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Author Topic: The Wages of Sin
KarlEd
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I've been thinking about the nature of sin and why some things are considered sinful. For many religious people it's enough to say that "God says it's a sin" and leave it at that. I'm not really interested in discussing that because, really , what is there to discuss?

For many others, though, (religious and not), it isn't enough to say, simply, that "God says so." Almost every religion has followers who disregard parts of "the law" because it is "outdated", or "no longer applies". These types of people will say, for instance, that a lot of the Old Testament laws were really just good hygiene practices given a lack of antibiotics and refrigeration, etc. From a non-religious standpoint I can understand that sort of justification. If you accept this sort of practical approach to "sin", that is, "sin" is doing harm, either to yourself or others, do you think it's possible that other things generally regarded as "sinful" would be not sinful if the negative consequences could be removed?

For instance, some regard drinking alcohol to be sinful. Pretty much everyone agrees that wanton drunkeness is bad, both for the individual and for society. However, some eschew alcohol altogether because so many seem to lose the ability to partake in moderation, so it's better to not take at all. What if we were able to create a device, or drug, that monitored blood alcohol content and when it reached a certain level it stopped the body from processing any more alcohol? Once you reached a safe buzz zone, you could keep drinking and any extra alcohol would just be passed off like extra water. Would drinking still be sinful?

What about sex? "Illicit sex" - however you define it - has many practical negatives. Disease, unwed pregnancy, and abortion are probably the largest practical negatives most of us would agree on. If disease were erradicated and it were possible to 100-percent guarantee conception would not occur during sex unless desired, would pre-marital sex (in and of itself) still be wrong? Non-marital? Extra-marital?

I'm sure I'm missing some other possible negative results of the two "sins" (or have simply omited them for brevity), so before anyone says "Yes, cheating is wrong even if no one gets pregnant or sick", ask yourself if the "sin" is the sex or the dishonesty. Also, I'd prefer this discussion be couched mostly in terms of "other people". I'm not asking anyone here if they'd go out drinking every night if there were no negative consequences (directly related to the drinking). I'm asking if you'd still consider those who do to be living a sinful lifestyle because we "shouldn't drink". (or "have non-marital sex" etc.)

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martha
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Yes, I think the concept of "sin" was developed to make a smoothly-running, just society. A set of laws that are important enough that they're incorporated into religion.

I've heard many times of people who think that atheists have no morals. Of course, this isn't true, in general: I, for instance, have a very sturdy moral system, it just doesn't happen to be based on what God told me to do.

I have a perfect example of laws in the Old Testament that need reinterpretation: the laws of kashrut (keeping kosher). The law says, don't boil a calf in its mother's milk. This has been extended to, don't eat dairy and flesh in the same meal. Never mind that chickens aren't mammals, so it'd be impossible to boil one in its mother's milk. I think part of the standard interpretation is correct: don't be unneccessarily cruel to the creatures you're killing for food. The kosher method of slaughtering an animal is the least painful that was possible when the method was invented. But all this stuff about waiting n hours after eating cheese before you can eat chicken... that seems arbitrary to me. To me, the rules of kashrut mean, (a) don't be cruel to your food, and (b) don't eat food that's bad for you. If you must eat meat, eat free-range organic meat.

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password
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I've always been a big fan of not letting the letter of the law interfere with the spirit of the law, and Jesus would seem to feel the same way ("Man was not made for the Sabbath, but the Sabbath was made for man").

I believe that morality exists to increase joy, that it is primaily concerned with what is good or profitable for everyone involved and that it is almost an art form-- a matter of personal expression, with rules to be sure, but with all kinds of room for creativity and expression within those rules... and that sometimes, when you have good sound reasons and understanding of the situation, those rules can be knowingly broken to serve the higher goal of creating more joy.

So to answer the question, I'd say that no pleasurable action is inherently wrong... they are only wrong in so much as they do more harm than good to the person experiencing them or to other people.

Note that this definition does require some kind of absolute (but not narrow!) concept of "good", "joy", and "harm" or "bad".
quote:

"Imagine all life as you know it stopping instantaeously and every particle of your body exploding at the speed of light."

"Ok. That's 'bad'... Important safety tip. Thanks, Egan."

