Published Humanitas, Volume XXXII, Nos. 1 & 2, 2019

Sin used to be among Christianity’s most important concepts. This is understandable. The New Testament says God sent His only son, Christ, to liberate fallen humans from the suffering caused by Adam’s original sin. The importance of overcoming sins is emphasized by the Bible’s oft-repeated warnings about God’s sometimes ferociously punishing sinners.

In spite of the central role of sin in the Bible, worry about the cardinal sins—pride, envy, anger, greed, and lechery—has largely disappeared among modern Christians. The reaction of most of today’s Christians can be summarized by the expression “good riddance.” The “let’s talk about something else” attitude toward sin has become the prevailing paradigm even among theologians.

There are several reasons for the silence that today surrounds traditional Christian sins. Possibly the most important is that, thanks to original sin, humans experience sins as instinctively pleasant. This feeling causes human beings to invent rationalizations to justify sinning. The same bias encourages us to invent reasons to ridicule and abandon all restrictions on sins.

The pleasure of sinning meets little resistance because modern readers do not find the Bible’s warnings about sins overly frightening. Scientifically oriented Americans have…

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