(Andy Synn wrote these thoughts. Your humble editor selected the accompanying images.)
Ok, so it’s time for another one of my stream-of-consciousness pieces of rambling thoughts and ill-defined points. I’ve had this one on my mind for a while now, and finally got round to putting [metaphorical] pen to paper today. I wrote this all in one go, and have tried not to over-think or self-censor too much. Hopefully that way you’ll get more of a grasp of the thought processes behind things.
Ready? Then I’ll begin…
“Evil” is definitely one of those words that crops up pretty frequently in regards to Metal. Whether it’s coming from the fearful/ignorant majority who (let’s be honest, sometimes understandably) view the varied collection of beards, pentagrams, and profanity with more than a certain amount of trepidation — or from the deluded “kvlt” types who somehow think that their pretensions to “evil” make up for their complete lack of personality – it’s a word that’s often synonymous with the aesthetic (both musical and visual) that our favourite bands cultivate.
Metal is, for me, one of the few genres where many [of the more intelligent] artists are actually able to confront some of the darker, grimmer realities of the world. Few other forms of “popular” (and I use the term loosely) music deal with genocide, murder, cannibalism, political strife and oppression, loss of faith, occult philosophy… in quite the same way.
Ever since Black Sabbath struck that first doomy guitar chord, the genre has been synonymous with an “evil” sound. But that doesn’t mean you have to be “evil” to play it. And it certainly doesn’t make the music actually “evil”. It’s more an inherent darkness, something which allows the genre (and the bands) to play around in areas of the human psyche which simply don’t seem appropriate in other musical genres.
It’s been surprising to me, though, that there are still people out there trying desperately to act as “evil” as they can, and using Metal as an example of their own personal “darkness”. The recent issue with Necrophobic frontman Tobias Sidegård certainly brought this to my attention – the band acknowledged what was going on and, eventually, issued a statement that they were parting ways with their frontman as a result. And then the internet warriors came out to play…
“Call yourselves evil? And you kick a guy out just for beating his wife?”
Etc, etc. I’m paraphrasing a little (and being much less offensive), but that should give you the gist of the sort of things that were appearing on a regular basis. Coupled with some bone-headed idolisation (seriously… you don’t know the man personally, so why the hell are you acting like his personal guardian on the internet?) and woeful misogyny, the whole thing exposed a sub-set of people who seem to actively get off on the fetishisation of “evil”. And speaking directly to those people, let me just say… grow the fuck up.
Stop pretending to be “evil”. You’re not. Real evil is, in fact, (thankfully) very rare. Most of us won’t ever experience it in our lives. Real evil is found in ethnic cleansing, people trafficking, the rape and murder of children. You want an example of real evil? Go read Hannah Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil, which covers the trial of Adolf Eichmann, the man responsible for working out the logistics of the death camps in Nazi Germany. There’s no spikes, or leather, no “evil” imagery or Satanic posturing… it’s the tale of a man simply at ease with mass genocide, such that it became nothing more than facts and figures to him.
True evil rarely wears corpse-paint.
That’s not to say that Metal (and Black Metal in particular) hasn’t thrown up some more-than-questionable figures over the years. I long ago realised that many of the people from my favourite bands weren’t necessarily “good people”. But they ARE still people.
The obsession with “evil”, and bands being “true” to their evil nature, seems an attempt to deny the fact that, at the core of things, we’re all people. All very different yes, but also fundamentally the same. We all need food and shelter, mental stimulation, and (to varying extents) companionship. Barring a few exceptional outliers, we’re all somewhere on the same bell curve.
But that doesn’t make you any less of an individual, any less special, or any less unique. It just means that… gasp… you share many things in common with the other barely evolved apes that populate this floating blue marble. And it also means, I’m sorry to say, that you’re probably not “evil”. You’re just a bit of a dick.
This whole misguided idea that “evil” is somehow cool not only betrays a real ignorance about what actual evil is, but also exposes the childish mindset of many of those responsible for this preening and posturing.
Sure, Metal has a well-documented history of adversarial relations with mainstream society. Indeed, it’s often been used to challenge the status quo – politically, socially, and religiously – as a form of expression, as a counter-culture movement, even as a form of political protest and activism. Hell, now that I think about it, I’d argue that those sorts of things are in fact the very antithesis of “evil”. Even the expression of Satanism in metal – from the most orthodox religious forms, to the more humanist philosophical ones – is another way of defining the “self” through opposition. Even here, there’s more at work than just slapping on some spikes and making controversial statements.
In fact, I’d argue that the history of Metal and Satanism is very much bound up in the resistance to religious conformity… it’s not just play-acting at being “evil” for the sake of it. There’s a method to the madness. Personally I’m fine with Metal continuing to be the genre that actively addresses, even expresses, “evil” for artistic purposes. It’s expressive, it’s philosophical, it’s cathartic. But it isn’t itself “evil”, and only an idiot would conflate “not being evil enough” with “not being a good band”.
What is interesting is that a lot of the chest-beating and dick-waving about being “evil” came from the band’s South American fans – something which I think, anthropologically, is interesting because it almost gives us a window through which to look back at metal’s past.
Now, it’s going to be difficult to state this without sounding derogatory, condescending, or exposing my White Male Privilege… but I’ll try my best, and hopefully enough sense will come through that people will perhaps be able to appreciate my points on their own merit.
