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File:Forbidden fruit.jpg

A Sistine Chapel fresco depicts the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the garden of Eden for their original sin.

Sin is a term used mainly in a religious context to describe an act that violates a moral rule, or the state of having committed such a violation. Commonly, the moral code of conduct is decreed by a divine entity.

Sin is often used to mean an action that is prohibited or considered wrong; in some religions (notably some sects of Christianity), sin can refer to a state of mind rather than a specific action. Colloquially, any thought, word, or act considered immoral, shameful, harmful, or alienating might be termed "sinful".

Common ideas surrounding sin in various religions include:

  • Punishment for sins, from other people, from God either in life or in afterlife, or from the Universe in general.
  • The question of whether or not an act must be intentional to be sinful.
  • The idea that one's conscience should produce guilt for a conscious act of sin.
  • A scheme for determining the seriousness of the sin.
  • Repentance from (expressing regret for and determining not to commit) sin, and atonement (repayment) for past deeds.
  • The possibility of forgiveness of sins, often through communication with a deity or intermediary; in Christianity often referred to as salvation.

Crime and justice are related secular concepts.


The word sin derives from Old English synn, recorded in use as early as the 9th century.[1] The same root appears in several other Germanic languages, e.g. Old Norse synd, or German Sünde. There is presumably a Germanic root *sun(d)jō (literally "it is true").[2]

But in the biblical Hebrew, the generic word for sin is het. It means to error, to miss the mark. It does not mean to do evil.[3]

The Greek word hamartia (ἁμαρτία) is usually translated as sin in the New Testament. In Classical Greek, it means "to miss the mark" or "to miss the target" which was also used in Old English archery.[4] In Koine Greek, which was spoken in the time of the New Testament, however, this translation is not adequate.[5]

Buddhist views of sin

Buddhism does not recognize the idea behind sin because in Buddhism, instead, there is a "Cause-Effect Theory", known as Karma, or action. In general, Buddhism illustrates intentions as the cause of Karma, either good, bad, or neutral. Furthermore, most thoughts in any being's mind can be negative.

Vipaka, the result of your Karma, may create low quality living, hardships, destruction and all means of disharmony in life and it may also create healthy living, easiness, and harmony in life. Good deeds produce good results while bad deeds produce bad results. Karma and Vipaka are your own action and result.

Pañcasīla (Pāli) is the fundamental code of Buddhist ethics, willingly undertaken by lay followers of Gautama Buddha. It is a basic understanding of the Noble Eightfold Path, which is a Buddhist teaching on ways to stop suffering.

  1. I undertake the rule to refrain from destroying living creatures.
  2. I undertake the rule to refrain from taking that which is not given.
  3. I undertake the rule to refrain from sexual misconduct.
  4. I undertake the rule to refrain from incorrect speech.
  5. I undertake the rule to refrain from intoxicants which lead to carelessness.
Noble Eightfold Path
  1. Right View
  2. Right Intention
  3. Right Speech
  4. Right Action
  5. Right Work
  6. Right Effort
  7. Right Mindfulness
  8. Right Concentration

These ultimately lead to cessation of suffering and thus is a way to be free of Samsara, the cycle of death. After that, Nirvana is achieved.

Jewish views of sin

Judaism regards the violation of the divine commandments to be a sin. Judaism teaches that sin is an act, and not a state of being. Humankind was not created with an inclination to do evil, but has that inclination "from his youth"(Genesis 8:21 ). People do have the ability to master this inclination (Genesis 4:7 ) and choose good over evil (conscience)(Psalm 37:27 ).[6] Judaism uses the term "sin" to include violations of Jewish law that are not necessarily a lapse in morality. According to the Jewish Encyclopedia: "Man is responsible for sin because he is endowed with free will ("behirah"); yet he is by nature frail, and the tendency of the mind is to evil: "For the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth" (Gen. viii. 21; Yoma 20a; Sanh. 105a). Therefore God in His mercy allowed people to repent and be forgiven."[7] Judaism holds that all people sin at various points in their lives, and hold that God tempers justice with mercy.

