Heavy metal’s relationship to religion

by Aaron Lynn
June 18, 2014 –

church_ablaze

If you ask a metalhead about the relationship between heavy metal and religion, you’ll no doubt get a few different answers. Some will tell you that it stands in firm opposition to all religion, some will list off a plethora of Christian heavy metal bands, and some have no opinion on the subject and just wanna headbang and tune out.

Perhaps there is half-truth to these assessments: Deicide’s militant anti-Christian message is obvious even to the most passive listener, but on the other hand heavy metal with Christian themed lyrics has existed since its inception with Black Sabbath. In addition, many bands use occult imagery in either an artistic or neutrally atheistic way.

But maybe there’s another road to take, maybe these assessments are analyzing the relationship incorrectly.

I was an atheist for four years of my life (age 12-16). I was fairly vocal and enthusiastic about it as well, looking upon anything religious with scorn. I was very stereotypical when it came to my atheism too: I posted anti-religious memes on social media, went into silly debates with random creationists, and I had no real understanding of science, I just vomited forth Richard Dawkins’ philosophy.

But sometime within my 16th year, my outlook changed. I began to listen to heavy metal more actively, and my atheism slowly faded into wonder. It seemingly lashed at my inflated ego and made me face the possibility of something greater than myself. It challenged me to be more ambitious with my existence, and to want more out of life.

Prior to my revelation, I had a very human-centric view of the world, but Hellhammer’s “Only Death is Real” concept made me look at this in a whole new light. Death will take everyone regardless of their status in life; in the end, it is the only victor. This is important because it weakens the ego of the individual, and forces them to look elsewhere for meaning. Humility before something more powerful than yourself (death) is an undeniably religious concept, and has grown to be the core ideology of death metal for decades.

Religion itself is very important to heavy metal, where would legends like Slayer and Morbid Angel be without it? Metal has always expressed a deep reverence for power, and what greater power than the omnipresent force of the cosmos? Some perceive it as God or Gods, some perceive it as Satan, and some perceive it as nothing more than a functional force that keeps the universe rolling. All of these possibilities are astonishing, and have inspired the greatest sense of awe and wonder in mankind throughout history.

Heavy metal has become not only my passion, but my guiding light to a life that I may not understand completely, but that I’m learning more about every day. It has taught me to appreciate and find beauty in all aspects of the world, from the worms in the earth to the birds in the sky. It — like every other aspect of an intense life — is a form of worship in itself.

So if, as a parent, you see your son/daughter with a copy of Slayer’s Hell Awaits, fear not. Heavy metal inspires a sense of wonder and passion. That wonder may very well turn their eyes to the stars, and that passion may very well ignite their flame of life.

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212 comments

  • Brett Stevens

    Rip the sacred flesh
    Sodomize the holy asshole
    Drink the red blood of the mother of earth
    Masturbation on the dead body of christ
    The king of Jews is dead
    and so are the lies
    Vomit on the host of Heaven
    Masturbate on the throne of God
    Break the seals of angels
    Drink the sweet blood of Christ
    Taste the flesh of the priest
    Sodomize holy nuns
    The king of Jews is a liar
    The Heavens will burn
    Dethrone the son of God
    God is dead
    Holyness is gone
    Purity is gone
    Prayers are burned
    Covered in black shit
    Rape the holy ghost
    Unclean birth of Jesus Christ
    Heaven will fall
    Fuck the church
    Fuck Christ
    Fuck the Virgin
    Fuck the gods of Heaven
    Fuck the name of Jesus

    — Havohej “Dethrone the Son of God” from Dethrone the Son of God

    1. EDS

      Read those lyrics without listening to the song and you’d think Paul was an angry and angst ridden teenager. However, once sung by Paul and inserted into the song, these lyrics transform and morph into a passage of elegance. HAIL PAUL LEDNEY!

    2. Jae-yun Kim

      Holy father in the sky
      Inhuman lord of darkest lies
      We burn the feeble christian cross
      And curse the holy son of God

      At dawn we summon the master below
      The horned one shall take your soul
      Behold the shadows of the moon
      And wish you were never born

      Holy father
      We are the worshippers of darkness
      Holy father
      Feel our hate from below
      We are the sons of hell
      We shall live on forever
      We are the ones who sold our souls
      In the unholy name of evil

      Behold the flames of hell
      The abyss where sinners burn
      Forever you shall dwell
      In the fires without return

      No god shall ever live
      No lies shall ever be told
      We desecrate Jesus Christ
      And turn the crucufix upside down

      Burn the corpse of Jehova
      In the flames of hell it shall be done
      Devour the holy Messiah
      Consume the forgotten son

      The paradise is no more
      The burning of heaven I behold
      My vision of hell was true
      As it was foretold

      –Necrophobic, “Where Sinners Burn” (THE NOCTURNAL SILENCE)

      1. Brett Stevens

        I am the god of gods
        Master of the art
        I desecrate the chaste
        Writhe in the flesh

        Blasphemy

        Chant the blasphemy
        Mockery of the messiah
        We curse the holy ghost
        Enslaver of the weak
        God of lies and greed
        God of hypocrisy
        We laugh at your bastard child
        No god shall come before me

        Blaspheme the ghost
        Blaspheme the ghost
        Blaspheme the ghost
        Blasphemy of the holy ghost

        Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law
        Rebel against the church
        Drink from the chalice of blasphemy
        Rise up against the enslaver

        (Blasphemy)

        — Morbid Angel “Blasphemy” (Altars of Madness)

      2. Brett Stevens

        Waiting the hour destined to die
        Here on the table of hell
        A figure in white unknown by man
        Approaching the altar of death
        High priest awaiting dagger in hand
        Spilling the pure virgin blood
        Satan’s slaughter, ceremonial death
        Answer his every command

        Death will come easy just close your eyes –
        Dream of the friends you’ll see
        Heavenly failure losing again
        Move on to a new form of life

        Altar of sacrifice, curse of the damned
        Confronting the evil you dread
        Coalesce into one your shadow and soul
        Soon you will meet the undead

        Altar of sacrifice, curse of the damned
        Confronting the evil you dread
        Coalesce into one your shadow and soul
        Soon you will meet the undead

        Enter to the realm of Satan!

        Blood turning black, the change has begun
        Feeling the hatred of all damned in Hell
        Flesh starts to burn, twist and deform
        Eyes dripping blood realization of death
        Transforming of five toes to two
        Learn the sacred words of praise, hail Satan

        A gift of powers disposed upon you
        Use them when you feel the need
        Master the forces and powers of Satan
        Controlling the creature’s instinct
        Drawn to the castles that float in the sky
        Learn to resist the temptation
        Watching the angels sift through the heavens
        Endlessly searching for salvation

        –Slayer “Altar of Sacrifice” (Reign in Blood)

        1. Jae-yun Kim

          Evocation of mass destruction
          Dimensions opened mayhem enshines
          Catastrophes, natural terrors
          Total chaos
          The world welters in blood
          TO MEGA THERION 666

          Rivers of blood overflown
          With human waste
          Rains of fire
          The earth will burn

          Armageddon, days of darkness
          Judgment day, who’s to judge
          Antichrist, the beast of mayhem
          King of kings, death of the world
          TO MEGA THERION 666

          Holy carnage, explosion of hatred
          Demons are slaying, warfare of mayhem
          Brothers of darkness
          The servants of the beast

          Rebels of the wasteland
          Do what thou wilt
          Shall be the whole of the Law
          When darkness enshines

          Divination of the flames
          Breed of the bestial race
          Legions which are sworn
          Reborn to reign this war

          LUCIFER, bringer of light
          Ineffable king of hell
          SATAN will be victorious
          In the battle of armageddon

          Rebels of the wasteland
          Do what thou wilt
          Shall be the whole of the Law
          When darkness enshines

          Demons are slaying, holy carnage
          Brothers of darkness
          The servants of the beast

          Armageddon, days of darkness
          Judgment day, who’s to judge

          Antichrist, the beast of mayhem
          King of kings, death of the world
          TO MEGA THERION 666

          Divination of the flames
          Breed of the bestial race
          Legions which are sworn
          Reborn to reign this war
          Nazarene decapitated
          Jehovah screams in flames
          Carnage of the christian god
          The war is almost won!

          LUCIFER, bringer of light
          Ineffable king of hell
          SATAN will be victorious
          In the battle of armageddon

          Heaven’s kingdom devastated
          Carnage of the christian god
          Jehovah is slaughtered
          LUCIFER REJOICED –
          – TO MEGA THERION

          –Sinister, “To Mega Therion” (Hate)

          1. Brett Stevens

            Life has no meaning, unyielding obsession
            Grasping at strings of a life I once knew
            Death by my own hands, achieving objective
            Blade to my throat, I calmly greet death

            In Hell I burn, my faith is sustained
            In Hell I burn again
            In Hell I burn, no questions remain
            In Hell I burn for Satan

            Opened eyes dream, unheavenly torture
            Raping the world of the dead
            Burning in Hell and viewing the unseen
            Satisfied feasting of flesh

            In Hell I burn, my faith is sustained
            In Hell I burn again
            In Hell I burn, no questions remain
            In Hell I burn for Satan

            Master it’s true
            My promise I have kept
            Fulfillment of the prophecies
            The deity’s dead

            –Deicide “In Hell I Burn” (Legion)

            1. Jae-yun Kim

              The angels set forth on their final flight
              Their wings frail and weak
              Ascending from the now black clouds of heaven
              Never again to see it’s light
              The golden gates tarnished by failure
              The horizon of salvation scorched by sin
              As embers light the sky of paradise
              Foul winds of disgust pollute the air
              As beings of black wings breathe hate
              Bringing the reversal of creation
              The forever spawn of dying
              The god of heaven dies on his broken throne
              His brow torn by the horns of victory
              As tears of blood stain the altar of christ
              His flock of sheep is led astray
              And after a final mourn of crucifixion
              Christ opens his bleeding eyes
              Only to see his followers of forgiveness
              Banished and cast out
              Bringing the reversal of creation
              The forever spawn of evil

              –Demoncy, “Hypocrisy of the Accursed Heavens” (Joined in Darkness)

              1. Brett Stevens

                Disciples of mockery, blasphemy.

                Christ will rot, suffer in pain.
                Nailed unmercifuly, grotesquely hung.
                Gasping for air, collapsed lungs.
                Stripped of vitality, suffocate…

                Denied from salvation.
                Destroy, the remains of Christ.
                For his flesh won’t rise.
                Burned to ash, Christ’s abolishment…

                –Incantation “Blasphemous Creation” (Onward to Golgotha)

                1. Jae-yun Kim

                  An ominous disembowelment…
                  The soothslayer is blinded, such is fate;
                  Abomination to damn the eyes…
                  For the righteous, a test of faith.

                  “We thank thee lord, for this tribulation,
                  We sing thy praises without end;
                  No matter how rabid the oppressor,
                  We shall not fail thee, though we pray for
                  Strength.”

                  Ensnared in the web of the unjesus,
                  The once-sacrosanct abbey is
                  Besieged,
                  With the braying of the
                  Nightgoat,
                  Benedictine friars convulse.

                  Infernal visions flay their souls
                  As their bodies contort and writhe…
                  Capricornus nocturnum haunts them,
                  From their torment springs its delight.

                  Impaled on one of its many legs,
                  A bug-eyed Mary gapes on in horror
                  As her only son is chewed to bits
                  By spiderchrist… She is flecked with gore.

                  Caprine morturion leads the bones
                  Of their departed brethren
                  In the abbey’s catacombs;
                  When gargoyles vomit blood,
                  The defunct will ascend
                  To rend the mortal flesh
                  Of the brothers of the good word,
                  And make victims of their guts.

                  Those who are left,
                  Of god bereft
                  Run amongst heads
                  Suspended by threads.

                  Crosses up-ended
                  And frenzied bloodshed
                  For those who sought favour
                  From their saviour.

                  “I am messiah”
                  The grand delusion
                  To hell-wracked things,
                  Revelation.

                  –Cryptopsy, “Benedictine Convulsions” (None So Vile)

                  1. Brett Stevens

                    Born from Hell
                    The supreme force of evil
                    To destroy the altar
                    And slaughter the christian’s born

                    Churches will be destroyed
                    Crosses will be brocken
                    He’s laughing in blasphemy
                    Like a domination of death

                    Antichrist

                    The war is started
                    Heavens on fire
                    From the deep of Hell
                    Leaving words of hate

                    Antichrist

                    The terror is declared
                    The final fight started
                    The Antichrist and Lucifer
                    Fighting with angels and God

                    Antichrist

                    –Sepultura “Antichrist” (Morbid Visions/Bestial Devastation)

                    1. Jae-yun Kim

                      Hell, evil, Satan’s curse
                      From the sky it falls
                      Metal burns my fucking brain
                      Satan took the fall
                      Deceased men from hell and hatred
                      Pollution to mankind
                      Antichrist my son from hell
                      I will make you mine

                      You’ll die there’s no time to run from hell
                      You lied the witch has cast her spell
                      Your sins will be paid for and sacrificed
                      This is the price – Satan’s curse

                      Sin, hate, eternal death
                      Decayed my flesh I rot
                      Running below Satan’s home
                      Lord of Hell he’s not
                      Lust for evil, son of Hell
                      Beneath the smoke I rise
                      Flames torch my body
                      A sinner’s solar eyes

                      Sacrifice your soul will be doomed
                      Your evil friends who have deceived you
                      Satan’s curse enters your soul
                      Beneath you’ll burn – Satan’s curse

                      Sky fades to black
                      As the heavens diminish
                      Evil takes over
                      The world is finished

                      Hell, evil, Satan’s curse
                      From the sky it falls
                      Metal burns my fucking brain
                      Satan took the fall
                      Deceased men from hell and hatred
                      Pollution to mankind
                      Antichrist my son from hell
                      I will make you mine

                      You’ll die there’s no time to run from hell
                      You lied the witch has cast her spell
                      Your sins will be paid for and sacrificed
                      This is the price – Satan’s curse

                      –Possessed, “Satan’s Curse” (Seven Churches)

        2. Jae-yun Kim

          O’ mighty Lord of the Night. Master of beasts. Bringer of awe and derision.
          Thou whose spirit lieth upon every act of oppression, hatred and strife.
          Thou whose presence dwelleth in every shadow.
          Thou who strengthen the power of every quietus.
          Thou who sway every plague and storm.
          Harkee.

          Thou art the Emperor of Darkness.
          Thou art the Emperor of Darkness.
          Thou art the king of howling wolves.
          Thou art the king of howling wolves.
          Thou hath the power to force any light in wane.
          Sans mercy. Sans compassion
          nor will to answer whosoever asketh the why.

          Thy path is capricious but yet so wide.
          With no such thing as an impediment to strong.

          Every time thou consecrate me to another secret of Thine,
          I take another step towards Thy Pantheon.

          O’ mighty Lord of the Night. Master of beasts. Bringer of awe and derision.
          Thou whose spirit lieth upon every act of oppression, hatred and strife.
          Thou whose presence dwelleth in every shadow.
          Thou who strengthen the power of every quietus.
          Thou who sway every plague and storm.
          Harkee.

