Thursday, March 13, 2008

New Sins on the Block

The Roman Catholic Church has now recognized polluting, genetic engineering, drug abuse, abortion, pedophilia, and the widening gap between rich and poor as mortal sins. These are add-ons to the ever-popular "seven deadly sins": pride, envy, lust, anger, greed, sloth, and gluttony.

Mortal sins are sins of grave matter where the sinner is fully aware that the act is wrong but does it anyways. The act of committing a mortal sin cuts off the sinner from God's grace - if left unreconciled, mortal sins result in eternal punishment in hell.

I can't help feeling deeply dissatisfied with the idea of sin. One the one hand, it's fun to say: "Don't do that. It's bad. You better say you're sorry." On the other hand, it focuses too much on the negative. Sometimes, when you tell people: "Don't do that. It's bad." it makes it more attractive and they want to do it more. I'd rather that people get excited about what they can do to make this world a better place than to fret about what they shouldn't do.

Even Jesus pointed out, more than once, that focusing on people's sins leads to hypocrisy. As the story goes, it becomes hypocritical to single out individual sinners because everybody is a sinner.

Concentration on eternal punishment, and confessing your sin and getting absolution from a priest are distractions from actually doing the right thing.

Many protestants teach that, due to original sin, humanity blew it, and there is nothing that we can do on our own that will reconcile ourselves with God. But all is not lost because if we become receptive to God's will we can open ourselves to God's saving grace.

Mohammedans have an official list of seventy sins, among which are slandering a chaste woman, not praying, and charging interest.

Some Hindus believe that you can nullify the effects of sin if you chant the name of certain Hindu gods enough times. These gods are obviously starved for attention.

The whole idea of "sin" appears to engender an institutional world of lists and classifications: of the severity of the sin; of God's escalating punishments; and of our increasingly elaborate means of avoiding them. What a colossal waste of time and effort

If you take the problem of pollution and the gap between rich and poor - there is plenty that we can do to turn the situation around. Telling people that they are "sinners" just gets people's backs up. Confessing one's sins is indulgent and ineffective.

Stop worrying about how mortal a sin it is you've committed and commit yourself to lowering greenhouse gas emissions and helping to eliminate extremes of wealth and poverty!

When I see a "new" list of sins it makes me question the credibility of the concept. If you had to make a new list, that means that the old list was incomplete. Did these new sins suddenly come into existence? Because if people didn't know they were sinning, then they weren't really sinning were they? Only now it's supposed to be a sin because some Official Church Guy says it is. Give me a break!

Polluting the environment and enriching yourself at the expense of impoverishing others is wrong. But calling it a sin is lame and ineffective. It's a poor and roundabout way to motivate good behavior.

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