The generic Hebrew word for any kind of sin is avera (literally: transgression). Based on verses in the Hebrew Bible, Judaism describes three levels of sin. There are three categories of a person who commits an avera. The first one is someone who does an avera intentionally, or "B'mezid." This is the most serious category. The second is one who did an avera by accident. This is called "B'shogeg," and while the person is still responsible for their action it is considered less serious. The third category is someone who is a "Tinok Shenishba", which is a person who was raised in an environment that was assimilated or non-Jewish, and is not aware of the proper Jewish laws, or halacha. This person is not held accountable for his or her actions.

  • Pesha (deliberate sin; in modern Hebrew: crime) or Mered (lit.: rebellion) - An intentional sin; an action committed in deliberate defiance of God; (Strong's Concordance :H6588 (פשע pesha', peh'shah). According to Strong it comes from the root (:H6586); rebellion, transgression, trespass.
  • Avon (lit.: iniquity) - This is a sin of lust or uncontrollable emotion. It is a sin done knowingly, but not done to defy God; (Strong's Concordance :H5771 (avon, aw-vone). According to Strong it comes from the root (:H5753); meaning perversity, moral evil:--fault, iniquity, mischief.
  • Cheit - This is an unintentional sin, crime or fault. (Strong's Concordance :H2399 (חַטָּא chate). According to Strong it comes from the root khaw-taw (:H2398, H2403) meaning "to miss, to err from the mark (speaking of an archer), to sin, to stumble."

Judaism holds that no human being is perfect, and all people have sinned many times. However, certain states of sin (i.e. avon or cheit) do not condemn a person to damnation; only one or two truly grievous sins lead to anything approaching the standard conception of hell. The scriptural and rabbinic conception of God is that of a creator who tempers justice with mercy. Based on the views of Rabbeinu Tam in the Babylonian Talmud (tractate Rosh HaShanah 17b), God is said to have thirteen attributes of mercy:

  1. God is merciful before someone sins, even though God knows that a person is capable of sin.
  2. God is merciful to a sinner even after the person has sinned.
  3. God represents the power to be merciful even in areas that a human would not expect or deserve.
  4. God is compassionate, and eases the punishment of the guilty.
  5. God is gracious even to those who are not deserving.
  6. God is slow to anger.
  7. God is abundant in kindness.
  8. God is the god of truth, thus we can count on God's promises to forgive repentant sinners.
  9. God guarantees kindness to future generations, as the deeds of the righteous patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) have benefits to all their descendants.
  10. God forgives intentional sins if the sinner repents.
  11. God forgives a deliberate angering of Him if the sinner repents.
  12. God forgives sins that are committed in error.
  13. God wipes away the sins from those who repent.

As Jews are commanded in imitatio Dei, emulating God, rabbis take these attributes into account in deciding Jewish law and its contemporary application.

A classical rabbinic work, Midrash Avot de Rabbi Natan, states:

One time, when Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai was walking in Jerusalem with Rabbi Yehoshua, they arrived at where the Temple in Jerusalem now stood in ruins. "Woe to us" cried Rabbi Yehoshua, "for this house where atonement was made for Israel's sins now lies in ruins!" Answered Rabban Yochanan, "We have another, equally important source of atonement, the practice of gemilut hasadim (loving kindness), as it is stated 'I desire loving kindness and not sacrifice'.

The Babylonian Talmud teaches that "Rabbi Yochanan and Rabbi Eleazar both explain that as long as the Temple stood, the altar atoned for Israel, but now, one's table atones [when the poor are invited as guests]." (Tractate Berachot, 55a.)

The traditional liturgy of the Days of Awe (the High Holy Days; i.e. Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur) states that prayer, repentance and tzedakah (charitable actions) are ways to repent for sin. In Judaism, sins committed against people (rather than against God or in the heart) must first be corrected and put right to the best of a person's ability; a sin which has not also been put right as best as possible cannot truly be said to be repented.

Jewish conceptions of atonement for sin

For more details on this topic, see Repentance in Judaism.