          Thou art the Emperor of Darkness.
          Thou art the Emperor of Darkness.
          Thou art the king of howling wolves.
          Thou art the king of howling wolves.
          Thou hath the power to force any light in wane.
          Sans mercy. Sans compassion
          nor will to answer whosoever asketh the why.

          Forever wilt I bleed for Thee.
          Forever wilt I praise Thy dreaded name.
          Forever wilt I serve Thee.
          Thou shalt shalt forever prevail.

          Inno a Satana. Inno a Satana.
          Inno a Satana. Inno a Satana.

          Inno a Satana.

          –Emperor, “Inno A Satana” (In the Nightside Eclipse)

          1. Jae-yun Kim

            As you wrote earlier:

            I also worry about those who cannot see how worship of evil also constitutes acknowledgment of holiness.

              1. Jae-yun Kim

                Which is why I am inclined toward the view that you cannot know God without knowing Satan. Or, more accurately, God and Satan are one and the same, as Christian theothanatologist Thomas Altizer maintains in Godhead and the Nothing:

                “Although Milton resolutely refused any possibility of fall in the Godhead, this was yet another deep ground of his revolutionary creation of Satan, and if Milton’s Satan is the pure evil of darkness incarnate, that is the absolute evil which is absolutely necessary for the epic drama of Paradise Lost. And this drama is a dialectical drama, impelled by the absolute opposites of Satan and the Messiah. Satan and the Son of God are not only dialectical opposites but dialectical polarities, each of whose deepest actions dialectically inverts and reverses the actions of the other, but in that very dialectical polarity each is absolutely necessary to the other.”

                *

                “Only Christianity knows an absolutely dichotomous body, one torn asunder by an ultimate conflict between ‘flesh’ and Spirit, and one releasing a truly new ‘I,’ a doubled and self-divided ‘I’ which is truly at war with itself, and only that war makes possible the advent of a truly new self-consciousness. That self-consciousness is inseparable from what the Christian uniquely knows as ‘sin’ and ‘grace,’ a grace only realizing itself in the depths of sin, and a sin only manifest with the advent of the depths of grace.
                “Now if it is only Christianity that has undergone an ultimate historical transformation, that transformation is inseparable from the uniquely Christian God, and if it is only Christianity that embodies ultimate historical and interior dichotomies, it is only the Christian God that is a truly dichotomous God. Even orthodox Christianity knows that dichotomy in knowing an eternal predestination, a predestination or election which is inevitably a double predestination; everyone is damned as a consequence of an original and total fall, and only a tiny elect is predestined to a redemption from that fall, with the great mass of humanity being eternally predestined to damnation, and that very damnation is inseparable from the redemption of the elect. So it is that damnation is more overwhelming in Christianity than in any other tradition, only being abated with the secularization of Christianity, but that secularization does not dissolve the dichotomies of a uniquely Western consciousness. It far rather universalizes them, so that Nietzsche could declare that the world itself is now a madhouse. But this is a madhouse reflecting the uniquely Christian God, a God which is absolute light and absolute darkness at once, hence a truly dichotomous God, or a God at absolute war with itself.”

                1. Brett Stevens

                  Or, more accurately, God and Satan are one and the same

                  They serve the same purpose.

                  A relative construct such as the cosmos avoids locking up through absolutes. It also constantly encourages its own growth, outracing (most) entropy.

                  At the same time, it enables constants if they are abstract (vectors and not fixed values, to use a metaphor). It could be variables/metaphor/structural comparison “all the way down” as the Hindu sages hint.

                  God must make good, Satan must make evil. Together they form a growth, like springtime and winter.

                  1. Jae-yun Kim

                    A relative construct such as the cosmos avoids locking up through absolutes. It also constantly encourages its own growth, outracing (most) entropy.

                    As Alex Rosenberg observes in The Atheist’s Guide to Reality:

                    Mother Nature is forever searching through biological design space, looking for new variations on an existing adaptation that do even better. Nature seeks variations that are cheaper to make or more efficient to use or that otherwise improve on a solution to the design problem the environment poses. There is no way to stop blind variation. This goes for variations in human cultural adaptations as well as in genetically encoded adaptations. But human social design space is greater than the biological space genes search through. It is changing more rapidly, too.

                    *

                    At the same time, it enables constants if they are abstract (vectors and not fixed values, to use a metaphor). It could be variables/metaphor/structural comparison “all the way down” as the Hindu sages hint.

                    Beneath the ceaseless activity of the apparent universe, there might be something that is absolutely silent and still. What Shankara called “Brahman,” Aristotle the “Prime Mover,” and Plotinus the “One.”

                    It is probably belief in such a principle that enabled Gaudapada to proclaim:

                    “There is no dissolution and no creation, no one in bondage and no one who is striving for or who is desirous of liberation, and there is no one who is liberated. This is the absolute truth.”

                    To quote Nisargadatta once more:

                    “This consciousness, which is really what is born, mistakenly attaches itself to this body and thinks it is the body and works through the three gunas; that is the association. And it is that which is born. But I have nothing to do with this. In the Gita, Lord Krishna tells Arjuna that you are not killing somebody, nor is anybody getting killed. The whole thing is an illusion.
                    “The sweetness is the quality or nature of sugar; but that sweetness is there only so long as the sugar is present. Once the sugar has been consumed or thrown away, there is no more sweetness. So this knowledge ‘I am,’ this consciousness, this feeling or sense of Being, is the quintessence of the body. And if that body essence is gone, this feeling, the sense of Being, will also have gone. This sense of Being cannot remain without the body, just as sweetness cannot remain without the material, which is sugar.
                    “…What remains is the Original, which is unconditioned, without attributes, and without identity: that on which this temporary state of the consciousness and the three states and the three gunas have come and gone. It is called parabrahman, the Absolute.”

                    *

                    God must make good, Satan must make evil. Together they form a growth, like springtime and winter.

                    I wonder if a day will come when today’s Christians learn to say, “Praise God, hail Satan!”

                    1. Brett Stevens

                      Nature seeks variations that are cheaper to make or more efficient to use or that otherwise improve on a solution to the design problem the environment poses. There is no way to stop blind variation.

                      There are two parts to the process: expansion (to all possibilities), which would seem to increase entropy, and filtering by reality itself to produce optimums, which seems to reduce entropy. The former is something popularly affirmed; the latter is something popularly denied, hidden, taboo’d, talked around, concealed, masked, considered impolite, etc.

                      Beneath the ceaseless activity of the apparent universe, there might be something that is absolutely silent and still. What Shankara called “Brahman,” Aristotle the “Prime Mover,” and Plotinus the “One.”

                      The cosmos is created of relativity. Thus vast movement also requires vast stillness.

                      In my view, consciousness is not a property of the individual, but of the world; however, individuals represent distinct informational objects within it. Thus there is something of them which is both of a biological origin and ascendant to a different layer, thus we are both limited by our bodies and not limited to them.

                    2. Jae-yun Kim

                      [T]he latter is something popularly denied, hidden, taboo’d, talked around, concealed, masked, considered impolite, etc.

                      To quote Professor Rosenberg’s “Eliminativism without Tears”:

                      The whole point of Darwin’s theory is that in the creation of adaptations, nature is not active, it’s passive. What is really going on is environmental filtration—a purely passive and not very discriminating process that prevents most traits below some minimal local threshold from persisting. Natural selection is selection against. As Fodor might put it, Darwin doesn’t care which traits get past the filter, including all the bizarre disjunctive traits any student of Nelson Goodman can come up with. Darwin only cares about which traits can’t.

                      Is eugenics a form of natural selection or artificial selection?

                      *

                      In my view, consciousness is not a property of the individual, but of the world; however, individuals represent distinct informational objects within it. Thus there is something of them which is both of a biological origin and ascendant to a different layer, thus we are both limited by our bodies and not limited to them.

                      This reminds me of the so-called “noosphere” of Vladimir Vernadsky and Teilhard de Chardin: from the inanimate to the animate to the conscious. But you seem to be taking the idealist view, implying that consciousness existed before matter; that, in fact, consciousness gave rise to matter.

          2. Brett Stevens

            Hail Satan, full of might,
            Our allegiance is with thee.
            Cursed are they, the god adorers,
            And cursed are the worshippers of the nazarene.

            Ave satanas, ave satanas

            Unholy satan, bringer of enlightment,
            Lend us thy power, now and throughout our lives.
            Endless glory shall be given.
            Lord of hell, show us thy way.

            Ave satanas, ave satanas

            Jesus christ, we deny thy name.

            –Acheron “Ave Satanas” (Rites of the Black Mass)

            1. Jae-yun Kim

              Hail Lucifer!
              Dark bringer of light
              Hail Lucifer!
              Giver of eternal sight

              Wisdom bringer – We call upon thy name
              Bestow upon us thy infernal blessings
              Of the inner divine flame

              Open our eyes Mighty Father
              so that we may see
              Guide our steps on the Burning Path
              of liberation and ecstasy

              Titanic Prometheus – God of forbidden light
              Your Black Flame we bear inside as a legacy of your might

              Illumination’s father – God of shadowless light
              Black Sun of dark mysteries – Restore the dragon’s sight

              Mighty god of darkness
              All salutations to thee
              Your gift of knowledge and rebellion
              Will set our spirits free

              Lylusay Tateros Volt Sids Lucifer!
              Lylusay Tateros Volt Sids Lucifer!

              Open our eyes Mighty Father
              so that we may see
              Guide our steps on the Burning Path
              of liberation and ecstasy

              Mighty god of darkness
              All salutations to thee
              Raise the hidden flames within us
              Into chaos set us free

              –Dissection, “God of Forbidden Light” (Reinkaos)

              1. Brett Stevens

                Merciless slaughter
                On the altar of darkness
                The demons are rattling their swords
                The battle started
                In the bowels of the earth
                (In the bowels of the Tartarus)
                Blasphemous warcries, leper sound
                Miasma of a damned soul
                The graves are opened

                The time stopped
                The psalms sound
                The abyssis reign of blasphemy
                The pleasure of sin, last invocation to thy

                The bloody revenge boiled
                Pain, hate for them
                Who will not see the light again
                The darkness is ruling
                No mercy to the sacrilege dogs
                Fire and leper-curse to them
                Black mass, unholy invocation
                Last confession, ultimate pain

                –Varathron “Unholy Funeral” (His Majesty in the Swamp)

                1. Jae-yun Kim

                  Silent watching gaze
                  Across the blackened plains
                  Two eyes like burning embers
                  Awaits the moment for the
                  North star to blaze

                  Sythanagon winged
                  Angel rides deaths wind
                  To cloudless sky
                  And sound a summon call of war
                  Now burn does the skyline

                  Soundless wings lacerate the night
                  Angels of death emerge across the sky
                  Thorned heads spiky limbs climb the air up high
                  Attack of the pearly gates
                  Now wait for the sign…

                  Seen now is His star
                  Ablaze now risen in
                  The sign of the one with
                  A number not a name
                  Now given is the sign

                  The Golden walls of heaven

                  Sound is given now of charge
                  A voice of war does cry
                  The cry does sound the signal
                  And the walls are stormed
                  Now fly

                  Swords are drawn in soundless flight
                  Above the walls of gold
                  The winged angels of death descend
                  A thousand from above
                  Now heaven is in its’ last throes of death

                  Sacred shrine of life and death
                  Apharamons gold key
                  The raping of holy interior
                  And all concealed
                  Now masturbated upon is throne of gold

                  Scattered battered wings
                  Along the palaces and streets
                  Trophy of the victory
                  Attached to spear of the Beast
                  Now spitted at is the scalp of God.

                  –Bathory, “The Golden Walls of Heaven” (Blood Fire Death)

                  1. Brett Stevens

                    Incantations of evil
                    Spells black of Satan
                    Satanic power from hell
                    From dark crystal rooms

                    Black souls of darkness
                    Dark ones of evil
                    Baptized in fire
                    Mystical death you will die!

                    Black Arts

                    Rituals are going
                    Hexcrafting and cursing
                    Proclaiming your death
                    Magick, hate and death

                    Black Arts

                    –Beherit “Black Arts” (Drawing Down the Moon)

                    1. Jae-yun Kim

                      See him
                      Rape me
                      Kill us
                      Death
                      See
                      Come
                      Witness
                      Die now
                      Cut your flesh & worship Satan.

                      –Antaeus, “Inner War” (Cut Your Flesh and Worship Satan)

  • BB

    This article just throws a lot of stuff on one big heap, and because of that, it doesn’t clarify anything.

    There’s a big difference between adhering to a religion, having religious feelings and having a sense of wonder about reality. (For starters, one can argue about the semantics of the word “God”, but is most commonly used as a being with a personality, not as some vague cosmic force. Wonderment isn’t necessarily religious, it only becomes religious when you are seeking meaning outside of reality, etc.)

    Also, it is not because one recognizes death as something “bigger” than us humans, that one can call this acknowledgement a religious feeling. It might just as well be framed as an acknowledgement of a bland, obvious, objective fact. No need to go look for meaning either because everybody dies. I thought the DLA-crew were nihilists?

    So, if you stopped being an atheist: what are you now?

    1. Richard Head

      The theme of the article was very clear to me: Heavy metal opened up the mind of an arrogant kid who thought that he was the most important thing in the universe. This view is easy to come by because when we don’t know much about the universe, we become easily involved in our own personal vapid dramas. To change this way of thinking, we need to open our experiences up and tune our senses into the vastness of reality external to our idiosyncratic conscious perception (active nihilism, in anus terms). Aaron communicated this message effectively; I don’t know how tying these ideas together would be so difficult.

      Seeking meaning outside of reality? Religion doesn’t deal with anything “outside of reality”, and if someone tells you otherwise, then they are really describing superstition, which is a way of thinking that ignores causality and substitues personal paranoic emotion-driven evaluations where critical (self-critical, even) judgment would be more effective.

      If objective fact is bland and obvious to you, maybe that comes from a lack of imagination and inability (or unwillingness) to accept information without having to filter it through concepts and abstractions. Or maybe you’re just way smarter than me.

      1. Richard Head

        I made a mistake in that last paragraph. The first time I read through your post, I was thinking that you had equated objective fact with “bland” and “obvious”. This is not the case.

        What I still intend to point out is that religious inclination does indeed stem from a sense of wonderment, and developing a sense of wonderment means cultivating imagination by opening oneself up to experiences (usually uncomfortable and extreme types). I can’t argue this point any further because it will come down to “well, you’ve never felt the way I have so how can you tell me I’m wrong” non-arguments. I do hope you think about it a little, at least.

        1. BB

          I hear you. If felt wonderment since I can remember. I think our different reactions just boil down to a difference in interpreting the word ‘religious’, which might be due to the fact that I’m not a native speaker of English. In my native language the term religion is still heavily tied to “faith in a god”.

