Because I have zero inspiration (pics, but zero inspiration) for my next story post, y’all get to listen to me babble some more about my Sims’ religion. Lucky you! 😉
Oh — and on the off-chance any GOSers have managed to find their way to my blog but don’t know what’s wrong with GOS, you can get the lowdown at Nymphy’s blog and Jenfold’s blog. Long story short: TSR is the cow demon of the Simming community, but they won’t win this time!
Anyway, this section will cover sin, and rituals & sacraments.
Sin is defined by the Wrightian church as anything contrary to the Law of Wright, as described in the Book of Wright (and the numerous commentaries, explications, addenda, etc.). This covers quite a broad range of topics, ranging from lying to your mother about that cookie you weren’t supposed to eat all the way up to treason, heresy and murder. In general, though, a sin is something that causes you to be in disharmony with Wright himself or your fellow-Sims. These sins are divided into two broad categories: mortal sin and venial sin.
Mortal sin is extremely serious sin, the sort of sin that gets you damned instantly if you die with one unconfessed on your conscience. The big ones are murder, heresy, treason (will explain more about this below), consorting with demons (i.e., magic in the eyes of the larger Church), and certain types of sexual deviance, such as adultery and rape. Oath-breaking of any type could also be construed as a mortal sin, especially if the oaths sworn somehow involved the Lord Wright (if, for instance, they were sworn on the Book of Wright). The general rule of thumb is that the more harm — harm to other Sims, or harm to one’s own soul — a sin causes, the more likely it is to be considered a mortal sin.
However, a mortal sin cannot be committed unwittingly, or without a Sim’s full Free Will consenting to it. For instance, to borrow a nice line from Shakespeare, if you actually have “shot [your] arrow o’er the house / And hurt [your] brother,” or rather, killed him, that’s not a mortal sin — that’s a horrible freak accident. The same thing could be applied to adultery, such as, for instance, if the offending spouse thought the other spouse was dead, or was the victim of some kind of trick. The Church allows some leeway in matters of life and death: for instance, if someone is trying to kill you and you kill them instead, that’s not a mortal sin. Mortal sins can also be instantly forgiven, or rather never “counted” in the first place, if they’re committed in the course of avoiding another, graver sin: for instance, committing treason to avoid committing heresy. (Can you tell I’ve been watching The Tudors recently?) Lastly, the mentally incapacitated — mentally retarded, insane, possessed by magic — are incapable of committing a mortal sin, because their Free Will does not consent to it. Very young children are also held to be incapable of committing mortal sin, for their minds have not yet developed to the point where their Free Will can freely consent or not consent to mortal sin.
Venial sin is less serious sin, sin that won’t get you damned immediately, but may lead to you spending some time in a purgatory or limbo state if you die with it unconfessed. Venial sins don’t cause as much damage to either other Sims or to your own soul. Sins that might fall under this category include various types of overindulgence (overeating, overdrinking), skipping Church services, minor lies, petty theft, non-serious assault (i.e. a bloody nose or a black eye vs. putting someone in the hospital), and some types of sexual deviance, such as occasional fornication or homosexual acts.
Venial sin also covers “thought sins,” such as heretical thoughts that are never spoken aloud (except in the confessional), treasonable thoughts never spoken aloud or acted upon, and fantasies of killing your mother-in-law or committing adultery. Though it should be noted that, if you commit apostasy, even if it’s only in your thoughts, that’s a mortal sin.
The Sliding Scale of Sin
It should be noted that though some sins are almost always mortal and others are almost always venial, the consequences and motivations behind any act can affect whether it is a mortal sin or a venial sin. For instance, if a pickpocket steals a purse of coppers from a wealthy merchant, that’s considered a venial sin (particularly if the pickpocket had some extenuating circumstances involved in the theft). However, if the same pickpocket steals the same amount of money from, say, a widow — and if that amount of money represents her life’s savings — that would be a mortal sin. The wealthy merchant might swear a bit when he notices the theft, but otherwise shrug it off; but the widow is now destitute.
