is innate? I don’t understand that. if you’re saying we’re all born with the capacity to be good to one another then I’d agree, but we’re equally born with the capacity to not be good to one another if circumstance demands it. how we learn to negotiate those circumstantial demands, to me, is morality. maybe I don’t get what morals are, though. (I’d definitely like more explanation on this because it’s something that constantly trips me up.)

      re: Jesus. he likely existed, but his cult were the only people that believed he had risen from the dead (as in all the other people of the region, including his people, the Hebrews didn’t and don’t believe a word of it). people today believe psychics are real. people believe lots of crazy things because they want to believe it despite all evidence to the contrary. selection bias and confirmation bias bear this out.

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  13. A modern prophet sitting at the top of the LDS church deriving his position as the successor of Joseph Smith is not unlike the Pope as the successor of the Apostle John. Catholics don’t attempt to reconcile the two, deciding the Pope is the infallible one rather than the Bible. Or perhaps not infallible, but his word carries nearly-infallible weight (it would be pretty tough to reconcile past popes whose ideas haven’t always been the same). It’s interesting that the LDS church attempts to reconcile the two, especially considering how much they’ve changed their doctrine in the past (you know, the whole polygamy thing, and the blacks can’t get into heaven thing, among others). It’s hardly worth even addressing Mormonism given its ludicrous history and the fact no evidence can be found to corroborate anything in the Book of Mormon (quite unlike the Bible). Generally nice people in my experience, though, and they have certainly shown great intelligence at public relations in recent memory (those new TV commercials are easily the best advertising dollars they’ve ever spent; I just hope they’re not too successful).

    Mormons reconcile the doctrinal inconsistencies by saying that the prophet gives us current revelation in order to deal with today’s issues. Most Mormon’s don’t look at the change in Polygamy as a change. Rather, it is not something we currently practice on Earth, but it is something that will come back. Mormon males can actually be married to more than one woman as long as that woman is deceased. This usually happens when a man loses his wife to death and then takes a new wife. That new wife has the option of being eternally married (sealed) to him even though the deceased wife is understood to be his eternal companion. In the afterlife, both marriages would continue. So, don’t think of that doctrine as changed. It’s more like it on sabbatical.

    While I certainly agree that the LDS church has a ludicrous history, I would argue that it’s no more ludicrous than any other Christian faith’s. Mormons and Scientologists go under unfair scrutiny due to the recency of their inception. If you take a step back from the basic tenants of Christianity you’ll begin to see how ridiculous it all sounds. “They dunk your head under water?!” “Jesus came back to life?!” “Lot knocked up his daughters?!” “God and Jesus are the same being but not really?!” It’s all fuckin’ batshit insane. It’s just easier to accept something that happened in the far flung past that is an integral part of most Christian’s common religious experience.

    What I really find interesting about your last comment is that you are looking for facts to back up the Book of Mormon’s claims. Just fill in the gaps with faith, man. I mean, that’s what you’re doing with the Bible. Sure, you can find supposed evidence for some things in the Bible, if you really want to take it as evidence. I can do the same thing with supposed evidence for the BOM (there’s more of it than you know).

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  14. A modern prophet sitting at the top of the LDS church deriving his position as the successor of Joseph Smith is not unlike the Pope as the successor of the Apostle John. Catholics don’t attempt to reconcile the two, deciding the Pope is the infallible one rather than the Bible. Or perhaps not infallible, but his word carries nearly-infallible weight (it would be pretty tough to reconcile past popes whose ideas haven’t always been the same). It’s interesting that the LDS church attempts to reconcile the two, especially considering how much they’ve changed their doctrine in the past (you know, the whole polygamy thing, and the blacks can’t get into heaven thing, among others). It’s hardly worth even addressing Mormonism given its ludicrous history and the fact no evidence can be found to corroborate anything in the Book of Mormon (quite unlike the Bible). Generally nice people in my experience, though, and they have certainly shown great intelligence at public relations in recent memory (those new TV commercials are easily the best advertising dollars they’ve ever spent; I just hope they’re not too successful).

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    • “There still must be an ultimate cause. And there is a reason we all share the same morality.”

      There doesn’t have to be an ultimate cause if the universe (or, potentially, a multiverse) is eternal. If “God” was the ultimate cause, then what caused that? If that entity is eternal, then why not just cut out the middleman, since it’s unnecessary.