But please don't ask me to explain why I look at things that way... or, rather, let me just give you the short answer now: my view is based on my personal experience, YMMV.
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Farmgirl
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quote:
If you accept this sort of practical approach to "sin", that is, "sin" is doing harm, either to yourself or others, do you think it's possible that other things generally regarded as "sinful" would be not sinful if the negative consequences could be removed?
KarlEd, that is really quite insightful -- seeing sin as a selfish or self-centered action, or something that does not have others' best interests at heart (or our own, sometimes).

quote:
What if we were able to create a device, or drug, that monitored blood alcohol content and when it reached a certain level it stopped the body from processing any more alcohol? Once you reached a safe buzz zone, you could keep drinking and any extra alcohol would just be passed off like extra water. Would drinking still be sinful?
Well, I consider drunkenness to be sinful, not "drinking" - so in this case if you never got to a drunkeness state, (and this is all hypothetical of course) I don't know if it would be a sin. Maybe depends on your defination of drunkeness, however, because any time you take a mind-altering substance, it depends at what point you begin to allow the substance to change the way you would normally think and behave and react responsibily. Since (as a religious person) I believe I am accountable for all my actions, I can't see the point in taking something that might make me lose my control of myself. Personally, I have nothing against alcohol, but I don't drink it simply because I am an alcoholic and realize it is a great weakness for me.

quote:
If disease were erradicated and it were possible to 100-percent guarantee conception would not occur during sex unless desired, would pre-marital sex (in and of itself) still be wrong? Non-marital? Extra-marital?
So you aren't counting any emotional harm or damage? Only physical things?

Farmgirl

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kmbboots
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quote:
If you accept this sort of practical approach to "sin", that is, "sin" is doing harm, either to yourself or others, do you think it's possible that other things generally regarded as "sinful" would be not sinful if the negative consequences could be removed?

Yup. And from Heinlein, "Sin lies in hurting other people unnecessarily." And what password said.

I think that God, as a parent would, wants us to make our own moral choices and to make good ones. We want our children to know why they shouldn't "touch the stove" rather than just because we said so. And we would want them to be able to make the decision to "touch the stove" when it is safe or if by doing so we serve a greater good.

Given that, God (being God and all) knows what is going to cause hurt more than we do and what will serve the greater good. So it makes sense to pay attention.

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King of Men
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I find the omissions in the definitions of what is sinful just as interesting as the inclusions. For example, the Bible nowhere states that it is sinful to hold slaves. I seem to recall some advice about treating them well, but that's all - the actual condition of slavery is accepted.
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jeniwren
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KoM, I don't agree. When Jesus said that the two most important laws were to love God and to love your neighbor as yourself, I interpret that to mean that slavery is wrong. I don't want to be my neighbor's slave, so I shouldn't make him mine. I interpret the admonitions of treating slaves well as an acceptance of the practice of the day, while trying to make the burden of slaves a better one than currently existed at the time.

I wonder if the concept of sin is less about actively doing wrong and more about not doing right. By that I mean that simply refraining from doing the wrong things doesn't, by itself, make the world a better place. What makes the world a better place is actively doing the right things. It's the difference between choosing not to kick a person as they walk by and actively helping them bring in their groceries. So while no psychic, physical or mental damage may come of "casual" sex, is it really the *right* thing? Does it improve the world at all? I'm thinking no, largely because it's essentially a selfish act. It's about momentary pleasure with no commitment to real love.

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TheGrimace
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The Sex thing is definately a dicey area of discussion for a few reasons.

1) As mentioned, there is not a way to avoid possible emotional damage caused by allowing more casual sex, even if the physical reprocussions are removed.

2) Tied to 1, if sex becomes less impactful, then it has lost much of it's power in the milieu of marriage, where it is a special act that serves to bring both individuals together as one. In a sense if you continue to make sex a more accepted thing outside marriage then you are effectively weakening one of the bonds that strengthens marriage.

3) Depending on your view of things by taking away the reproductive aspect of sex you are changing the very nature of this act, and removing one of the most powerful and in principle good things about it, the act of creating life. You can take the Catholic stand on that that views contraception as a sin because you are closing yourself to the possibility of life, or you can just argue that the procreation part of sex (even when it's not planned) can often be the biggest boon. Any number of unplanned, unmarried pregnancies have resulted in improving the lives of all those around.

With Alcohol and similar things you may have a point, but as was also mentioned, sin can be viewed as selfishness. And even if you remove the negative effects of something it doesn't make it less selfish to indulge in those acts or items.

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LeoJ
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Ohhhhh boyyyy....
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BaoQingTian
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Like most of the threads you start Karl, I found your topic to be insightful, thought-provoking, and above all respectful. I just wanted to let you know that I appreciate what you bring to Hatrack. I'm considering your question, it's really making me think. Thanks.
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SenojRetep
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Just to clarify, the "God says it's a sin" belief can be squared with the idea of <edit>sin as harm or generally negative consequences </edit> if you assume God is benevolent (*insert KoM's protestations here*). The challenge is then to ascertain the will of God. This might be done through rational methods like the ones you described, but can also be done through extrarational methods (such as prayer, meditation, etc.)

