I’ve found myself talking and thinking a lot lately about the idea of “sin”. I don’t believe in “original sin”, or damnation, but I do think there are moral imperatives. How can this be so? Well, I’ve got a few hundred words to explore that.
I believe in evolution. Maybe it was guided. Maybe it was “destiny”, and maybe it was a freak accident. In any case, I think that humanity is what it is because this is the best we’ve been able to cook up in the course of Natural Selection. We are social. We are flexible. We are egotistic. Part of our existence is balancing the good and bad points of all that we are. As such, morality is based, at least largely, in what makes things better for society and helps the species continue to grow and advance.
This is why I think of sin as being an action, taken deliberately, which harms the advancement of humanity. To me, sin is “that which causes harm or intentionally disrupts society for purely selfish or malicious reasons, or failing to help end such actions when you have the ability.”
Please realize that these are three separate clauses, and causing harm unintentionally is still bad, though simple disruption by accident should be over looked. Causing harm by inaction is still wrong, and no one should feel good about doing nothing in a time of need. Also, please note that I judge only actions. Your thoughts are your own, and to some degree are impossible to control. We can learn to temper them, and we can adjust our attitude, but some things make you happy, and some are annoying; what matters most is how you act on them.
This idea protects both the individual and society; essential freedoms are yours, and most actions can be permitted as long as you are not intruding needlessly on the freedoms of others or the necessary flow of society. Society can be challenged, as long as it is done to goad us into improving what it means to be human.
I think it is important to say that, while this definition rejects simplistic rules like “sex is bad”, it still, takes personal responsibility into account. The damage done by wanton disrespect for partners can be huge; both emotionally and physically. Unwanted pregnancy, STDs, and the distress that comes with feeling used, abandoned or lied to can’t be ignored as acts which harm others.
So, while I have a very liberal view on the idea of sin, I still take it very seriously. My bigger point, though, is that we shouldn’t focus on sin. We should concentrate on doing good. In my theology, working to avoid sin leads to doing good.