          1. Richard Head

            You are probably right about our different reactions being due to the interpretation of “religion”. It is a loaded word. I understand religion to mean a reverence and dedication (eventually leading to worship) for something outside of our own mind. Zen Buddhism is a good example of what I’m talking about. “If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him.” That is an instruction to remove tangible idols from your religion and to focus on the inhuman reality of the world outside the mind. Some Satanists are religious but they see Satan and demons as idealized or archetypal states of mind and creativity, not actual beings who respond to prayer.

            1. Brett Stevens

              That is an instruction to remove tangible idols from your religion and to focus on the inhuman reality of the world outside the mind.

              I think that’s a message we can all support. If more religions did this, they would evolve into something great.

    2. Brett Stevens

      This may be relevant:

      Most grownups don’t have the transparent humility to deal with the fact that unknowing is OK. But Lucy and Jack seem to accept that something may never have happened but can still be true.

      For instance they take Bible stories we read at face value, and yet I see a flicker in their eyes that tells me that they already know the stories are not true in the same way boiling water is true and can be tested—it’s hot!

      It’s like that mind-bending discovery from quantum mechanics that tiny objects like electrons can actually be in two places at once and act simultaneously like a particle and a wave.

      http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2014/06/10/meet-an-atheist-who-believes-in-god/?iref=obinsite

  • tiny midget

    we need to headbang to the cosmos like windmill headbanging, sorta like how george corpsgrinder and jason newsted do it. otherwise it just looks very silly and unmanly. if u move your head in up and down motion then u don’t understand the cosmological importance to beautiful headbangin which only occur if u do the windmill style correctly…

  • puzzled

    this is just a confession of personal conviction

    faith is best kept private, ie. don’t show me yours and I won’t have to show you mine

    1. trystero

      Expressions of personal conviction are very moving. When people describe their faith they are usually describing something very essential to them, intrinsic to their worldview and (usually), greater than themselves. Faith is best kept private for its own sanctity, not to prevent annoying other people.

    2. Brett Stevens

      faith is best kept private, ie. don’t show me yours and I won’t have to show you mine

      Somehow, I imagine someone unzipping a big hairy cock with “I LUV JESUS” on it.

    3. Enda Miller

      Typical secularist. As if our beliefs and understanding of the cosmos should have no bearing on reality and the way we function in it. If you cant tell what someone convictions by the way they act, they don’t have any convictions.

  • puzzled

    also: religion, faith, mythology and spirituality are all different things. I don’t think I’d be alone in claiming that religion has absolutely no place in metal, as it’s a social control mechanism, in whatever flavour it’s presented.

    1. trystero

      People tend to confuse social control with the basic framework of social interaction. Religion is as essential to the human condition as language. Now religious dogma, that doesn’t belong in metal, or anything outside of the particular religion.

      To clarify, my idea of religion in metal is Worship Him, not Stryper.

      1. Brett Stevens

        Religion is as essential to the human condition as language. Now religious dogma, that doesn’t belong in metal, or anything outside of the particular religion.

        Important distinction. I also worry about those who cannot see how worship of evil also constitutes acknowledgment of holiness.

        Then again, we’d probably better make the distinction between materialistic (LaVey) and theistic (O9A) Satanism here.

        1. Richard Head

          ONA Satanism is not inherently theistic. Their writings say that whether you experience Satan as an actual conscious entity or (perhaps more dangerously) a human-made concept that exemplifies evil (harm to humanity in the most general sense), you will still know Satan.

      2. Wild

        A civilization, as understood, is impossible without language.

        A civilization does not require religion.

        Therefore, false equivalency.

        1. trystero

          No civilization has ever existed without either and attempts to manufacture such have either failed or developed their own stunted forms of religion. Wherever humans have existed they have developed both language and religion (and always do).

        2. Tgebar

          On the contrary… “Wherever an altar is found, there civilization exists.” – Josephe de Maistre

          Sorry, I couldn’t resist the urge to be a touch facetious.

            1. Jae-yun Kim

              Is civilization a death-trap?

              Clearly, John Zerzan, Ted Kaczynski, and other anarcho-primivists think so.

              Maybe it comes down to whether one is willing to take the earth more or less as-is (the primitive lifestyle) or to fashion something out of it (the civilized lifestyle).

              Ultimately, all roads lead to Hades, or, if you like, the “maximum-entropy heat death of the universe.”

              1. Brett Stevens

                Ultimately, all roads lead to Hades, or, if you like, the “maximum-entropy heat death of the universe.”

                I used to think so. I’m not so sure: we live in a remarkably low-entropy universe, all things considered. Something else is going on based on the similarity of patterns (thus a compression effect which reduces entropy).

                I don’t think civilization can be equated to technology. That can even happen in tribal societies, including social organization (sewers, etc). What I think kills societies is formalization which replaces conscious thought.

                1. Jae-yun Kim

                  I used to think so. I’m not so sure: we live in a remarkably low-entropy universe, all things considered. Something else is going on based on the similarity of patterns (thus a compression effect which reduces entropy).

                  And I’m not even sure whether the universe actually exists. It just appears to exist, and I’m mainly just trusting the astrophysicists to accurately fill me in on how it works. Maybe universes come and go in seasons, per Hindu cosmology.

                  An excerpt from H. P. Lovecraft’s “The Silver Key”:

                  [T]he blind cosmos grinds aimlessly on from nothing to something and from something back to nothing again, neither heeding nor knowing the wishes or existence of the minds that flicker for a second now and then in the darkness.

                  *

                  I don’t think civilization can be equated to technology. That can even happen in tribal societies, including social organization (sewers, etc).

                  I don’t think so either. If anything, I think civilization can be equated to symbolic thought, from which (advanced) technology arises.

                  1. Brett Stevens

                    As a monist, I think the most likely answer is that the material universe exists, but our perception of it as a final form is flawed; further, it’s not all that exists. The cosmos is broader than the sum of its parts.

                    I think civilization can be equated to symbolic thought, from which (advanced) technology arises.

                    Interesting. I see civilization as not requiring any particularly advanced technology. If you take a bunch of wandering hunters, set them up with fields (consistent production of food), sewers, redirect a river tributary for fresh water and irrigation, give them roles so that consistent supplies of firewood etc. are available, then you’ve got civilization. I agree that it generally depends on spoken language to do so, but probably not necessarily.

                    Symbolic reasoning may have been what pushed humans out of the ape-zone (or caused some humans to fall into it). It is primarily the ability to see similarity in structure, but also an ability to think ahead in time. Everything that language teaches needed to happen anyway.

                    I want to differentiate this however from the “civilization impulse” which is a drive toward both safety and formalism. For example, the creation of rules, laws and police forces to keep people safe. In this way, civilization incubates fools and incompetents. It may be that formalism itself is the root of this failing, but like Nietzsche I see the “make everyone get along” inclusive mentality as the root. Darwinism is not inclusive, and whether evolution is nonsense or not, we can observer Darwinism in effect now. If you don’t exile the incompetent, your society fills up with incompetents. But they’ll be good at playing the game.

                2. Jae-yun Kim

                  Furthermore, the nature/technology dichotomy may be, at least in part, a false one. Robert Pirsig put it quite nicely in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance:

                  “The Buddha, the Godhead, resides quite as comfortably in the circuits of a digital computer or the gears of a cycle transmission as he does at the top of a mountain or in the petals of a flower. To think otherwise is to demean the Buddha—which is to demean oneself.”

                    1. Jae-yun Kim

                      That’s an excellent point and a valuable reminder.

                      It’s interesting how that can also be used as an argument both for and against technological development. The technophile can say, “See, the stuff we’re putting out is primitive compared to what’s out there–we can only do so much harm ‘playing God,'” while the technophobe can retort with a variation on Orgel’s Second Rule: “See, Nature is cleverer than you are.”

            2. Tgebar

              You can always go live with the aborigines if you’d like, but we needn’t juxtapose primitivism and civilization.

              1. Jae-yun Kim

                I’ll pass. As the example of Daniel Everett (the linguist who lived with the Piraha in the Amazon jungle for two decades) suggests, it is extremely difficult for a “civilized” person to adapt to a “primitive” lifestyle. For now, at least, I’ll stick with my art, literature, movies, music, religion, science, mathematics, computers, and video games, thanks ;)

                I’m not sure I understand your second clause. It seems to me that primitivism and civilization are two irreconcilable modes of life, as hinted above. Primitivism lacks what is arguably the defining feature of civilization, which is symbolic thought, which manifests in letters and numbers.

                If you mean that we needn’t juxtapose nature and civilization, we might be in agreement. It just might be possible to reconcile advanced technology with natural surroundings, assuming that the neo-Luddites and peak oil theorists are wrong.

                A step that can be taken toward such a goal would be to dissolve, or at least dilute, the made-up dichotomy between the “natural” and the “man-made.” If it is accepted that everything operates according to natural laws, then it follows that nothing is, in the last analysis, unnatural. Everything that happens in our lives is part of the very same natural process that brought us into existence in the first place.

                1. Brett Stevens

                  Also: Why turn our back on beneficial advancement?

                  Soap, hot water and technology have made us advance in ability to do other things that focus on the basics of survival. They may have advanced it too far, such that we’re preserving incompetents and drowning the intelligent in that sea of idiocy.

                  Wal-mart for example makes life better for many. Economies of scale work toward large stores like that. Why go back to neighborhood groceries with high prices and limited selection?

                  The only question becomes how we pick what goes in those stores and who is able to buy what.

              2. Brett Stevens

                I’m not sure the difference is so stark.

                I can imagine living among the ancient Norse, who were not very “civilized” and yet were more civilized than civilization.

                The problem occurs when “do what honors nature, the heavens and the best in man” becomes equated to “make other people happy so they pay you, befriend you or mate with you.”

                1. Jae-yun Kim

                  I can imagine living among the ancient Norse, who were not very “civilized” and yet were more civilized than civilization.

                  Hence my scare quotes around the words “civilized” and “primitive.” I don’t mean to suggest that civilization necessarily entails cultural sophistication, or that primitivism necessarily entails the lack of it.

                  Regarding the ancient Norse, I don’t know much about them, but perhaps enough to say that they were indeed civilized (by definition, not in degree) in that they had symbolic thought in the form of characters (runes) and mythology (Yggdrasil). (The Vikings are also said to have had a solid command of geometry.) By contrast, the Piraha, say, are not civilized. They have little, if any, symbolic thought–not even art–and therefore have almost nothing in the way of sciences or humanities. Up until very recently, they had no writing system, and the entirety of their number system consists of “one, two, and many.”

                  The problem occurs when “do what honors nature, the heavens and the best in man” becomes equated to “make other people happy so they pay you, befriend you or mate with you.”

                  I don’t know if there is a correct (objective) answer for the former, but I would agree that the latter would not make for a sensible model for society.

                  1. Brett Stevens

                    What I liked about the ancient civilizations — Greece, Rome, Norse, Finland — was the lack of formalization and lack of morality of inclusiveness. They were all about finding people who could actually think, not just apply rules, and they were familiar with “sacred death” such that the bad would be killed and the good often expected to die in battle. It was a more mature view of mortality and our individual but different and unequal roles in life.

                    1. Jae-yun Kim

                      They were all about finding people who could actually think, not just apply rules…

                      From an old S. R. Prozak interview:

                      [M]y primary study has been and always will be walking in a natural or semi-natural setting and thinking on that which perplexes me, or pushing myself into a meditative state in the calm of my room in which I contemplate the issues which require manipulation of complex matrices of factors. To me this is both something existentially satisfying and something fun, in that it requires one pit oneself against problems of vast complexity and intensive subtlety.

                      I’ve wondered how such contemplation would look like on paper. Symbolic logic + matrix algebra?

                    2. Brett Stevens

                      Don’t know. It would probably resemble some kind of matrix of vectors that are each relative to all. It represents structure of argument and logical concept very well, probably terrible for grocery lists, legislation, rocket science, etc.

      1. Brett Stevens

        At this point, we should just give “the masses” (I don’t know how to contact this group; does anyone have a Facebook account for them?) actual opiates. Universal basic income, free dope and opium, and 500-channel cable 4 lyfe.

        1. Jae-yun Kim

          …and SEX WITH GOATS! (cf. Impaled Nazarene’s “The Horny and the Horned.”)

  • Count Ringworm

    “Humility before something more powerful than yourself (death) is an undeniably religious concept”

    No it is not. Religion seeks to subvert death by promising everlasting life.

    And if you don’t think Dawkins, an evolutionary biologist, has a reverence for nature and the cosmos then you’ve never read him.

    This piece is beneath DM.org

    1. Aaron Lynn

      “No it is not. Religion seeks to subvert death by promising everlasting life.”

      You’re correct, but I wasn’t trying to describe how religion reveres death, I was describing how religion reveres something more powerful than the self, which in the case of death metal is death.

      “And if you don’t think Dawkins, an evolutionary biologist, has a reverence for nature and the cosmos then you’ve never read him.”

      I never said he didn’t, I was referring to his hatred of religion in an attempt to compare it to mine at the time. I knew NOTHING about science (I wasn’t a very good atheist, eh?) so I couldn’t really discuss that with creationists, but his morality arguments in regards to religion were mighty attractive to me in middle school. In hindsight, I could have probably worded that part of the article better.

      1. Wild

        Yes, and what religion is required to do this?

        Are atheists incapabable of doing such?

        If it turns out they are capable of such, what you’re really praising is an attitude, not a dogma.

        1. trystero

          Reverence is not a strong enough word to use here. The element needed is sacralized authority, which can be a single god, a pagan pantheon, or a godhead with lesser divine beings. So to answer: Any religion, and yes atheists seem to be incapable of this for obvious reasons.

          “Reverence” for nature or the universe is therefore atheism, though of a nicer sort than frank materialism. It may suffice for an individual, but that’s about it. It is too ephemeral to be the foundation of shared values, concern, morality and goals. Only sacred authority can provide that, and this is not a philosophical/logical conclusion but a constant of all human society (See: Gobleki Tepe).

              1. BB

                Before we continue, you should explain what you mean by a sacred authority, that is if you mean something else than reality as a whole. If you meant reality as a whole, I meant “ill-phrased” instead of “not true”, and it was just a semantic issue.

          1. Imposition

            Greetings Trystero. Though I have to point out that this is a political definition of religion. Atheism = no hierarchy (essentially), while religion = hierarchy. This seems to be where you’re coming from?

            I think a better contrast is this. Religion = essentialism, while ‘atheism’ (of the humanist variety) = existentialism. If the interesting contrast becomes essentialism vs existentialism, then a-theists can be either. Whether to take an essentialist line to existence requires political hierarchy or ‘organic’ culture is an interesting question.

            I attempted to write an article on this, about 1.5 years ago:

            http://www.deathmetal.org/news/is-death-metal-essentialist-music/

          2. Brett Stevens

            “Reverence” for nature or the universe is therefore atheism, though of a nicer sort than frank materialism.

            Or non-dualism.

            If non-dualism (monism) is correct, metaphysics and physics are one.

            Then the question is whether they’re causal or parallel. Obviously, since I write about parallelism, I advocate the latter.

            1. Phalangite

              What’s the relationship between monism and emanationism? What do you think of the latter?