So, that being said, if I were convinced there were no "harm" (which might include physical or spiritual harm) in an action (which, depending on the gravity of the "sin," would require a varying level of affirmative results from both rational and extrarational inquiry) I wouldn't consider it a sin. I trust I make myself obscure.

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kmbboots
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Makes sense to me.

Grimace, wow. Only if you posit that:

1. "Casual" (by which I assume you mean "unmarried"?) sex does more emotional harm than good. This is not true in my experience.

2. Bringing individuals together is only appropriate in marriage. Not something that I agree with.

Even many Catholics are moving away from procreation as the most important aspect of sex and see the "drawing closer" part as important and valuable of itself.

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KarlEd
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Farmgirl
quote:
So you aren't counting any emotional harm or damage? Only physical things?
Well, I am not discounting them. [Wink] I just find that they are harder to pin down. For instance, I don't think that a married couple who both equally agree to a sexually open relationship and both abide equally by whatever ground rules they set in living that way are necessarily harming one another in any objective way. By "objective way" I mean in any way that an outside observer could prove. In these terms, I think that the "sin" in adultery is the dishonesty rather than the sex. While I, myself, may not want an open relationship, I would not look down on a couple that had one. If it were an honest relationship and one of the partners got hurt, I couldn't really blame the relationship any more than I could blame the sport of ice skating for the broken ankles of some of the skaters.

Furthermore, I can't label something as sin simply because of emotional harm, especially if it is genuinely unintended. For instance, even the most wholesome forms of dating are fraught with psychological and emotional dangers. People date, and people get hurt, often even when no hurt is intended. Life is hurt. Pain is learning. Why, specifically is emotional pain or damage that may lead to greater learning or emotional growth bad because the medium is sex, but not when the medium is "dating" or dancing or socializing?

Now sure, there are selfish, vindictive, egotistical, bullying, and sadistic people in the sexual arena, but is it the "sex" that makes them bad or the selfishness, vindictiveness, egotism, bullying and sadism?

jeniwren,
quote:
So while no psychic, physical or mental damage may come of "casual" sex, is it really the *right* thing? Does it improve the world at all? I'm thinking no, largely because it's essentially a selfish act.
But there are many selfish acts we don't consider sin. There are many acts that don't improve the world that we don't consider sin. What is improved by playing video games? What is improved by eating popcorn?

TheGrimace
quote:
1) As mentioned, there is not a way to avoid possible emotional damage caused by allowing more casual sex, even if the physical reprocussions are removed.
Again, there is no way to avoid possible emotional damage in life. I'm not at all sure that risk itself is enough to qualify something as "sin".

quote:
if sex becomes less impactful, then it has lost much of it's power in the milieu of marriage, where it is a special act that serves to bring both individuals together as one. In a sense if you continue to make sex a more accepted thing outside marriage then you are effectively weakening one of the bonds that strengthens marriage.
Perhaps for certain marriages or certain individuals. I'm not convinced that everyone needs sexual restrictions in order to enjoy a fulfilling sexual experience within marriage. I am convinced, however, that for many marriages the sex is anything but a bonding, growing experience, regardless of how heavily it is restricted. I think there is a good case to be made that just as dating can give you the experience to become a well-rounded person, socially, pre-marital sexual experience can give you the experience to become a well-rounded, more skilled lover. This is not to say there is no value in learning together with the one you love, just that it isn't necessarily for everyone.

quote:
Any number of unplanned, unmarried pregnancies have resulted in improving the lives of all those around.
But I submit that a greater number of them have resulted in the screwing up of lives around them.

But to address the whole point, sex for most people is not just about procreation. For some it doesn't ever have to be about procreation to still be a beautiful and fulfilling thing.

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kmbboots
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Yes. What Karl said.
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Dagonee
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Karl, I've been wanting to post a fairly lengthy reply but haven't had a chance to compose my thoughts. However, "By 'objective way' I mean in any way that an outside observer could prove" caught my eye.

This might be the crux of the tension between "because God said so" and "doing harm to myself or others." God, as an "outside" (by this I take you to mean "not the couple nor those they sleep with") observer, can observe harm that we never could. So, to those with faith in God's wisdom, there is no tension between the two. And the phrase "because God said so" is an accurate but incomplete description of that process.

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SenojRetep
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quote:
Originally posted by Dagonee:
This might be the crux of the tension between "because God said so" and "doing harm to myself or others." God, as an "outside"...observer, can observe harm that we never could. So, to those with faith in God's wisdom, there is no tension between the two. And the phrase "because God said so" is an accurate but incomplete description of that process.

