Monday, March 19, 2012

Misused and Abused: Sin

I can't count the number of times I have come across the term "sin" being used as if it meant unethical, immoral, or criminal behavior. It is possible that any or all of those could be involved (generally by coincidence) but they are not synonyms of sin. Sin has an expressly religious meaning.

According to The Perennial Dictionary of World Religions sin is:
"Anything, including attitudes, actions, or omissions which separates a person from God. It is a theological or religious term in distinction to crime, a legal concept. Most conventional definitions such as 'disobedience' or 'rebellion against God' are too limited in scope."

I fail to see any reasons beyond ignorance and laziness to use sin in such a general and erroneous manner. The media should certainly not used it the way it frequently does. There are a variety of better more accurate terms that can and should be used. The constant use of sin only accomplishes dumbing down discourse and reinforcing a number of myths and stereotypes.

Ironically, it is possible to interpret this and other definitions of sin to mean that atheists by their nature are incapable of sin. The tense of the definition implies that is to become separated that results in sin. If you are already separated you can't become so at any future point. Therefore, I cannot sin. I have also heard others define sin as a "losing of God's way." Again, I cannot lose what I never had and therefore am completely without sin.

I would also point out a contradiction that arises from the basic premise. If the church insists that we are all born with sin and need Jesus to absolve us how do the basic definitions of sin not become a contradiction. If theology insists we are all connected to God to begin with how can we then be born with sin?

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