The Nature of Sin for Wiccans

A conversation on ISCABBS concerning the nature of Sin; pay special attention to the words of my esteemed colleague John Stitely …
Oct 19, 1996 00:03 from Nae
I have what some may consider to be a silly question….
My fiance & I are getting married in a year and we are trying to find a church that we feel comfortable at in our area. The main religious choices I have are Catholic, Lutheran and Southern Baptist. We know we don’t want the strict Catholic, so we are really looking towards Lutheran or Southern Baptist. I tried looking on the internet for information on their beliefs and I couldn’t find a clear cut answer. I was raised Christian Reformed (basically believing in God and that he does not expect anyone to be perfect and accepts us for our sins). My question is……

What are the basic beliefs of Lutheran and Southern Baptist? Which would be close to what I grew up with? We do not want a “you have to be perfect and we will accept nothing less” mentality. Basically because we already “live in sin” and I don’t want to feel screamed at every week for that, even though I know that is not what the Lord intended for us to do….

Can someone who is familiar with these two help me out and give me some basics? I would appreciate it. Thanks in advance.

Oct 19, 1996 00:32 from John Stitely
It’s not responsive and smacks of proselytizing [which I do not intend and for which I apologize] but Wiccans don’t think you live in sin when you cohab and have sex with someone you love. We think you are specially blessed. [You are in love, have sex and the approval of the Gods — what do you want?]

Oct 19, 1996 05:32 from Same As All
John Stitely > What is sinful to Wiccans? I’ve never heard a Wiccan say anything was sinful. Is there such a concept for Wiccans?

Oct 19, 1996 07:47 from John Stitely
Not really. We concede the existence of stupid and unwise behavior. That which hurts others or ourselves needlessly falls easily into those categories, and is generally believed to be disfavored by the Gods. Sin isn’t much of an issue. Promoting life and love are virtues [in both senses of the word].

I suppose I could live with the concept that those actions which tended on the whole to denigrate life and happiness might be called “sin”, but I find much more value in directing my attention to those things which cause virtue [emphasis added]. Since the payback is so direct, calling things which fail to promote it as stupid is quite adequate

I guess the Wiccans I know also have a concept of living honorably — with integrity according to our lights. I don’t spend a lot of time with the concept because it can be a trap for enshrining one’s prejudices [which paradoxically is dishonorable behavior]

Oct 20, 1996 19:44 from Mama Rose
John Stitely, I must respectfully disagree on the concept that there are no “sins” in Wicca (the larger paganism is separated into lots of individual portions, and each has its own virtues and vices, both formally and as a group):

If we redefine “sin” as “actions which, deliberately undertaken, are cause for disapprobation by peers and perhaps interference by Deity, and acknowledging that “peers” in this case means other Wiccans, then …

I would say that deliberately acting to steal another person’s joy in life from them would be a sin.

I would say that deliberately acting to remove another person’s free will from them would be a sin.

I would say that deliberately acting to increase ugliness or despair would be a sin.

Now there are a whole lot of specific actions which would lead to those particular results, and people need to consider for themselves which actions they must personally be on guard against, not to cause these results;

And there are a heck of a lot more actions which inadvertently lead to these results, and these actions must also be guarded against, but they would at that point be called “mistakes,” or “errors in judgement,” rather than sin.

But if an action does not lead to one of these results — whose business is it to talk about it?

Oct 23, 1996 07:43 from John Stitely
Mama Rose: I bet we are at a problem of definitions. You have defined “sin” “as “actions which, deliberately undertaken, are cause for disapprobation by peers and perhaps interference by Deity, and acknowledging that “peers” in this case means other Wiccans.”

I am pretty sure that the sense in which I was using “sin” and essentially denying it as a valuable concept, was as “actions which are fundamentally wrong because deity disapproves.” I would note that the comment that started this discussion was someone who was happily and conjugally living together were concerned about the reactions of ministers with their “living in sin”. This term defines a blessing to me, and unless I misunderstand you, it does to you too.