It’s a vague generalisation to say that certain parts of the world still lag behind those of us lucky enough to live comfortably in the bosom of the Western capitalist/democratic system. Looking at much of the South American metal contingent, I get a real sense that socio-economically, and musically, many lingering elements of metal’s most formative years are still gumming up the works.
This seems to be why many (though certainly not all) in that contingent so desperately cling to that which is “different”, or “controversial”, or – in this case – “evil”. it’s an attempt to define themselves and separate themselves from a society which, in many ways, is still far more repressive and less privileged (in the good way) than most of us will have experienced in our lives.
That’s why I say it’s like a window onto the past – because it almost allows us to look back at where we were, and see how far we’ve come, and take stock.
Now I don’t want to belittle anyone (nor am I saying that all fans, whatever part of the world they’re from, comprise some sort of homogeneous entity), but it really does seem to me like the need to be “true” and “evil” is something you grow out of. And that’s not just in individual terms, but in societal terms as a sub-culture. But growing up doesn’t mean you have to become any less rebellious, any less forthright and fervent in your beliefs. It just means that sometimes you have to confront the fact that some of your beliefs were a bit… stupid.
(And I am no exception).
Ultimately we all want to be a bit of a rebel. An individual. We want to be strong, and respected. We want to forge our own path. To resist. To define our sense of “self” and to stand out from the crowd. It’s why people join like-minded groups and define themselves in opposition to others.
It’s ironic that the harder people try to claim they’re “different”, the more voices shouting “ME, ME, ME!” there are, the more these people all become the same. We’re all human beings. Accepting that is the first step to realising who you actually are.
But thinking that you’re “evil”? That doesn’t make you special. Or unique. It just exposes how desperate you are – for attention, for recognition, for something to justify yourself.
And BEING “evil”? REALLY being “evil”? That just makes you broken. Damaged. Weak.
Am I evil? No, I’m not. And neither are you.
Nobody really considers themselves “evil”. Even the most fucked up person doing horrible things have some sort of justification for it. They never think they are “evil”. Every single atrocity in the history of mankind has been the acts of someone considering their actions “just” or “right” or at least “necessary”. Though i am a huge black and death metal fan i tend to find the “evil” image some bands try to convey pretty silly or even laughable. The corpse paint and imagery is nothing more than for show, and most fans understand that. There will of course always be fans who themselves pretend to be “evil”, “dark” and so on, and they desperately try to convince others that “oh, they guys in THIS band are really super hard core evil people”. Fans who talk like that are basically just EMO-kids in metal t-shirts. Just as you said: most of us grow out of that phase when we leave the early teens behind.
That’s a very good point that I didn’t consider. People who commit “evil” acts (and I mean those intrinsically morally repugnant… not those simply designated so for political/social/religious reasons) don’t think of themselves as evil. And if you can identify someone else as “evil” (and seem to WANT to) then surely
[Every single atrocity in the history of mankind has been the acts of someone considering their actions “just” or “right” or at least “necessary”. ]
If being “evil” means being the opposite of what those that judge me as “evil” are, then fine, I’d rather be “evil.”
Nope, cos then you’re buying into a binarism. And that’s not how the world work. Things aren’t split into “good” and “evil”. Regardless of what you mean by those terms.
Unfortunately you WILL have things in common with people you think are dicks, and who think you’re a dick.
It’s not that I’m buying into binarism, it’s just that I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ll never change the minds of those that do.
“I’ve chosen to embrace all the things that I cannot change” -Bathyalpelagic I: Impasses
15,472 cool points for referencing the album of the year.
I love that someone on NCS referenced Hannah Arendt and it wasn’t me.
Let me just add a quick caveat, in the hope of guiding the comments.
Although I have mentioned majorities here, I’d rather not have lots and lots of comments reassuring yourselves (and us) how you’re part of the minority and you’re different and individual… etc… I’m taking that for granted and don’t need convincing.
I’d like to hear your thoughts on the topic, and concept, of “evil” in metal.
It’s probably impossible to completely avoid discussing the topic of external value attributions (Black Sabbath and “the devil’s chord” springs immediately to mind), but let’s try not to repeatedly define our selves by opposition shall we? That’s a very reactionary way of thinking.
Actually, the more I think about it, the whole ingroup/outgroup dichotomy really does seem (to me at least) the primary driver behind this “i’m more evil than you” crap.
So feel free!
I’m always amused/saddened that people who decry metal and metal musicians as being “evil” don’t realize or don’t care that pop stars (and probably musicians in all genres) are just as frequently criminals, if not more so. These are just off the top of my head: Domestic abusers? Check. (Ike Turner, Chris Brown, and many, many others.) Arsonists? Check. (Lisa “Left-Eye” Lopez of TLC.) Pedophilia/child molestation? Check. (The King of Pop himself. Let’s not kid ourselves.)
Famous people are not guaranteed to good people, regardless of how they got to be famous.
I feel like we have a higher proportion of outright murderers though. So we win on that one.
As far as on-the-books convictions, you’re probably right, but at the risk of sounding like a conspiracy theorist, enough money and a large entourage of toadies (which aren’t as common in metal) allow people to get away with a lot. Just vehicular manslaughter alone probably adds a lot to the pop side, including Keith Moon, Brandy Norwood, and Vince Neil. (And no, I don’t consider Motley Crue metal, so I count that on the pop star side.)