This is exactly what I was trying to say in the first paragraph of my post. The tension for me is in determining whether I correctly understand God's will, because I view Him as the ultimate observer of what does or does not cause harm.
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kmbboots
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Dagonee, not that this contradicts you, but I want to point out that it is possible to have faith in God's wisdom, but less faith in other people's transcription, translation, or interpretation of God's wisdom.
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TheGrimace
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km,
I completely agree that the "drawing closer" aspect of sex is tremendously important, as does the Catholic Church, however, I was just trying to say that the sex issue isn't as cut and dry as the alcohol one.

to both Karl and km, I appreciate your comments, and don't think we're really as opposed as it might appear.

I'm certainly not saying that all marital sex is a good thing, or necessarily that all extra-marital sex is a bad thing. And as you point out well Karl, that life will always involve pain, whether through any particular fault of the pain-giver or just through misunderstanding.

What I would argue is that the more physically intimate one is in a relationship, the more chance there is for harm due to misunderstanding. Now of course this can be drawn to many levels that I don't view as sin (i.e. you shouldn't hold hands until you're married because that increases the chance of heartbreak)

I guess what worries me about this kind of discussion is that I think truly casual sex can still be significantly damaging if there's any question as to where each partner stands in the relationship.

An interesting analogy for the combination of the pure joy of sex and the procreation aspect: If you order a delicious Strawberry Rhubarb pie it is very pleasant to sit and just enjoy the smell of the pie, but if you smell it and then throw it away without eating it something's not quite right. Perhaps it's not a sin, but it doesn't necessarily seem to be a good idea either.

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TheGrimace
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Karl, I forgot to address your comments on unplanned births etc... and this one is a lot more subjective and harder to back up in any kind of quantitative manner.

One could argue (probably using faith in a benevolent God as a backup) that even if a greater number of unplanned pregnancies resulted poorly than those that resulted in great joy that the magnitude of good coming from the fewer "good" results more than balances out the lesser evil resulting from the "bad" occurances.

10 Pregnancies * 10000000 good points > 1000 Pregnancies * 50 bad points

But again, this is my belief, but isn't really a valid point to argue because it can't be quantified.

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dkw
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quote:
An interesting analogy for the combination of the pure joy of sex and the procreation aspect: If you order a delicious Strawberry Rhubarb pie it is very pleasant to sit and just enjoy the smell of the pie, but if you smell it and then throw it away without eating it something's not quite right. Perhaps it's not a sin, but it doesn't necessarily seem to be a good idea either.
The analagy doesn't work, becasue the vast majority of times that people have sex nobody gets pregnant. And it's still, much of the time, a very good thing, hardly equivelent to throwing out your pie without tasting it. Heck, even when couples are trying to conceive it's considered "normal" for it to take up to a year.

Karl, to your definition of sin as harm to self or others I would add harm to communities and relationships.

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jeniwren
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quote:
But there are many selfish acts we don't consider sin. There are many acts that don't improve the world that we don't consider sin. What is improved by playing video games? What is improved by eating popcorn?
That's why my post was more in the nature of a question than a definitive statement. I am wondering more than really stating. That probably wasn't clear. Sorry about that.

I wonder if sin is really more about not actively doing right rather than actively doing wrong. Generally I don't get too hung up on 'sin', mainly because it becomes like quicksand. Step into the edge and suddenly you're up to your neck in the concept and sinking faster the more you flail against it. It's probably my oversensitivity to the word itself.

Another thing too, what we consider sin and what God considers sin may be two different animals. You said "many selfish acts we don't consider sin", emphasis mine. Who determines what a sin is? Who is the authority? We may call it sin, but is it really if we have no authority to punish it? I guess I do hold that God is the one who decides...that it's his word, so he gets to decide what it means. I'm sort of exploring verbally here, so this probably doesn't sound very polished or thought out... but logically, if sin is God's word then he decides what it means, and if what we have from the Bible is that this is what God says, then what it says is sin must really be sin, because that's the definition. OTOH, if sin is our word, then it can mean whatever we make it mean. But then it's only as meaningful as our ability to define right and wrong. It assumes that there is no absolute determination. Which could mean, I suppose, that there is no sin because in some contexts anything might be understood to be "right".

I think I have a headache. [Smile]

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kmbboots
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Grimace, I was right with you up to the pie thing.

quote:
What I would argue is that the more physically intimate one is in a relationship, the more chance there is for harm due to misunderstanding. Now of course this can be drawn to many levels that I don't view as sin (i.e. you shouldn't hold hands until you're married because that increases the chance of heartbreak)

I guess what worries me about this kind of discussion is that I think truly casual sex can still be significantly damaging if there's any question as to where each partner stands in the relationship.

I think we need to define "casual" sex. When I have sex, it is outside of marriage; it is not "casual".

I wholeheartedly agree that in any relationship we can hurt each other through misunderstanding. And I agree that special care must be taken with physical intimacy. We should not say with our bodies what we do not mean with our hearts.

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0range7Penguin
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The term casual sex is a very undefined term so far in this thread. I see it as being two things with completely different values.

The first is true "casual" sex and by that i mean with someone who you are not even in a relationship with. THis kind of sex while enjoyable is shallow and unsatisfying. I have done it and its just missing a lot.

The second is unmarried sex with someone your in a relationship with. If the love is there and you are both comfortable with it then I dont see what can be said to be wrong with sex. And where would this sex really be considered a sin? In the christian bible it says to not adulter but someone your in a relationship with is hopefully not married.

And i take that one step further and say that i consider cheating to be one of the most horrible acts a person can commit. I dont even understand the sychology behind it. I can say i have gotten more out of a hug from a girl i love then sex with someone i didnt care about.

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KarlEd
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quote:
Originally posted by Dagonee:
Karl, I've been wanting to post a fairly lengthy reply but haven't had a chance to compose my thoughts. However, "By 'objective way' I mean in any way that an outside observer could prove" caught my eye.

This might be the crux of the tension between "because God said so" and "doing harm to myself or others." God, as an "outside" (by this I take you to mean "not the couple nor those they sleep with") observer, can observe harm that we never could. So, to those with faith in God's wisdom, there is no tension between the two. And the phrase "because God said so" is an accurate but incomplete description of that process.

Well, I understand the concept of God as an outside observer that may know more about harmful effects of our actions than we, ourselves, can imagine. I also recognize that for many "Because God said so" is perfectly acceptable. It's even acceptable to me insofar as it is used to define one's own freedom and not the freedom of others. That's why I tried to specifically define the audience I'm addressing, which is those people for whom, "God says so" isn't exactly enough. I believe this group is larger than many think and is composed of more people than would readily admit it. As evidence I tried to point out examples of people who can rationalize away part of "god's law" by pointing out that times have changed (even if God hasn't), etc.

Which is not in the least to say I don't want your opinion. I always look forward to your responses to what I post. I just don't want the discussion to be dismissed with "Sin is what God says it is". While that's a valid opinion, it's not really conducive to this discussion. [Smile] [edit: or rather, where I hope to go with this discussion. The discussion itself can go where it will. I'm often pleasantly surprised if I don't try to steer too much. [Smile] ] [edit: no I'm not talking about driving, either.]

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KarlEd
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quote:
Originally posted by kmbboots:
Dagonee, not that this contradicts you, but I want to point out that it is possible to have faith in God's wisdom, but less faith in other people's transcription, translation, or interpretation of God's wisdom.

And this, to me, is the real crux of the tension. [Wink]
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kmbboots
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I think that, because we are adults, we are responsible for making our own moral choices. Whether that is to accept the moral authority of another person or another group of people and to trust that if we abide by those rules we will be okay, or to fly without a net and have no one to blame when we make wrong decisions. I think most of us would fall in between.

Personally, I listen carefully to those people who know more than I do, and if I, after due consideration, disagree, I will make choices that don't agree with theirs. And I have to be responsible for those choices. I do not think this is sinful although perhaps foolish and often scary.

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Dagonee
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quote:
Well, I understand the concept of God as an outside observer that may know more about harmful effects of our actions than we, ourselves, can imagine. I also recognize that for many "Because God said so" is perfectly acceptable. It's even acceptable to me insofar as it is used to define one's own freedom and not the freedom of others. That's why I tried to specifically define the audience I'm addressing, which is those people for whom, "God says so" isn't exactly enough.
I don't think I made myself clear. It's not that "God says so" is enough. Rather, it's that God says so for a good reason. Investigating the reason for that is a good thing. Also, because there is difficulty sometimes in learning what God says, it must be evaluated with what we know. If what we perceive to be God's command leads to what we perceive to be a bad result, we need to investigate. Perhaps there is another of God's commands that apply, perhaps we misunderstand the "badness" of the result, or perhaps a little of each.