Furthermore, certain types of habitual venial sin can add up to a mortal sin. This isn’t to say that if you visit a prostitute on Monday, lie to your boss on Tuesday, punch your brother in the nose on Wednesday, steal a few coppers out of your mother’s purse on Thursday, get plastered on Friday, fantasize about sleeping with your neighbor’s spouse on Saturday, and sleep through Church on Sunday (you’ve had a busy week!), that by the end of the week you’ve committed a mortal sin. (Though, if this is what you do every week, your soul is probably in a lot of trouble.) But if, say, you make fornication a habit — or a profession — or if you make your living as a thief, or if you attend Church only rarely, by the end of the day, yeah, you’re committing a mortal sin. You’re continually thumbing your nose at Wright’s Law, and that is pretty much a definition of a mortal sin.
Some venial sins don’t add up, though — sins of overindulgence that harms only yourself (drunkenness, gluttony) and most thought sins. You can cheerfully reflect on how great it would be if somebody dropped a satellite on the king’s head, or what it would be like to do that hot young thang down the street, or plot to murder your boss as often as you like and it won’t turn into a mortal sin. Heretical thoughts, however, can turn into mortal sins if they morph from mere passing thoughts to actual beliefs, even if you never breath a word of them to anyone.
The Status of Witches and Other Supernaturals
I’m sure you noticed that I listed “consorting with demons” as a mortal sin, which, in the minds of most of the Church, puts witches and wizards squarely in the “mortal sinner” category. After all, most of the Church believes that magic is not natural, that it is instead the result of pacts made with demons to gain unnatural powers. However, there is some limited difference of opinion on this issue. Though the Book of Wright contains several inflammatory passages against witchcraft, recently (as in within the past 200 years of Glasonlander/Reman history), some daring theologians have pointed out the context of those passages. Each and every one of them deals with a witch or warlock using magic in an unabashedly evil way: causing disease, erasing memories, zombifying the dead. Furthermore, there are other passages praising early Wrightian “healers” and “chosen” who perform tasks very similar to those often performed by practitioners of the Light path of magic. Thus, these theologians theorize that magic itself is not inherently a sin, but rather the purposes for which it is put to use can also be sinful. Other members of the Church have simply observed that young children, certainly incapable of contacting demons and probably incapable of mortal sin, have also been able to perform limited feats of magic, giving credence to the idea that magic may be inborn. Thus, though the majority of the Church is still against magic, the opinion is slowly changing on that question.
Other supernatural Sims have not been so lucky. All the viral states (except zombism) give their “sufferers” certain advantages: Plantsims need only water, love and sunlight to survive; vampires have immortality and their motives don’t decay at night; werewolves are blessed with tremendous change in their altered state. (Of course, all the viral states have disadvantages, too, but the Church doesn’t pay much attention to them, except for when they’re useful for propaganda.) The Church sees these advantages as evidence that these viral states came about as the result of demonic intervention/bargaining, whether the Sim in question bargained him/herself with demons or not. Thus, though some sympathetic Church-folk will allow that Sims transformed unwittingly or against their will are not automatically in a state of mortal sin, a deep-seated prejudice remains.
Zombies, though there are no advantages (except no more aging) attached to the transformation, are also held to be highly suspect, partly because they have a bad reputation. Most of them are created by witches and warlocks that even the most liberal theologian would not hesitate to call pure evil, and often with demonic assistance. (Further, there is some debate within the Church over whether souls that have gone to Heaven can be called back in zombie form, thus rendering anyone who has become a zombie suspect in that regard.) Moreover, many of the zombies, because of their innate meanness, do not hesitate to do their evil masters and mistresses’ bidding — another strike against them. Thus, though individual zombies might get some sympathy from individual Church members, most of them are held up as little more than representatives of demons on earth.
Ritual and Sacrament
A religion without ritual is no religion at all, so of course the Wrightian faith has its fair share of ritualized activity. The most common is Sunday church service. Church service (which I will try, very very hard, not to call Mass because it’s really not a Mass) consists mainly of prayers and sermonizing, as well as hymns to spice things up. It lasts for about two hours on Sunday mornings, longer and with more rituals on holidays (“holy days”). An evening Sunday service is also held, though because of difficulties with travel, etc., this is optional.