I was doing my radio show the other night and a fellow DJ came into the studio and told me that, while he was glad I did the show (assuring me of his openmindedness), he “didn’t agree with the message of the music.” I asked him if he meant “the subjects of the lyrics” and he said “yes, the subjects, which then become the message.”
That was the end of the conversation, but it made me think about people’s perceptions about the role of music. “Message” implies that a certain viewpoint is being espoused. In my experience, just a tiny percentage of music is created to be the medium for a message. The rest is simply poetry. Whether the artist believes what’s being said or expects me to believe it is irrelevant
I’ve seen similar reactions from people, this perception of metal lyrics being angry or promoting a hateful agenda of some sort. I find it odd in instances where I’m certain that the listener doesn’t understand the lyrics. I’ve had music I’ve been listening to referred to as hateful and thought to myself, “You understand these guttural death metal vocals? I barely understnd what they’re saying.”
I think you are right that usually there is no message or viewpoint in a song, and that the lyrics are poetic. That means they are open to a range of interpretation. And because metal usually deals with “the darker, grimmer realities of the world,” as Andy says, the poetry is necessarily tonally dark. So if your interpretive approach to the lyrics involves searching for a message or position statement, then you are likely to reach false conclusions. Was Poe promoting death and decay?
Well put. People who feel compelled to find a “position” in every bit of music they’re exposed to are not just likely to reach false conclusions, they are likely to reach conclusions before even listening. Investigating everything in order to justify your tastes based on the moral code you’ve chosen to adopt takes a lot of time and energy. It’s much easier to dismiss it out of hand.
I find the majority of metal I enjoy to have no definable “message”, but instead to be creators of mood/atmosphere or musical expressions of emotion. I can’t understand the vast majority of lyrics, and take them more as words that motivate the lyricist or that came to mind after the lyricist heard the music (which seems usually to be the case) than as the point of the music.
I find in the whole discussion of the extremity of metal lyrics a strange double-standard: Why isn’t this applied to other entertainment mediums, such as film (horror seems rather mainstream, though I suppose it isn’t very much so), television (what with The Walking Dead) and video games (Grand Theft Auto, case closed)? All of these mediums seem to be passed off for reasons I don’t really know. It seems perhaps that most people separate those mediums and consider them cinematic experiences, or stories, so that they don’ necessarily need a message (especially with some of the horror films). Yet that differentiation, that ability to not necessarily have a message or agenda, is not somehow extended to violent music, when it comes to lyrics.
I guess, by your fellow DJ’s logic, that means every book, movie, play, or story that contains violence and murder also advocates murder. It’s amazing that we, as a society, survived Nabokov’s endorsement of pedophilia in “Lolita.”
“Real evil is, in fact, (thankfully) very rare. Most of us won’t ever experience it in our lives. Real evil is found in ethnic cleansing, people trafficking, the rape and murder of children.”
“‘evil’ acts (and I mean those intrinsically morally repugnant… not those simply designated so for political/social/religious reasons)”
So where is this moral measuring stick coming from? If you take away an absolute moral standard like the Western World has, nearly all things are permissible. A society with a dulled conscience doesn’t determine moral truth though.
Is lying evil? When my child lies to me, it seems pretty evil in my eyes. How about adultery? If your wife cheats on you, you’ll understand that adultery is evil.
What about natural evil? Tens of thousands of people dying in a Tsunami can’t be seen as good, and anyone that would say it’s good that an event like that happens will be considered evil.
The Western World has done away with moral standards through relativism… all of this is either just your opinion and I can form my own reality that might make the things you hate A-OK, or there is a true moral standard that transcends opinion. I believe the latter, and the standard includes lying, adultery, dishonoring parents, and most importantly, dishonoring God.
I simply don’t believe that there’s any need to have a “God” in order to have a sense of morality.
Morality comes as a collective understanding of the sensations and emotions which things evoke – either in thought or deed. As human beings we are perfectly capable of producing and policing our own morality. And honestly for the most part we do a reasonable job of it.
Morality does not need to be defined as a set of proscribed rules passed down from on high. Indeed, an externally imposed moral standard perhaps has relatively less value than one that has been built up and evolved over many, many years of society’s growth and development.
I’m pretty certain the Western World HASN’T done away with moral standards through relativism… most of us here on the site are in the Western World and I see examples of morality every day.
It’s fine that you feel the need to have some divine standard, but please, try not to denigrate the rest of us who are perfectly able to live moral lives, to love and laugh and live, without sharing your beliefs.
Also I’d say there’s no such thing as a “natural evil” – nature doesn’t have a consciousness, or a conscience. Though the events which happen – these terrible disasters and such – may indeed have terrible, life-destroying consequences, if you’re talking about things in terms of pure morality then how can a tsunami be moral or immoral?
“When my child lies to me, it seems pretty evil in my eyes.” Parenting is probably gonna be real rough for you, bud.
You referenced religion as something that transcends opinions and sets universal morals, though I personally don’t see religion as something universal; rather, it’s widespread, but very subjective in many ways. Also, the moral standards you reference aren’t necessarily universal; I don’t think we can hypothesize on how much these social constructs were considered morally wrong thousands of years ago, or even before the moral standard that much of the Western World follows was set about two thousand years ago.