"Because God says so" is enough if one has perfect two-way communication with God. As I don't, I'm required to apply reason as well.

quote:
Which is not in the least to say I don't want your opinion. I always look forward to your responses to what I post. I just don't want the discussion to be dismissed with "Sin is what God says it is". While that's a valid opinion, it's not really conducive to this discussion.
As I said, this is not my complete thinking on the subject. But I do see it as the first point requiring clarification before the matter can truly be discussed.
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KarlEd
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quote:
I don't think I made myself clear. It's not that "God says so" is enough. Rather, it's that God says so for a good reason. Investigating the reason for that is a good thing. Also, because there is difficulty sometimes in learning what God says, it must be evaluated with what we know. If what we perceive to be God's command leads to what we perceive to be a bad result, we need to investigate. Perhaps there is another of God's commands that apply, perhaps we misunderstand the "badness" of the result, or perhaps a little of each.
This opens up the tangential subject of what really is God's word and not simply man's biased interpretation thereof. How far afield from written scripture can one extrapolate before we are no longer dealing with "God's word" per se? I recognize that from some points of view the whole idea of "sin" must be discussed, if not jointly with these questions, at least with them in mind. Coming from a point of view that denies that God actually gives universal law, those are not questions I can deal with except academically. (And I know that opens me up to the question of why I'm interested in the concept of "sin" at all, but there you go. [Wink] )
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BaoQingTian
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Karl, I think part of the reason I am finding difficulty in expressing this idea of sin without talking about the will of God is that the definition of sin is estrangement from God or transgression of God's will.
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KarlEd
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Well, I'll agree that that is a definition of "sin". It's not one I find particularly useful for this particular discussion. I'm perfectly willing to swap out "sin" for any other word that works in the context I'm using it, though. [Smile]
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KarlEd
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To be more precise, dictionary.com lists:

quote:
sin1 ( P ) Pronunciation Key (sn)
n.
1. A transgression of a religious or moral law, especially when deliberate.
2. Theology.
A. Deliberate disobedience to the known will of God.
B. A condition of estrangement from God resulting from such disobedience.
3. Something regarded as being shameful, deplorable, or utterly wrong.

intr.v. sinned, sin·ning, sins
1. To violate a religious or moral law.
2. To commit an offense or violation.

I'm more interested in 1 or 3 under "noun" and either under "verb".
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BaoQingTian
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Well, I'm having kind of the same dilemma. Take what you said about alcohol for example. I can come up with plenty of reasons why drunkeness is bad. However, the reason I believe it is a sin is because, as a Mormon, God has explicitly commanded me not to drink. That is the reason it is a sin. None of the consequences are what make it a sin. I can speculate about what the consequences are, why they are bad, and why God doesn't want me to do it. When it comes down to it though, I do just accept it as God's will as being reason enough not to do it. Anything else can start to be come a path to justification.

Now the hypothetical situation you presented, where we use technology to avoid drunkeness illustrates why I believe it's important to have a living prophet. Rather than relying on modern interpretations of ancient scripture, I can know God's will now.

Anyways, that was the answer you mentioned didn't want to hear, but that's kind of my view. I think what you are talking about more than sin is kind of the 'objective morality' discussion from a while back.

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kmbboots
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Interesting. I believe in exactly the opposite.
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TheGrimace
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kmbboots, I think you and I are in general on the same page from your summary of what you view as the more or less legitimate instances of possibly extra-marital sex.

And the pie analogy doesn't work as well as I initially intended... we'll blame that on my being hungry for lunch at the time, and missing my favorite pie out here on the west coast.

My fear in allowing sex to be more free of inhibitions than currently, is that I think it will be abused in those shallow relationships. It's more a statement that removing the physical inhibitions of an act don't necessarily make it completely alright.

As to the more general discussion currently going on:
To really have the argument we need to pin down an acceptable definition of sin.
1) Sin is as BaoQingTian put it, "estrangement from God or transgression of God's will." a good definition to be sure.
2) Sin is an offense which causes some form of physical, emotional or spiritual detriment to one's-self or another person. (this can be overly harsh since telling someone bad news might be viewed in this light, and doesn't necessarily cover all the bases as it might for instance allow for me to wantonly slaughter every wombat on earth as long as it doesn't directly affect any person)
3) Sin is an action or lack of action that results in a net decrease in the world's "good" or "happiness"

Feel free to insert your own definitions, but until we all start arguing to one or the other, the whole thing is kinda FUBAR.

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kmbboots
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I think we are on the same page as well. I think that, since it is God's will that we are not estanged from God or from each other and that hurt can cause that estrangment as can a decrease in the world's good, those definitions can't realy be separated for me. Does that make sense.

I also believe that God can turn even sin to good and use even hurt to bring us closer.

edit to add: I'm hungry, too. Fasting on Fridays during Lent. Want pie. What kind is your favorite?