      We don’t all share the same morality, we share localized moralities (that are generally similar) based on custom. If we had been born in Muslim or Buddhist lands we’d have slightly different outlooks on this (basic cultural relativism). For instance, only Christians believe in sin/salvation whereas Muslims prioritize submission to Allah, whereas Hindus don’t recognize any of this. It’s just cultural and learned behavior, not innate.

      Humans, as intelligent, social, self-aware primates, generally behave well towards each other because it suits the group dynamic. The evolutionary bases of these behaviors are still being explored and the tension between individual desire and group harmony is fascinating.

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  15. It’s pretty perplexing how folks can view the Bible as infallible. It’s as if these people assume that God descende out of heaven with a completed Bible in hand and handed it over to the Pope. They completely ignore man’s hand in it’s authoring and assembly.

    Mormons do not believe in the 100% literal truth of the Bible, but it’s actually pretty close. We use the King James version but in all actuality, Joseph Smith himself produced a translation of the bible. It’s never really been explained why the church doesn’t just use that. However, in the LDS edition of the King James Bible, it is moderately footnoted with JST verses.

    Joseph Smith wrote The Articles of Faith ( http://lds.org/library/display/0,4945,106-1-2-1,FF.html ) as a distillation of the church’s beliefs. #s 8 & 9 are a pretty good summation of how Mormons view scripture. Mormons consider Joseph Smith a prophet of the same magnitude as Abraham, Moses, etc. They also consider all of his successors as living prophets. This is what allows God to continue revealing his word. This might answer your question about dissent. Mormons are not accustomed to it as disagreeing with the prophet is tantamount to disagreeing with God. With Mormonism, it’s an all-or-nothing proposition. If you don’t believe what the prophet is preaching, then you really don’t believe in the church itself. This is what causes so many people to leave the church, and do it in an extreme fashion.

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  16. I should clarify what I said on the resurrection of the dead: all Christians believe this will happen on the day of judgment. What Jehovah’s Witnesses believe is that you are simply dead in the same way atheists understand death, until the last day when you are raised up. I think in that respect they have an interesting take on the subject which might (or might not) be correct.

    In several other ways I think the JW interpretation of the Bible is far too literal. Jesus often spoke in parables, and I think there are large sections of the Bible (including most if not all of Genesis) which are allegorical. Many Christian denominations (although thankfully not Catholics) believe in the 100% literal truth of the Bible. But I think it’s a pretty big jump to go from one isolated verse that says “all scripture is God-breathed and useful for instruction” to the idea that everything in the book is entirely literal and true.

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  17. Interesting fact about Presbyterianism: the form of church governance adopted by the denomination influenced the U.S.’s system as a federal republic.

    Why must one agree with every single official position of the church? That seems perplexing. To me, as long as the church gets the essentials (i.e., what is essential for salvation) correct, and isn’t adding anything too dangerous to the mix, then it’s fine. Especially in Presbyterianism, where dissent is especially tolerated. The concept of predestination has not come up in worship, and even if it did, belief or disbelief in the concept has no bearing on your salvation.

    On the concept of the afterlife and consciousness, here is another interesting fact: the concept of the soul as we understand it today (that is, a distinct entity separate from what is observable) is not a Biblical idea at all, but was borrowed from the Greeks (psyche). How, specifically, the afterlife works is not something I understand, but I doubt if it looks much like the popular conception. I tend to think about the fact of God breathing life into Man, and the promised resurrection of the dead, and I think our bodies will be physically raised up. (Sadly, Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that, and they are so wrong on so many other levels.) Which flows into your next point, and that is that I tend to think along those lines as well–i.e., that natural processes are what exist. But God instituted those processes. It’s only human minds which have evolved this natural/supernatural distinction. It reminds me of a documentary on several Biblical “miracles” which explained scientifically how a number of them could be achieved. For example, the Red Sea is said to have momentarily parted for Napoleon, which is possible because of the shape of its floor. Or at least, that’s what I remember from 15+ years ago.

    There still must be an ultimate cause. And there is a reason we all share the same morality.