Great article, but I somewhat agree with Jon up there. Even if a society has built up and evolved a certain ideal of a moral answer to a certain issue (a simple “this is good or this is bad”), does that make it intrinsically right or wrong? You have the obvious ones, sure. Spousal abuse, lying, theft, rape, murder, etc. but some issues are still debated vehemently despite the seemingly obvious emotional damage certain acts cause. I use emotional damage here as the moral measuring stick because that’s what our society seems to base it on. I think there is a universal moral compass, you don’t have to believe in it or believe in a higher power to have morals (although I do).
Great read and discussion.
I certainly believe that it is possible to judge behavior as right or wrong, moral or immoral, but “evil” to me is a word that is reserved for premeditated behavior that is so repugnant as to be past the boundaries of what it means to be human (though obviously human beings are the ones who perpetrate acts we would probably all call evil).
Hello Andy. Nice chatting with you.
“I simply don’t believe that there’s any need to have a ‘God’ in order to have a sense of morality.”
Your wording makes it sound like God was there and you are casting Him aside. There is an underlying assumption that for transcendant morality to exist, God has to exist.
“Morality comes as a collective understanding of the sensations and emotions which things evoke – either in thought or deed.”
In that case, morality is a matter of common opinion. The Jews evoked sensations and emotions of disgust in the Nazis who agreed with Hitler’s teachings. Does that make Jews evil? If the Nazis had won the war and convinced the lot of us that Jews (and the other “undesirables”) are bad and we agreed, does that make the ideal Hitler espoused “good”?
“And honestly for the most part we do a reasonable job of it.”
Then why is society such a wreck? Society is corrupt, and society’s desires and ideals are corrupt. We can’t come up with moral standards by looking in the mirror because they will always be flawed.
“Morality does not need to be defined as a set of proscribed rules passed down from on high.”
You actually just prescribed moral rules: “Real evil is found in ethnic cleansing, people trafficking, the rape and murder of children” So you are saying that you have no authority when you’re prescribing these rules? So then they aren’t actually bad. Or is it society’s authority? What society through history do we look to?
“I’m pretty certain the Western World HASN’T done away with moral standards through relativism…”
I should have stated it differently and added the word absolute or transcendant before “moral standards”.
“Also I’d say there’s no such thing as a “natural evil””
Good, because that’s usually an argument that people try to raise against the existence of God. 🙂
I’m not sure I’m understanding your first point Jon. There is no God, no divine figure, so therefore nothing to cast aside. It’s perfectly plausible to have morality without a god, God, or gods.
I believe morality is indeed a matter of common opinion – a shared morality that stems from the commonalities we all have as human beings. Which is precisely why such things as the Nazi atrocities raise such ire. Indeed, much of the horror of their teachings and stuff (I believe) comes from the idea that if they HAD indeed been victorious they would have set about a concerted attempt to rewrite the moral compass/nature of society.
Which brings me to another point that yes, morality is relatively contingent. Many of the religious teachings, of all religions, which were apparently based upon some sort of divinity, don’t hold up morally nowadays.
And really? Society is a wreck? Wow. You have a very pessimistic view. Just because you don’t agree with some things in society does not make them “corrupt”. Please get down off your high horse.
And I’m afraid moral standards do have to come from within, by looking “in the mirror” as it were, because there’s no other option. Man created god in his image. Hence all those flaws… the ones you seem so keen to point out in your fellow man!
And did I mention any “authority”? You are the one clinging to the idea that morality needs to be based in some sort of hierarchical authority. You have the comfort of your god to hold on to for that. I, however, did not proscribe anything. Nor did I claim any authority. It’s very typical of he religious mindset to try and set up false standards like this, pitting “my” authority, against your assumed god’s. I’m afraid it doesn’t work like that. I merely mentioned things commonly accepted to be evil. I believe very much in my fellow human beings’ ability to distinguish right from wrong, merely based on empathy and our ability to THINK.
Again. No need for god in any of this. Good thing too.
Regarding the first point, maybe I misinterpreted what you meant.
If the Nazis had rewritten the “moral compass/nature of society,” what would be wrong with that? It’d just be the NEW morality and everyone would be OK with it according to your views.
“Society is a wreck?”
Do you watch the news? Ever care to glance at the divorce rate? And yes, divorce hurts people, children especially.
“I, however, did not proscribe anything. Nor did I claim any authority.”
Looks like this is your list of moral wrongs: “ethnic cleansing, people trafficking, the rape and murder of children”
So if I am a rapist of children for example, who is going to tell me I can’t do it? Because unless the person telling me I can’t has any authority, like if it’s just YOUR opinion that it’s wrong, then screw you, I will do it because I want to. And how many people in the world have urges to do things that are truly EVIL? Have you traveled the world? I am in Afghanistan right now, and have been to many other countries. People do bad things all the time.
“People do bad things all the time.”
Yes.They do. But guess what? Society isn’t a wreck. There’s just as many, if not more, good people, all over the world, just trying to get along with their lives, help the people around them, and be happy.
I’m sorry that you’re upset that people aren’t following your god’s rules, and have therefore decided to judge society as ruined. But really, that’s just your problem. Sorry dude.
You trying to misinterpret what I’m saying and claim that just because morality is an innate thing in people and society means that anything would/could be acceptable doesn’t help you. And I’m sorry about that.
It seems surprising to me that you can’t even grasp that a victory for the Nazis IS such an abhorrent concept because it flies in the face of simple human decency. Something which exists in sentient people. Hell no we’re not perfect, and yes, there is evil in the world and people do bad things… but hiding behind your god and trying to deny the nature of the world doesn’t help anyone or anything.