              1. Brett Stevens

                Using this as a reference:

                In the doctrine of complete emanationism, all things, from the highest spiritual substances to the lowest forms of matter, come from God as their first origin, matter being the last and therefore most imperfect emanation.

                http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05397b.htm

                Strikes me as related, but more of a theological doctrine. I am more concerned with pure animism than pantheism. As the above definition hints in other parts of the article, pantheism is the idea that all originates from God or “is” God. Animism suggests that all is alive, and God or gods may be part of it.

          3. Brett Stevens

            To further (ahem) muddy the waters, our language may be imprecise:

            Atheism would be denial of God or gods, not necessarily of metaphysics itself.

            Dualism posits that another world exists where things are different from this one.

            Monism suggests that the two worlds are part of the same contiguous entity.

            Most people who are non-religious seem to (actually) be agnostic and adualistic.

            Some are highly religious without God (or even gods). Sometimes the universe itself seems alive without a need to place a personality within it as a separate entity.

            It is what it is.

            1. Jae-yun Kim

              I think Sanguine Mapsama of Averse Sefira articulated this natural religiosity quite well:

              We’re not…going around talking about a god or God or gods that are human in form, have personalities, have all the, you know, petty bullshit that goes along with the decaying meat-sacks that…is humanity.

              *

              …There is something that is…beyond…just…this, this…fucking flesh. You know, you go out to the desert, you go out to the forest, you look at the trees, you look at the ocean crashing on the rocks and there’s definitely something out there. …You can call it holy, you can call it unholy, whatever you want, but it’s something spiritual, it’s something that…we don’t necessarily know and can’t put a finger on it, but we understand that it’s there.

              1. Brett Stevens

                You know, you go out to the desert, you go out to the forest, you look at the trees, you look at the ocean crashing on the rocks and there’s definitely something out there. …You can call it holy, you can call it unholy, whatever you want, but it’s something spiritual, it’s something that…we don’t necessarily know and can’t put a finger on it, but we understand that it’s there.

                Black metal is intensely religious music.

                It does not believe in religion that is human-centric, but nature/cosmos-centric.

                This places it within the old religions, including Hinduism and the Greco-Romans, which were reverence for the universe itself instead of the notion of God-as-a-service.

    2. Brett Stevens

      Religion seeks to subvert death by promising everlasting life.

      That’s interesting. I wonder if anyone thinks that everlasting life will take the same form as life as we know it now. Otherwise, it’s either static (perpetual state of bliss) or we go on to something new, and never return here. Even the most devout will acknowledge, I think, that death means death of what we know in this life.

      I’d like to hear your opinions also on religion as a political construct. That is, happier societies seem to have some kind of religion and mythos of death as something other than a cessation. I wonder how many slide into it from that perspective.

  • Stomp

    As a Christian who has a deep-seeded love for metal, I found this article to not only have a honest approach but to also have a pleasurable feeling of fulfillment. This is said because yes there are Christians out there who will say that listening to metal is some form of sin and that will send you to hell; Yes, metal is severely frowned upon by the more old-fashioned Christians because back in the day it seemed extremely foreign. The problem with the idea of metal wasn’t metal itself but the opinions of man and that is what tarnished the image Christians have on metal in our modern times. The truth of the matter is that metal is something that saved my life because it showed me a way to express myself healthier and also allowed me to headbang wherever and however I pleased. In fact, if you think about it, metal isn’t a genre of music or a thing hated by a bunch of Christians, but more like an emotion that can only be found in those who have a true passion for its existence.

    1. Brett Stevens

      There are several questions here:

      1. Is there any basis to the idea of religion itself?
      2. Is that exhibited in Christianity?
      3. Does Christianity have other traits which are harmful (per Nietzsche)?
      4. Can Christianity be fixed (per Schopenhauer)?
      5. Are we all just Hindus if we’re religious at all (per Huxley)?

              1. Enda Miller

                By existence I was referring to all of of existence, i.e., the totality of reality. Not my own existence (although that is part of it), just to be clear.

                1. Nester

                  Do you think god is a personal entity? In what sense are you religious? Are you a Christian for example? Or do you mean something more like spiritual when you say religious? Are you a pantheist? Just curious.

                  I think I’m religious, but think common religions degrade god when they humanize him. It replaces the reverence one should have for life and its wonders with self centered arrogance. We should acknowledge our puniness and insignificance, and recognize what a beautiful thought that is, instead of shallowly looking at it and be depressed.

      1. Jae-yun Kim

        Those are not easy questions, but I’ll take a stab at them:

        1. I have a theory about what I call “natural religion” and “emergent religion.” Basically, it’s the idea that religion/spirituality (which is invariably Pagan in character) naturally arises from the interaction between a people and their natural environment. For example, the Piraha tribe of the Amazon jungle, famous for their purported atheism, believe in what they refer to as spirits. Also consider Ted Kaczynski and the “gods” that “emerged” from his experiences in the wildnerness, despite the fact that he was a stone-cold atheist. As he explains:

        “While I was living in the woods I sort of invented some gods for myself. Not that I believed in these things intellectually, but they were ideas that sort of corresponded with some of the feelings I had.”

        Even the Jews are said to have had a pre-monotheistic, Pagan past.

        Apparently there used to be a time when there was no recognized dichotomy between the secular and the sacred. As Hindu activist Ranbir Singh writes in “Should India be Secular or Hindu?”:

        “Pre-Christian Europe lacked the distinction between secular and sacred. It would have made no sense to speak in such terms to the ancient Greeks, Romans, Celts, and Norse. As with other polytheistic cultures the world itself was sacred. The separation can be traced back to Saint Augustine distinguishing between the City of Man and the City of God. Secularism is the legacy of Christianity and has no meaning outside the concept of monotheism, because as with pre-Christian pagan Europe, the cultures that remained polytheistic have lived harmoniously side by side with mystical philosophers. The secular creeds by contrast have been formulated by purely religious concepts, which means that when they try and suppress religion, it just comes back in more grotesque forms.”

        Also consider neo-Advaitin teacher Jan Kersschot’s take on this kind of mentality:

        “If you bring me to that holy mountain in India, sitting on the top of that mountain – in the lotus position with our eyes closed – will be no more holy then having a beer at the bar of a local hotel nearby. It’s so obvious and still a lot of seekers seem to refuse the idea. Oneness is everywhere. Is that clear? Everywhere is everywhere. I can’t point out one person who is better on the spiritual level than another one. That doesn’t mean there are no special energies around, that there are no higher experiences to be had, that there are no charismatic teachers, I just want to say that these are all mind games. Beautiful ones, fascinating sometimes, but they don’t point to Oneness. Rather the opposite. They point to the differences, they suggest that there are spiritual hierarchies.”

        So the idea of religion itself may just be another instance of dualistic thinking.

        2. Quite clearly, yes. Christianity is always making a distinction between the “heavenly” and the “worldly,” the “holy” and the “profane,” “good” and “evil.”

        3. My understanding is that orthodox Christianity is rigidly dualistic, strictly monotheistic, explicitly anthropocentric, tends toward centralization, completely identifies with the human body/mind (as exemplified in the philosophy of the Christian transhumanist philosopher Nikolai Fyodorovich Fyodorov), firmly affirms “free will,” is hostile toward all other religions, rejects diversity in favor of
        rigid exclusivity, is preoccupied with orthodoxy and intolerance of deviation from orthodoxy (“heresy”), and emphasizes the afterlife (at the expense of the present life). Above all, it is based on a celestial personality cult, from which the hostility toward other religions arises.

        Given the above, it would be rather difficult to “fix” Christianity.

        Speaking of Nietzsche, this passage from ECCE HOMO sums it up pretty well:

        “The concept of ‘God’ invented as a counter-concept of life – everything harmful, poisonous, slanderous, the whole hostility unto death against life synthesized in this concept in a gruesome unity! The concept of the ‘beyond,’ the ‘true world’ invented in order to devaluate the only world there is – in order to retain no goal, no reason, no task for our earthly reality! The concept of the ‘soul,’ the ‘spirit,’ finally even ‘immortal soul,’ invented in order to despise the body, to make it sick – ‘holy’; to oppose with a ghastly levity everything that deserves to be taken seriously in life, the questions of nourishment, abode, spiritual diet, treatment of the sick, cleanliness, and weather! In place of health, the ‘salvation of the soul’ – that is, a folie circulaire [manic-depressive insanity] between penitential convulsions and hysteria about redemption! The concept of ‘sin’ invented along with the torture instrument that belongs with it, the concept of ‘free will,’ in order to confuse the instincts, to make mistrust of the instincts second nature!”

        4. Gaahl once spoke of the necessity of removing every last trace of the Semitic religion from Norway, but I see myself as being somewhere in between the extremes of wanting to eradicate Christianity completely (which may well be throwing the baby out with the bathwater) and (re)establishing it to the seat of power, at the expense of other religions. The way I see it, the solution is to recognize Christianity as a branch of Paganism that diverged from the other branches long ago, and graft it onto the great tree of Heathendom that encompasses the traditions of the Ancient Egyptians, Ancient Greeks, Indians, Chinese, Japanese, Scandinavians, Slavs, and many other tribes. (In the same way, Satanism could be recognized as a branch of Christianity and be merged accordingly.) One idea would be to turn Jesus Christ into another solar deity and accept him into the ranks of Horus, Krishna, Apollo, and Amaterasu.

        5. In a way, yes, because Hinduism/Hindu (Sanatana) dharma encompasses seemingly every conceivable metaphysical and theological viewpoint, from Dvaita (dualism) to Vishishtadvaita (qualified nondualism) to Advaita (nondualism). If I understand correctly, Hinduism views the Supreme Reality (Brahman) as taking on an infinite variety of forms. This is why, on a certain level, there is no contradiction between monotheism, polytheism, pantheism, and perhaps even atheism in Hinduism.
        We can put it this way: whereas Christianity believes in 3 persons in 1 God, Hinduism believes in 300,000,000 persons in 1 God.

        As the Rig Veda declares:

        ekam sat vipraha, bahudha vadanti (“Truth is one, but the wise call it by various names”) (quoted from “Seeing Hinduism with Clarity” by Mataji Parama Karuna Devi)

        1. Brett Stevens

          Truth is one, but the wise call it by various names

          I believe this is the essence of traditional understanding. One world; the world is separate from our names. Magic is in the heart and soul, not the words and fore-brain.

          1. Jae-yun Kim

            I believe this is the essence of traditional understanding.

            Indeed. It is said that during Frithjof Schuon’s youth, he met a marabout who drew a circle with radii on the ground, proclaiming, “God is in the center; all paths lead to Him.”

            One world; the world is separate from our names.

            A lovely passage from the Chandogya Upanishad comes to mind:

            Uddalaka said to Shvetaketu:
            “As by knowing one lump of clay, dear one,
            We come to know all things made out of clay
            ​​That they differ only in name and form,
            While the stuff of which all are made is clay;
            As by knowing one gold nugget, dear one,
            We come to know all things made out of gold:
            That they differ only in name and form,
            While the stuff of of which all are made is gold;
            As by knowing one tool of iron, dear one,
            We come to know all things made out of iron:
            That they differ only in name and form,
            While the stuff of which all are made is iron –
            So through that spiritual wisdom, dear one,
            ​​We come to know that all of life is one.”

            Magic is in the heart and soul, not the words and fore-brain.

            The following passage from your article “Belief in Nothing” sums up that attitude perfectly:

            “We must make the leap of faith and choose to believe not in the existence of the divine, but in its possibility through the merging of our imagination with our knowledge of reality. Finding divinity in the venal and material world requires an epic transcendental viewpoint that finds in the working of an order a holiness, because that order provides the grounding that grants us our own consciousness. If we love life, we find it to be holy and become reverent to it, and thus as nihilists can rapidly discover transcendental mysticism and transcendental idealism.

            “From this viewpoint, it’s easy to see how nihilism can be compatible with any faith, including Christianity. As long as we do not confuse our interpretation of reality (“God”) with reality itself, we are transcendentalists who find our source of spiritualism in the organization of the physical world around us and our mental state, which we can see as having parallel and similar function. When people talk about God, a nihilist thinks of the patterns of trees.”

            1. Brett Stevens

              Basically, it’s the idea that religion/spirituality (which is invariably Pagan in character) naturally arises from the interaction between a people and their natural environment.

              Bruce Charlton traces the origins of religion to animism as well. I think this is correct, but there’s more to it than that. The hunter in the woods makes an intense study of patterns: the travel of animals, the movements of the weather, the spacing of trees. It is the nature of our minds, thus close to our Kantian intuition.

              Animism arises from seeing the purpose within the randomness. At that point, a new possibility opens. As you have noted above, religion is a description of the mental state required for this possibility, and all religions lead to the same eternal tradition.

              At the same time, I remain secular in the oldest sense: nothing that I believe requires metaphysics only, but all (in coherence with the ideal of Parallelism) require both physics and metaphysics to be in unison. This exhibits the mental state required for monism, which seems to me to be both religious and non-religious at the same time.

  • veien

    A bit of advice from a self-professed knucklehead: do yourself a favour and don’t get too caught up on things. It’s embarassing! and not good for your brain either. Every second athiest I meet seems to have been raped by priests or something. [Personal affliction check, mental masturbation check.] Why not just let – the – fuck – go, for once. Enjoy what’s there to be enjoyed and avoid what isn’t without clinging to pre-conceived ideas of what things are. I would have thought that pretty much goes without saying by now. Listen to Deicide, Beherit, Profanatica, Blasphemy, Incantation, Darkthrone without using it as a shelter from the world. Read the Bible, some of it is really quite useful and praise beautiful cathedral architecture, or if not, you can simply pass on it.

    (like having your cake and eating too lol)

      1. veien

        Of course it is as I say I’m a knucklehead, but an honest one at least. And you’re obviously a smart guy Wild it would be a shame not to learn a thing or two more.

      1. Laozi

        I have never read Schopenhauer’s above-mentioned essay, thanks for recommending this.

        I also plan on checking out Huxley’s work.

        I think most vast subjects are best understood as Philosophy… There are too many who find Philosophy as useless, because of scary shapes and letters that require much digestion.

    1. Brett Stevens

      Every second athiest I meet seems to have been raped by priests or something.

      Victimhood is popular.

      I remember being disappointed in Deicide for the song about the rapist priest.

      If you’re going to attack religion, attack it on its substance.

      Of course, it’s impossible to do that: by definition, metaphysics cannot be attacked by arguments for the physical. The religious person says, “yes, that’s true in the physical, but that doesn’t obviate the metaphysical.” This is why internet atheists are such tedious blowhards (and tend to be libertarian and conservative on small government, smoke pot, and support liberal social issues).

      1. Jae-yun Kim

        I remember being disappointed in Deicide for the song about the rapist priest.

        What about Immolation’s “Father, You’re Not a Father”? How does that compare? Is one song more sincere than the other?