    I’m not sure how it’s relevant to the topic, but I hardly think Christianity can be blamed for setting back the West by a millennium. The fact is, Europe came out as the dominant force immediately following the period to which you refer. The stagnation of the period has been overstated, and the religion itself cannot be solely blamed for what stagnation there was.

    You both touch on a similar topic with morality and religion being used as a justification for evil actions. I saw something recently which debunked the idea of Satanic murder cults, but noted that Satanic serial killers do exist. However, they don’t kill because they believe, they believe because they kill (i.e., they blame an outside force to overcome their own guilt for doing what they want to do).

    And finally, Miskatonic, thank you for clarifying. That has been my impression of Catholics as well.

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  18. >I watched Red State last night. It was ultimately disappointing but it did have some powerful scenes.

    The trumpets at the end were the best part, IMO. Eerie…

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  19. FMA – Thanks for the response(s). I’m glad you revealed your denomination history. Unfortunately, I don’t have much knowledge on either of those sects, so please forgive any ignorance on my part.

    I have no problem with your issues with Catholicism. I think most non-Catholic Christians have the same issues. The idea of merely confessing a sin to achieve absolution seems pretty ridiculous. Dogma’s a great film (well, it’s got some very insightful dialogue, anyway). Also, I had made a point placing Catholics on the same degree as Mormons on the “devoted” spectrum. Let me clarify. What I really feel is that truly devoted Catholics can get pretty darn extreme. It’s just that it’s much easier to slack off in that religion than it is for Mormons to slack off from theirs. I’m pretty sure you will find way more lappsed Catholics (per capita) than you will Jack-Mormons.

    “If you can provide one example to show that science or any other known, demonstrable fact contradicts religion, I would be more than willing to concede the point. You won’t find one. You might find something that contradicts things that people ascribe to their religion, but that is because people as a rule are easily confused and will mistake their ideas for God’s Word.”

    I think this depends on how literal your Judeo-Christian sect takes the Bible (you mentioned God’s Word. I’m assuming you are speaking of the Bible.). Mormons believe (quite literally) that God placed Adam and Eve on Earth 7,000 years ago and all of humanity are descended from them. Many Christian sects believe this. Science has given ample proof that this is not even remotely possible. Therefore, if you belong to a Christian sect which believes this (along with most of the books of Moses and beyond) then you MUST practice cognitive dissonance or outright reject the science.

    History is littered with Christians practicing evil in the name of God. I watched Red State last night. It was ultimately disappointing but it did have some powerful scenes. I particularly enjoyed the extreme rhetoric spewed by the preacher in conjunction with scripture. That crazy bastard cited scripture to back up his murderous actions. This happens all the time in religions branching off of Abraham. Despite all the peace that is emphasized in most sects, the fact remains that the God of Abraham is vengeful as fuck. It is not difficult to justify holy wars waged by faithful followers. They believe they are acting in God’s name. Those religions are fucking extreme when the bible is faithfully adhered to (which it rarely is). Moderate Judaism, Christianity or Islam makes no sense. They’re just watered down versions of the religion. With all of this in mind I have to reject your summation that, “I agree that some have used it(Christianity) as a tool for ill. But they would have used any tool they could.” I don’t think you can say that religious wackos who perpetrate heinous acts would’ve done horrible things even without religious influence. Acting in the name of God is the perfect catalyst for doing things which don’t come naturally to us.

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  20. @FMA: I’ll begin with an aside—It seems odd to me that you criticize Catholicism, yet reject a major aspect of your own adopted faith. That’s what I saw in all Catholics around me (as well as other religions) that first led me to ponder, “Then why are you still a member?” Anyway. . .

    Here are a few things I’m thinking of in response to your post (this gets away from metal a bit, but I think it might get to the core of why we [atheists/doubters] seem to be talking right past you [believer] and vice versa).
    • “salvation” only matters if you believe in an afterlife, something for which there is no evidence, particularly if you recognize the poin that there is no mind/consciousness w/o matter and that mind/body are inseparable.
    • there is no evidence for the supernatural (whether or not we currently have an understanding of the exact material processes involved with certain workings of the universe, we must recognize that the processes involve material/matter and only that).
    • a God (or gods) is unnecessary for the universe to exist. significantly complex systems of inanimate matter have the capability for self-awareness (the beauty & mystery of this, to me personally, is far more vast and interesting that anything we humans could cobble together)
    • Christianity set back intellectual development in the West for nearly a millennium; Europe had to import its knowledge from elsewhere (the Muslim world, the Far East, India) in large part b/c Christians destroyed everything they could that had been derived from competing ontologies (like the Ancient Greeks).
    • Reason existed prior to Christianity, which only later came to embrace reason, via the Scholastics, as a tool for conversion & to support the Church. However, as was found during the Enlightenment, reason decoupled from empiricism can be used to justify any position. More contemporary neuro- and cognitive science has borne out this conclusion: we use “reason” as a means to justify conclusions we already hold, even when all evidence fails to support such conclusions.

