No burdened soul can carry the burden of another. – Qur’an 35:18
On the issue of personal responsibility, the Qur’an seems at least on one account superior to the New Testament: there is no atonement by the blood of Jesus. No one must sacrifice himself for another, and there is no need for a redeemer in the Christian sense. No innocent person may pay for the crimes of the guilty. In the Qur’an, each soul bears its own sin (6:164, 39:7). A very meticulous math of justice is instead attempted.
We wrote for them in it: a life for a life, an eye for an eye, a nose for a nose, an ear for an ear, a tooth for a tooth, and an equal wound for a wound; but whoever forgoes it in charity, it will serve as atonement for him. – Qur’an 5:45
The Qur’an calls for a law of vengeance, as described in both the Jewish and the Satanic Bible (an eye for eye), but forgiveness gives a soul credit or atonement so that if we have wronged someone, we may do charity to get karmic credit.
As a result, the Qur’an teaches a punitive morality that, in order to function, relies on people believing in and fearing this cosmic penal code. Without the persistent threats of punishment, Islam has no moral foundation, and so its scripture is filled with constant threats. This is the case at least in theory–prison statistics related to Islam, as well as the amount of domestic and societal violence in the Muslim world, seem to contradict the utility of punitive, authoritarian morality. Diogenes of Oenoanda argued in his Wall Inscription that it was self-evident that morality based on fear of divine punishment didn’t work.
Another result of this punitive morality is that the Islamic cosmos is, in part, a huge prison. Because Muhammad decided to attribute to God the powers that properly belong to the state (of keeping the law), the state’s monopoly on violence is projected against God, and even the angels are reimagined by Muhammad as thugs who commit brutality against human souls, “beating their faces and backs” (47:27). In the Qur’an, the cruel keepers of hell are angels who work for Allah (40:49) and God himself functions as a prison-keeper (see Qur’an 50:27-30). A totalitarian cosmic police state is described, complete with the practice of “detain-and-question” (37:24). Why someone should be interrogated–if God already knows everything, and has written it all down–is unclear.
Humans live in the universe that they are capable of imagining. It should therefore not surprise us that there are only three Arab countries with partly free press, and that of all the Arab countries only one is considered “free” (Tunisia), and that is only relative because its president must be a Muslim.
But this idea of the cosmos as a penal regime gains an interesting perspective when considered in light of the Satanic Bible, which is where we find the “no redeemer liveth” quote.
No Redeemer Liveth
There is no heaven of glory bright, and no hell where sinners roast. Here and now is our day of torment! Here and now is our day of joy! Here and now is our opportunity! Choose ye this day, this hour, for no redeemer liveth!
Say unto thine own heart, “I am mine own redeemer.”
– Book of Satan IV.2-3, The Satanic Bible (plagiarized from Might is Right)
Both major branches of modern Satanism reject the idea of Satan as a person, viewing him instead as a mythical creature and a literary invention that serves as a good metaphor for their narrative. They also, naturally, reject the idea–popularized in hysterical Christian propaganda–that one is able to “sell one’s soul” to the devil. They explain that this idea belongs in Christianity, and that people who believe this are holding on to vestigial Christian beliefs according to which both the devil and God are slave-owning capitalists.
Let’s deconstruct this concept of “redemption”: Christians say that Jesus was executed on the cross for the sins of mortals, and that with his death and sacrifice he “paid the price” for our souls–which implies that our souls have a price. “Redeem” means to gain or regain possession of (something) in exchange for payment. The math here is not clear: Church fathers invented a doctrine that we are born in sin, so that even newly born babies need redemption to be flawless enough to “enter heaven”–where they’ll presumably encounter rapists, mass-murderers, thieves, and other criminals who repented and believed in Christ at the last minute. The word “redeem”, in the dictionary, also has to do with atoning for a crime–in the case of Jesus, an innocent Jewish rabbi supposedly atoned for the crimes of the millions of souls who worship him. Christian doctrine teaches that the innocent atoning for the guilty is moral and just.
There is a strong connection between the belief in Christ as redeemer and the belief that one has an eternal soul that one can sell to the devil. Behind both ideas lies the premise of the soul as merchandise that can be sold, purchased, put on lay away, redeemed in exchange for payment, used as collateral … and renders the individual either a slave–the property of deities or of demons–or a prisoner, if we are to follow the penal logic inherent in atoning for one’s crimes. In all cases, the suggestion presented by this theology is dehumanizing. There is no personal sovereignty, no possibility of autarchy or self-rule. (And, according to Raoul Vaneigem, “the Warden” of this cosmic penal colony also enforces labor in it!).
(By way of contrast, the soul to an Epicurean is the psyche, the neurological system that is embedded into our bodies, and it’s made of particles just like everything else. I can’t think of a way in which it could possibly be “sold” to anyone. It is inalienable and fully ours. Our “soul” must first be Platonized and denaturalized, and we must first be alienated from it, in order to then become merchandise in the cosmic prison scheme.)
Both ideas–that we need redemption and that we have a soul we can sell–are sand castles built on the premise that we are un-free. Slavery (or prison) is much more tempting than many realize: it takes away the burdens of our responsibilities and is a huge relief to many weary (and lazy) souls. Add to this the slave-holding mercantile logic we see in the above paragraph, and you’ll see how these ideas became cemented in the psyche of entire generations who were programmed to see themselves as merchandise, and unthinkingly acquiesced. When–as a child who has yet to acquire critical thinking skills–you are told to go to church weekly so that you can be persistently lied to, or else you’ll face ostracism or be deemed a pariah, this can serve as a huge incentive to imbibe the lies and forget the price one must pay to be part of the herd. A subconscious convenience fee for living in conventional society?
Man is condemned to be free. – Jean Paul Sartre
Fear-mongering preachers have always found utility in easily making superstitious people turn away from their own self-interest and self-sufficiency by attributing such virtues as self-interest and self-sufficiency to the devil. As long as these virtues are otherized and demoralized, the sheep will remain dependent and obedient, scared to go astray into the realms of the prodigal son.
The truth is that, indeed, “no redeemer liveth“. We are not merchandise. We do not have souls to “sell” to demons, and we do not need our “souls” redeemed, paid for, by gods or saviors. We are masters of our own lives, and responsible for ourselves and our actions–however much it may frighten us or bother us. It is our choice whether we want to be reluctant masters who lack self-awareness and responsibility, or eager and able masters.
Some final thoughts on bias: Satanism is not the only religion that teaches us that we are to be our own redeemers. Buddha said that we should be a lamp unto our own selves and be our own refuge. This is really not different from the “No redeemer liveth” passage in the Satanic Bible. The main difference is the source: most people who believe in the supernatural are scared of the devil and likely to reject the message only based on the source. What if this passage had been found in the Dhammapada, or some other sutra, instead of the Satanic Bible? Does the source make it true, or is truth independent of where we hear of it?
Most people think
a Great God will come from the sky,
take away everything
and make everybody feel high
but if you know what life is worth
you will look for yours on earth,
and now you see the light.
Stand up for your rights!
On the Inhumanity of Religion (Book Review)