Atonement for sins is discussed in the Hebrew Bible, known to Christians as the Old Testament. Rituals for atonement occurred in the Temple in Jerusalem, and were performed by the Kohanim, the Israelite priests. These services included song, prayer, offerings and animal sacrifices known as the korbanot. The rites for Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, are prescribed in the book of Leviticus chapter 15. The ritual of the scapegoat, sent into the wilderness to be claimed by Azazel, was one of these observances (Lev. 16:20-22).

A number of animal sacrifices were prescribed in the Torah (five books of Moses) to make atonement: a sin-offering for sins, and a guilt offering for religious trespasses. The significance of animal sacrifice is not expanded on at length in the Torah, though Genesis 9:4 and Leviticus 17 suggest that blood and vitality were linked. It should be noted that modern conservative Jews and Christians argue that the Jews never believed that the aim of all sacrifice is to pay the debt for sins - only the sin-offering and the guilt offering had this purpose; modern scholars of early Jewish history, however, often disagree and argue that this division came later. Later Biblical prophets occasionally make statements to the effect that the hearts of the people were more important than their sacrifices - "Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams" (I Samuel 15:22); "For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgement of God rather than burnt offerings" (Hosea 6:6); "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart" (Psalm 51:17) (see also Isaiah 1:11, Psalm 40:6-8).

Although the animal sacrifices were prescribed for atonement, there is no place where the Hebrew Bible says that animal sacrifice is the only means of atonement. Hebrew Bible teaches that it is possible to return to God through repentance and prayer alone. For example, in the books of Jonah and Esther, both Jews and gentiles repented, prayed to God and were forgiven for their sins, without having offered any sacrifices.[6] Additionally, in modern times, most Jews do not even consider animal sacrifices. On the High Holidays of Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur - also known as the Day of Atonement-, and the ten-day period between these holidays, repentance of sins committed is based on specialized prayers and hymns, while some Jews continue the ancient methods of sacrifice. An example of a common method of "sacrificing" for the sake of repentance is simply to drop bread into a body of water, to signify the passing of sins and the hope for one to be written into the Book of Life by God once again. This is especially emphasized on what is arguably the holiest Jewish holiday, Yom Kippur.

Repentance in itself is also a means of atonement (See Ezekiel 33:11, 33:19, Jeremiah 36:3, etc.) The Hebrew word for repentance is teshuvah which literally means to "return (to God)." The prophet Hosea (14:3) said, "Take with you words, and return to God." Judaism teaches that our personal relationship with God allows us to turn directly to Him at any time, as Malachi 3:7 says, "Return to Me and I shall return to you," and Ezekiel 18:27, "When the wicked man turns away from his wickedness that he has committed, and does that which is lawful and right, he shall save his soul alive." Additionally, God is extremely compassionate and forgiving as is indicated in Daniel 9:18, "We do not present our supplications before You because of our righteousness, but because of Your abundant mercy."[6]

Note that modern Judaism's views on sin and atonement are not identical to those in the Hebrew Bible alone, but rather are based on the laws of the Bible as seen through the Jewish oral law.

Christian views of sin


In general

See also: Biblical law in Christianity

In Western Christianity, sin is viewed as a legal infraction or contract violation, and so salvation tends to be viewed in legal terms, similar to Jewish thinking. In Eastern Christianity, sin is viewed in terms of its effects on relationships, both among people and between people and God. The Bible portrays sin as not following God's moral guidance, based on the account of Adam and Eve in the Book of Genesis. They disobeyed God by eating the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, which gave them the ability to judge and know good from evil for themselves. Thus, the moment Adam and Eve ate the fruit from the tree—which God had commanded them not to do—sinful death was born; it was an act of disobedience, thinking they could become like gods, that was the sin. However, because Eve was deceived, while Adam was not, it is usually believed that Adam held the greatest responsibility for the evil that took place, for which reason the Fall of man is referred to as the "sin of Adam". This sin caused Adam and his descendants to lose access to the Tree of Life and their years of life to be numbered. "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned" (Romans 5:12 ). In Christian theology, the death of Jesus on the cross is the atonement to the sin of Adam. "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive." (1 Corinthians 15:22 ).