  • ODB

    DMU has really gone to the religious apologist dogs. Such a shame. I can admire religious scriptures for their artistic value, same as I can admire architecture and Bach. I can even appreciate the muses that went into their creation, religious or otherwise, because to me they are wonderful end products of the many vagaries of the human mind and how it ties in with the senses and the world they interact with. I can do all these things but the big “however” here is that unlike a religious person, I can stand back at a distance and be moved by the beauty apparent in them without having to invoke a supernatural force. The world and the life contained in it is wonderful enough and terrible enough by and of its very existence, deserving of my admiration for its intrinsic value. Humility in the face of something greater is a function of logic, common sense, and a delicately tuned sensitivity. Saying that religion has sole dibs on values and morals is a personal insult to any reasoning intellect.

    There really has to be a starker line drawn between the spirituality derived out of nature, the cosmos, and the tenuous yet stubborn journey of life, and the obfuscation and muddying-the-waters that religious apologists indulge in as soon as you admit to the former. If that means adopting a more militant stance then so be it because, frankly, you give them an inch and they will beg, fight and take a mile. My spirituality arises out of my consciousness, mine and mine alone. I can be humbled by it and be consumed by it on occasion, but it ends there.

    1. Brett Stevens

      I can stand back at a distance and be moved by the beauty apparent in them without having to invoke a supernatural force.

      I’m not sure anyone is asking you to do any more than that.

      We defend the cause (not rights) of atheists and agnostics everywhere.

  • Imposition

    I like this article.

    “Humility before something more powerful than yourself (death) is an undeniably religious concept, and has grown to be the core ideology of death metal for decades.”

    Who cares about the semantic debate regarding whether ‘religion’ (as a whole or specific ones) is or isn’t about humility before something more powerful than yourself. (Christianity seems to embody both this attitude and it’s opposite depending on what aspect of it you look at).

    Metal certainly is about something bigger than yourself (or at least has the potential to be). But it can also be egotistical, and full of ‘power’ imaginary and masculinity. But hopefully that ‘egotism’ is caused by a shift in awareness from yourself to something more enduring, and thus not as laughable as the kind of egotism observed when watching a 50-cent video clip or something.

  • Jae-yun Kim

    I disagree with key parts of this article, insofar as I understand them, but I think it’s also a very useful one as it is serving as a kickoff point for discussion of an interesting and timely topic.

    While I tend to disagree that atheism necessarily entails egocentrism (“something greater than oneself” can be the fathomlessly vast material universe itself; it does not need to be an immaterial deity outside of that universe), I do agree that religion arguably the raison d’etre and sine qua non of certain forms of metal, if not the entire genre itself. It’s a no-brainer that death metal and black metal as we know them would not exist without Christianity, just as Satanism would not exist without Christianity. As Gaahl explained, “We live in a Christian world and we have to speak their language.”

    As Mr. Stevens explained in his excellent article “The most blasphemous devil metal,” metal is Satanic. I see metal as being a part of Satanism, broadly defined.

    I myself am an atheist (lapsed Catholic), but I think that if Yahweh and Satan existed, they would be one and the same. I tend toward this view because my observations and experiences tell me that everything–life and death, light and dark, beauty and ugliness, health and sickness–is inextricably intertwined. Even Christian metal musicians seem to recognize this, as they freely draw influence from bands that are anything but holy.

    In the same way that Heraclitus united Dionysus and Hades, and Shankara Atman and Brahman, one can unite Yahweh and Satan, as the Death of God theologian Thomas J. J. Altizer apparently has (see THE NEW GOSPEL OF CHRISTIAN ATHEISM and GODHEAD AND THE NOTHING).

    Although many if not most key figures of metal (Jeff Hanneman [more like Jeff HANUMAN, amirite?], Ross Dolan, King Diamond) are atheists, I see metal, especially death metal and black metal in particular, as a Pagan revolution against Judeo-Christianity. One might initially be thrown off by the Satanic themes until one realizes the close link between Satanism and Paganism at large.

    Averse Sefira is a good example of what I am talking about; Wrath and Sanguine seem to adhere to a monistic Pagan philosophy. In an interview, Sanguine said:

    “…The burning of the churches in Norway and other parts of Europe definitely were a statement to Judeo-Christianity say[ing]: “Get out, you are not part of us. You need to go back where you came from.”

    Wrath added:

    “Just because we acknowledge an energy of the universe does not mean that we worship it. That does not mean that we put ourselves beneath it. We are one with it, we are a part of it, we’re all involved in that same continuum…from a mountain to…a…person to the wind to anything, any element that we experience, anything that is…part of our world…we are just as much a part of it, and there’s no reason for us to bow down and worship whatever it is that gave rise to it. It’s just all part of the same continuum.”

    Whether the artists literally believe in the Pagan Gods is irrelevant. Varg Vikernes, for example, seems to be an agnostic/atheist (though he might not accept the term) who sees the Norse Gods as allegorical role models more than anything else. What is relevant is that the artists express reverence toward something they see as being greater than themselves. (See Paul Woodruff’s book for more details.) Take Dissection’s REINKAOS. It’s not as respected as the first two albums, but it just might be my favorite of the three, partly because of the deep reverence permeating both the lyrics and the music. The same kind of reverence can be found in Emperor’s IN THE NIGHTSIDE ECLIPSE and Sacramentum’s FAR AWAY FROM THE SUN.

    Where will all of this lead to? Well, I’d like to think of it as a kind of Hegelian process: thesis, antithesis, synthesis. If Christianity is the thesis and Satanism is the antithesis, what will be synthesis? Whatever it will be, it probably won’t be called either “Christianity” or “Satanism.” In any case, I feel that if Judeo-Christianity has a future in the West (or, for that, matter, in the East), this unification of opposites (coincidentia oppositorum) must take place.

    1. Brett Stevens

      I tend toward this view because my observations and experiences tell me that everything–life and death, light and dark, beauty and ugliness, health and sickness–is inextricably intertwined.

      Now that’s an interesting idea: an order above God.

      As if He, too, were an actor on the stage of life.

      1. Jae-yun Kim

        Now that’s an interesting idea: an order above God.

        It’s certainly not an idea that I invented–an “order above God” is something that Meister Eckhart and Advaita Vedanta seem to point to. Also see Paul Tillich’s “God above God.”

        As if He, too, were an actor on the stage of life.

        Perhaps. I tend to view “God” as more of a cosmic film director, but directors, too, have attributes, and are therefore a part of lIlA, the play of life. I understand that Advaita views God (Ishvara) as being mithyA, which is defined as thus:

        (adj.) dependently real; literally “incorrectly” or “improperly,” used in the sense of “false, untrue.” It is, however, more frequently used in the sense of “depending upon something else for its existence.” It is ascribed to objects etc., meaning that these are not altogether unreal but not strictly real either i.e. they are our imposition of name and form upon the undifferentiated Self. The noun, as with many Sanskrit adjectives, is formed by adding ‘tva’ – mithyAtva – dependent reality. See adhyasa.

        (Advaita Vision)

        1. Brett Stevens

          an “order above God” is something that Meister Eckhart and Advaita Vedanta seem to point to

          Often referred to as God-head, also referenced in some of the ancient Greek and Roman texts.

          The idea of God as part of creation makes sense. Creation and destruction balanced as part of a larger order.

          And what is the cause of that?

          It may be its own cause, but then, it still exists and we are within it.

          That model works with monism, not with dualism.

          Or is has another cause, and this world is simulacra. Makes sense except for the question of energy dissipation.

          1. Jae-yun Kim

            Often referred to as God-head, also referenced in some of the ancient Greek and Roman texts.

            Ah, yes. Such as the “One” of Neoplatonism, which, I trust, is close to your heart. Here is an excerpt from Emperor Julian’s Upon the Sovereign Sun:

            That divine and all-beauteous World, which from the highest vault of Heaven down to the lowest Earth is held together by the immutable providence of God, and which has existed from all eternity, without creation, and shall be eternal for all time to come, and which is not regulated by anything, except approximately by the Fifth Body (of which the principle is the solar light) placed, as it were, on the second step below the world of intelligence; and finally by the means of the “Sovereign of all things, around whom all things stand.” This Being, whether properly to be called “That which is above comprehension,” or the “Type of things existing,” or “The One,” (inasmuch as Unity appears to be the most ancient of all things), or “The Good,” as Plato regularly designates Him, This, then, is the Single Principle of all things, and which serves to the universe as a model of indescribable beauty, perfection, unity, and power. And after the pattern of the primary substance that dwells within the Principle, He hath sent forth out of Himself, and like in all things unto Himself, the Sun, a mighty god, made up of equal parts of intelligible and creative causes. And this is the sense of the divine Plato, where he writes, “You may say (replied I) that I mean the offspring of the Good, whom the Good has produced, similar to itself; in order that, what the Good is in the region of intelligence, and as regards things only appreciable by the mind, its offspring should be the same in the region that is visible, and in the things that are appreciable by the sight.” For this reason I believe that the light of the Sun bears the same relation to things visible as Truth does to things intelligible. But this Whole, inasmuch as it emanates from the Model and “Idea” of the primal and supreme Good, and exists from all eternity around his immutable being, has received sovereignty also over the gods appreciable by the intellect alone, and communicates to them the same good things, (because they belong to the world of intelligence), as are poured down from the Supreme Good upon the other objects of Intelligence. For to these latter, the Supreme Good is the source, as I believe, of beauty, perfection, existence, and union; holding them together and illuminating them by its own virtue which is the “Idea” of the Good.

            1. Brett Stevens

              God strikes me as one who serves a master without serving.

              That master would be the structure behind all creation which unites emotion and logic.

              Something unites the good, the beautiful and the true.

              And when those are not united — for example a beautiful but corrupt woman — hell is sure to follow.

              1. Jae-yun Kim

                God strikes me as one who serves a master without serving.

                That’s an interesting way of looking at it. The discipline of karma yoga comes to mind: serving without being a servant, doing without being a doer.

                That master would be the structure behind all creation which unites emotion and logic.

                Swami Vivekananda once said: “To define God is – grinding the already ground; for He is the only being we know.”

                Something unites the good, the beautiful and the true.

                As a nihilist, I don’t believe that there is anything that is objectively “good” or “beautiful.” For me, words like “good” and “beautiful” are nothing more than signifiers for describing subjective experiences of objects and events, rather than intrinsic properties thereof.

                And when those are not united — for example a beautiful but corrupt woman — hell is sure to follow.

                As for me, I gravitate toward the view that, on the absolute level (as opposed to the relative level), nothing in the universe is out of place, and nothing in life happens in vain. One might go so far as to say that the universe is the perfect painting and life is the perfect play.

                As David Hume notes in his essay on suicide:

                “When I shall be dead, the principles of which I am composed will still perform their part in the universe, and will be equally useful in the grand fabric, as when they composed this individual creature. The difference to the whole will be no greater than betwixt my being in a chamber and in the open air. The one change is of more importance to me than the other; but not more so to the universe.
                It is a kind of blasphemy to imagine that any created being can disturb the order of the world, or invade the business of providence! It supposes, that that being possesses powers and faculties which it received not from its creator, and which are not subordinate to his government and authority. A man may disturb society, no doubt, and thereby incur the displeasure of the almighty: but the government of the world is placed far beyond his reach and violence. And how does it appear that the almighty is displeased with those actions that disturb society? By the principles which he has implanted in human nature, and which inspire us with a sentiment of remorse if we ourselves have been guilty of such actions, and with that of blame and disapprobation, if we ever observe them in others.”

                To quote Nisargadatta Maharaj:

                “What can God give me or take away from me? What is mine is mine, and was mine even when God was not. Of course, it is a very tiny little thing, a speck—the sense ‘I am,’ the fact of being. This is my own place; nobody gave it to me. The earth is mine; what grows on it is God’s. …God is my devotee and did all this for me.”

                *

                “To me you are your own God. But if you think otherwise, think to the end. If there be God, then all is God’s and all is for the best. Welcome all that comes with a glad and thankful heart. And love all creatures. This too will take you to your Self.”

                I Am That

                1. Brett Stevens

                  As a nihilist, I don’t believe that there is anything that is objectively “good” or “beautiful.” For me, words like “good” and “beautiful” are nothing more than signifiers for describing subjective experiences of objects and events, rather than intrinsic properties thereof.

                  There doesn’t need to be an “objective”/inherent quality of good/beautiful/true. Among the set of minds that have evolved to a certain level, this form exists.

                  As for me, I gravitate toward the view that, on the absolute level (as opposed to the relative level), nothing in the universe is out of place, and nothing in life happens in vain. One might go so far as to say that the universe is the perfect painting and life is the perfect play.

                  Very poetic. And yet “perfect” is also not inherent.

                  I think the whole of the universe is relative, but relative to itself (architectonic). Thus no imbalance caused by relativity of parts.

                  1. Jae-yun Kim

                    There doesn’t need to be an “objective”/inherent quality of good/beautiful/true. Among the set of minds that have evolved to a certain level, this form exists.

                    I think that would depend on what you mean by it not being necessary. “True” is one thing, but if “good/beautiful” is a personal, subjective experience of an object or event, objectivity would not be necessary for one to value those things.

                    Very poetic. And yet “perfect” is also not inherent.

                    Good point. That’s why I was cautious about using the word “perfect.” I would say that I’m using it in a negative sense–perfect as in not requiring anything.

                    I find the Advaitin perspective compelling:

                    “All the fascinating places and magnificent scenery in the world, all the beautiful plants and flowers, the enormous variety of species of animals and the multitudes of human beings – none of them have any effect on the Self. They do not add anything to reality when they appear and they do not take anything away from reality when they go away. Reality, the Self, is the base of all that appears, the source. It remains full and complete in Itself if there are a billion worlds, and it remains full and complete if there is no manifestation at all. The Sanskrit prayer at the beginning of the Isha Upanishad expresses this great truth.”

                    —Andrew Vernon

                    Maybe I should’ve said: nothing is imperfect. But it might be just as accurate to say that nothing is perfect. And if nothing is perfect, then something is superfluous. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be enjoyed!

                    1. Brett Stevens

                      “True” is one thing, but if “good/beautiful” is a personal, subjective experience of an object or event, objectivity would not be necessary for one to value those things.

                      If we use objectivity, all three have it.

                      However, objectivity itself is a horribly flawed notion, and yet one we all rely on as a kind of shorthand. “True out there, not in here.”

                      In my view, all things are choices (do as thou wilt). However the second part is that reality mediates circumstance after an action, and our choices reveal who we are.

                      Some are born to sweet delight &c.

                    2. Jae-yun Kim

                      In my view, all things are choices (do as thou wilt). However the second part is that reality mediates circumstance after an action, and our choices reveal who we are.

                      We might put it this way: there are no oughts, only options.

                      Some are born to sweet delight &c.

                      Ah, great song…

                    3. Brett Stevens

                      We might put it this way: there are no oughts, only options.

                      As a nihilist, I reject the idea of inherency. There is reality and then we respond to it. We can choose any number of responses but there is no inherent goal, not even survival. All are choices, all are “equal” in the sense of being selectable (the lowest standard possible, almost as low as democracy itself). But our choices define us and what comes to us through reality, so some believe we should study reality and figure out how to anticipate its reactions to different situations. Some even believe we should study this in the long-term. Wild and crazy guys, those “some.”

          2. Jae-yun Kim

            The idea of God as part of creation makes sense. Creation and destruction balanced as part of a larger order.

            Here is a relevant passage from “Nightmusic”:

            “We fail to understand the universe because we approach it from a linear, rational aspect. X +/- Y = some tangible result. What if the universe operated emotionally instead? Its goal is not to churn raw materials into product, and to call it “progress” and congratulate itself on being enlightened – its goal is experience, and the feelings that motivate a desire for the same. Why else would life exist? Surely not from some chemical necessity. More likely, there is a consciousness to (but not outside of and controlling) the universe, a unifying principle in the cosmos, and it loves the poetry. It delighted in the sensual contrast of the big bang, between a void so profound it extended to a lack of matter, and then the sudden impulse, the orgasm of exploding data becoming for the first time (this iteration) somethingness. There was that moment of shock where nothingness realized its lack of something, and that very realization created a somethingness, since to know that something can exist is to have made something out of that very thought.”

            “And what is the cause of that?”

            “It may be its own cause, but then, it still exists and we are within it.”

            Or you might say we ARE it, like the wave is the ocean it is a part of.

            Here I quote from “Letters: Nihilism, Metal, and God”:

            “i believe the universe created itself, and by universe i mean the mathematical order of all existence, and that it continues to evolve for the sake of reaching a higher level of that existence. growth is its maxim. the physical world exchanges energy between containers so that it runs perpetually, or as close to it as possible, and what it produces is an intangible: information, of ever-increasing complexity of design and compression of data by architectonic sharing, e.g. repeated patterns serving repeated roles. in short, i believe the universe is its own thought, and that this is less paradoxical than having a creator with no origin who made it all on a whim and needs it for his own service; more like, your creator is your interpretation of the information the universe creates, and your mythos is a symbolic explanation for the exchange of data/energy between physicality and informationality.

            so no, i do not need god or jesus christ. i have the design of the universe, shared with human (and other) thought, and i believe in that because it is more realistic, more representational, and ultimately, more hopeful in that it does not vest our hope in a third-party symbol separate from humanity and world alike.”

            Another possibility worth considering is ajAtivAda, the so-called “theory of no-origination,” as put forth by Shankara’s grand-guru Gaudapada. To quote the kArikA:

            “There is no dissolution and no creation, no one in bondage and no one who is striving for or who is desirous of liberation, and there is no one who is liberated. This is the absolute truth.”

            1. Brett Stevens

              The Bhagavad-Gita says essentially the same thing. I imagine it this way: existence is a vast computer, running multiple processes and daemons. We are threads. Does that make us insignificant? No: it makes it more likely that what appears to be important is not actually where the action is occurring. Does this imply persistence? Quite possibly so, because we are creatures of information/patterning and not materiality.

              1. Jae-yun Kim

                I imagine it this way: existence is a vast computer, running multiple processes and daemons. We are threads.

                As Baron d’Holbach once wrote in The System of Nature:

                Is not Nature herself a vast machine, of which the human species is but a very feeble spring?

                1. Brett Stevens

                  I find nature to be a vast machine just of a kind more highly engineered than anything humanity has ever done. Nature is designed to avoid stop states no matter what happens. It can always take what is and incrementally augment it until it reaches a desired density of complexity.

                  1. Jae-yun Kim

                    To quote your most recent interview:

                    [W]hen I look at myself, I see a man standing before an immense machine, working it to try to make it create objects of simple form yet complex texture and implication. The man we don’t notice, really, but what comes out of the machine we pay attention to.

                    After reading that, one of Joseph Conrad’s letters soon came to mind:

                    “It evolved itself (I am severely scientific) out of a chaos of scraps of iron and behold! — it knits. I am horrified at the horrible work and stand appalled. I feel it ought to embroider — but it goes on knitting. You come and say: ‘this is all right; it’s only a question of the right kind of oil. Let us use this — for instance — celestial oil and the machine shall embroider a most beautiful design in purple and gold.’ Will it? Alas no. You cannot by any special lubrication make embroidery with a knitting machine. And the most withering thought is that the infamous thing has made itself; made itself without thought, without conscience, without foresight, without eyes, without heart. It is a tragic accident — and it has happened. You can’t interfere with it. The last drop of bitterness is in the suspicion that you can’t even smash it. In virtue of that truth one and immortal which lurks in the force that made it spring into existence it is what it is — and it is indestructible!

                    “It knits us in and it knits us out. It has knitted time space, pain, death, corruption, despair and all the illusions — and nothing matters.”

                    If, in the last analysis, everything is natural, then even artificial selection is part of natural selection. To what extent can we say that we are the masters of our fate?

                    There is reality and then we respond to it. We can choose any number of responses but there is no inherent goal, not even survival. All are choices, all are “equal” in the sense of being selectable (the lowest standard possible, almost as low as democracy itself).

                    Agreed. The question is, why do we choose the responses we do? My take on it is that we do what we do because of what we are, and we didn’t choose to be what we are. As Arthur Schopenhauer observed, “Der Mensch kann tun was er will; er kann aber nicht wollen was er will” (Man can do what he wills but he cannot will what he wills).

                    To take a qualified hereditist view, it can be argued that genetics to a large extent determines not only the basic characteristics and tendencies of an individual, but also the way he or she is shaped by the environment. So nature > nurture, even on the level of nurturing.

                    I tend to agree with Alex Rosenberg when he wrote:

                    “What individuals do, alone or together, over a moment or a month or a lifetime, is really just the product of the process of blind variation and environmental filtration operating on neural circuits in their heads.”

                    I daresay that we deserve credit for our actions only to the extent that supercomputers deserve credit for the moves they make on a chessboard.

                    But our choices define us and what comes to us through reality, so some believe we should study reality and figure out how to anticipate its reactions to different situations. Some even believe we should study this in the long-term. Wild and crazy guys, those “some.”

                    You refer to history as a “laboratory.” While the idea is tempting, I confess that I am skeptical of the notion that the study of history yields genuine predictive power. It seems to me unable to provide much more than a very general, rough, and vague pattern-based idea of what occurs and recurs (e.g., societies, like people, are born, grow old, and die) throughout long stretches of time.

                    One of the reasons why I think this way is the apparent impossibility of conducting control experiments on the scale required to accurately determine the effects of something (e.g., a system of government). It doesn’t seem adequate to draw rough parallels between one set of conditions (C) and another; it seems to me that the replication of the same conditions would be necessary to acquire the data required to predict the effects (E) of this or that particular factor or factors (F). To put it another way:

                    C + F = E
                    C’ + F =/= E = E_2

                    Where E_2 might even be radically different from E.

                    As Daniel Kahneman observes in Thinking, Fast and Slow:

                    The idea that the future is unpredictable is undermined every day by the ease with which the past is explained. As Nassim Taleb pointed out in The Black Swan, our tendency to construct and believe coherent narratives of the past makes it difficult for us to accept the limits of our forecasting ability. Everything makes sense in hindsight, a fact that financial pundits exploit every evening as they offer convincing accounts of the day’s events. And we cannot suppress the powerful intuition that what makes sense in hindsight today was predictable yesterday. The illusion that we understand the past fosters overconfidence in our ability to predict the future. The often-used image of the “march of history” implies order and direction. Marches, unlike strolls or walks, are not random. We think that we should be able to explain the past by focusing on either large social movements and cultural and technological developments or the intentions and abilities of a few great men. The idea that large historical events are determined by luck is profoundly shocking, although it is demonstrably true. It is hard to think of the history of the twentieth century, including its large social movements, without bringing in the role of Hitler, Stalin, and Mao Zedong. But there was a moment in time, just before an egg was fertilized, when there was a fifty-fifty chance that the embryo that became Hitler could have been a female. Compounding the three events, there was a probability of one-eighth of a twentieth century without any of the three great villains and it is impossible to argue that history would have been roughly the same in their absence. The fertilization of these three eggs had momentous consequences, and it makes a joke of the idea that long-term developments are predictable.

                    One might say that my criteria are unreasonable, but I would say that they are indispensable. Outside of the laboratory, there are just too many factors, and combinations thereof, to take into account and analyze to a reliable degree.

                    This is not to deny the value of history for the present, but I don’t know how reliable it could be to make calculations for the future. I would argue that history is linear rather than cyclic—or, rather, more linear than cyclic. One can point to patterns in human history, but I can point to events that occurred long before human civilization, namely the birth of the universe, the formation of the earth, and the appearance of mammals capable of rational, symbolic thought. I think one can expect other singular, unprecedented events that will occur long after humankind is extinct. They may obey fixed laws, but not a pattern that lends itself to codification and calculation.

              2. Jae-yun Kim

                [W]e are creatures of information/patterning and not materiality.

                A person is a process. Then again, couldn’t the same be said of everything else, per physics/chemistry/biology?

                1. Brett Stevens

                  The process is represented in physicality, but has an informational basis, or has a physical basis that results in information. Either way, what is created has more then one effective layer, physical plus one other. My only qualifier here is that dualism is poo-poo.

          3. Jae-yun Kim

            To quote Meister Eckhart:

            “[T]he ‘beginning’ in which ‘God created heaven and earth’ is the first simple now of eternity. I say that it is the very same now in which God exists from eternity, in which also the emanation of the divine Persons eternally is, was and will be. Moses said that God created heaven and earth in the very first beginning in which he himself exists, without any medium or time interval. So when someone once asked me why God had not created the world earlier, I answered that he could not because he did not exist. He did not exist before the world did. Furthermore, how could he have created earlier when he had already created the world in the very now in which he was God? It is false to picture God as if he were waiting around for some future moment in which to create the world. In the one and the same time in which he was God and in which he begot his coeternal Son as God equal to himself in all things, he also created the world.”

            1. Brett Stevens

              Monism does funny things to conceptions of time and causality. I’ll defer to Kant’s analysis of a priori truth here: intuition is linked to the origins of the universe.

              1. Jae-yun Kim

                “Time is what keeps the light from reaching us. There is no greater obstacle to God than time. And not only time but temporalities, not only temporal things but temporal affections; not only temporal affections but the very taint and smell of time.”

                —Meister Eckhart

                  1. Jae-yun Kim

                    For now I’ll bring in Ludwig Wittgenstein:

                    “If by eternity we mean not infinite duration but intemporality, then he who lives in the present has eternal life.”

                    1. Brett Stevens

                      Losing oneself in a task is that way. However, I think there’s an actual argument to be made for real eternity. No reason to presuppose an ending of patterning with the material generator being lost.

                      Most of us can’t conceptualize infinite. It means more than space and time. It means infinite in every direction at once. More than meets the eye, many new worlds to discover.

                    2. Jae-yun Kim

                      Most of us can’t conceptualize infinite. It means more than space and time. It means infinite in every direction at once. More than meets the eye, many new worlds to discover.

                      More than space and time? Something beyond the three spatial dimensions and the one temporal dimension? How might this fifth dimension be conceptualized?

      2. Jae-yun Kim

        Your article “Complacency,” among your other writings, went a long way in informing my thinking on the matter:

        “Some people think you can go through life without tragedy and suffering. To my mind, this is a sick fantasy, since suffering and tragedy drive so many of our best moments.

        For example, war is terrible but it allows many men to confront their own fears, master them, and find a purpose clearer than any before. Death brings sadness and a chance to come together. As always in nature, nothing is wasted and nothing is “pure” — life and death are intertwined.

        In our modern cities, we can hide behind walls, abstract logical containers and “purpose” of a material nature. This helps us deny the reality of death and suffering. How can we think about demise when we’ve got all this solid material stuff, hard science and big money to think about? It seems immortal.

        And this brings us to the problem of modern society.”

          1. Jae-yun Kim

            “Dear predatory birds, prepare for war, prepare your children and all that you can reach, for how can a nation or a kindred without war become that ‘bright particular star’ of Shakespeare, that lit the roads in boyhood? Test art, morality, custom, thought, by Thermopylae; make rich and poor act so to one another that they can stand together there. Love war because of its horror, that belief may be changed, civilisation renewed. … Belief comes from shock…. Belief is renewed continually in the ordeal of death.”

            —W. B. Yeats

  • Tgebar

    Feeling insignificant merely because you are small in itself is a purely emotional experience. Ever heard the phrase ‘good thoughts are like good dreams, unless they be executed’? Reverence, so-called, is useless unless it is the foundation for action, and is by far not the predominant reason that I fulfill my religious obligations.

    1. Brett Stevens

      Reverence, so-called, is useless unless it is the foundation for action,

      I think it’s important to, as Woodruff does, include the “awe” in reverence. It is not an appreciation for largeness, but an appreciation for beauty and inventiveness and the immense positivity required to make everything work out even this well.

  • DeathToYourGods

    I don’t see how being an Atheist makes ‘a sense of wonderment’ and ‘seeing something greater than ourselves’ not applicable. Do you know what’s greater than ourselves? Microbes. Understanding the way the universe REALLY works is more wonderful and awe inspiring than any religious dogma faking the answers.

    1. Tgebar

      I really don’t care about subjective experiences such as ‘wonder’ and ‘awe’ outside of their practical applications.

      1. Brett Stevens

        I really don’t care about subjective experiences such as ‘wonder’ and ‘awe’ outside of their practical applications.

        If those experiences are not rooted to something in the world, they would be fake.

        Any good nihilist could affirm that!

    2. Phalangite

      Is there anything more naive than believing that somehow we will ever know everything about how the universe works?

      1. Wild

        I agree that believing that we don’t need to examine “reality”, because we already explained it away via “God did it” is moronic.

        That’s why I support science. :)

        1. veien

          I just don’t see how they even really cross paths at all. Science doesn’t prove religion/faith/whatever wrong, and vice versa. One is a way of discovering and measuring reality the other is a kind of basic blue print for how to get through life without fucking up. Both are subject a billion different variations and variables. Also, I might be going out on a limb here but if you have been abused by the church stop being such a whiny little pussy about it, get out there and get some fucking revenge.

          1. Wild

            The scientific mentality and the religious mindset are completely incompatible.

            The first is based on evidence and thought. The second is based on Fuzzy Feelings.

            Pick one…

            …and save your “life advice”. I would normally add “re-read what you wrote and see if it’s remotely acceptable”, but you’re probably the type of guy who could re-read it 100 times and still think it’s proper behavior.

            This is our last interaction.

            1. Tgebar

              Actually, almost everyone I’ve met who claims to be ‘scientifically minded’ is actually attempting to construct a surrogate for real action – that being an image they can take pride in, rather than the results they engender. I am a communicant of the Orthodox Catholic Church, and I make a conscious attempt to exclusively contemplate, and enact that which will

            2. Tgebar

              Actually, almost everyone I’ve met who claims to be ‘scientifically minded’ is actually attempting to construct a surrogate for real action – that being an image they can take pride in, rather than the results they engender. I am a communicant of the Orthodox Catholic Church, and I make a conscious attempt to exclusively contemplate, and enact that which will promote order, and clarity (lack of emotional reaction). I see my faith purely as a means of accomplishing this end, and explain all aspects of it in this practical light.

