Satan and Sadists

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

- Satan and Sadists is part of the series on sexuality and religion -

In the preface of his book “The Devil”, American historian and religious studies scholar Jeffrey Burton Russell gives us a remarkable quote regarding evil:

“Evil – the infliction of pain upon sentient beings – is one of the most longstanding and serious problems of human existence.”[i]

The personification of this evil is called ‘devil’, also known as the great adversary and obstructer of (the triune) God and the Heavenly Host. So, at face value, Sir Cameron, as a born-again Sadist, is in the finest company of the fallen Angels that descended from above into the earthly mess of abomination – then didn’t those Sons of God in Genesis six not lust after the human females?[ii]

Yet, as Russell does not believe in a historical Satan, we leave this line for now, but it is nevertheless interesting, how he defines evil. Now instead of trying to argue that evil is not limited to the infliction of pain, but a result of the fall by humanity and the world they live in – in which allegedly Satan played a sneaky role too – we simply take the stance that we are not insulted, as inflicting – as we see it - consensual pain is not evil whatsoever.

Nevertheless, the attempt to identify evil with inflicting pain is something that seems to be a natural tendency, as sadists are often confronted with horror, fear and repulsion; hurting someone is plain wrong. The poor ‘victims’ are either abused or sick themselves, preferably due to wrong religious teachings, childhood abuse or bad self-image. Defending your sadist position often leads to aggression or rejection on the other side. Why is this?

Generally speaking, I think it has – beside repressed sexuality – mainly to do with lacking a proper way to deal with evil, pain and death. Then consider; when indeed sadism is evil, then BDSM is all about religion. This is a point I have been defending ever since, as, in accordance with C.G. Jung, Sir Cameron sees human beings as being religious by nature and sexuality as embedded in our moral and religious convictions.[iii]

But let’s return to the controversial issue of evil and BDSM; The sole reason why people – at first sight – often reject BDSM is because they do not understand the motivation, but what they believe they understand is what they see; perverted sex. The notion of perversion is of course related to normality, regardless if you see this in a moral or statistical sense. The sadist perversion is rendered a deviation from the normal regular sexual praxis.

The trained observer will undoubtedly also see the similarity between the way how good and evil is contrasted with the way how a moral judgement regarding perversion and normality is justified. We will not go into the question to what extend normality is normal, or if normality – as such – is even depending on deviation in order to be normal. Nor will we look at justifications for moral judgements with regard to certain sexual praxis; the only issue we will look at for now is that of similarity.

The Devil - at least in the three great mono-theistic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam - is not just a personification of evil, it is also the source. In fact, for Christianity and perhaps in a weaker sense for Islam too, the image we have regarding the devil is of great influence on how we see God and his actions regarding mankind. In that sense, Russell is right to mention that the problem of evil is closely related to any view on mankind, this is because evil – as it is – requires an answer, which religions – more or less - try to give.

The idea of blaming the devil in order to make God not responsible for all the wrongdoings of his creatures is of course a well known answer in our Western culture. Yet, there are some minor irregularities connected to it; first of all, in the Tenach - the Jewish ‘old testament’ - Satan is seen as one of the sons of God[iv], a particular group in the Hierarchy of Angels. According to the same traditions angels are creatures themselves, thus leaving us with the task to explain evil while God is good.

Elaine Pagels - another theologian scholar that denies the existence of the devil as a person – even argues that the figure of Satan became a way for orthodox Christians to demonize their religious opponents, namely, other Christian sects and Jews.[v]

Irrespective if Pagels is right or not, the idea of Satan as the opponent of God is for certain a method to set a group apart. Particularly groups that advocate Scriptural infallibility actually need Satan in order to explain their view on the Holy Texts; denying Satan is therefore paramount to rebuking the whole view on e.g. Christian truth as seen by religious conservatives, as you have no scapegoat for evil left, the fall is being questioned, just as the need for the Kingdom to come, the Anti-Christ and so on.

Now - by way of analogy of relations - we can see that the same dynamics as we find between God and the Devil play a role when contrasting kink and vanilla sexuality. Yet, let’s assume - for the sake of argument- that the devil does not exist; we accordingly have to find evil either in ourselves or even in God. Therefore we cannot really use a method of projective identification – blaming the devil – for sexual variance. Nor can we use a negative connection between female sexuality and sin, that some desperately seem to derive from Scriptures at all costs.

Face value rejection of BDSM urges may indicate a denial of sexual reality in favour of a delusional projection of ‘devilish sins’ to warrant for moral condemnation. This is a hard judgement, as I know very well that many conservatives are in fact kind and gentle people. But – as the good observer has noticed – my extensive use of Freudian terminology also makes clear, that words are indeed a two-edged sword[vi]. The same Freudian terminology that was once used to stigmatize ‘perverts’, can equally be used against the very premises that had initiated them in the first place. We have moved on.

‘To love one's neighbour as one's self’[vii] - with or without pain - can only be done with the right mindset; that of genuine appreciation and acceptance of the other, sensitive to the needs of the other and that of yourself, expecting mutual responsibility and a consensual affirmation towards loving.

Allegorically speaking, respect for the Christian heritage of our culture, in which we tried to find and express our views on life gathered in a common religion with texts and historical traditions, does also show that the context of a writing is fundamental for understanding what an author meant. I admit that by presuming that the devil is a construction, I went beyond that what we might think what the authors meant.[viii] In this sense, my use of ‘quotes’ is equally biased as the exegesis of many conservatives.

Yet, neglecting our heritage would be an even less appropriate solution. Interpreting a codex of texts at least attempts to take for serious what our ancestors did believe to be valuable. And so Sir Cameron speaks about what he thinks is valuable; to live out our natural – or who wishes; God given - urges in a way that ‘approaches sexuality in an explorative, adventurous and celebratory manner’.[ix]

Happy Celebrations to all of you!

[i] Russell, Jeffrey Burton (1977), The Devil: Perceptions of Evil from Antiquity to Primitive Christianity, (Meridian, New York), page 11.
[ii] For those not introduced into the meaning of Hebrew and Greek words; the Greek again from ‘born-again’ is a translation of anothen – from above – and the Hebrew word for Sons – Bene – who were seen as descendents or offspring of God. Lusting for strange flesh – just as in Sodom! – is seen as wrong; at least when seen from the sex-negative interpretation. It is all very biased and I will spare you – oh that benevolent side of Sir Cameron -  the confusing exegesis regarding the above stated issues.
[iii] So next time you are about to spray all over you slave(s) face(s), think twice before shouting ‘holy shit’
[iv] E.g. in Job 1:6 “And there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before JHWH; and Satan came also among them”.
[v] Pagels, Elaine (1995), The Origin of Satan: How Christians Demonized Jews, Pagans, and Heretics, (Vintage Books)
[vi] The reference is to Hebrews 4:12
[vii] The reference is to Mark 12:33
[viii] Yet, as we have no ‘autographa’, we never can be certain that we know what the authors actually said, let alone what it would have meant for them at their time and for us in our time.
[ix] The phrasing is from D. Easton’s ethical slut interview on youtube.

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