What is sin

William: I take it that ever since the fall in Eden most sin has been boringly unoriginal since as Solomon observes “there is nothing new under the sun.”

Justine: What is your definition of ‘sin’ ?

William: You ask an inferior question. The useful question is “how has sin been defined by different cultures in different historical periods.” I do not personally have ‘my own definition of sin’ or I would not be able to study these comparative systems.

Justine: Yes, to be sure, sin differs in its particulars from religion to religion, but still always derives from a supernatural dictate. I was referring , however, to YOUR statement that most sin has been unoriginal. What definition of sin did you have in mind when you made that statement? Your reference to Eden suggests a judeo-christian definition, n’est pas? The reason I am so attentive to the mention of ‘sin’ is because it clearly has nothing to do with such values as kindness and generosity since the primary sin of the OT seems to be rejection of the deity. Moreover, neither kindness nor generosity are commanded in the Big Ten.

William: Justine, I do hope that you realize how my original status was said “tongue in cheek” as a joke, and I had Oscar Wilde in mind as I posted. (“I can resist anything except temptation.”) The other part of my joke is the old dispute between Augustine and Pelagius regarding tne concept that “the original sin of Adam and Eve” is transmitted through every generation. Pelagius argued that IF it were possible for the sin of one man, Adam, to affect future generations who never even heard of Adam, then surely Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection could “save” all future generations, even those who never heard of Christ. What I also had in mind I suppose is a number of old jokes about “who does what to whom how and when” in questions of sexual conduct. Also, the prankish spirit of adolescence which desires to do anything that seems forbidden and then, quickly becoming jaded and bored with sin that is old hat, moves on to stronger intoxicants and more outlandish and forbidden transgressions.

This would be a good question and a worthwhile exercise if it were asked by any number of people other than Justine Saracen who is always blinded by a big chip on her shoulder and hankering for a barroom brawl and frankly it is written all over your face. Such discussions quickly grow tiresome. In fact, knowing what little I do about you I imagine that you already have all your answers and convictions formulated so you question is a rhetorical one and not sincere, open-minded inquiry. I will give the question some thought and I may blog about it if I come up with something worthwhile to say (worthwhile for others since I doubt, Justine, that you value anything except your own views).

I was in a thread with a conservative who offered three scenarios and asked which would “make the people happy.” I challenged him as to what the word happiness means and how one should define it. Of course he argued that everyone has some intuitive understanding of the word “happiness.” But in the end I could not coax him to take a stand and the very simple question of whether he is happy or unhappy. By the same token everyone has some intuitive understanding of “sin.” Often people will say that a certain chocolate desert is “sinfully delicious.” We may speak of red blood or a red rose or a red wagon or a red sunset but when we try to speak of “redness in itself” then one encounters the problems of qualia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qualia

Justine: You had me interested in your response for the first half, and I thought we might actually be able to have an adult conversation. But then you went ad hominem again and attacked me personally as you have done repeatedly in the past. Sorry I bothered to comment at all. Since this appears to be your standard response to someone who does not applaud you, I see there is no point in keeping you in my network. You really are a nasty little man.

William: I cannot understand why you want to argue your grudges against the Bible which someone who is Hindu in his personal convictions, and basically over what was meant as a joke. I am being civil and candid in my appraisal of you and your style. I dont think you like being outed for what you really are.


Different thread:

This is an interesting thread and Jason and friend are interesting people. When I try to see Conservatives from Rand’s perspective and I consider that they feel everyone should pull their own weight and owe charity and welfare to no one then for me it logically follows that there should be some orderly provision for those who are insolvent and chose to end their own lives with physicians’s assistance and donate their organs to others who desire to continue living. There is a scene in the old movie “Soilent Green” where actor Edward G. Robinson decides to avail of such an assisted death and enters a chamber where he dies painlessly, regaled by visions of all the world’s splendor.

David: I know an Orthodox Christian priest who has been hearing confessions for 30 years. He likes to say “sin is boring.” He told me he once fell asleep during a confession because it got to be so tiresome to hear people say the same things over and over. It occurs to me that sin (hamartia, “missing the mark”) is indeed boring, but virtue (arete, “excellence”) is varied, creative and (at least potentially) interesting. Excellence is unique; sin is common. Excellence is proper to the person; “sin” is a function of the nature, although not intrinsic to that nature.

Willliam: @David, good points! I agree. After 50 or 60 years of drinking and smoking one comes to realize that it was really kind of dumb and boring. Poor Christopher Hitchens used to ENCOURAGE people to drink and smoke because after all God does not exist and there is no afterlife so one might as well squeeze every ounce of pleasure possible out of this our brief existence. Now that he is dying of cancer he has publicly stated that he retracts that advice. I suppose if we take God out of the Bible we are left with “wisdom begins in fear” and “the fool says in his heart [there are no consequences]” so it seems to me that Dostoevsky’s character in Brothers Karamazov is in error when he says “if there is no God then ALL is permitted.” As Paul said all is possible but not all is profitable. Even in a Godless world there are some ways that are more prudent and involve less suffering than other ways. Even in a Godless world there is some reason to work 20 years to cure the Guinea fire worm in Africa even if one does not live in Africa.


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