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Word Gems 

exploring self-realization, sacred personhood, and full humanity


 

Sin

 


 

“I find something repulsive about the idea of vicarious redemption. I would not throw my numberless sins onto a scapegoat and expect them to pass from me; we rightly sneer at the barbaric societies that practice this unpleasantness in its literal form. There's no moral value in the vicarious gesture anyway. As Thomas Paine pointed out, you may if you wish take on a another man's debt, or even to take his place in prison. That would be self-sacrificing. But you may not assume his actual crimes as if they were your own; for one thing you did not commit them and might have died rather than do so; for another this impossible action would rob him of individual responsibility. So the whole apparatus of absolution and forgiveness strikes me as positively immoral, while the concept of revealed truth degrades the concept of free intelligence by purportedly relieving us of the hard task of working out the ethical principles for ourselves.” Christopher Hitchens, Letters to a Young Contrarian

 

Editor's 1-Minute Essay: Sin

 

 

 

 

 

Editor's note: I must apologize to my readers. Normally, on this initial page of topic-quotations, you would expect to find some worthwhile reading, an eclectic batch of thought-provoking comments. They don't seem to exist on this subject of "sin."

After reviewing a large number of quotes, I finally gave up as my effort had little to show for itself. Several quotations offered below, far from exemplars of wisdom, were selected as examples of the sorry state of thinking on this subject.

Christopher Hitchens had something sensible to say, reminiscent of my own comments to be found on the "Jesus" main page; but most, so many, of the statements on "sin" express a shocking surfeit of nonsense, a banal rehash of ancient superstitious religious bunk and babble. Patent error, such as:

  • Satan is out to get us
  • God hates sinners and has no choice but to punish them
  • the death of someone else cleans us up
  • God is angry with the world all the time
  • the Bible will keep us from sin
  • blood takes away our sins
  • sinners will suffer in hell-fire

Suffering in hell just might be preferable to being with some people vaporing on this subject.

  •  Mark Twain: "Heaven for climate. Hell for society."

Twain is very sarcastic here, but he speaks to the pompous and unreal world of "churchianity."

I could go on listing common errors concerning "sin," but there's little point; all of these are addressed with some detail in other Word Gems articles. In a world of very bad ideas, the subject of "sin" needs to win a special prize for more rubbish per square foot than almost any other topic.

Allow me to offer invitation to read my "Editor's 1-Minute Essay" on this most-misrepresented area of life.

One good thing, though - this page allowed me to highlight one of the funniest zingers I've ever heard; see the humor of Paul Lynde below.

 

 

Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray: “You will always be fond of me. I represent to you all the sins you never had the courage to commit.”

John Green: “Some tourists think Amsterdam is a city of sin, but in truth it is a city of freedom. And in freedom, most people find sin.”

Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird: “Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corncribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”

 

 

Hollywood Squares game show

 

 

Q. Envy, sloth, gluttony, lust, pride, and a few others are commonly referred to as what?

Paul Lynde: Oh, that would be the Bill of Rights!

 

 

Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov: “The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to such a pass that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love, and in order to occupy and distract himself without love he gives way to passions and coarse pleasures, and sinks to bestiality in his vices, all from continual lying to other men and to himself.”

Samuel Beckett: “The only sin is the sin of being born.”

Peter Kreeft, Jesus-Shock: “We sinned for no reason but an incomprehensible lack of love, and He saved us for no reason but an incomprehensible excess of love.”

Gloria Steinem, The Vagina Monologues: “No wonder male religious leaders so often say that humans were born in sin—because we were born to female creatures. Only by obeying the rules of the patriarchy can we be reborn through men. No wonder priests and ministers in skirts sprinkle imitation birth fluid over our heads, give us new names, and promise rebirth into everlasting life.”

Christopher Hitchens, Letters to a Young Contrarian: “I find something repulsive about the idea of vicarious redemption. I would not throw my numberless sins onto a scapegoat and expect them to pass from me; we rightly sneer at the barbaric societies that practice this unpleasantness in its literal form. There's no moral value in the vicarious gesture anyway. As Thomas Paine pointed out, you may if you wish take on a another man's debt, or even to take his place in prison. That would be self-sacrificing. But you may not assume his actual crimes as if they were your own; for one thing you did not commit them and might have died rather than do so; for another this impossible action would rob him of individual responsibility. So the whole apparatus of absolution and forgiveness strikes me as positively immoral, while the concept of revealed truth degrades the concept of free intelligence by purportedly relieving us of the hard task of working out the ethical principles for ourselves.”

Francis Chan, Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God: “God is the only being who is good, and the standards are set by Him. Because God hates sin, He has to punish those guilty of sin. Maybe that's not an appealing standard. But to put it bluntly, when you get your own universe, you can make your own standards.”

Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes: “It is my belief, Watson, founded upon my experience, that the lowest and vilest alleys in London do not present a more dreadful record of sin than does the smiling and beautiful countryside.”

Martin Luther: “The sin underneath all our sins is to trust the lie of the serpent that we cannot trust the love and grace of Christ and must take matters into our own hands.”

Bree Despain, The Dark Divine: “You know some religious scholars believe that when faced with overwhelming temptation you should commit a small sin just to relieve the pressure a bit.”

 

 

Editor's last word: