Axver (axver) wrote,

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A rejection of the concept of sin.

In religious discourse, especially the Christian discourse with which I am quite familiar and shall focus upon in this entry, there is a heavy emphasis on the idea of "sin". It is taken as a given, as a self-evident reality that requires no explanation or justification. We are all sinners; we have all fallen short of the glory of God; we all deserve to be punished for our sins - how many times have each and every one of us heard religious people tout such claims? At least in my experience, it is commonplace for this to be uncritically accepted as true. I have even had family members who are almost totally unconcerned with religion state that "yeah, we all stuff up, we're sinners". This has illustrated to me the pervasiveness of the idea of "sin".

I, however, put forward this: "sin" is merely an ancient explanatory tool. In its basic conception, it seeks to understand the finitude and limitations of human existence. It furthermore compares humans, finite beings, with a concept of an infinite, unlimited being, and this comparison is essential to traditional definitions of sin as a transgression, the failure of a finite ("imperfect") being to achieve the standards of an infinite ("perfect") being. This concept is then further clarified by individual religions, each of which puts forth its own moral code of purported divine origin. The religion, be it Christianity or Islam or Bonocannotsingism, asserts that a failure to fulfill this code or any breach of it (whether knowingly or not) constitutes sin. A believer is thus locked into the code, especially when the code has cultural predominance. The development of a personal moral code or an intellectual process of acceptance or rejection of the religion's moral code is stultified. To draw on yesterday's entry, "sin" accordingly not only provides individuals with explanatory tools to understand their own existence, but also gifts elites with considerable socio-political power potential. Anyone who deviates from the divine moral code can be demeaned as an unsavoury character, viewed as inferior, and marginalised. Discrimination, such as that against homosexuals, thus becomes acceptable as they are viewed as a lesser "other". The concept of sin is inherently hierarchical, with the finite "sinners" beneath the infinite deity, and those who are unrepentant of their finitude beneath those who repent of their finitude.

Repent of their finitude? It sounds absurd, doesn't it? This is why I have a deep problem with the pervasiveness of the "sin" concept. People are told that simply for existing, they must repent. They need to be sincerely sorry for their failure to achieve the perfection asserted to belong to the infinite, unlimited being. Calvinism's concept of "total depravity" is a particularly extreme example, though as "original sin" a slightly less destructive version permeates much of Christianity. The individual is seen as less than dirt, and without repenting of their sin (that is, their finitude, the inherent nature of their very existence), God will consider them worthless and condemn them to Hell or at least annihilation.

To avoid this absurdity, Christianity must be either rejected or radically reconceptualised in a universalist paradigm that denies both eternal punishment and annihilation. I do not see any benefit in telling someone - of any age, but especially children - that they are a "sinner". This explanatory tool is more destructive than it is useful. Instead of affirming the potential of the individual, it denies the worth of the individual. It is contrary to ideas of universal human rights, of human dignity, and of human ability. To view people as innately hellbound due to no fault of their own (that is, they did not ask to exist as finite beings) is absurd, irreconcilable with conceptions of God as loving, and in violation of all reason and compassion.
Tags: christianity, explanatory tools, human rights, religion, sin, theology

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