              I will admit that the majority of modern Christians, or any religious adherents for that matter, do not share this mindset. But then again, neither does the majority of mankind.

            3. veien

              But what happens when you get presented with evidence/thought and the result is that it gets you feeling all nice and fuzzy? or vice versa, you learn that emotions/feelings can be explained by neurochemical processes? you see this doesn’t add up and even if it does, it doesn’t matter. Different ways of seeing things don’t necessarily cancel each other out (and usually they’re driving at different directions anyway).

          2. Brett Stevens

            Science doesn’t prove religion/faith/whatever wrong, and vice versa.

            Any sane faith will be expressing ideas that science can discover the reasons for, if we include philosophical reasoning within science. (We would do that, but it threatens our modern day scientists, who are basically lab rats. Science also has become politicized because it is an industry, and thus it offers products to various interest groups, some of which are political. You can use statistics and laboratory experiments to prove just about anything if you are crafty about it.)

            Any sane science will be agnostic. No one has seen, felt, measured, smelt, etc. a God or gods, but then again, we wouldn’t expect to as they are not material essences. There could be more out there. Thus science — in the sense of unbiased inquiry — tends to keep mute on the issue, and get drowned out by the scientists making money by selling test results to special interest groups.

            1. Jae-yun Kim

              A suggestive quote by Albert Einstein, whose memory, by the way, seems to be receiving a ton of flack from white nationalists these days:

              “I’m not an atheist and I don’t think I can call myself a pantheist. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many different languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn’t know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God. We see a universe marvelously arranged and obeying certain laws, but only dimly understand these laws. Our limited minds cannot grasp the mysterious force that moves the constellations.”

              1. Brett Stevens

                The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn’t know what it is.

                This principle was well-known to antiquity and referred to as “esotericism.”

          1. Brett Stevens

            The first is based on evidence and thought. The second is based on Fuzzy Feelings.

            False dichotomy.

            I think it makes sense here to address the different forms of religious experience, the different types of conceptualization of “God” (or gods), and then what the best of these types have in common across the globe.

    3. Phalangite

      Religious dogma is less harmful than bullshit pseudo-science that works backwards.

        1. Phalangite

          I’m not even religious, I even used to be anti-religious. I just have no love for much of modern science that is driven by ideology and love for popularity and money as much as anything.
          It’s also hard to believe that, although we like to think we are conscious beings, the basic force that sparkled our (and all) existence, isn’t, in a way.

          1. Wild

            If you want to berate contemporary science for being infected with left-leaning mediocre intellects who would rather make a safe paycheck than assert anything controversial, you will have no argument from me.

            I just do not see how identifying science’s dogmatic flaws drives one towards religion…which is all dogma – and also, at least for Western-Jewish religions, very left-leaning.

            As to the last part, I have never had any problem thinking that biological processes are all that consciousness is. I don’t understand that objection at all, and I don’t speculate on the origins of existence. Science is not yet advanced enough to tackle that one, and I am not arrogant enough to start pulling answers out of my ass.

            I leave that for the religiously minded. :)

            1. Phalangite

              Do you believe that everything is random? And how does something that is randomly set itself upon a goal (like evolution)?
              Why does gravity exist?
              Is the universe finite or infinite?
              If it’s finite, how big is it and what lies beyond?

              Good luck answering these questions through science.
              But, as they say, science describes, it doesn’t explain, that’s why people still turn towards religion. Because you have to believe that some things are real and exist for a reason, otherwise the descend into madness begins (see modern civilization).

              1. Wild

                Sigh.

                Random-ity: I am agnostic. I have heard that current quantum analysis seems to indicate that randomness is inherent in the motion of energy below the level of the quark. However, there is not nearly enough evidence to be certain of that, *at this time*, by my understanding.

                Evolution: an unguided process cannot have a goal, as it does not have volition. Viewing evolution as a progression is a human conceit. It deals only with describing organisms’ modification over time.

                Gravity: It appears, *at this time*, that sufficiently large bodies (planets etc) can warp what may be described as the “fabric” of spacetime, a bit like dropping a heavy object on a hammock.

                Universe: The current model is that it is infinite. This seems rather uncontroversial.

                Science is capable of answering all of these questions, in time, with evidence and thought – though it cannot ever provide certainty.

                If you would rather declare yourself an intellectual peasant and believe in unproven assertions simply because they make you feel more secure (Fuzzy Feelings), then have at it – but don’t expect any respect from me.

                1. Phalangite

                  “Evolution: an unguided process cannot have a goal, as it does not have volition. Viewing evolution as a progression is a human conceit. It deals only with describing organisms’ modification over time.”

                  How about survival or reproduction, which are goals in themselves?

                  “Universe: The current model is that it is infinite. This seems rather uncontroversial.”

                  Based on what evidence? Right, practically no evidence. Kinda just like religions. What’s funny is that human mind cannot even grasp infinity for some reason.

                  “Science is capable of answering all of these questions, in time, with evidence and thought – though it cannot ever provide certainty.”

                  So, basically, science is just better at making guesses than religion. Maybe it is indeed THE new religion! :)

                  1. BB

                    Survival and reproduction are not goals of evolution. It are results of behavior of living beings, or even more broadly (as crystals evolve & reproduce themselves as well), results of chemical-physical processes.

                    So, they are no goal in itself: they results of a proces. You confuse cause & result.

                    I thought DMU was a stronghold for nihilism, not Hegelianism.

                    1. Phalangite

                      Goals of evolution? I never said that.
                      Survival (self-preservation) and reproduction are results of behavior of living beings, indeed. Clearly this behavior has goals, though.

                      “So, they are no goal in itself: they results of a proces. You confuse cause & result. ”

                      You can …cause-effect anything, but science can never go all the way, unless we blend it with religion, which I’m not sure is a good idea.

                      “I thought DMU was a stronghold for nihilism, not Hegelianism.”

                      I’m not a DMU staff member or anything. The way I see it, active nihilism is a means to an end, not an end in itself, although for a true nihilist, there probably can never be an ultimate end, one might argue. I’m fairly sure Nietzsche saw it the same way.

                      Shouldn’t science embrace its nihilistic nature, in that there either is no true nature of things OR that true nature is inaccessible to man, instead of pretending it has answers for everything?

                2. Jae-yun Kim

                  A couple of excerpts from Julius Evola’s Ride the Tiger to consider:

                  “Scientific ‘objectivity’ consists solely in being ready at any moment to abandon existing theories or hypotheses, as soon as the chance appears for the better control of reality. Thereupon it includes in the system of the already predictable and manageable those phenomena not yet considered, or seemingly irreducible; and that, without any principle that in itself, in its intrinsic nature, is valid once and for all. In the same way, he who can lay his hands on a modern long-range rifle is ready to give up a flintlock.”

                  *

                  “None of modern science has the slightest value as knowledge; rather, it bases itself on a formal renunciation of knowledge in the true sense. The driving and organizing force behind modern science derives nothing at all from the ideal of knowledge, but exclusively from practical necessity, and, I might add, from the will to power turned on things and on nature. I do not mean its technical and industrial applications, even though the masses attribute the prestige of modern science above all to them, because there they see irrefutable proof of its validity. It is a matter of the very nature of scientific methods even before their technical applications, in the phase known as ‘pure research.’ In fact, the concept of ‘truth’ in the traditional sense is already alien to modern science, which concerns itself solely with hypotheses and formulae that can predict with the best approximation the course of phenomena and relate them to a certain unity. And as it is not a question of ‘truth,’ but a matter less of seeing than of touching, the concept of certainty in modern science is reduced to the ‘maximum probability.’ That all scientific certainties have an essentially statistical character is openly recognized by every scientist, and more categorically than ever in recent subatomic physics. The system of science resembles a net that draws ever tighter around a something that, in itself, remains incomprehensible, with the sole intention of subduing it for practical ends.
                  “These practical ends only secondarily concern the technical applications; they constitute the criterion in the very domain that belongs to pure knowledge, in the sense that here, too, the basic impulse is schematizing, an ordering of phenomena in a simpler and more manageable way. As was rightly noted, ever since that formula simplex sigillum veri (simplicity is the seal of the true), there has appeared a method that exchanges for truth (and knowledge) that which satisfies a practical, purely human need of the intellect. In the final analysis, the impulse to know is transformed into an impulse to dominate; and we owe to a scientist, Bertrand Russell, the recognition that science, from being a means to know the world, has become a means to change the world.”

                  That said, I think I’m with you. While recognizing the shortcomings and limitations of science, I can only ask: what’s the alternative? And by alternative, I mean a viable alternative that is based on logic and evidence rather than intuition and dogma (“revelation”). I tend to agree with Sigmund Freud when he said: “No, science is no illusion. But it would be an illusion to suppose that we could get anywhere else what it cannot give us.” The arch-rationalist Joseph McCabe wrote: “What science cannot explain today it may explain tomorrow, and the man who builds on its ignorance today will retreat tomorrow.”

                  Nonetheless, I would not advocate a campaign to eliminate religion altogether. John Gray and John Derbyshire contend that religion is natural, and that repressing it would be unhealthy like repressing sex. Consider this quote by H. P. Lovecraft:

                  “Religion is still useful among the herd – that it helps their orderly conduct as nothing else could. The crude human animal is in-eradicably superstitious, and there is every biological reason why they should be. 
                  “Take away his Christian god and saints, and he will worship something else…”

                   

                  I think they might have a point, and I think that it is probably truer of Paganism than for the Abrahamic religions.

                  I do think it would be feasible to unite religion and science into a powerful engine for civilization. Religion can provide the “Why” and science can provide the “How.” In other words, the one can supply the myths and the other can supply the facts. Religion can operate in the domain of fantasy and science can operate in the domain of reality.

                  One need not be offended by the term “fantasy” in this context. Religious fantasy would have a function not unlike that of literature and cinema, which is to provide inspiration for art, culture, and imagination in general. You might say that religion can address the dream-like aspect of life–that dimension to existence that we experience when awake and when asleep. Not least, religion can provide allegorical stories that can provide truths about the world in a form that is digestible to people who are congenitally incapable of comprehending science.

                3. Brett Stevens

                  I am agnostic. I have heard that current quantum analysis seems to indicate that randomness is inherent in the motion of energy below the level of the quark.

                  I think that’s a sensible point of view.

            2. Tgebar

              I always found religious thought to be inherently conservative, and only liberal insofar as it was affected by the same factors that the entire Western world was affected by during the onset of modernity.

            3. Brett Stevens

              I just do not see how identifying science’s dogmatic flaws drives one towards religion…which is all dogma – and also, at least for Western-Jewish religions, very left-leaning.

              Our society as a whole is very left-leaning from a historical perspective. Europeans are accustomed to this: they see our conservatives as liberals, since they tend to endorse small government and free market systems with lots of personal liberty. Europe and Asia have older political traditions and tend to see American definitions of “right” and “left” as two variations on leftism, one of which is more jingoistic than the other.

              As to the last part, I have never had any problem thinking that biological processes are all that consciousness is.

              I would think any sane religion would incorporate this idea, that consciousness arises from biology. That wouldn’t invalidate a religion based on something other than material however.

              It’s important to separate religion from dualism.

              1. Phalangite

                “biological processes are all that consciousness is”

                “consciousness arises from biology”

                2 different things.

                1. Brett Stevens

                  Even if we don’t take the shorthand of defining consciousness as an emergent property of the mental impulses themselves, its changes are coded in those mental impulses. The brain, if changed or destroyed, alters thought and thus consciousness. I don’t see that as a barrier to an informational level of consciousness existing that is primary.

    4. Count Ringworm

      Modern religion is geared toward ego fulfillment. God loves ME. God has a plan for ME. God has a personal relationship with ME. Jesus died for ME.

      Nobody can appreciate the world when they believe they are the realest, most important person in it.

      I think Kubrick nailed it: “The most terrifying fact about the universe is not that it is hostile but that it is indifferent; but if we can come to terms with this indifference and accept the challenges of life within the boundaries of death — however mutable man may be able to make them — our existence as a species can have genuine meaning and fulfillment. However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light.”

  • Wild

    “How about survival or reproduction, which are goals in themselves?”

    The drive to reproduce is caused by the interaction of various chemicals and impulses in the nervous system (at least for mammals).

    How this arose; probably that those organisms that were more likely to reproduce, did reproduce, and over time the natural selection of breeding only the organisms’ most likely and able to breed increased this drive.

    Mutations that didn’t have that drive died out.

    Reproduction is a “goal” only in the context of the drive/volition of an organism.

    “Based on what evidence? Right, practically no evidence. Kinda just like religions. What’s funny is that human mind cannot even grasp infinity for some reason.”

    Here you reveal yourself as a philistine who is content to ridicule what he knows nothing about.

    This one is based upon observation: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-EilZ4VY5Vs&feature=youtu.be&t=8m20s

    “So, basically, science is just better at making guesses than religion. Maybe it is indeed THE new religion! :)”

    Science is indeed better at approximating understanding of the universe than religion.

    That’s why it has replaced it.

    1. Phalangite

      I’ve answered your first 4 sentences by answering to a post by BB before, so I’m not going to repeat myself.

      “This one is based upon observation: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-EilZ4VY5Vs&feature=youtu.be&t=8m20s

      Expansion is evidence of infinity? I want to make sure this is exactly what you’re implying, before insulting your intelligence.

      “Science is indeed better at approximating understanding of the universe than religion.
      That’s why it has replaced it.”

      So, science is your religion after all. I’m glad we got that out of the way.

      1. Imposition

        You are just a twit if you think religion and science are competitors – playing at the same game. I’m sorry, but it’s true. It’s not worth an argument either. Just believe someone who is no doubt more involved with it than you, that it has simply nothing to do, in its methodology, with religion.

        You try standing up in front of a room full of scientists, give an hour long presentation on whatever, using nothing but faith and persuasion, and see if you leave there with you ass intact. What do you think scientists do all day, in their research? You think they are just replicating lines out of a ‘big book’?

        Also, try sending man to the moon based on scripture, try understanding the periodic table based on scripture, try making a car based on scripture, try designing a TV based on scripture, try learning how to do doubly bypass surgery based on scripture. If religion is the same as science, then why doesn’t the bible have a little bit of advice saying ‘there are these things called germs, so wash your hands’. Is it because God is secretly engaged in the project of eugenics, and people with common infections, that are so easy to prevent but which you only think to prevent after learning something profound (about, for instance, the existence of these things called germs which cause people to get sick) are lowering the collective fitness of the group?

        You, sir, are a fool.

        1. Phalangite

          Are you sure you didn’t reply at the wrong comment here?

          I am the one that thinks religion and science are competitors, and not the guy that claims that the latter has replaced the former -even though honest science can never do so, unlike when it’s mostly about fulfillment of ego (like religion at its worst)?

          I think you have your head so far up your scientific, anti-religious ass, that you totally missed the point I’m trying to make.

          Also do read that Evola piece posted above by Jae-yun Kim. It might help you see some of the flaws in something that you seem to put a lot of faith on.

