To Sin Is Human; To Forgive, Divine

We are told that sins are moral failings, rather than manifestations of unmet emotional needs. This distinction reflects an East-West schism about what our baser acts mean, and how to tend to them.

Anthony Fieldman

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Pilgrims outside Yemrehana Kristos Monastery, Ethiopia © Anthony Fieldman 2018

A fourth century ascetic monk named Evagrius Ponticus first penned them. A sixth century pope — Gregory I — later canonized them. And a thirteenth century theologian-turned-saint named Thomas Aquinas set them into the injunction we all know today as the Seven Deadly Sins.

They are, according to Christian orthodoxy, the seven most sinful behaviors that humans habitually suffer, and religious life is as much about avoiding or atoning for them it is about following the ten commandments that largely urge us not to give into the moral failings that the sins elicit.

The vast majority of global religions, encompassing nearly all humans — Christianity (2.3B), Islam (1.9B), Hinduism (1.2B), Buddhism (535M), and Judaism (14M), — all recognize our natural predisposition toward these vices, yet they diverge wildly on what to do about it.

They agree that these cardinal habits drive human crime, and share a list of our most egregious ones. Christianity’s ten commandments are echoed in Islam’s Quran, Buddhism’s five precepts and Hinduism’s five yamas. Don’t kill. Respect others. Don’t covet things or people. Abstain from sexual urges. Practice humility. Etc. They all implore us not to give in to our inherently sinful nature, as reflected in Ponticus’ list.

A Human Problem

I was thinking about the Seven Deadly Sins just yesterday, and frankly concluded that I am guilty of all of them, at times. And yet, I don’t think I’m a bad person. In fact, I think I’m rather like everyone else, with regard to my “unholy urges”. Sometimes I seethe. I binge food and drink. My eyes sometimes wander. I keep up with the Joneses. I brag and boast. I buy things I don’t need. And I love vegging out, especially after a long or stressful day. I do these things often enough that it has made me wonder whether I’m a unique failure in the eyes of religion-centric judgement, or rather, whether I’m just like everyone else, which is why theologies…

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Anthony Fieldman

Architect | Photographer | Writer | Philosopher | Polyglot | Windmill Jouster | Nomade Civilisée