Sims are expected to attend Church most Sundays and all important Church holidays. They can skip every now and again because of illness or other factors. Supernatural Sims often do not attend Church because of the hatred and prejudice they experience when they walk into the building. (Plus, services are held at hours suicidal for vampires.) The Church does not mind if they skip services, since it only confirms their ideas of the innate sinfulness of vampires, plantsims, and other supernaturals.
Aside from the weekly church services, the Church also recognizes six sacraments, defined by the Church as special moments in a Sim’s live visited by the grace of Wright. Three of these sacraments can only be performed within or under the direct auspices of the Church, while the other three can be performed by secular figures, though the Church or a Church member can and will perform a blessing to go along with all sacraments. The sacraments are baptism, confession, marriage, vows of fealty, holy orders, and last rites.
Baptism is generally the first sacrament a young Sim receives. This is the act of “claiming” a certain Sim for the Church and formally inducting them within it. In the early days of the Wrightian faith, most baptism were adult baptisms, since a) they were getting new, adult converts every day and b) baptism has the added benefit of washing away all sins previously committed. As the faith grew more established, however, the date of baptism kept getting pushed back farther and farther, until the present day, when infant baptism is generally practiced.
I should note before going further that the Wrightian faith, though they do believe that all Sims are innately prone to sin (which is, according to Wikipedia, the real definition of original sin), they don’t stretch that concept to believe that all Sims, even infants, are instantly damned due to that innate sinfulness if they aren’t saved by the Church. While the Church does believe that it is the only agent capable of providing salvation, this only counts for Sims capable of making a reasoned decision to accept or not accept the Church and its teachings — i.e., adults. Young children and, to some extent, the mentally impaired, are automatically saved by Wright’s mercy, since they’re not considered capable of fully accepting the Church’s teachings, or fully giving into sin.
That being said, infant baptism is still the norm for two reasons. 1) It can’t hurt. There is some confusion among the common believers whether baptism is strictly necessary for young children, but it can’t hurt to cover your bases. 2) Parental posturing. Baptizing an infant requires the parents to promise to raise the child in the Wrightian faith. Since it’s assumed that all parents will be doing that anyway, there’s no reason not to baptize — and to refuse to baptize would open the parent up to accusations of heresy and apostacy.
This sacrament is generally performed in a church, under the auspices of a priest or nun, but, in emergency situations, can be performed by any believer sprinkling a bit of water over the non-believer’s head and pronouncing them baptized. Note, though, that the baptism only “sticks” if this is what the non-believer wants.
Venial sin is inevitable to every Sim’s life. (Mortal sin, not so much.) Though, as mentioned above, many venial sins do not necessarily equal one mortal sin, it is a “fact” in the Wrightian worldview that many venial sins will bring the sinner farther and farther away from Wright. The only way to wipe the slate clean and return into the Lord Wright’s good graces is to receive the sacrament of confession. To do this, the sinner must go to a priest/monk (or nun, but usually a priest/monk), confess nearly all of what they have done wrong to the priest in a situation that at least attempts to preserve their anonymity, and then promise to a) follow whatever penance the priest gives them and b) make every effort to not commit that sin in the future. This all only works, however, if the sinner truly repents their actions, and is not merely following the ritual. (Note: The sinner only has to confess “nearly all” of their sins because both the ritual and Wright make allowances for normal forgetfulness. Accidentally forgetting to mention a minor sin is fine, but a major or minor sin intentionally held back will not be forgiven.)
Confession provides the Lord Wright’s grace in several ways. First of all, if performed correctly, it wipes the slate clean of all sins, even mortal ones. Secondly, frequent or regular confessions convey, in the Wrightian belief, the grace and fortitude necessary to avoid sin in the future. Either that, or having to regularly tell some holier-than-thou priest everything you’ve done wrong makes you eager to avoid having to repeat that particular ritual in the future!
Confession must be obtained at least once a year, starting around the age of ten or so. It can only be given by a priest/monk or nun. Though an actual church is the usual setting for confession, the sacrament can be dispensed anywhere, particularly in emergency situations.
Marriage is, in the Wrightian faith, when one man and one woman swear to love, honor, have, hold, etc., each other, forsaking all others, until death do they part. The reason why this is a sacrament is because the Lord Wright is part of the bargain: all vows are made to Him as well as to each partner.