      2. Wild

        I consider your answer to BB a non-response, so I’m skipping that one.

        If you were to watch the video, you would see that Kraus briefly explains that, given our current understanding, the universe seems to be flat and, from our perspective, expanding.

        Now, if it were not infinite, there would be a juxtaposition, at the edge of the universe, of universe and “non-universe”, which facilitates the “filling” of non-universe with universe (as the latter expands), which seems incoherent.

        However, there could be an explanation of this sometime in the future, but we don’t know what that could be yet. So until then, given our current understanding, if the universe is flat and non-finite, then it seems to be infinite by definition.

        [i]This is a model, not a certainty[/i].

        Imposition clearly attacked the weakness of the religiously-minded to grasp the distinction between non-certainty and a dogma, so I’ll leave the mic to him.

        1. Phalangite

          I’m not entirely sure this is what you do, but basing an almost dogmatically materialistic worldview on any cosmic model based on countless non-certainties, doesn’t strike me as wise.
          And I don’t mean by fear of a moral God-judge.

          “the weakness of the religiously-minded to grasp the distinction between non-certainty and a dogma”

          More like retarded than religiously-minded, and I’ll admit I get the impression that you believe every religiously-minded person to be retarded to a degree, like stereotypical atheists do.

    2. Brett Stevens

      Science is indeed better at approximating understanding of the universe than religion.

      I think that’s too kind to religion.

      Religious leaders over the past millennia have done nothing but make one misstep over another.

      It’s like society decided to select all of its idiots and incompetents and put them into religion where they could do no harm.

      1. Jae-yun Kim

        Religious leaders over the past millennia have done nothing but make one misstep over another.

        It’s like society decided to select all of its idiots and incompetents and put them into religion where they could do no harm.

        That’s an intriguing take on the matter.

        I think Varg Vikernes has some sound ideas too:

        “When we embrace Paganism today we need to be careful not to embrace age-old ignorance and misconceptions. The magicians of the Stone Age were first scientists of our world; they were astronomers, herbalists, meteorologists, geologists, brain-surgeons (trepanning), dentists, mathematicians and you name it, and what they essentially did was to try to figure out how everything works. However, because of the fact that they had to start from scratch, most of what they saw was an illusion, and most of their theories were wrong. In the process they discovered some healthy, timeless and universal truths though, and these truths we should all wholeheartedly embrace. They really saw and understood what is good for mankind, what is essential and what is right, like eugenics, and all of this, my dear reader, is what makes up modern Paganism. It is only reactionary to be a Pagan in the same manner as our distant forefathers. We need a modern scientific worldview resting on a foundation made up of the Pagan values and ideals; loyalty, wisdom, courage, love, discipline, honesty, intelligence, beauty, responsibility, health and strength. It might be romantic, beautiful, charming and even fascinating to practise Paganism like our forefathers did, but it is utterly reactionary and meaningless.” (Quoted from “A Bard’s Tale: Part VIII – Religion or Reason”)

        1. Brett Stevens

          We need a modern scientific worldview resting on a foundation made up of the Pagan values and ideals; loyalty, wisdom, courage, love, discipline, honesty, intelligence, beauty, responsibility, health and strength.

          In other words, culture — not economics — should control science.

      2. Tgebar

        It seems that the craziest ideas were often put forth by the past-equivalent of the modern scientist: the occultist. Not that they should be blamed for it.

  • Imposition

    No, I meant to reply to you.

    Evola talks about science as the march of man to near complete dominance of the material world while loosing all control, paradoxically, over the ‘inner world’.

    No worries.

    Where there are worries is when someone, like yourself, posits that science is methodologically like religion, or alternatively that science is ‘faith based’. Pure bullshit. Scientists might WISH to explain everything in the physicalist paradigm, or hold our hope (‘faith’) that everything WILL come to be explained, eventually, via physicalism… but until they have objective reasons for their conclusions, they don’t advocate them.

    1. Phalangite

      “Evola talks about science as the march of man to near complete dominance of the material world while loosing all control, paradoxically, over the ‘inner world’. ”

      Irrelevant. Here’s something from the previously mentioned “Ride the tiger” excerpt:

      “I do not mean its technical and industrial applications, even though the masses attribute the prestige of modern science above all to them, because there they see irrefutable proof of its validity. It is a matter of the very nature of scientific methods even before their technical applications, in the phase known as ‘pure research.’ In fact, the concept of ‘truth’ in the traditional sense is already alien to modern science, which concerns itself solely with hypotheses and formulae that can predict with the best approximation the course of phenomena and relate them to a certain unity. And as it is not a question of ‘truth,’ but a matter less of seeing than of touching, the concept of certainty in modern science is reduced to the ‘maximum probability.’”

      Ironically, you kinda fell right into a trap by mentioning examples of these technical and industrial applications of science.

      “Where there are worries is when someone, like yourself, posits that science is methodologically like religion”

      Again trying to put words into my mouth. Won’t work.

      “but until they have objective reasons for their conclusions, they don’t advocate them.”

      Cool story.

      1. Brett Stevens

        In fact, the concept of ‘truth’ in the traditional sense is already alien to modern science, which concerns itself solely with hypotheses and formulae…the concept of certainty in modern science is reduced to the ‘maximum probability.’

        I find this interesting and insightful. Science has become focused on lab-based results which work well for materials reproduction.

        Everything else it has abandoned. This is why science=technology is a good back of envelope estimation these days.

        1. Imposition

          Everything else it has abandoned?

          I don’t think this is accurate. What is more accurate is that science approaches questions that have objective answers. So it has abandoned questions like ‘what is the meaning of life’ etc, because they simply do not admit of objective answers. So naturally, the majority of the questions that ARE asked have material, practical applications. But this does not mean science is purely technologically based. There are still people working on unifying the micro and macro in physics, the origins of the universe, and in philosophy of science exploring the abstract relationships between the different sciences, whether human nature exists, whether we are dictated by genes, etc. All non practical questions.

          Brett, I am highly suspicious that the concept of ‘truth’ in the ‘traditional sense’ can be unpacked at all without lapsing into mystic talk

          1. Jae-yun Kim

            Speaking of the philosophy of science, here is something Duke University philosopher of science Alex Rosenberg said in a debate with John Dupre:

            “I guess I’m inclined to say a) the realist and certainly…the reductionist—and certainly as a reductionist—I don’t endorse the completeness of physics; I know perfectly well that physics is not complete…and science in general is fallible, so that tomorrow significant new revelations may emerge from laboratories or observatories. Indeed we just discovered that the proton has a mass different from what everybody had supposed for a very long time…and in that respect, of course, physics isn’t complete. But I am quite prepared to accept your attribution to me of the view that so far as all of the sciences…about the aggregation of matter much beyond the quark and the proton are concerned, physics is pretty well complete. The physics that we need to do neuroscience, to do social science, to do…biology—that’s the physics that gives us chemistry, the laws of the chemical bond, the second law of thermodynamics, the principle of the increase of entropy, the…Michaelis-Menten equations of enzyme catalysis—that’s all pretty firmly fixed now, and I think I’m prepared to go to the mat for…almost all of that, and in that respect I am willing to accept the burden…that you place on my shoulders of defending the completeness of physics, but by that I mean the completeness of physics in regard to those…compartments of it…that matter to reductionism. I don’t think that physics is complete, and probably won’t be even after we have established the existence of the…Higgs boson that the large hadron collider or even identified which of the superstring theories that reconciles general relativity and quantum mechanics is the right one. Even when we get there, we’re not going to know that that is the final stopping place; it’s not going to come with a label, ‘this is the end of the line…this is the basement level, this is the brute facts about the nature of reality.’ But, for purposes of our debate I don’t think that physics needs to be complete, yet in order to…provide what I think is the sufficient basis for understanding, at the deepest level the nature of reality as described in the other scientific domains.”

            What do you think? Do you agree?

            1. Imposition

              Delighted to see you post that. Rosenberg is a reductionist – positing that biology is just physics done with different concepts – while Dupre sees, from what I understand, little unity between the social sciences, biology, chemistry, and finally physics.

              In so far as physics not having to get ‘to the bottom’ layer of ‘reality’ in order to provide what we might nevertheless want to call ‘understanding’ of reality – yes I agree.

              What else do we have? If we want to take the line that, because we can’t get to the ‘fundamental level’, there is no Truth (capital t) and thus no Knowledge, then we have surrendered the ability to distinguish between views that have some basis in fact and views that are simply stupid, with no basis on reality whatsoever. How we cash this distinction out is tricky, but it’s one that we fucking need. I.e. Inquiry vs relativism.

              1. Jae-yun Kim

                What else do we have?

                Indeed. When science is questioned as a viable means to acquire objective knowledge, I like to ask (as I’ve noted above): what’s the alternative?

                That said, I consider myself to be a skeptic in the vein of Arcesilaus: I am not certain of anything, including the notion that I am not certain of anything. For all I know, the universe I perceive may be one giant illusion that is fundamentally unstable, and if it were really so, the conclusions drawn from the analysis of empirical observations would be moot. Of course, I don’t claim that I can prove that the universe is an illusion, but neither do I accept the reverse as either a definite conclusion or assumption.

                Though I don’t know whether the world is real or not, I choose to engage it anyway. And although I technically suspend judgment on all philosophical questions–ontological, epistemological, and ethical–the mind demands conclusions, so I try to satisfy that demand with conclusions I draw from assumptions I make about the universe.

                If we want to take the line that, because we can’t get to the ‘fundamental level’, there is no Truth (capital t) and thus no Knowledge, then we have surrendered the ability to distinguish between views that have some basis in fact and views that are simply stupid, with no basis on reality whatsoever. How we cash this distinction out is tricky, but it’s one that we fucking need. I.e. Inquiry vs relativism.

                I tend to agree. I advocate unifying science and religion, but I think religion “should” be subordinate to science on any question regarding how the universe actually works. I might sound like I’m contradicting what I said in the previous paragraph, but I’m not suggesting that science is somehow absolute–only that it appears to be a better bet than religion when it comes to solving the equations that apparent reality consists of.

                1. Brett Stevens

                  I advocate unifying science and religion, but I think religion “should” be subordinate to science on any question regarding how the universe actually works.

                  Proposed modification:

                  I advocate unifying science and religion, but I think religion “should” be subordinate to science on any question regarding how the material portion of the universe actually works.

                  1. Jae-yun Kim

                    Assuming, of course, that there is a portion of the universe that consists of a substance that cannot be analyzed with scientific means.

                  2. Jae-yun Kim

                    For me religion is mainly about poetry, allegory, inspiration. It is more concerned with imagination than knowledge. It does not so much discover facts as it sanctifies them.

                    Another reason I advocate keeping religion (not that I’d expect it to die out on its own) is that my general approach to politics is conservative (though, overall, my politics seem to be an amalgam of both right-wing and left-wing policies). As Razib Khan explains in his essay “Conservatism for Seculars”:

                    For a rationalist, no practice is beyond examination and decomposition. All are subject to critique. On this view, history, custom, and tradition hold no great weight; the past is mere prologue, not an informative precursor. This is why rationalists assume that they can model and create social arrangements, even whole societies, anew. In the rational vision, the basis of human flourishing is thin, insofar as a few principles serve as the foundations for human happiness. Because of this paucity of principles, the human mind is flexible and powerful enough to comprehend them all and refashion the basic elements so as to optimize them. In other words, a mathematics of politics is feasible.

                    The empiricist sees things differently. Human affairs are complex, contingent, and difficult to tease apart in their interrelationships. The empiricist is fundamentally an incrementalist, not averse to change on principle but cautious of overturning practices and customs that have served society and individuals in good stead.

                    This may be unthinking, but social empiricism is unthinking in the same way that natural selection is unthinking. It is an iterative process that sifts optimal solutions by trial and error and maintains previous patches along the way. It is never “perfect,” but it lives to see another day.

                    Science can temper religion by rooting out superstition, leaving that which is sensible–and that which is sublime. That way, religion can be a tool instead of a shackle.

                    1. Brett Stevens

                      The empiricist is fundamentally an incrementalist, not averse to change on principle but cautious of overturning practices and customs that have served society and individuals in good stead.

                      I use the term “consequentialist” for this to include unmeasurable effects such as existential outlook.

          2. Brett Stevens

            What is more accurate is that science approaches questions that have objective answers.

            One quick modification:

            What is more accurate is that science approaches questions that have objective material answers.

            But then to your main point:

            I am highly suspicious that the concept of ‘truth’ in the ‘traditional sense’ can be unpacked at all without lapsing into mystic talk.

            I have for years advocated for parallelism, which includes the idea that whatever is sensible according to religion must also be sensible according to the organizational logic of the physical world. This parallelism is a corollary to monism, because dualism strikes me as the great metaphysical mistake of human logic.

            To my mind, tradition is secular in the sense of not requiring religion. This alone is highly controversial. However, it only makes sense: nature-worshipping pagans would not have seen gods as a replacement of nature, but a manifestation of it.

            Some of the Hindu poetry expresses this most elegantly.

            1. Imposition

              Brett,

              Can you give me an idea of the type of things science not limited to questions with only objective *material* answers would study?

              Currently we have mathematicians studying numbers and numerical relations between things (non-material). We have logicians studying logic, informational theorists studying information in communication channels, physicists studying strings (are these material, not sure). Would these things be examples?

              1. Brett Stevens

                Can you give me an idea of the type of things science not limited to questions with only objective *material* answers would study?

                Per Schopenhauer, I’m not fond of the objective/subjective division. It projects too much of the latter into the former by necessity.

                But things to be studied: possibly mathematics, definitely. Structuralism, perhaps, and other related branches of philosophy. Information theory quite clearly. That should be enough. Logicians tend to be linguists in disguise. Physicists tend to be reductionists, with a few notable exceptions. Mathematicians tend to be bankers.

      2. Imposition

        Sigh.

        Read my response to Brett. Just because something is a ‘technical’ or ‘industrial’ application of science does not invalidate science! It means that method of knowledge works, for fucks sake!

        Define the traditional understand of ‘truth’ for me, will you? I could do with a laugh. I can define the scientific one, and the definition is such that many applications of science tend to be, gasp, practical.

        1. Imposition

          Let me clarify. Perennialism might have hit on some truths regarding human psychology, and what goals secure a satisfying existence if you are of a traditional ‘nature’, but when it comes to addressing the structure of human-independent reality, I wouldn’t think Perennialism etc is not even a competitor to science.

          1. Tgebar

            One would be obviously foolish to argue that religion had any value other than what you just stated, but do you think that anyone was really arguing that religion should wholly supplant scientific inquiry? I think only the most kooky ‘faith-based healers’ would assert such a thing.

            1. Brett Stevens

              do you think that anyone was really arguing that religion should wholly supplant scientific inquiry?

              Didn’t a lot of science come from the ancients working in the service of philosophy and religion? And in the dark ages? We wouldn’t have what we do today without them to do the groundwork.

        2. Phalangite

          I never went for “science is bad because bad technology,mmkay?”.

          I just want to clarify this, although it should be pretty obvious already.