    So I guess what I’m trying to figure out is, if you want to be a good person and yet struggle to conform to the tenets of an adopted belief system, then why do you need to belong to that system? Metal, to me, as an art form is part of the essentially human struggle to make sense of our place in an inherently unjust and meaningless universe, to confront both the beauty and horror of existence. Metal confronts the most brutal aspects of life and uses the resultant conflict as raw material for creating something new and marvelous. If you want to be a Christian, that’s cool I guess, but I don’t see what the benefit is, particularly when it goes against something you clearly love so much, which is METAL.

    Josh, again, thanks for posting this and best to all of you reading and commenting. Even if some of us ultimately have to agree to disagree. m/

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  21. >I mean, if God is responsible for the mechanics of the entire universe, do you really think he gives a shit that you’re watching Basic Instinct?

    Hahaha…exactly…

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  22. OK, well it looks like maybe everyone else is done talking.

    On Catholicism: They place too much emphasis on actions (there are other groups that do this as well) and there is at least a sense, if not an explicit belief, that salvation is somehow earned. This is emphasized by their fetishization (if that’s the right word) of saints (including Mary), mere mortals who are deemed to be perfect or nearly so. This creates unrealistic expectations. The way they deal with confession is also problematic, so that many seem to think salvation can turn on whether you confessed after you sinned, as if it’s some kind of game. Someone once pointed out to me that this may be a reason why mobsters are so often Catholic, because it encourages the idea that you can go out and do whatever you want as long as you go through the motions of confession. Along the same lines is the ritual and symbolism brought up by Alex. As if reciting some formula is going to save you. The last point I’ll bring up on the subject: If you’ve seen the movie Dogma, you heard the protagonist say she believes God is dead, and her friend says that is the mark of a true Catholic. That’s illustrative of their undue emphasis on Christ’s suffering (and suffering in general), which can also be found in their crucifixes. I think that’s unhealthy, and misses the important part, what came after Christ’s death. I can see the point that criticizing Catholicism will be felt as a criticism of Catholics themselves, but it is not meant in that way. Many Catholics are just fine, but those are the issues I see that can easily lead people astray. I could take issue with just about any denomination, though, including the one I grew up with and the one I joined. None of them are perfect.

    I agree with you, Alex, that Catholicism is generally a lukewarm religion, at least as it is practiced by the majority of people who identify as Catholic. The same goes for most religion in general. Mormonism is pretty extreme, on the other hand.

    I don’t think you have to make any logical leaps to accept Christianity. I will once again plug the great pop apologist C.S. Lewis, and refer you to Mere Christianity. It makes a strong case for Christianity through reason, and does so by taking the “I don’t need God to tell me what is right and wrong” argument and showing the real implications of innately-known morality. You don’t have to have cognitive dissonance to accept religion and science. If you can provide one example to show that science or any other known, demonstrable fact contradicts religion, I would be more than willing to concede the point. You won’t find one. You might find something that contradicts things that people ascribe to their religion, but that is because people as a rule are easily confused and will mistake their ideas for God’s Word.

    The point made about rap music is one I made in part 1 of my Christianity and metal posts. On the Clean Flicks subject, I think there is a distinct difference between defacing art and appreciating art as it is in your own way.

    Alex, I want to point out that I don’t see anything wrong with co-opting pagan things to transform them into Christian things. Any time you try to bring a new idea to people, you put it into terms they understand. It has the added benefit of draining those things of any spiritual danger. However, there have been times when the pagan influence was too strong, and altered the core Christian idea–that’s why the Catholics have the pantheon of saints, to replace the Roman gods. I know a fair deal about religious history (possibly not as much as you) and there’s nothing I’ve heard that can convince me there is something inherently wrong with Christianity. As I’ve said before, I agree that some have used it as a tool for ill. But they would have used any tool they could.