I am personally willing to say that the categories you have laid out are wrong. Even venally wrong [with an apology to Aphrodite]. I should note that each of your proposed “sins” is, in fact, the deliberate and needless destruction of another’s life autonomy. They are not wrong because of a “rule” They are wrong because they misapprehend the nature of self as separate in a meaningful way from others and that the false assumption that consequences to another are irrelevant to the consequences in one’s own life. Any such action is self destructive as well as anti social, for it alienates the person from the society of other humans both externally and more importantly internally. It is “sin” in the sense that its natural consequence is separation and loneliness [a fair definition of “damnation”]. But the “sin” is the product of a misapprehension of the nature of good rather than evil in its self.

A person who harms others is doing one of two things. S/he is either seeking a personal gain or engaging in self destructive behavior and therefore, self hatred. To my mind the three fold law has as a prime purpose to remind us to view actions from the perspective of long term consequences. Venal behavior often seeks the apparent short term advantage that fails to note the aftermath. The principle also asserts that if you ignore this long enough you will have “balloon payments” of harm flowing into your life. The interest on the “loan” thus forcibly taken from another may be crushing. Anyone doing such is short sighted and ignorant. S/he may suffer a personal damnation, but I should not engage in the assumption that s/he is evil. Defining people as “sinners” seems to carry that for me. Thus my using the term leads me to a world view that is not healthy to my own growth and takes me away from the person I wish to be.

The other condition of harm are those who have, at least intuitively understood the connection between us and seek to express their self hatred against others. This person is suffering. Again I cannot find the person evil [although the acts are another matter]

The above may not prevent me from limiting a person’s behavior. [Rapists should be stopped and I may well limit, though necessarily so, the autonomy of someone who engages in such behavior.] There are practical limits with how much aid each of us can give to others But that does not seem to me to disprove the principle. The ultimate spiritual quest is not to avoid the evil of others but to avoid evil in one’s self.

The cure for such evil is not to “avoid sinning” but to do well. The avoidance of activity is a negative state that focuses on the worst and makes the very act of attempting virtue [if you believe that virtue can be found in the absence of “sin”] to be a meditation on the need you have for the corruption.

I have held forth in the past on the theory that to organize yourself “against” something is wrong. To make one’s life focus the adversary of something is properly called “satanic”. It is involutive moral development. This includes to my mind virtue that is organized as “against sin”. It is better to be for something. This is the thought process that will lead to growth, opportunity and happiness.

Thus it is my belief that the focus on sin, in and of itself, leads to the separation. The person comes to define themselves not by their best but by their worst. When one is not as bad as they can imagine they assume that there is a measure of virtue. I prefer a world view that assumes that virtue lies in creating, sharing, and working for happiness and growth. We may find moments to chastise ourselves if we have caused harm or limited needlessly freedom, but it should be from the point of view of how to correct, improve, and to spread joy.

While it is a virtue not to spread the disease of pain, the most effective way to do this is to spread joy and opportunity [which living in sin usually does]

Oct 23, 1996 07:58 from Mama Rose
John Stitely,
I strenuously agree with every word you have spoken. My basic concern was that a second speaker was contemplating the thought that Pagans and Wiccans find every action admirable; that nothing one could do was grounds for commentary, let alone action.

You are quite correct (I almost said absolutely! *grin*) that “sin,” and its avoidance, are not the focus of a Wiccan or pagan life. I believe that I would argue that dwelling too much on the concept of sin acts to drain one’s joy in life.

But outsiders, unaware that we begin from a position of joy, are still stuck in the monotheistic concept of “sin,” of “things to be avoided,” of thinking about the many people who have failed to avoid actions that made profound and hideous impacts on other people’s lives. They seem sublimely unaware of their own prophet’s assertion that “all things are permitted to me, though not all things are wise,” which implies, to me, that he was speaking out of that same position of joy in which we reside.

Our boundaries are boundaries of action rather than boundaries of avoidance; but we are not a people lacking boundaries. And I felt that this needed stating. Thank you for your clarification.

Tuppence in the change bowl.

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