The Greek word in the New Testament that is translated in English as "sin" is hamartia, which literally means missing the target. 1 John 3:4 states: "Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness". Jesus clarified the law by defining its foundation: "Jesus replied: 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." (Matthew 22:36-40 )

File:Ten Commandments Monument.jpg

The Ten Commandments on a monument on the grounds of the Texas State Capitol. The third non-indented commandment listed is "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy".

"All the Law" could refer to the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20:1-17

that God demands of those that follow Him. In Christianity, salvation is viewed in terms of reconciliation and a genuine relationship with Christ. In Romans 6:23
it says, "the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ our Lord". Both Eastern and Western Christians agree, on the basis of Scripture, that sin serves as a barrier to one having a complete relationship with God. But in the Gospel of John 3:16
it states "For God so loved the world, He gave his only begotten son that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life." This verse is a common base of Christianity (see article on John 3:16). Some Christian denominations believe that salvation is not obtained through good works but faith alone evidenced by obedience to the laws of their religion. These Christians believe that humanity falls short of the 'perfect glory' of God because of sins (imperfections), but the sacrifice of the messiah Jesus provides the potential for redemption (Romans 3:23-24

). See also Biblical law in Christianity.

Roman Catholic views

Roman Catholic doctrine distinguishes between personal sin (also sometimes called "actual sin") and original sin. Personal sins are either mortal or venial.

Mortal sins are sins of grave (serious) matter, where the sinner is fully aware that the act (or omission) is both a sin and a grave matter, and performs the act (or omission) with fully deliberate consent. The act of committing a mortal sin cuts off the sinner from God's grace; it is in itself a rejection of God. If left un-reconciled, mortal sins result in eternal punishment in Hell.

Venial sins are sins which do not meet the conditions for mortal sins. The act of committing a venial sin does not cut off the sinner from God's grace, as the sinner has not rejected God. However, venial sins do injure the relationship between the sinner and God, and as such, must be reconciled to God, either through the sacrament of reconciliation or receiving the Eucharist.

Both mortal and venial sins have a dual nature of punishment. They incur both guilt for the sin, yielding eternal punishment, and temporal punishment for the sin. Reconciliation is an act of God's mercy, and addresses the guilt and eternal punishment for sin. Purgatory and indulgences address the temporal punishment for sin, and exercise of God's justice.

Roman Catholic doctrine also sees sin as being twofold: Sin is, at once, any evil or immoral action which infracts God's law and the inevitable consequences, the state of being that comes about by committing the sinful action. Sin can and does alienate a person both from God and the community. Hence, the Catholic Church's insistence on reconciliation with both God and the Church itself.

The Roman Catholic view of sin has recently expanded. Monsignor Gianfranco Girotti, Regent of the Catholic Apostolic Penitentiary, has said that "known sins increasingly manifest themselves as behavior that damages society as a whole,"[8] including, for example:

  • "certain violations of the fundamental rights of human nature, through genetic manipulations [or experiments],"
  • "drug [abuse], which weakens the mind and obscures intelligence,"
  • "environmental pollution,"
  • "abortion and pedophilia," and
  • the widening social and economic differences between the rich and the poor, which "cause an unbearable social injustice" (accumulating excessive wealth, inflicting poverty). The revision was aimed at encouraging confession or the Sacrament of Penance.

Mortal sins, which are any severe and intentional actions that directly disobey God, are often confused with the seven deadly sins, which are pride, envy, lust, anger, greed, sloth and gluttony. They are not, however, the same.

An other group of four or five sins distinguished by the Church are the Sins that Cry Out to Heaven: murder, sodomy, (oppression of a people,) oppression of the weak and defrauding the laborer.[9]

View of Saint Augustine and Saint Thomas Aquinas

Sin is differentiated from the relativistic, individualized transgressions of moral standards pure human rationale dictates, by secular humanism, by its immutability and everlasting nature. Sin never changes, but popular notion does. Hence, sin will always be sin, regardless of epoch.

Religions other than Roman Catholicism view the concept of sin as a wandering from the path to enlightenment, and this also applies to Roman Catholicism, with the addition that God is a Person, and is unchanging; The Father by which everything in three dimensional reality is defined. What is contrary to the Will of God is sin.