Divorce/annulment is generally not an option in the Wrightian faith. In certain extreme circumstances — adultery, extreme cruelty — the Church may judge that Wright has dissolved the marital bond, generally setting one partner (but not the other) free to remarry; or rather, that the bond was never created in the first place, since Wright is omniscient and knew it would all end in disaster anyway.
A legally and formally cemented betrothal gives both marital partners certain rights (i.e., the right to each other’s beds), but it is not a full marriage until the vows have been said. Thus, one can extricate oneself from it, if desired. That being said, though, if a relationship has been consummated after a betrothal but before a formal marriage, the act of consummation is considered as binding the couple permanently together, the same as formal vows would.
The Church allows betrothals to take place at any age, and marriages to be cemented at as young as twelve. However, Albionese law forbids both from taking place until both partners are of legal age (18).
Marriage, since the vows are made between the couple and Wright, does not have to take place within a church — all that is necessary is a declaration of the vows, and witnesses. That being said, though, there is a special church service set up around the marriage ceremony, and members of the Church are only too happy to have weddings take place under their auspices.
Vows of Fealty
This is a catch-all term, since it also connotes the conferring of knighthood or the coronation of a king. In any case, these largely civil relations have been sacralized by the Wrightian faith. It works somewhat similarly to marriage; two parties — lord and vassal, knight and king, king and people — swear loyalty and devotion to one another, calling upon the Lord Wright to cement and assist their bond. Because of the sacramental nature of vows of fealty, treason is considered a mortal sin. Not only is it a crime against the social order, it is a crime against Wright Himself, since He has explicitly blessed and maintained this order.
Like marriage, this sacrament does not have to take place within a church or under the auspices of any Church member, though generally — especially in the case of coronations — a Church member orchestrates and presides over the ceremony, which includes a celebratory service. However, allowances are made for emergency situations — such as battlefield knightings and vows of fealty — though often the principle parties involved will request a Church service afterward to repeat the bond, a request the Church is generally only too happy to grant.
Holy Orders consists of a Sim joining a monastery or nunnery and vowing to live by their rules for the rest of his or her natural life. Rules for different monasteries and nunneries differ, but the big ones for monks are stability (i.e. not leaving), conversion of life (continuing to follow Wright’s word), and obedience. Nuns are generally sworn to poverty, chastity, and obedience. Monks, it should be noted, are generally expected to remain chaste and celibate, but there is far more tolerance for their sexual misadventures than for nuns’.
Entering into Holy Orders allows any monk or nun to hear confessions, perform last rites, preside over marriages and vows of fealty, and preach during Sunday or other services. (They can also baptize, but so can any believer.) Hearing confessions is the most unique and powerful of these roles. Though they cannot reveal what is heard in the confession, it is only through the monks and nuns that forgiveness can be granted. Besides, just knowing what powerful people have done wrong conveys a certain amount of power — the power to make the powerful squirm, or to impose penance that forces the powerful to go down a path favorable to the monk or nun. (This is generally frowned upon except in special circumstances, but hey, it happens.) That being said, monks have pretty much cornered the market on all powerful privileges, leaving nuns to do the dirty work of caring for the sick, the orphans, the destitute. Nuns do still hear confessions, though generally only of women — both because some women feel more comfortable confessing certain wrongs to another woman, and because no order of nuns allows or requests outside monks to perform their confessions.
Different orders of monks and nuns have different rules for entry and different periods of the novitiate. Obviously, this sacrament can only be reached under the auspices of the larger Church. Even those who go on to found their own orders generally enter holy orders in some other order.
Last rites is really a glorified confession, given when a Sim either is or seems to be in danger of dying Real Soon. It can also be performed shortly after a Sim has died. (“Shortly” can mean anything from “ten minutes after” to “before the body begins to stink” to “when the body is found” if this is a case of a missing person/murder victim; though most theologians consider that form of last rites good for little more than giving comfort to the family.) Because the Sim in question is often not able to respond, it may not be a full confession, and is usually a case of providing prayers and a blessing.
Because there is leeway for last rites to be performed after a Sim has died, this rite can only be performed by a member of the Church, though this doesn’t have to happen within a Church building. (Indeed, Church members would really rather not have this sort of thing going on in the churches; that could get real stinky real fast.)