Is Sin a Religious Concept?

Before I answer the question, some context. I am having a discussion (which you can follow directly here) on homosexuality, persecution, righteousness and sin. I don’t normally ‘stick my oar in’ in situations like this, but upon reading the post, I felt compelled to offer up a reply.

I want to also add a caveat to this – I do not consider this person to be representative of all Christians and all people of faith. I don’t believe in tarring everyone with the same brush and won’t do so here. I have personally known several Christians who easily fall into the category of ‘most kind and gentle people I’ve ever met’.

In the course of our ‘chat’, I suggested that religion is responsible for a great many conflicts. The author of the site argues that religion is not responsible for conflict, but rather, that sin is.

My counterpoint to this would be that sin is a religious concept, and therefore religion, vicariously through sin, is responsible for a great many wars and conflicts over time.

To quote from the Encyclopaedia Britannica website:

Sin,  moral evil as considered from a religious standpoint. Sin is regarded in Judaism and Christianity as the deliberate and purposeful violation of the will of God. See alsodeadly sin.

Furthermore, the site also says:

In the Old Testament, sin is directly linked to the monotheistic beliefs of the Hebrews. Sinful acts are viewed as a defiance of God’s commandments, and sin itself is regarded as an attitude of defiance or hatred of God. The New Testament accepts the Judaic concept of sin but regards humanity’s state of collective and individual sinfulness as a condition that Jesus came into the world to heal. Redemption through Christ could enable men to overcome sin and thus to become whole. Both Christianity and Judaism see sin as a deliberate violation of the will of God and as being attributable to human pride, self-centredness, and disobedience. While insisting more strongly than most religions upon the gravity of sin, both in its essence and in its consequences, both Christianity and Judaism have emphatically rejected the Manichaean doctrine that either the created world as a whole or the material part of it is inherently evil. Christianity holds rather that evil is the result of the misuse of their free will by created beings and that the body, with its passions and impulses, is to be neither ignored nor despised but sanctified; in the Bible, the “flesh” that is spoken of disparagingly is not the human body but human nature in rebellion against God.

So sin, it would seem, is very much a religious concept to both Christian and Jewish faiths. The very first words from a BBC article on the subject state:

Original sin is an Augustine Christian doctrine that says that everyone is born sinful. This means that they are born with a built-in urge to do bad things and to disobey God. It is an important doctrine within the Roman Catholic Church. The concept of Original Sin was explained in depth by St Augustine and formalised as part of Roman Catholic doctrine by the Councils of Trent in the 16th Century.

Original sin is not just this inherited spiritual disease or defect in human nature; it’s also the ‘condemnation’ that goes with that fault.

Emphasis mine. It would appear that sin is an important religious concept after all.

In the wider context, does this mean that religious beliefs have contributed to wars and conflicts around the world?

The short answer is of course yes. To deny religious motivations behind the Crusades for example, is to be deliberately blind to what they were about (Christians and Muslims fought each other for the control of the Holy Land). The Troubles that blighted Northern Ireland were motivated, at least in part, by disputes between Protestants and Catholics, which in turn are the echoes of older conflicts (the British Civil War was also partly motivated by this).

For me, religion works best as a personal relationship, that doesn’t try to force its views upon others. A case in point would be attempts to justify discriminatory practices against homosexuals in the US, citing ‘religious freedom’. My opponent in the discussion in question has attempted to equate the poor employment laws that allow employers to dismiss someone purely because of their sexual orientation, with the suing of bakeries for refusal of services to homosexual couples, as though the two situations are one and the same. Clearly, they are not.

What’s more worrying is that my opponent does not consider the treatment of homosexuals in the Bible to be wrong – I quote directly:

Your point depends upon how you define the word persecuted as Christians have been truly persecuted while a lot of the treatment, in the OT, of the homosexual was by divine command.

There is even the equation of homosexuals with criminals:

Convicts have a saying: if you cannot do the time do not do the crime. If you cannot pay the price for being a homosexual then stop practicing homosexuality. Homosexuality is sin, wrong, abnormal, not right, whether you agree with that designation or not, and you will be treated accordingly.

I am probably fighting a losing battle here. There is a fundamentalist mindset at work that no amount of argument will shift. Nevertheless, I felt compelled to at least try. All too often, I scroll past sites such as these, only usually prepared to argue a point if someone else is already doing so.

I certainly feel I have made my point eloquently.


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2 comments

  1. Thank you, oh defender of us gays lol. Seriously though I truly enjoyed your post and am impressed with your research. It’s not easy living here in the so-called land of the free (USA) where I’m constantly being discriminated for being black, a woman, and a lesbian too! It’s nice to know that even people across the pond care about our plight here and it’s encouraging! Keep the great blogs coming. I’m enjoying reading them.

    1. Thank you for your kind words and simply for taking the time to read what I have to say! My next post may be dramatically different – I am about to (try to) make burgers.

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