    Anyway, good discussion.

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  23. As I said, I am going to stay out of this discussion (at least for the time being) because I don’t want to hijack it. I will clear up the issue about my background: I was raised as a Missouri Synod Lutheran, and have joined a Presbyterian (USA) church in my adulthood. (I respect a great deal of Calvin’s contributions, but wholly reject the idea of predestination, the concept of which is inspired by problems inherent in human language rather than in natural facts.) Neither of those churches would really be considered a “born again” church. I went to parochial school through the 8th grade and then went to an LCMS college, so I have studied theology a good deal but have also been to secular schools (high school and law school).

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  24. One thing I would take issue with here is the idea that Catholicism is “extreme”. In my experience it’s pretty mild as far as religions go these days and, for the most part, I don’t see too much difference between Catholics and main line Protestant churches. People belong to them out of family tradition and b/c it’s the system in which they were raised. I happen to have that “terrible” tendency to question absolutely everything whereas, generally, people don’t do that. Born-agains, Evangelicals, Pentacostals, etc., to me are all absolutely frightening in their zeal and conviction that they belong to some true church with the right answers to life’s mysteries.

    I will say that a major part of Catholicism is the symbolism, being inundated with the artifice (the music, the construction of its churches, the rituals) constantly. Most of that symbolism was adopted from paganism and contorted to fit the Church’s message, so there is still something very atavistic about the whole program and I think that suits the artistically-inclined, particularly metal (which is suffused with symbolism that has arisen from shared roots). The legacy of Puritanism out of which most American Protestantism has grown (or at least has been sufficiently influenced by) rejected such imagery (it instead maintained the primacy of the word), though I figure the allure of metal’s symbolism could be strong to those who didn’t grow up with it.

    A side note, multiple studies have shown that the irreligious/atheistic/doubting regularly demonstrate a greater knowledge of religious history and religious ideas than do believers. Frankly, it’s not that surprising.

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  25. Alright, looks like I’ve opened up quite the can of worms here, which was expected of course…

    @ Alex C – Thank you for the kind words! I too came from a nominally Catholic home… My parents sent me to Catholic school I think due to both of them coming from a Catholic background and due to a belief that I would get a better education there than in the public school system. I was grateful that my parents weren’t extremely religious, since I was getting all the God I could handle and then some at school already, and my mother even encouraged my interest in music and heavy metal to a certain degree… except for “that death crap” as she once put it. I saw some of my friends parents, who were religious to the extreme, and wondered how they survived their home lives… of course those friends were typically the ones most up for a little rebellious misbehavior. The flipside of that is I have friends who grew up to become just like their parents, friends who are now in their thirties, single and “saving themselves for marriage”. It’s pretty terrifying that these people who I thought were cool and down to earth when I was a teenager grew up to be zealots.

    I completely agree with your notion about metal/art being a way for people to find meaning in an essentially meaningless existence (and everything else you said in that 2nd paragraph)… I had a similar thought while writing this piece and ultimately couldn’t find the right words to express it, so I thank you for bringing that to the table here. I know that my writing and study of metal is an attempt to make sense of things and how they fit into a big picture that is ultimately random and accidental. Sounds like I need to check out both Hume and Hecht as I am not familiar with either of them.

    @ FMA – I’d actually be pretty interested to hear your criticisms of Catholicism, having come from and subsequently rejected it. I won’t tell your wife if you won’t 😉

    As for understanding the lyrics… there are these handy tools called CD booklets and the internet to help out with that. Darklyrics.com has the most comprehensive database of extreme metal lyrics that I’ve seen. Of course, there are bands out there that don’t publish their lyrics and promo downloads that don’t include lyrics, and quite frankly this infuriates the hell out of me. I don’t feel completely comfortable writing about an album that I don’t have access to the lyrics for and although I have certainly done so on occasion, it’s far from ideal. In those situations I just do my best to try and figure them out on my own (listening to this stuff for 15 years or so has given me a pretty good ear), or try my best to analyze and interpret the intent and spirit of the work based on what is available (music, artwork, interviews w/ the band). Bands who’s lyrics are in a different language are a much trickier proposition if translations aren’t available.

