Friday, July 12, 2013

Sin or No Sin

Do you think about sin?  Probably not – I think very few people do.  In fact many people might be hard pressed to even define sin even in a biblical context.  Essentially within the Judeo-Christian context sin is simply the act of violating God’s will or anything that violates the relationship between an individual and God.  But what is God’s will and what – precisely is the relationship between a person and God?  These are rather vague terms when you examine them, yet the Bible is very specific in what constitutes a sin. 613 commandments.  But all of these sins are in reference to God and those who believe in the Judeo-Christian God.  What about Atheists and those who don’t believe in God – can they sin?  What about the Seven Deadly Sins?  Are they sins of the soul or of the body?  What about the Ten Commandments, these were given to Moses directly from God and are honored by the world’s three great religions do these apply to atheists?  Is the denial of God a sin in itself?

The first commandment “Thou shalt have no other Gods before me” seems clear enough but does that apply to humankind or just to Jews, Christians, and Muslims?  A great many people in the world don’t fall into those categories and do not recognize this as God’s commandment.  Are they all sinners and condemned by a God they do not recognize?  This first of God’s commandments seems to assume that everyone believes in some god, but that they must honor the God described in the Bible and Koran first and above all other gods.  So perhaps it can be concluded that atheism is itself a sin and a violation of God’s commandment.  So the answer must be yes – Atheists can sin.

The second commandment is more interesting because it is rarely expressed in its entirety.  According the King James Bible the second amendment states”
Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.  Thos shalt not  bow down thyself to them, nor serve them for I the Lord they God am  jealous God, visiting the inequity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me. And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments
Normally what you see is just the first phrase and not the entire commandment.  Both Islam and Judaism follow this commandment scrupulously but do Christians?  Is the ubiquitous Cross a graven image?  What of the icons, statues, and various images that abound in Christian Churches?  What about the Catholic Saints – are they gods and graven images?  Of course the claim is that these are not graven images or gods to be prayed to but simply symbols celebrating God and their faith in God – a fine line. But these commandments are from God and violating them would be a sin – if you believe in God and His commandments.  But what if you don’t?  What about the Seven Deadly Sins?
These may have their roots in the Bible and have evolved from that but they were first articulated in the fourth century by John Cassian.(  How these are defined has evolved over the years so they may be rooted in religion but today they are more sins of the body than sins against God.   But the question remains – what is sin and can sin be defined outside of a religious reference?  Can a person sin if he does not believe in the existence of God?
Of course there is probably no real answer to any of these questions, but it is my opinion that all sins are sins against God’s mandate and those who do not believe in God can not only sin but their disbelief is their first sin and that sin is pride. 


Mark Read Pickens said...

For two years, I lived with George Hamilton Smith, author of Atheism: The Case Against God. During our many conversations, I came to realize I have a blind spot.

I've been an atheist since I've been old enough to think, remembering being quite clear about it when I was ten. Not only do I not understand why anyone would believe in God, I don't understand why anyone would want to do so.

George, on the other hand, believed God existed until his mid teens and does understand that desire.

One point of clarification. Many people use the term "atheist" to only refer to someone who disbelieves in a deity, but I find it more useful to use the term to mean anyone who does not believe in the existence of God, which includes (but is not limited to) people who disbelieve.

(In mathematical terms, the set "nonbelievers" wholly includes the set "disbelievers.")

One can only sin (miss the mark or commit error) from a particular perspective. An action that a fundamentalist Christian sees as a sin is not seen as a sin from another person's point of view.

Royce said...

The existence or non-existence of God has been debated endlessly with no resolution because it comes down to belief. The true irony is that it requires as much belief to not believe as it does to believe. A lot of "science" is faith based.