The Final Philosophy of The Binding of Isaac: Christianity, Satanism, and Accepting Your Sins

At long last, Isaac’s nightmare is at a close…
Source: Steam Community

You’d think that with my history of gushing about the greatness of The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth that I would have written a think piece on its final DLC, Afterbirth +, long ago. But, I wanted to get a feel for the game before I actually sat down to pontificate on it. It was a good thing I did that too because this game gave me a lot to think about.

Anyone who has played the game (or has just read the title and knows their bible stories) can tell you that Christianity is a running theme of the story. But, very few people discuss TBoI‘s associations to Satanism. Of course, one can infer that a story that praises or decries Christianity will likely be touching on Satanism by virtue of how the two are linked. But after doing some light research, I was shocked to see just how much there was to unpack.

First things first, I want to make it clear that this article takes NO OFFICIAL STANCE on either Christianity or Satanism as the superior moral practice. This is purely about comparing the two philosophies and putting them into a modern, progressive context so that everyone of any religious or non-religious background can benefit from it.

Secondly, I’d like to give a huge shout out to horror movie critic and open-practicing Satanist Jack ‘Count Jackula’ Shen for informing a lot of the research I did for this article – especially his semi-in-character rant on why he chose to convert to Satanism and his thoughtful debate on applying Satanic philosophy to social media. Even if you don’t buy into his beliefs, he’s still a funny and insightful man that I’ve supported for some time (you can actually see my name at the top of his credit rolls in his movie reviews from when I helped fund his new editing rig). I also wish to apologize to Jackula in advance if I’ve misinterpreted anything I may have gleaned from his discussions.

Getting back to TBoI, this new DLC gave us a pair of new main story endings that tie together with the previous endings and share a common theme; Isaac is found dead in his toy chest but is soon seen again walking through an empty field resembling the hills overlooking his house.

Another theme that pervades the game is Isaac’s guilt. Not only has he grown up in a VERY strict Christian household that reinforces the idea that he is evil and shames him for his sins, but the scenes that unfold suggest that he’s also from a broken home without a father and that he blames himself for his parent’s divorce. This guilt (or ‘sin’ if you will) manifests as a shadowy devil-like figure that lives inside Isaac and that he routinely becomes.

This is the core belief that both Christianity and Satanism share; all people, regardless of faith or lifestyle, are inherently flawed and ‘sinful’. The difference is that while Christianity believes that morality is to repress sinful nature and shame those who fail to do so, Satanism believes morality is to accept one’s sins as normal so that one can focus on doing right by themselves before moving on to others.

I propose the following; Isaac’s death is not a literal death. Rather, it’s the death of his ego. He’s finally grown up, come to terms with his ‘sinful’ flaws, and is ready to form a new, healthy moral code of his own rather than adopting the one he’s been force fed by family and a millennia old fable that, admittedly, is overdue for re-examination.

In short, Isaac has finally learned a lesson that is so often overlooked in both devout and non-religious lifestyles: Moral Relativism.

Now, am I preaching the virtues of Satanism over those of Christianity? Absolutely not. Firstly, Satanism eschews the idea of virtue by its definition (remember, it’s all about EMBRACING sin instead of repressing it). And secondly, I’m far too much of a free-thinking skeptic to accept any religious ideology entirely.

That said I do believe that good ideas can come from all religion; even one that embraces a figure that many consider the embodiment of evil (I guess that would make me a bit of an Agnostic Omnitheist, but I’m not one to care for labels). And I have to admit that the idea that we are all damned souls no matter what, while pessimistic, takes the painful edge off of our failures.

We can’t always be good people; it’s impossible. Eventually, you’ll be forced to do something that some will call ‘evil’ for the sake of yourself or another or that will make you question your own morality. However, you can always strive to be the best you can reasonably expect and not let yourself be deterred by your missteps.

You can’t be a good person. However, either by the virtues of God or by the sins of The Devil, you can be a decent one.

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The New Face of Evil: Revising The Deadly Sins

While having one of my philosophical chats at work, (you tend to find a surprising number of fascinating minds at a rest stop/welcome center) I came to a realization that the most famous list of what-not-to-do’s on earth – the seven deadly sins – is in dire need of an update.

The current deadly sins were conceived of back in the 4th century and our understanding of things has changed a great deal since then. So, like a tech geek scanning his software vulnerabilities, I’ll be going through and updating the sins to make a more modernized list of things you shouldn’t be doing if you want to avoid being an a-hole.

Lust

This one is just plain vanilla stupid…

You’re going to notice a pattern with most of these sins; that they attempt to curb bad behavior, but are defined too broadly to be practical. Lust is no different.

Lust seeks to control unbridled sexual desires and force sexual responsibility. However, sexual desire is also what promotes procreation and ensures the continuation of a species. It’s perfectly natural; let it do its job.

That said, the idea of responsibility – in regards to sex and in general practice – is a good idea. So perhaps what needs to be done here is just change the language around a bit to provide more focus on the real problem. The issue isn’t lust; it’s irresponsibility.

Gluttony and Greed

In the interest of logic and simplicity, I’m going to bundle these two together.

Gluttony and Greed, overconsumption and coveting material goods, are practices that seem good to avoid. But if you ever looked closely at the list, it seems far too strict.

Gluttony is the worst offender in this regard. Eating too expensively, eating too daintily, eating too much, eating too soon, and eating too eagerly are all considered gluttonous acts.

But in all honesty, shouldn’t you be allowed to enjoy the things you’ve earned? You bought the cool toys, you bought/raise the great food, and should be yours to enjoy.