    @ Roger – that’s an interesting point you bring up about hip-hop/rap. I’ll admit that I don’t know the first thing about modern rap music, but I do own and enjoy some of the classics of my youth such as Ice Cube, NWA, Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre, Eazy-E, Cypress Hill, etc. This brings up a whole other issue regarding lyrics and imagery in music, and I think you could say the same thing about extreme metal as some forms of rap, as there is no shortage of violence and misogyny to be found in extreme metal (and even some mainstream metal) as well. Certainly I wouldn’t endorse committing any of the acts being detailed in the average Chris Barnes lyric, for instance. So, where does one draw the line? Do we pick and choose what we want to take from a piece of art and incorporate into own beliefs and world view? Should some art be allowed become a part of us and some be viewed strictly as pure fantasy or entertainment? I’m not sure I have any answers for this but I’d love to hear your opinions.

    @ Miskatonic – Yes, I remember your excellent piece on Mormonism over at Invisible Oranges. Regarding Clean Flicks and ClearPlay, I had no idea such things existed, and I think it is interesting that they would choose to watch censored/edited movies instead of banning them outright. I’m fascinated by the idea of people denying themselves something like an R rated movie of a piece of music because of God. I mean, if God is responsible for the mechanics of the entire universe, do you really think he gives a shit that you’re watching Basic Instinct? If he does in fact exist, I sincerely hope he has better things to do than spy on what you brought home from the local Blockbuster tonight.

    As for your point about the rejection of Catholicism, I’d have to agree, extreme conditions demand extreme responses. While no one at my school ever behaved like what I would classify as a religious fanatic (some of the parents, on the other hand…), and I felt that the non-religion teachers did a good job of keeping religion out of the other realms of study, it was still very much present throughout the day, the high school was built in the shape of a cross! When you’re inundated with something like that for eight or more hours a day, something’s bound to give.

    Regarding weak-minded/willed Christians, although the focus of this piece was on Christianity, I feel that the same could be said of members of ANY denomination that invites a God in to control their lives or is used as catch-all explanation for the unexplainable. I do realize that many of our world’s greatest minds believe in some form of God, but I think that many of those same minds are able to push God aside in their quest for knowledge, which makes one wonder if they truly believe at all? I’d agree with you that cognitive dissonance plays a key roll in this and I think it is not only rampant in religion but in humanity as whole, regardless of beliefs.

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  26. I live in Utah so I’m surrounded by Mormons. They absorb incomplete art all the time. They used to love a video store chain called Clean Flicks because they edited content in R-Rated movies. That place was raking in the dough before getting shut down via litigation of a few concerned movie directors ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clean_Flicks ). (Side note: Our local Clean Flicks had a small ad on the ground which merely said CLEAN FLICKS in black block letters. Some clever wisenheimer used a black magic marker to fill in the small space where the L and the I almost come together. It was gone the next day. Ha!) Now Mormons watch R-rated movies using a program called ClearPlay which does the editing on the fly. From what I understand, many a delicate sensibility has been offended because ClearPlay sometimes doesn’t work quite right. Ha!

    FMA: The reason Catholics end up rejecting Catholicism vehemently has to do with how extreme the religions is in the first place. Catholicism requires great sacrifice and a truly devoted lifestyle. The same is true of Mormonism (my experience) and many other religious systems. To truly turn away from such an extreme lifestyle, one must be just as extreem in their rejection. Hell, to get the Mormon church to leave you alone you are basically forced to reveal your deep feelings concerning faith to every Tom, Dick, and Harry who comes along. Everyone in the ward (Mormon version of parish) is responsible for everyone else. It’s very draining.

    Also, FMA, you haven’t revealed your denomination but I assume it’s some sort of Born Again sect. I think it’s interesting that you point out that Catholicism “encourages a view of religion that’s just a bit off in very key respects” yet fail to recognize that the same thing is possible with your own religion. All religions require the believer to make some pretty big logical leaps in order to embrace them. When I was a believer I just filled those gaps in with faith. Catholics do that, Muslims do that, and I guarantee you do that too. Just remember that the next time you go singling out a religion like that. Your wife is right. You may think you aren’t attacking Catholics because you are attacking Catholicism, but remember that Catholics love their church and believe it’s true. They are inexorably linked to it. So, when you criticize their church, you ARE criticizing them.

