Religious beliefs : contributions to the greater good

Interested in hearing about how people think in regards as to how various religious/spiritual beliefs contribute in distinct ways to “the greater good” This idea was created as a way to look at the good side of all religious/spiritual beliefs and how they can all cooperate together to provide for the betterment of humankind, each playing a role which caters to certain types of cultures, environments, and ways of thought. The resulting products are unqiue and combine together to work towards a common goal. This goal is looked at differently by the various belief structures, yet in some ways is shared when applied to the concept of “the greater good” How can this concept be summerized and how do various religious/spiritual beliefs contribute to it? Here is a brief summary of my opinion.
“The greater good” is first characterized by the adherence of destructive conflict between living beings. A general wish for living beings is to be able live thier lives in peace with thier environment, safe from bodily and mental harm. Secondly, it is a general wish for living beings to be able to live in a state of happiness or satisfaction, this requires cooperation and the willingness to share and promote this state among living beings.
I will give some short examples here, starting with the most popular religions(more to be added later)
Christianity promotes love as one of its main tenants. This concept of love, initiated as a relationship between the self and the creator, extends to his creations, generating a sense of care for the well-being of others.
Hinduism is known for its philosophies and traditions, which first created the concepts of reincarnation and karma. One must work in the current life to refrain from doing harmfull things and generate merit by doing good deeds.
Islam is a faith in total surrender to God, trusting in his teachings and striving to give up the faults of the self. A deep sense of responsibility and duty for the care of others is instilled in these beliefs.
Buddhism holds the idea of compassion as the core of its beliefs. Compassion is the highest state and ideal for humans to hold in thier lives in order to encompass the traits of Buddha.

I wasn’t sure about a couple of your sentences. The sentence ‘“The greater good” is first characterized by the adherence of destructive conflict being living beings’ seems to have some syntactical difficulties. But I think I managed to get the basic idea.

Christianity contributes to the greater good by promoting:

  • Family stability
  • Honesty in personal relationships
  • Delayed gratification
  • Charity
  • Personal responsibility
  • Care for the environment
  • Respect for life
  • A rejection of violence as a method of conflict resolution
  • Chastity (covering a broad range of sexual discipline)
  • Knowledge of the world around us

Satanism contributes to the greater good by promoting

*personal responsibility
*honest selfishness
*the view of man as animal
*horror movies
*exposure / mockery of the lies and hypocrisy underlying other religions

SJ, I think you have to sort of actually demonstrate that the list you provide is a valid example of promoting the greater good. The key tenets of satanism are aimed at promoting personal good heedless of others. Perhaps you were thinking of wicca.

Some would argue that society works better on this basis. Certainly Satanists enjoy social relations, man being a social animal, but as LaVey says, “If you can’t hate, you can’t love.”

Okay then, Wicca. What have they done for the world?

*shown their tits while dancing around the bonfire
*encouraged a “roll your own” approach to religion which some find liberating
*supported the incense, quartz crystal, and tarot card industries
*inspired fine films like “The Craft” and TV shows like “Sabrina”

On the other hand, I’m not sure I approve of all that feminism and environmentalism stuff they’ve got going on there.

You know what? Satanism and Wicca are not that different. They have common social origins in eccentric British occult revivalists and their California-based heirs. Both intentionally adopted a name which is calculated to shock, as well as various ritual elements based on kink and perversity. Their theories of, and controversies about, magic are similar.

Lavey Satanism to me seems like some sort of swingers club for overly pretentious people.

It’s a lot easier to fall into hypocrisy when one is trying to adhere to a high standard for moral behavior. If your personal social code consists of making sure your needs always come first then of course it’s a lot easier to adhere to that. It’s a lot easier to be selfish then to be generous and charitable.

Very true. And they’re both inherently selfish. They’re simply devices to justify enjoying oneself and rebelling against society. Both of them emerged as reactionary movements against social pressures.

Yes, it was a bit of a joke which was taken too seriously.

Well said.

Sorry about the earlier typo. You bring up some good examples fortigurn, perhaps its time to expand our definition of “the greater good”. Beyond care and respect for others, and the avoidance of violence, most belief systems also carry with them a set of moral & ethical guidelines. Things like honesty, chastity, responsibility for one’s actions, and personal restraint are things that fall under this category. To bring another belief system into comparision, Daoism is one which places a high standard on ethics and morality. It focuses on teaching how one can avoid extreme notions and hold on to a neutral, impartial, and balanced view. In order to act in accord with the essence of things, one gives up self-absorbed desires and dogmas, striving to understand the true nature of reality.

Satanism and Wicca particularly are misunderstood belief systems that were partially formed in response to oppressive dominance by other religions. Because of this, they have allowed those who were unable to accept the prevelant religions to create and become a part of an alternative. At least in this sense they have a structured belief system which provides for the possibility of organizing communal guidelines for behavior and thought. While they may focus more on personal self interest and gain, it does not mean that they have excluded themselves of any sense of “goodness”. The individualism and creativity which you represent in your examples Screaming Jesus, are things which have contributed towards society by means of promoting new ideas and ways of thought. While they may not be in accordance with other ethical and moral systems, it is hard to weigh these beliefs against the standard of “Good”. So far we have only defined it in my first and second propositions. If you can provide more examples of satanist and wiccan belief, we can evaluate them more clearly according to definitions we wish to establish for “Good”.

A Satanist might say that his is actually a more difficult path than that of bending the knee to conventional morality. But Satanists (and witches) vary a lot in their beliefs. Besides, there is much more to religion than belief.

On reflection, perhaps we should be distinguishing between past, present, future, and claimed contributions to society. (Once we determine what would count as a contribution.)


If by “Daoism” you mean the actual religion of Chinese people, as opposed to Winnie the Pooh, then aside from the aesthetic dimension (temple architecture, street parades) I fail to see any redeeming virtues in the local folk religion. To me it consists mainly of superstition, fund-raising, and brown-nosing.

I think the path of a Satanist was a lot more difficult in the past when conventional religion had much larger political and social power, but in these days it seems like the values of Anton Levay (sp?) Satanism are basically the norm for the modern day West. China is doing a good job of catching up to that though.