Seven Sins by Hartwig HKD
Seven Sins by Hartwig HKD via Flickr

In early religion, Sin was a Mesopotamian moon god, also called Nanna. His cult was most prominent at the Sumerian cities of Ur and Harran. Bestowing light in the dark, Sin maintained justice through the night hours.

In Catholic theology sin is any thought, speech or action that transgresses the law of God, where one chooses to enact personal will that conflicts with God will. St. Augustine is often quoted by Catholic writers:

Something said, done or desired that is contrary to the eternal law.¹

The Catholic Church breaks the idea of sin up into several categories, the most important being:

The general idea of sin is widespread but understood differently among world religions. There are three main emphases:

Saint Augustin et Sainte Monique
Saint Augustin et Sainte Monique (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today, believers in God concerned with ethical action are faced with a dizzying array of prescriptions on how to do the right thing and avoid sin. When all is said and done, it seems the most sensible approach to living right and avoiding sin is to follow one’s own conscience, lived experience and personal reflection.

However, many seem unable to grow into mature adults and prefer to defer to some perceived authority, distant or near, for guidance on how to live.²

This arguably schoolboy or schoolgirl approach to ethics may afford psychological comfort. After all, when you let some organized leader or group tell you what to do, you gain a ready-made personal identity and sense of community (even if the latter is, perhaps, largely imaginary). But for those willing and able to embrace the degree of freedom and responsibility required to make up one’s own mind, off-the-rack ethics just isn’t an option. Prefabricated ethics often seem immature, hypocritical, and arguably fall short of our true human potential.²

¹ St. Augustine, Con. Faust 22.27 cited in Catholic Bible Dictionary, ed. Scott Hahn, 2009, p. 850.

² Many Christians use the word Sin with pretty clear connotations. But the original Hebrew and Greek terms (that actually occur in the earliest versions of the Bible) are not quite so simple). See Greek and Hebrew words for Sin.

³ See comments on this complex issue.

Related Posts » Adam, Calvinism, Contemplation, Donatism, Eden, Fasting, Felix culpa, Jainism, Jesus Christ, Madonna, Milton (John), Virgin Mary


  1. I enjoy many of these posts …thanks 🙂

    I wonder though, if “one’s own lived experience and reflections upon it” happen to be based on some “perceived authority, distant or near” …does that not of itself provide justification? That is, wouldn’t it also be considered a sensible approach if a person experiences a full and lived life even though they’ve conceded to some perceived authority during that life?

    I’d suggest that submitting to some perceived authority needn’t necessarily be a sign of immaturity, and that a life full of experience and reflection can be had in many different ways.


    • Thanks Troy. You’re right. It’s my exposition that could be improved. I guess I was implying that some immature people don’t see through a perceived authority that isn’t, in fact, in line with God’s will.

      If, however, the perceived authority is genuine, then yeah, no probs. Adult.

      I guess this brings in the whole issue of discernment.

      And there’s another wrinkle. The Catholic nun, Sister Faustina Kowalska, wrote that “holy obedience” (to her superiors who were sometimes crabby and petty) was of utmost importance. I respect Faustina very much and believe she was a real saint.

      But that kind of approach might not be for everyone. As you say… “a life full of experience and reflection can be had in many different ways.” Point taken. I’ll have to revise this entry asap.


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