    Now, I’m not above criticizing churches. That’s the whole point of many, MANY metal bands. But if you are going to criticize a church, don’t do it in some weak, middling manner which masquerades as a spiritual dialogue. That’s NOT what iconoclastic metal is about.

    As for your point about Christians not being weak minded; I’d say that Christians vary in intelligence as much as everyone else. It is lazy to say that Christians are weak and just use religion as a way to alleviate fear of the unknown. However, I have known many, MANY Christians (mostly Mormons) who do just that. I guarantee you know just as many weak Christians as you do smart ones. So don’t try and tell us that Christians are any more thoughtful than anyone else. On the other side of things, I’ve known plenty of intelligent Mormons. I live next door to BYU and have been regularly exposed to the greatest Mormon minds on the planet. Smart people can do amazing things with their minds. They can even make themselves believe two concepts which contradict one another. It’s called cognitive dissonance and it is rampant in religion. The existence of intelligent Christians in no way validates Christianity. Subscribing to that line of reasoning sounds like the path of the weak-minded Christian.

    FMA, before you go thinking I’m your enemy, I want to tell you that I really appreciate what you’ve done in tackling this subject. I think we can agree that there’s no easy solution (then again, apostasy has really helped clear things up for me), and I commend you for your bravery. It’s just that I don’t agree that metal and Christianity are compatible.

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  27. Regarding the point about Christians listening to death or black metal, I wonder if I could compare my own hip-hop/rap listening habits. Themes sometime include misogyny, homophobia, and violence, which are all things I do not endorse. Does this make me a bad humanist? I would think in both cases, there’s a bit of contradiction.

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  28. An interesting article, and thanks for the link.

    I find it especially interesting that almost all of the metalheads who were raised in religion and have since rejected it (most of them vehemently) were raised Catholic. Or at least it seems that way to me. I could offer theories on why that is, but my wife gets mad at me when I criticize Catholics. (I try to point out that I’m not really criticizing Catholics, but Catholicism. Doesn’t seem to work.) But I will offer just a hint of what I think, and that is that Catholicism encourages a view of religion that’s just a bit off in very key respects. It works and is sufficient for many people, but others see the deep flaws in their way of thinking and it poisons them on religion in general.

    It’s always convenient for atheists to accuse the religious of being weak-willed or weak-minded, but I have not found that to be the case. Given the reasoning of your typical atheist, it should be the case (assuming that atheism is the correct view). But I have never seen a correlation. In my experience, it’s been quite the opposite, in fact.

    How do you even understand the lyrics? It seems to me that would take quite some effort.

    Anyway, I don’t want to get into a shitstorm argument and tear it down piece by piece. I don’t want to hijack the conversation, and instead will let others add their views, and will remain silent.

    I found the article interesting for the purpose of mutual understanding. So, thank you.

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  29. Hey Josh, I fully appreciate the sentiment in this post, as I did your comments over at FMA’s blog. My home was nominally Catholic (I didn’t go to Catholic school, though I was confirmed but took the name Thomas—the doubter—just to not rock the boat too much) but none of it ever made any sense and I couldn’t understand why people believed it. I’ve been comfortable in my atheism for nearly two decades now and I love that doubt/skepticism/inquiry continues to spread.

    For me Metal (and art in general) is about wrestling with the fact that we are essentially probablistic mistakes, existential accidents in a universe that is unjust/unfair and fundamentally meaningless (because those are human concepts, not natural ones). We impose meaning on our lives and we can choose to live liberated, productive lives in the service of both our own personal needs and the needs of others. We don’t need gods or masters to achieve this, those are just entities invented to enrich a few at the expense of the many. Like you said (which, if you didn’t know already, echoes David Hume) humans acted morally and ethically before the advent of religion. Religion (particularly Christianity) has the tendency to co-opt the beliefs and activities of the cultures it tries to absorb, it’s not the other way around.

    Anyway, thanks for writing this and best to you and yours.

    (also, for those interested in exploring the deep legacy of skeptical inquiry I highly recommend the book Doubt: A History by Jennifer Michael Hecht)

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