Where gluttony and greed become a problem is when you have so much, but refuse to let others that are clearly in much more need than you partake in your excess. Hell, even five-year-olds know the importance of sharing.

So, let’s simplify and focus the list by combining these two into a new paradigm I call ‘uncharitably’.

Sloth and Envy

I’ll be combining both of these as well for reasons that will be made more obvious later on.

Sloth is a great big pain in the tailpipe to define as it covers several ‘bad behaviors’ from antiquity. Generally speaking these days, we liken it to laziness. And while I’d argue that a few days of rest should be allowed (no one can keep running at full steam forever), it’s actually pretty good as a sin and something to keep in mind.

Envy, on the other hand, is less forgivable.

Envy covers great desire – much like lust, gluttony, and greed – but subtracts the actual possession of the thing you desire. Already, this seems redundant and needs to be stricken. Not to mention, that the desire for something is often a driving force that pushes you to work for it.

However, when you stop to think about what happens when envy is allowed to grow IN THE PRESENCE of sloth, then you get a bunch of lazy MFers that want it all while everyone else does all the hard work (the ‘one-percent’ as we call them today).

So, once again, let’s create a new sin from these two and we shall call it ‘hedonism.’

Wrath

Okay, back to the singular sins…

At first glance, wrath DOES seem wholly bad. People tend to do stupid things when they’re angry after all.

But excluding anger from your life entirely is just as detrimental if not more so. I’ve gone on record saying that anger is what motivates people to fight against a system that’s hurting them and the ones they love.

So when is wrath a bad thing? When it causes you to harm innocent people. When your wrath becomes so great and goes untempered by compassion for so long that you are motivated to destroy property or unjustly harm lives – when you are moved to violence – that is when wrath does its worst.

Pride

And finally, we come to MY sin. I call it my sin because it is the one that I and, in my humble opinion, most creative personalities are ‘guilty’ of.

This is the one that started me on this philosophical track and all because I spoke one line; “Whoever called pride a deadly sin has never known the joy of creating something beautiful.”

There is nothing wrong with having pride in your work and what you do. It’s a feeling of accomplishment after a successful venture. No one should be robbed of that feeling.

Pride is only an issue when you allow it blind you to the truth; when you are so convinced that what you’re doing is right that you continue to push forward at the cost of yourself and others.

Of course, that’s not pride; that’s delusion – the presence of pride and blind faith without the guiding hands of insight and skepticism… and it is possibly the deadliest sin of all. One need look no further than the Nazi Party, the Ku Klux Klan, the Westboro Baptist Church, and Donald Trump supporters to see the dangers of delusion.

So, after all going through the entire list and making the necessary changes, I present you with my simplified and modernized list of…

The Five Deadly Sins

  • Irresponsibility – The act of seeking pleasure at the cost of self and others
  • Uncharitably – The refusal to give to those in need when your needs are more than adequately met
  • Hedonism – The desire for pleasure without the drive to earn it
  • Violence – The act of destroying property and/or life in cold blood
  • Delusion – The act of remaining willfully ignorant and unquestioning of the world

Now that’s a list, people! Simple, honest, and direct. Dante and Virgil could have made it through purgatory in time for the Red Sox game with a list like that. Plus, five is just a more psychologically pleasing number than seven.

Transhumanism: A Philosophical Question

Oh, give it up already. That pun’s too good to waste… or is it?
Source: Nerf NOW!!

It’s been a while since I sat down to wax philosophical and just let my mind wander in thought.

So recently, I played a quick one-shot game of Eclipse Phase with friends. This along with a recent Twitter post from Nash of Radio Dead Air has got me thinking about the nature of Posthumanism.

I think what fascinates me so much about Posthumanism as a philosophy is that there are so many schools that come at the problem of the human condition from different angles. Ideologies and theories like Antihumanism, AI takeover, and Voluntary Human Extinction take a more pessimistic view of humanity and sometimes even believe that we need to be removed for the sake of the planet’s well being.

More philosophical schools like Cultural Posthumanism and Philosophical Posthumanism seek to question the very notion of human nature while taking a closer look and the ethics of a life beyond humanity.

But the thing everyone has most likely associated with Posthumanism, and the thing I’ve been thinking about more these past few days, is Transhumanism – a movement/ideology that seeks to use science and technology to transcend our mental and physical limits; i.e., enhance our strength, halt aging, improve cognitive functions, etc.

Now, I know people on both sides of this debate. A lot of people are afraid that tinkering with the things that “make us human” (stem cell research, Synthetic Biology, etc.) is morally repugnant. But there’s also a more pragmatic way of thinking about this.

Every time the technology has arisen to improve how we do things, we’ve leaped at the chance to use it and incorporate it into our everyday lives. For the most part, this has meant the use of tools and improving them instead of ourselves.

Perhaps what is needed here is think of what we consider as “human” about ourselves as merely our psychological components (ego, personality, memories, etc.) and look at the body that houses them as just another tool to be improved on. After all, “human” is merely a title that we give ourselves and self-granted titles are totally subjective anyway.

Besides, don’t you want to have the power to graft a cybernetic exoskeleton to a quadriplegic person to make them walk again, alter our genome to fight genetic disorders, or slow/stop aging so you can play with your grandchildren for years to come? That seems like an awesome future to me.

But hey, this is about YOUR opinions as well as mine. What do you think about Transhumanism? Should we leave well enough alone and let nature run its course with us or is it our moral obligation to use science and technology to improve our minds and bodies anyway we can?