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BaoQingTian
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Kmbboots-

You believe the exact opposite? So if you are unable to see the bad consequences of something God has commanded you not to do, it is not a sin?

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kmbboots
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Are you asking if I see them or if they are there? I freely admit that there is a lot that God sees that I do not.
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pH
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quote:
Originally posted by 0range7Penguin:
The first is true "casual" sex and by that i mean with someone who you are not even in a relationship with. THis kind of sex while enjoyable is shallow and unsatisfying. I have done it and its just missing a lot.

Shallow and unsatisfying FOR YOU does not mean shallow and unsatisfying for everyone.

kmbboots used her example of unmarried sex. My closest equivalent is probably making out when not in a relationship.

If I make out with someone with whom I'm not in a relationship and with whom I have no intention of getting into a relationship, it's not unsatisfying. It's really an entirely different thing. I suppose it depends on the ability to appreciate the act itself AND the emotional ties that can come with it. Some people view the two separately, and some do not. So for some people, sex while not in a relationship can be satisfying. For some people, it can't. It depends on the person.

Some people require the security of marriage to enjoy sex, and some people don't. There's no one right answer, in my opinion. I think the real issue is one of respect between the two parties involved. In other words, if you have sex with someone who doesn't respect you or with someone that you don't respect, that, I would think, would almost certainly be harmful. But if both parties have a certain respect for each other (and that doesn't necessarily require a relationship), then I can see how some people would find non-committed sex enjoyable.

-pH

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TheGrimace
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That's part of why argumnents FOR faith-imposed definitions of sin are valid. Since we can't know everything, we don't necessarily know that doing thing X (which we don't see any negative reprocussions to) might in fact have immense reprocussions, and therefor be a bad thing to do.

Look at the Kosher laws as a good example. At the time they didn't necessarily have any idea why those laws should be followed, but now with greater medical technology and understanding we can see that a lot of the rules seem to be imposed in order to maintain health and cleanliness. The problem is that perhaps we still don't have a full understanding of the laws. Maybe God really did intend them to be in place for some greater reasoning, and my eating pork really is a sin.

In the same light, any time we start questioning any faith-based decree we are in a sense trying to say that we think we know God's reasoning. Personally I know I do this, but i do it with the understanding that I may be damning myself.

At the same time, there is the issue of how much we trust the humans that conveyed these decrees to us, whoever originally wrote down the deity's statements, who maintained those records, who translated them, who applied them to current standards etc...

Basically how I take this all is that I try to evaluate every situation as best I can, I try to err on the side of what the church teaches me, but knowingly stray as I see appropriate (again with the understanding that maybe I'm wrong and am in fact sinning). the great thing about being Christian (or many other religions such as buddhism and hindu) is that I believe there's always a chance in the end to repent/learn in the case that we were wrong.

as for the pie: Strawberry-Rhubarb... mmm tasty.

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0range7Penguin
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I did say it was enjoyable. Just not on the same level as relationship sex.
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pH
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I don't think it's really that one is at a "higher level" than the other, though. At least, not for everyone. I think they're just DIFFERENT.

-pH

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0range7Penguin
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Sure. I can concede that.
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Jacare Sorridente
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Interesting thread, Karl. I have thought about these same sorts of ideas from time to time. Here are my conclusions:

There are essentially two types of sin, and of course they are related.

The first type is the kind most people think about when they call something a sin, but I think that it is the less important of the two types. This is doing something which is out of bounds- premarital sex, gluttony, lying etc. I think that this type of sin is almost always bound up in appetites of one sort or another. It can most certainly be disruptive and harmful- and in this lies the reason people are counseled to avoid it. Included in this type of sin are all sorts of things which require a cultural context to be meaningful. If you remove the cultural context then you remove the sinfulness. These sorts of sins are the ones anti-Christians love to harp on as if they proved some sort of hypocrisy, for example, when Christans don't follow kosher rules.

Some of them are a little more universal, but only insomuch as human society has remained essentially unchanged as respects the reasoning behind and hence the need for certain rules (eg respect for elders, sexual rules, lying etc.).

A much more dangerous sin is the second type. This is the sort of sin which is a love of darkness as opposed to appetite-related. This sin is one where a person can clearly distinguish between the good and the bad and yet still chooses the bad for its own sake. This is the sin where someone hurts people because they enjoy seeing others in pain. This is where people use violence to bend others to their will because of the feeling of power it gives them. This is the sin where innocence is corrupted because the person hates innocence. I believe that those who fit in this category are sadists and rapists and pedophiles. These are the people who are seen as evil in any civilization at any time because their brand of evil is universal.