Also the fact that you seem to believe that only some sort of singular authority could ever make child rape “wrong” makes me very concerned for you. Your faith in mankind really is lacking. And that makes me very sad for you.
“Society isn’t a wreck.”
You apparently live a very sheltered life. Either that, or you ignore what you are exposed to because it doesn’t fit in with your world view.
“that’s just your problem. Sorry dude.”
My problem, and the problem of all the people who have been victimized one way or another through history.
“You trying to misinterpret”
Please tell WHY morals produced by the social norm won’t just morph into what is acceptable by that society and be OK? If Nazi Germany won and spread their ideology
“a victory for the Nazis IS such an abhorrent concept because it flies in the face of simple human decency.”
But according to you, simple human decency is formed by social norm… so simple human decency would change if the Nazis won, and morality would be different. You don’t seem appalled that (according to you) we’ve shed off the “old” religious morals… so in an alternate history, why would you be appalled that you shed off the old pre-Nazi victory morals if they had won. I’m not writing this to convince you, I am writing it so others can see how foolish this atheistic, naturalistic world view is. It’s educated stupidity.
Also the fact that you seem to believe that only some sort of singular authority could ever make child rape “wrong” makes me very concerned for you.
No, I am saying there has to be SOME kind of authority. You are inferring SINGLE authority. If there is no authority, people don’t give a crap about the rules. Go to any country where the law is not enforced.
Ah, now I see it. You weren’t all that interested in discussing any of the ways this touches on metal… you just wanted to tell us all how bad the world is, how much clearer you see things than everyone else, and preach a little. I get it.
Though there is such wonderful irony in you saying “you ignore what you are exposed to because it doesn’t fit in with your world view” which is pretty much entirely how you come across:
“Things are terrible. The world is a wreck. Because I say so! No one disagree!”
But this is perhaps the best part… “the problem of all the people who have been victimized one way or another through history” – where FINALLY you acknowledge that human society has never been perfect. But guess what? It’s improving. Living standards are rising, slowly but surely. So many countries are fighting hard to stamp out persecution and oppression.
I’m sure you’ll happily trot out how many countries are still in a bad way… but hey now, if you look at the world in total, and you look at the vast span of human history, things are better for more people now than they have ever been before.
You’re the one who brought god into this as the ultimate, and only, source of moral authority. And unfortunately you’ve ended up with everything all backwards. Human decency, human morality, informs social norms. These are of course always influenced and interfered with by societal pressures, particularly when people are in competition for food and shelter and such – but you seem actively galled by the fact that as standards of life improve (with many areas still left to build upon around the world) it’s allowing us to remain a moral society. We care about people. We care about the poor and the weak and the innocent. We help where we can.
But don’t let any of that affect your proselytizing about the terrible state of the world we live in.
You’ve chosen your world view, and you’ve chosen to judge the world as lacking. I’m afraid you’re the one with the blinkered vision my friend, not I.
The news highlights negative stories because they generate ratings, and thus profit. That doesn’t mean that only bad things are happening if the news isn’t covering them. In a sense those good deeds become even more altruistic and MORALLY good by not needing an audience for them to be performed.
Also, quite a lot of people have urges to do things that are truly evil, but more often than not they don’t act on them, because they aren’t socially or morally accepted.
Good thing I spelled transcendent wrong twice 😛
You pretty much summed up my entire problem with metalhead culture. In fact, just last night, I was drawing up a few points to write an article similar to this, though with a different angle. This need to feel “controversial” or “outcast” is absolutely ridiculous, and I see it all the time at shows, even here in Vancouver. Especially here in Vancouver, where there is no oppression, and the worst we have to worry about is expensive housing prices, transit that isn’t perfect, and silly liquor laws.
More and more I’ve tried to distance myself from the overall metal scene, because I am so tired of seeing people in their late 20s and even into their 30s act the way they do.
Funnily enough it reminds me strongly of bands like My Chemical Romance and their “we’re all freaks together” schtick.
Which would (and maybe should) embarass some of these “metal fans”!
Yeah, that is more or less a slightly different way of the whole “brothers of metal unite” thing that bands like Manowar have going on. Though, at least they don’t try to proclaim that they’re evil or anything. Just kinda homoerotic.
Also, I find that too many bands equate “darkness” with “evil” automatically without realizing that they are not at all the same thing. They end up with rather silly themes talking about Satan, necromancy, and fantasy creatures or whatever. But the true darkness is what lurks within humanity. I find that bands that confront things such as depression, suicide, self-hate, and anger are the ones that do the best job of actually forging the connection with what they’re talking about, and are more relate-able.
I really like some of the thoughts, particularly the distinction implied between ‘evil’ and ‘darker realities’ …
and the fact that ‘evil’ is nothing more than a theatrical effect of metal music…
great post, i really enjoyed it. i’ve always looked to my favorite bands/artists as storytellers. it’s always disappointing when the fans, or even the artists themselves, begin to confuse the stories with reality. even the most gritty urban tales are subject to poetic license. this is after all art, not a bbc documentary. we call them performers for a reason. but if you’re going to enjoy anything in life, as opposed to spending your short time on this planet beating your head against a wall, you have to realize that idiots were misinterpreting art long before you were born. and they’ll be doing it long after you’re gone. try not to let it ruin your fun.
You haven’t addressed the main thrust of my argument… that your view of morality would have to conform to whatever “evolutionary twist” was thrown in, Nazi Germany dominating the world being my example.
