Doing things differently since 1984

The Seven Deadly Sins

Yesterday, I got on the computer to find every social media network flooded with posts about Kony 2012.  I’m going to assume that everyone knows about it now – if you don’t, Google it.  The majority wanted to join the cause; others wanted to raise the red flag pertaining to the rallying organization’s possible ulterior financial motives, or the pointlessness of simply sharing a link to a video, or the outdatedness of the cause.

But nobody – and I mean nobody – said, “But what Kony is/was doing isn’t really THAT bad…!”  Because, pretty much universally, everyone can agree that rape and murder are bad, even moreso when it involves children.

In a way, I’m glad that our society is still at the point where we can agree that Kony’s actions are/were bad.  In another way, I think it’s quite poignant that it takes something that extreme to make people agree on what is definitely “wrong”.

After reading another blogger’s post on the Seven Deadly Sins – once thought to be the root of all evil and a good way to put a target on your head to Heaven saying, “Please smite me!” – I thought about what our current society’s equivalent would be.  What are the really bad things nowadays?  Here is what I came up with:

  • Rape
  • Murder
  • Bigotry
  • Oppression
  • Pedophilia
  • Terrorism
  • Genocide

Obviously, there is some overlapping in those categories.  But to be honest, I had trouble coming up with 7 relatively generic things that most of the “postmodern” world would pretty universally consider bad.  Some people may disagree with some of those points, or have additional ones to add – your feedback is well appreciated.  Don’t be fooled when I make myself out to be someone that has all the answers.

But anyway, compare this list to the Seven Deadly Sins (c. 590 AD, and agreed upon for over a millennium thereafter):

  • Lust
  • Gluttony
  • Greed
  • Sloth
  • Wrath
  • Envy
  • Pride

    Imagine ending up on trial for eating one of these by yourself.

I mean, really?  Could you see someone being sent to court for acting on his or her impulses of gluttony (a.k.a. overeating/drinking)?  Or for hampering society with an overabundance of slothfulness (a.k.a. laziness)?  It seems that these are closer to the pillars of our society now than harbingers of condemnation. 

Because really, we all strive to get to the point where we have lots of money (greed), lots of admirers (envy), don’t have to do any work (sloth), and can party all day (gluttony), right?  (Which is all, of course, pride).  Isn’t that, like, the American dream?

Now of course, this isn’t to say simply that morality has gone downhill – I mean, it probably has, but that’s not my main point – because in comparing the two lists, it is in fact probably more useful to condemn genocide than it is gluttony if you’re promoting a peaceful society.  What I think is most noticeable between this two lists is that morality has gone external.

Look again at the top list – it’s all stuff that is up for public display.  People see it, they don’t like it, they act accordingly.  Then compare that to the original Seven Deadly Sins – it’s all internal.  It’s a war of the mind.  If you can prevent lust, you’ve prevented rape.  If you can prevent wrath, you’ve prevented most murders.  If you can prevent greed, you’ve prevented most wars and oppression.  If you can prevent pride, you’ve prevented bigotry.  And so on.

So, I know I probably go on too much about the value of learning from history, or, more importantly, how people used to view the world in times past, but this is the kind of thing I mean.  Nobody condemns the internal anymore – not even for themselves.  That’s too ‘judgmental’.  We care about how it looks on tv, how it sounds in 140 characters, how racy it sounds as a headline, how it tabulates on a graph.  We run around like crazy trying to treat symptoms instead of illnesses.

When I say “we”, I mean pretty much every group I can think of.  Governments, activist groups, Facebook groups, school systems, even churches – nobody is immune.  I’m not immune.  Here is my Plan to Fix Everything Bad:

Warning: This plan requires a lot of thinking, and not a lot of tweeting.

1)      Think of anything you don’t like in the world (example: Kony)

2)      Try and work out the root causes of that thing happening (example: lust for power, disregard for others)

3)      Think about how often you too are guilty of that root cause (example: do you perform risky maneuvers on the road just to get one space ahead?)

4)      Stop doing it.

If everyone in the world did that, you would have a Utopia.  You’ll find that this plan is consistent with most of the people who obviously knew what they were talking about throughout history – you know the ones I mean.  Jesus would certainly agree.   Churches should, but they don’t act on it nearly as often as they should.

So by all means – sign the petition, write to your congressman, tweet your heart out – those things are all great.  But if you want to see the world really change for the better, you’re going to have to take a large dose of humility and start with yourself.

12 comments on “The Seven Deadly Sins

  1. 22lazy
    March 9, 2012

    As far as I was aware, the seven deadly sins themselves were never meant to be the equivalents of the things in the first list.

    As you correctly said they are internal. But you’ve tried to make the 7 deadly sins equivalent with the worst sins that you could come up with. Don’t get me wrong, they are bad and I can’t come up with worse, but even reading the introduction of the article on the Seven Deadly Sins on Wikipedia will tell you that they are seen as the origin of all sins. They’re deadly not because of the punishment they incur but because of the further sins that they lead to.

    The word “internal” is key to this though. These sins come from within and and thus are dealt with internally. It is not until the seven deadly sins manifest themselves into external sins that they are dealt with. In the case of a political crime, hidden crime and a crime against humanity it is right that it is condemned in a political manner, an open manner and by as many people as possible.

    To condemn internal sins openly would lead to witch hunts. Even if we did not use the medieval punishments of the past can you imagine publicly ostracising people for their lust, gluttony or sloth. And you were right when you gave how you would see public perception to them. It would be seen as overly judgemental. The 7 deadly sins come with built in consequences which we as individuals must learn from. Not just in the afterlife (if there is such a thing) but in the here and now. Very few people have impunity to them, and when they do we can have a campaign such as that against Kony. Or on the lesser scale, a family member or group of friends has a word with them or whatever is proportionate. The struggle is internal until the individual can clearly exhibit no self control and then the response is proportionate.

    Your plan to fix everything bad is simplistic in that it ignores human nature. People like doing bad things, even people doing morally bad things are too lazy, greedy, distracted by lust etc to do them better. Temptation presents itself everywhere. Telling people things are bad can even further enhance their curiosity and thus temptation.

    All that without even having to tell you that God doesn’t exist and that you have assumed that morals are absolute and not relative which is very questionable.

    Can I ask how old you are?

  2. abtwixt
    March 9, 2012

    Hey 22lazy, thanks for the thoughtful comment. As I had said in my post, the point was that we don’t think about the internal as “bad” anymore, but merely the extremes of the external. And indeed, putting these internal sins on trial would be ridiculous, hence my satirical comments about it; that wasn’t even a practice in Medieval times. As my four-step plan illustrated, it is ourselves that we should be putting on trial, not others.

    My list of current “really bad” things was never meant to be a modern-day substitute for the Seven Deadly Sins, and I apologize if I was unclear about that. I was trying to illustrate the point that while people used to focus more on their internal struggles, we now focus only on what other people can see. Your self-proclaimed Atheism is a clear explanation for why the Seven Deadly Sins have less authority to you — since their authority was always meant to be derived from the teachings of the Bible.

    You are quite right when you say my Plan to Fix Everything Bad is unrealistic — though I do find it ironic that you think it is too simple yet too difficult in the face of human nature. That is precisely my point.

    Remember – ” Don’t be fooled when I make myself out to be someone that has all the answers.” I hope you find yours.

  3. lbtk
    March 9, 2012

    It’s only the world’s view that one sin is worse than another. I grew up in a maintstream religious denomination where the worst thing you could do was drink alcoholic beverages, while all the tobacco farmers stood outside the sanctuary and had one more drag on a cigarette before going in to hear the sermon. Nor were those who ate themselves into a coma at potluck dinners ever mentioned. We have got to stop letting society prioritize our sins and take a look at what the Bible says is sinful. Society is fickle and will change its mind. The Bible is constant. It’s the same today as it was when it was written. I read another blogpost today that suggested that the Bible is irrelevant and we are to take if philosophically and metaphorically, not literally. I see why people are outrage over Kony, but there are situations of equal horror in our own back yards. Thanks for making me think about it in a different way. Sandy

    • abtwixt
      March 10, 2012

      Thanks Sandy – it’s always my goal to help people think about things in a different way 🙂 As it says in 1 John 3:4 – “Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness.” We don’t have to be Kony to be guilty of that.

  4. steverusuk
    March 10, 2012

    A good read thank you.
    The vedic tradition teaches a version of your 4 rules for utopia: ‘do what you know to be right’. I can’t remember the Sanskrit work which means this.
    Chrisians have two: Love the Lord God with all your you might etc and Love thy neighbour as thyself. The second alone of these makes for a decent society of any denomination.

    • abtwixt
      March 10, 2012

      Thanks Steve – I wasn’t aware of the Vedic teaching specifically, but certainly Buddhism reflects this. Humanity has a long history of being better at giving good advice than listening to it. Thanks for your comment and thanks for reading 🙂

  5. Randel
    March 12, 2012

    Your seven look like the Major Big Sins to me. Good post.

    As for the old seven, I think envy\angry is the deadliest. Here is why: At least with all the others, you first get some kind of reward in the short run only to be clobbered later on. Take Gluttony–oh the yummy pizza is great, but then one day you’re fatter and maybe get heart disease, that kind of thing. With envy\anger there is no immediate satisfaction, reward or whatever, it is just pure eat you up stuff. Envy and anger only do damage and they do it the very instant it hits. I try my darn dist to avoid the envy angry feeling.

    • abtwixt
      March 13, 2012

      I agree Randel – as my dad used to say, “Bitterness is a poison we swallow, hoping to damage the other person.”

  6. aFrankAngle
    March 13, 2012

    Slightly off topic, but as a wine lover, each time I see this post I like about the wine “7 Deadly ZIns” … and regretfully, I can’t get past that!

    • abtwixt
      March 13, 2012

      Great suggestion Frank – next post I’ll be sure to warn people away from deadly alcoholic selections 😉

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