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0range7Penguin
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I dont think the idea of always evil in any society is true though.

THere have been too many examples of societys willing to commit genocide simply because the other people are from an "inferior" race.

Also in these same genocides and in ancient wars such atrocities such as rape where considered common place.

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Jacare Sorridente
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orange- of course there are always exceptions. In a more tribal society, they tended to define these things as evil if it were practiced against a member of the tribe.
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BaoQingTian
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quote:
Originally posted by kmbboots:
Are you asking if I see them or if they are there? I freely admit that there is a lot that God sees that I do not.

That's what I'm trying to say (although apparently failing in my attempts at communication). Just because I can't see what the consequences are for a sin, doesn't make it not a sin.

So I guess what exactly do you mean when you say you believe the opposite of me (and what do you think I am saying I guess)?

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0range7Penguin
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I guess so. Its just that i partially believe that good and evil are a myth created by society and that whatever that society believes that is what defines good or evil.
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Glenn Arnold
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quote:
I don't think I made myself clear. It's not that "God says so" is enough. Rather, it's that God says so for a good reason. Investigating the reason for that is a good thing. Also, because there is difficulty sometimes in learning what God says, it must be evaluated with what we know. If what we perceive to be God's command leads to what we perceive to be a bad result, we need to investigate. Perhaps there is another of God's commands that apply, perhaps we misunderstand the "badness" of the result, or perhaps a little of each.

"Because God says so" is enough if one has perfect two-way communication with God. As I don't, I'm required to apply reason as well.

Wow. Dag is a deist.
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Dagonee
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quote:
Wow. Dag is a deist.
No, he's not.
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Tatiana
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I believe in the concrete existence of good and evil, regardless of what society thinks at any given place and time. Some societies have more perfect concepts of good and evil than others. I believe nobody has a totally perfect understanding of good and evil. That's part of why we're alive, so we can progress and find out more about this stuff.

I don't even believe God has a *perfect* understanding. I just know he has knowledge and understanding that's so far above mine that it might as well be perfect from where I'm standing. So I trust him.

I've come to this position after a lifetime of atheism. I found out stuff the hard way from observation of others or from my own mistakes, also from reading books with lots of moral depth and complexity, and gradually over time I built up this idea of what works and what doesn't, what's smart and what's ignorant, what's good and what's evil.

To me, the words sin and ignorance are very closely allied. Sin is error. Whether it's willful or just clueless, it still is harmful. God doesn't set us meaningless hoops to jump through. Good and evil are concepts that exist independently of God. He's trying to help us make the right choices.

But one reason I joined the LDS church is that their teachings on almost everything important matched my hard-won knowledge that I had acquired at great personal cost through the years. I realized finally that this is a good source of knowledge about things that matter a whole lot, and about which mistakes are quite costly. So the more I listened, the more I grew convinced that this is a real conduit of true information about life. I began to learn how to ask God for myself to guide me directly. And it works.

We aren't always sure of the reasons for the guidance we get, but the more I follow it the more I begin to understand it. For instance, I realized not long ago that the reason we LDS as a community don't drink alcohol is not because it's a terrible evil for every single one of us, but because by refraining from drinking, we are sparing the lives of those among us who would otherwise be lost to alcoholism. In my extended family there has been a lot of alcoholism and it is a terrible hurtful deadly destroyer of families and lives. The hurt from my grandfather's constant drunkenness still reverberates in my mom's psyche 50 years later, and his early death and the great harm he did to his family relationships, to my mom's siblings and her, the coldnesses that are there and the deep pain and loss, those things all could have been different had we as a family just never had any alcohol to drink. Instead of childhood neglect and an early death, we could have had a loving grandfather who lived a long happy life and cherished his daughters and sons, enriching the generations, strengthening us all.

The word of wisdom protects many LDS families from the terrible effects of alcoholism, and if the rest of us have to give up an innocent pleasure to spare those whose lives would be destroyed, then it's so very worth the cost! Addiction is horrible! It is deadly! What we are doing is the right thing, I'm so sure of that! It was only after obeying for many years that I came to realize why, however.

So I believe most sins are things that almost everyone realizes they shouldn't do, like maiming their children or murdering their neighbors, but much of the most difficult sin to avoid is stuff that seems like a great idea up front, but it hides pitfalls and great misery later on, possibly not for the person sinning but overall, for someone somewhere. These are the things that it takes God to point out to us. We might not even connect the dots and realize what our original mistake was, by the time the suffering part comes around. That's why I'm so grateful for the guidance. And because I was adrift for so much of my life, having to flounder around and find out everything the hard way. It's a long slow painful process.

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