You’re really only focusing on accusing me of saying the sky is falling, so let me clarify what I mean when I say society is a wreck, I’m saying there is PLENTY of evil in the world, including the US and other developed Western countries. Are you not willing to factor in injustice, white collar crime, corruption, love of money over fellow man, etc. Are these moral grey areas or something? How about lying, theft, and perjury? I personally know a woman who was raped at knife point. What about the divorce rate, something like 50%? I’d say one mass shooting is horrific, but America experiences them regularly. Even people who seem like regular guys have hidden secrets. Everybody does. The only way to say everything is great is to take people at face value… I suggest you take up a career in law enforcement in a big city. It will open your eyes.
What I am NOT saying is this: NOBODY has ANY good traits and EVERYBODY is as bad as they could be. Man was created in the image of God, and everybody has something good about them. Even the bum on the side of the road who seems to have contributed nothing to society (I know because my dad was one before he died… he had plenty of awesome things about him, but he had a proportionate amount of very bad traits). You seem to think I’m saying nobody has anything good about them, while it appears to me that you’re saying nearly everybody is great.
You’ve been less than gracious in this conversation. Sure, you haven’t been as bad as you COULD have been (which maybe you will interpret as you being good… like, “It could have been worse, so it wasn’t bad”), but your tone is very condescending and cruel. You are proving my point in this conversation alone.
Dude…with due respect…Use the damn reply button!
I am currently in Afghanistan and comm lines a shaky at best. I use the reply buttin, but the webpage gets all hinky and BAM my reply is at the bottom, or somewhere in the middle of the page. Sorry for any confusion.
With the exception of the divorce rate, what percentage of the population actually commits these things? Not to mention, as much as morality has the purpose of dissuading certain activities, it also has the effect of casting ire upon those who break its code. The amount of mass shootings in this country is indeed horrific, but 99.9% percent of the population quickly casts strong disapproval upon the shooter; the 0.1% (if not a smaller segment) that does idolize the shooter, and become copycats some of the time, is generally considered mentally ill by society.
You are interpreting morality to be an unbreakable iron law. If that were so, we’d live in a utopia, which, by man’s nature to make mistakes and to be imperfect, is impossible.
To go toward your point of the alternate-reality Nazi morality, that’s basically what happened with regards to the church’s influence on the Western world. in the days of ancient Greece and Rome, homosexuality was rather widely practiced, and generally accepted. Yet, considering the Bible’s definition of sexual relations, homosexuality is still considered immoral by a large segment of the Western world, though it seems the tides may be changing on that issue.
So your point about the altered morality is correct, yet don’t act like it’s never happened before; don’t delude and think that morality was not a thing that existed before the creation of your religion.
To get at that point again, though, it may not be morality that is altered, at least not for the first generation. As has been demonstrated by the Stanford Prison Experiment and by Milgram’s experiments, conformity can be far more powerful than morality, and can in fact suspend morality. With the exception of a few loonies at the top of the party, most of the Nazis cooperated not out of altered morality but out of conformity, and many of them, as in the SPE and Milgram experiments, felt guilty about it both during and after the regime.
Finally, you haven’t been the most gracious either, sir. let’s not throw stones when in glass houses. The devolution of this conversation, as seen in this post, is rather disheartening, and reminds me eerily of Congressional discourse, but that doesn’t mean that either of you aren’t good, moral people.
Hello Leperkahn, nice post.
“what percentage of the population actually commits these things?”
Which things do you mean? If you are including all of the immoralities that I listed (not ignoring injustice, love of money over fellow man, lying, and theft), I would say 100% of the population. If you are only looking at mass shootings, well that’s an obvious answer.
“morality also has the effect of casting ire upon those who break its code.”
So are you suggesting that morality is a bad thing because people feel guilty for doing bad things? Or are you saying that other people look down on those who do wrong? The former seems pretty twisted to me. The latter is addressed by Jesus in the sermon on the mount in Matthew chapter 7. Sinful people have never been meant to hold themselves above others morally. It was a major theme in most of Jesus’ discourses with the Pharisies, the Jewish religious leaders of His time. We see this attitude in all walks of life though, not just in people who claim to be “religious”. Another injustice in the world.
“You are interpreting morality to be an unbreakable iron law”
Do you do the same? Is child molestation EVER acceptable? How about rape? True murder, not in the name of self defense or the defense of others? Do you interpret morality to be an unbreakable iron law? I hope so. The real question is, HOW MUCH of morality is law?
“point of the alternate-reality Nazi morality”
Exactly, and I would say that the “new” moral code is corrupt. It seems like Andy wouldn’t agree that his viewpoint forces him to accept that if the Nazis had won, he’d gladly be a Nazi and kill Jews because that is the new social norm. My whole point concerning all the Nazi stuff is that in an atheistic world view, there is NO anchor for absolute morals, and anything can be made permissible given the right conditions. I think you see that this is the case. It’s deplorable! And I think Andy’s arguments that the Nazi worldview wouldn’t have been adopted even if the Nazis had won shows that absolute morality does exist. I think he called it “basic human goodness.”
“it may not be morality that is altered, at least not for the first generation.”
But eventually, in your estimate, it would be. I heartily disagree. True right and true wrong DO exist, no matter what society believes.
