When does music start to be sinful?

Where are the boundaries of music? When does it start to be sinful? If the music promotes a lifestyle not compatible with Christianity can it be a sin? What about songs with lyric about sex? Should we care about how the author lived or is the only thing that matters his work?

It is a shady area and people will probably have very different opinions, but I would like to know what’s the ‘Catholic’ consensus on this topic. Thanks for all the answers!

Music is what it is, kind of like art.
There is a lot of music that I like and a lot of music that I do not like.

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Looking in from a non-Christian perspective (who has read many of these debates about music on CAF!), I think the answer really is “it depends”. If music is likely to lead you away from your religion, it’s something you may want to reconsider listening to. But some feel secure in their faith to listen to such music. Everything is really what you personally feel comfortable listening to - some don’t care about the life of the author, some do. But from this non-Catholic, non- Christian I don’t like listening to songs with lyrics about sex because they’re mostly tacky and unnecessary, IMO, and I can’t help myself but to care about the life of the author. Sometimes it matters to me more than other times.

There isn’t a Catholic consensus on this. I guess if you’re really unsure you should ask your Priest.

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  1. When the lyrics blaspheme, then it’s sinful.

  2. When it denigrates people, such as by having very explicit pornographic lyrics, then it’s sinful.

  3. If 1 and 2 don’t apply, then when and if the music starts motivating the particular listener to sin, then the particular music is sinful for that person. It may not be sinful for the person next door who isn’t moved to sin by it.

Most of the “sin” problems with music these days are with the lyrics. Music, as in the tones and notes themselves, is generally not considered sinful. It’s not like if it uses certain minor tones it’s all of a sudden demonic.

I also doubt there is going to be a “consensus” on this topic except when it comes to blasphemy and pornographic lyrics being bad. Even then, people will argue about what is actually blasphemy (many seemingly “anti-religious” songs are actually protesting the hypocrisy of some religious people) and pornography.

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Opinions don’t matter. I was sitting in my car at a red light. A car pulled up next to me with the music so loud that the whole car vibrated.

No profanity.
No disrespect of women.
No pop a cap in yo a**.
No other sexually perverse lyrics/words.

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I’m so happy someone asked this because it’s been on my mind recently! I know that we should stay away from dirty songs and any sort of blasphemy in songs, but recently I found a song that had lyrics about “dancing with the dark” and to “make it an art”. I listened to it for some time but yesterday while I was praying in church, it got me thinking: “would Jesus think it’s a good idea to ‘dance WITH the dark’”? The artist never said it meant satan, but symbolically, it’s kinda the same thing. It just didn’t feel right for me, a Christian girl who wants to grow closer to Jesus, to embrace her dark side.

All in all, I’d say to stay away from any music that you think is harming your soul or won’t lead you to a good place. Don’t even get me started with some of the music kids are listening to these days! Most of it is total garbage. Listen to uplifting songs that make you happy, or listen to a song that you can relate to!

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Even if the lyrics aren’t bad, playing music that loud around me is likely to be an occasion of the sin of anger… and I dare say for a lot of others too.

A few (maybe optional) standards I can think of when deciding what to avoid are:

  1. Avoid things that would detract from the sacred. By that I mean lyrics that would create mental associations that would distract you when trying to engage the sacred.
  2. Anything that could lead to lust. This would also extend to music videos, some of which can be rather sickening.
  3. Any song that might be used as a way to fuel anger against God, particularly in moments when you’re struggling with faith.

One thing all of those have in common is that the song can lead you to actual sin. So basically, just avoid what may lead you to sin, but the above three are, in my experience, the most obvious ways.

I guess the main concern otherwise would be actual occult influences in the lyrics. As an example, Dimmu Borgir’s Abrahadabra is basically a love letter to Aleister Crowley, even down to its name. In contrast, Carach Angren’s Dance and Laugh Amongst the Rotten makes clear references to occult practices but presents them as avenues of evil meant to drive the album’s story. Personally, I would steer clear of the former, but I have no problem with the latter.

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Avoid whatever leads you to sin.

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This is why I tend to stick to listening mostly to instrumental music only.

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