Sin : In
religion: A transgression of divine law
that offends God; a - wilful - violation of
The Latin "sons", to which "sin" is related,
means "guilty", but it seems that what is considered sinful - if
that and no other disapproving moral term is used - is supposed to be so
normally by reference to religious precepts, and indeed it seems
better to speak of something as bad or
evil if one strongly disapproves of
it for moral or ethical reasons without appealing to religious
principles or precepts.
Especially in the Christian traditions - both Catholic and Protestant
- the notion of sin has been very important, and theologians have spend
much mental acuity on its analysis.
The early Fathers of the Church, and the Catholics later,
distinguished between relatively minor venial sin and major
cardinal sins, a.k.a. as deadly sins.
The deadly sins were those that when not somehow absolved, always
with the beneficence and help of the Church, strongly tended to lead to
eternal damnation in the hereafter, and to religious persecution,
torture or burning in this life.
And in this life, the theological teachings about sin tended to give the Church and its
clergy (for the Protestants thought similarly) very great power over
their flocks of believers, and must have galled the lifes of many
millions, as it also helped persecute and kill many persons whose
beliefs or practices were not liked by the worthies of some Christian
Being systematically minded, the early Fathers and later theologians
distinguished seven deadly sins in contrast with the seven main
Here is a table, given both
deadly sins and holy virtues, and both the Latin and
the English terms:
Seven deadly sins
Seven holy virtues
All of the terms in the table can be
explained in various
ways, and with more or less plausibility. Indeed all have been
explained in quite a few ways, in various Christian sects, and with
justifications, but it is noteworthy that they can not be found,
as such, in the Bible, though this has some parallels; that in the above
table they are placed, for sins, in the order from worst evil to least
evil (amongst the deadly sins); that accordingly, for virtues, the
order is from most good to least good; and that the initial letters of the
deadly sins, when made into a Latinate term "Saligia", has for many
centuries served as a mnemonic.
However they have been explained, it seems that these notions of
sin and virtue have been a mostly Christian system of moral dos and
donts that gave enormous power and
clergy to interfere in the
lives of others, in the name of
God and with reference to His powers
of conferring eternal damnation or infinite bliss.
It is also an interesting fact that the Christian theologians have all held,
very humbly of course, that
pride is the main deadly sin, which also is an extremely convenient
teaching to uphold the power of the churches, and to please the pride
and pretensions of their priests and
In contrast, here is an unbeliever on the subject:
Enjoy and give pleasure, without doing harm to yourself or to
anyone else - that, I think, is the whole of morality.
Though possibly too simple as well, this seems a more reasonable and helpful instruction how to live well than the teachings
of the churches.
And in any case, it should be remarked about the notion of sin,
especially when it is connected with threats with hellfire and eternal
burning in the name of an infinitely benevolent omniscient divinity, and
most especially when this kind of religious teaching is imposed as true
and desirable on small children, who cannot rationally defend
themselves, that this seems very immoral to the present writer.