“Finally, you haven’t been the most gracious either, sir”
Thanks for pointing that out, I hadn’t realized it. I will say that if I use myself as the measuring stick, then yes, I am good and moral. If I use God’s standard, the God who has a perfect memory, then I fall way short and I need a savior if I’m going to stand in front of Him at the judgment. Praise Him for His plan.
Nice chatting with you
I’m just going to mention something at this point I’m surprised wasn’t mentioned before: both the proprietor of this blog and Andy have made it very clear before that they are highly intelligent, morally-upright people – and that they are distinctly not interested in religion. With that in mind, it’s not very respectful to come in and lambaste them for not believing, when it’s long been known that they don’t. I find that as being in very poor form; this is their house, and they should be treated respectfully within it.
I say that as a long-time reader, as a metalhead who finds the genre’s obsession with evil an over-used and sometimes disturbing trope…and as a practicing Catholic who gets sick and tired of dealing with the fallout from those Christians who do not play well with others. I don’t rub my faith in anyone’s face around here, and I know I’m not the only Christian reader of this blog.
Andy went beyond the relam of blogging about music and crossed into a discussion about philosophy and morality with some of the remarks he made in the original post. I began my side of the discussion with direct quotes from that post, and discussed from there. If this website is solely a music discussion, then we all ought to keep it at that. If they want to end the moral discussion, then so be it, I don’t need to post any longer. I will say that most metal heads don’t put up with censorship in their music… so why would they push censorship on somebody expressing their personal views?
Hi again Jon.
No-one is trying to censor you. That’s the wonderful thing about the free world we live in. If I think you’re an idiot then I’m allowed to say you’re an idiot. Just because you’ve jumped into things and ended up on the wrong end of a backlash, don’t try and play the censorship card on us.
And I still feel really bad for you, thinking that 100% of people are so bad and don’t live up to your lofty moral standards. How do you manage to exist in the world.
In closing… this world is good, this world is bad… we weren’t created in anyone’s image but our own. And the majority of the people do their best to try and better themselves and the people they love. Some exceptional people go beyond that and try to change the world for the better. No one is perfect however. We all make mistakes, we all transgress and fail. But we try.
Thankfully we don’t have to live up to you and your “superior” standards.
Just because you’re so negative about people, doesn’t mean the rest of us have to be. None of us here live in a blinded or blinkered world (I’d argue that your obsession with god doesn’t help you, but that’s neither here nor there), we all watch the news, we read, we talk with others, we travel, we interact… we’re all aware of the terrible things that can and will occur. So I’m afraid your desperate attempts to characterise anyone who disagrees with you as “not living in the real world” or “not being aware” are doomed to failure. None of us here have anything to prove to you.
Please be careful if you ever get off that high horse of yours.
“How do you manage to exist in the world.”
“we don’t have to live up to you and your ‘superior’ standards”
They are God’s standards, and I will be the first to admit that I haven’t lived up to them.
“you’re so negative about people”
“Please be careful if you ever get off that high horse of yours.”
Not sure what high horse you’re talking about. I readily admit that I am a sinner. In fact, I think I’m the only one here not claiming to be a good person.
You’re welcome. As a Christian, I get sick and tired of people pontificating from a Christian high horse. The whole argument that there are no morals other than Christian morals is simply philosophically bankrupt. What I believe in as the source of my moral code does not mean that other bases and other codes are not valid.
If people want to take about matters of life and death, sin and salvation, then faith becomes paramount. Morals, however, can and have been effectively defined by reason alone.
i’ve been an atheist for over 30 years and i went through the whole angry-online-debating thing, but i’ve been over for it many years, now. i’m no more interested in telling somebody else what they should believe than i am in being told what i should believe. i’m a very moral person (maybe even a bit of a prude by some peoples standards) and i’m very aware that there are good and bad people from every walk of life. if you do no harm and treat others with kindness and respect, your spiritual beliefs don’t matter to me.
“If people want to take about matters of life and death, sin and salvation, then faith becomes paramount. Morals, however, can and have been effectively defined by reason alone.”
It’s impossible to divorce sin from morality. Sin, as defined by the Bible, is the transgression of God’s moral law. Without sin (transgression of the law), there is no need for salvation or a savior.
I am not on a Christian high horse. Don’t you know that there will be a judgment? I’m not here condeming anyone, I am showing the need for a savior. None of us have lived up to God’s standards.
Sin is a part of a specific definition of morality, as it is defined by Christianity. Morality can be reached by non-religious people who do not use the Christian terminology in discussing that morality. Sin, however, is a very much Christian term, and thus cannot be divorced from its origin. Morality existed before it was defined by sin and salvation. Otherwise humans would have cannibalized each other to extinction millennia ago.
“‘basic human goodness’ is brought about by the human conscience put in the hearts of men by God”
Again, that would mean that no morality existed in times before man identified with monotheistic religion, and again, that would, among other things, remove the stigma for things like murder in those times, and we would’ve hunted ourselves into extinction long ago.
With regards to the slavery example, I am using today’s norm, saying that it is in retrospect a very dark time in our history, as was Nazism, and as it would have been even if it lasted longer than it did.
That said, your comment about the inability to divorce morality form Christianity, in your eyes, makes me, as an atheist, an immoral bastard. It’s hard to go about with educated debate when I’m relegated to this. Feel free to pick this up when you’re ready to accept that non-religious people can be moral.
We have completely different starting points. There is no such thing as “before monotheistic religion” as God created the world and everything in it and has made Himself known from the beginning of creation.
“in your eyes, makes me, as an atheist, an immoral bastard”
Am I treating you that way? As if I didn’t have a life prior to being a Christian and I look down on anyone who isn’t.
Well, I guess that’s that. Adios.
Hey BMF (what does that stand for btw?)
Just wanted to say that I hope my discussions and stuff in these comments haven’t put you, or anyone else with a religious mindset, from coming to the site!
I am most definitely not anti-religious, even if I don’t share (or agree with) many of the more dogmatic elements.
I feel like you’re arguing multiple sides. You say that the Nazis would have altered our morality (which they very well may have, but we would have been blind to it, as by the time I would have been born it would have [sadly] become widely accepted and normal. YET, on the other side, you argue that true right and wrong do exist. When debating, it tends to work best when you argue one side throughout, unless you’re trying to be devil’s advocate or something.
I said it was not an unbreakable iron law not in the sense that it SHOULD be broken, but that it CAN be broken. Morals don’t physically stop us from doing immoral things; they merely stop us or make us reconsider from a psychological standpoint. For some, that morality check that metaphorically sits on their right shoulder isn’t enough, and thus they do immoral things. We tend not to celebrate those immoral actions, hence the societal-policing aspect of morality.
I am saying that morality is GOOD because it (largely, outside of sociopaths) makes those who commit unspeakable acts feel guilty, thus self-policing them via morality. Morality doesn’t have the ability to time-travel and undo wrongs; thus, this is the best it can do, in conjunction with the ire of others in society upon the perpetrator for committing immoral acts.
With regards to lying and theft, those can be more nebulous to a lot of people. Many people will steal entertainment (like music, a appropriate topic on this site) because they are stealing a file, some thing that isn’t tangible. There’s far more people who are going to torrent an album than are going to steal the CD, because they don’t define the weightless commodity of digital music as a good. I personally feel that this is incorrect, but that doesn’t change the definition of others. With regards to lying, that has multiple sides: some lies are indeed very bad and immoral, but I would argue that white lies in fact show morality and concern for the common man; and I’ve seen far more white lying than outright malicious lying, at least personally.
As the psychology experiments that I brought up point out, basic human goodness and morality are quite strong, but conformity to a higher authority, be it Hitler, or a general, or a god, or God (and let me be clear, I am NOT equating Hitler and God; they merely have both been seen as strong authority figures by certain populations at certain points in time; one CLEARLY has better intentions than the other) can often drown that out. Basic human goodness would tell us that war, and the taking of another man’s life, is wrong; but conformity to an authority above us, which for whatever reason has commanded that life be taken in the name of a given cause, can drown out that morality for certain periods of time.
And by the transient nature of history, even the hypothetical Nazi world would not have lasted for eternity; things always change with time, and we would have moved on to a previous or new moral code eventually. It would have been a very dark time in human history, but we’ve had them before; slavery in the New World comes to mind as the first example.
“I feel like you’re arguing multiple sides.”
Oh, no, I believe firmly in absolute morality. I was only playing devil’s advocate, as you say, because it seemed to me that Andy didn’t want to accept the fact that in his view of the world, the Nazis winning would lead to us being Nazis. I don’t see anything given to chance though, so the Nazis couldn’t have won.
“I said it was not an unbreakable iron law not in the sense that it SHOULD be broken, but that it CAN be broken.”
I guess I don’t understand what you meant when you said, “You are interpreting morality to be an unbreakable iron law. If that were so, we’d live in a utopia, which, by man’s nature to make mistakes and to be imperfect, is impossible.” I never claimed that the moral laws CAN’T be broken. That’d be ridiculous, and my pointing out the mess that the world is in goes to show that I don’t believe that moral law can’t be broken. I think that they shouldn’t be broken, but we have all broken them to one extent or another.
“With regards to lying and theft, those can be more nebulous to a lot of people.”
And wrongly so. I just can’t think of a time when a person wouldn’t feel hurt by someone they love lying to them or stealing from them. It seems like people rationalize those two things because they are so common, but when it happens to us, it’s not good.
“basic human goodness and morality are quite strong, but conformity to a higher authority, be it Hitler, or a general, or a god, or God”
This basic human goodness… I don’t understand what that can be in your worldview because it will shift with the tides of human history. In my worldview, “basic human goodness” is brought about by the human conscience put in the hearts of men by God, and it conforms to the ten commandments (especially the ones pertaining to man-to-man relations, murder, lying theft, dishonoring parents, covetousness, etc).
“It would have been a very dark time in human history, but we’ve had them before; slavery in the New World comes to mind as the first example.”
I just don’t see by what standard you can measure anything as “dark” if you believe that morals are just an outworking of the social norm. It seems like a Nazi world would just have to “be” as a matter of fact. Are you using today’s moral norm to call it “dark”? I hope that makes sense.
I’m enjoying the conversation with you a lot more than with Andy. You seem level headed and firm enough in your beliefs to have a rational conversation. Kudos. I’m pretty much done conversing with Andy, his tone remains condescending.
It appears that I have been “Penalized For Taunting”. I’m not quite completely sure which statement I made is considered a taunting statement, so if an admin would enlighten me so I don’t make the same mistake again, I’d appreciate it.
If you’re referring to the blog sub header, it’s nothing to do with you. It’s about my hero Golden Tate:
Cool thanks. I guess I’m wound up a bit too much right now haha