Humankind is the only thing that can sin because free will is required, and with the exception of humans, everything in the Universe perfectly obeys the Will of God. The predictability of all things created belies the nature of all things as being ordered according to time, measure, and weight; as recorded in The Holy Bible. Relative physics adopted this view of the Universe and refers to the second, meter, and kilogram as the foundation of all three dimensional reality.

In the grand scheme of everything, from beginning to end, God's Will must be done. By this measure sin can be viewed as the wraith of primordial guilt, or original sin.

The term sin is only applicable to competent individuals past the age of reason. If a person doesn't know something is contrary to the Will of God they cannot be held accountable for sin until such time comes that the individual understands that particular sin is wrong.

This doesn't always happen during the temporal, physical, organic life of the physical body. In this instance the person will be illuminated after death, at which point the soul will be aware of exactly what sins they are guilty of. Atonement for sin cannot be made after the physical death of the human organism, and thus the soul of the unrepentant sinner is in an impossible predicament of final annihilation from existence.

However, God is not bound by time, and if a person was ever forgiven, they were always forgiven. And such is the nature of all Roman Catholics to pray for the departed soul, who didn't understand sin while physical life was in his/her flesh.

Roman Catholic Doctrine dictates Jesus Christ alone can forgive sin, although sin need only be forgiven if one desires immortality in everlasting paradise.

This section is based on the works: Thomas Aquinas, | The Summa Theologica, and Saint Augustine, | Confessions and | On Christian Doctrine

Protestant views

Many Protestants teachTemplate:Who? that, due to original sin, humanity has lost any and all capacity to move towards reconciliation with God (Romans 3:23;6:23; Ephesians 2:1-3); in fact, this inborn sin turns humans away from God and towards themselves and their own desires (Isaiah 53:6a). Thus, humans may be brought back into a relationship with God only by way of God's rescuing the sinner from his/her hopeless condition (Galatians 5:17-21; Ephesians 2:4-10) through Jesus's ransom sacrifice (Romans 5:6-8; Colossians 2:13-15). Salvation is sola fide (by faith alone); sola gratia (by grace alone); and is begun and completed by God alone through Jesus (Ephesians 2:8,9). This understanding of original sin (Romans 5:12-19), is most closely associated with Calvinism (see total depravity) and Lutheranism. Calvinism allows for the "goodness" of humanity through the belief in God's common grace. Methodist theology adapts the concept by stating that humans, entirely sinful and totally depraved, can only "do good" through God's prevenient grace.

This is in contrast to the Catholic teaching that while sin has tarnished the original goodness of humanity prior to the Fall, it has not entirely extinguished that goodness, or at least the potential for goodness, allowing humans to reach towards God to share in the Redemption which Jesus Christ won for them. Some non-Catholic or Orthodox groups hold similar views.

There is dispute about where sin originated. Some who interpret the king of Tyre in Ezekiel 28 as a symbol for Satan believe sin originated when Satan coveted the position that rightfully belongs to God. The origin of individual sins is discussed in James 1:14-15 - "14but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. 15Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death."(NIV)

Defined types of sin

Within some branches of Protestantism, there are several defined types of sin (as in Roman Catholicism):

  • Original sin -- Most denominations of Christianity interpret the Garden of Eden account in Genesis in terms of the fall of man. Adam and Eve's disobedience was the first sin man ever committed, and their original sin (or the effects of the sin) is passed on to their descendants (or has become a part of their environment). See also: total depravity.
  • Concupiscence
  • Venial sin
  • Mortal sin
  • Eternal sin -- Commonly called the Unforgivable sin (mentioned in Matthew 12:31

), this is perhaps the most controversial sin, whereby someone has become an apostate, forever denying themselves a life of faith and experience of salvation; the precise nature of this sin is often disputed.

Eastern/Oriental Orthodox views

The Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox use sin both to refer to humanity's fallen condition and to refer to individual sinful acts. In many ways the Orthodox Christian view of sin is similar to the Jewish, although neither form of Orthodoxy makes formal distinctions among "grades" of sins.

The Eastern Catholic Churches, which derive their theology and spirituality from same sources as the Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox, do not use the Latin Catholic distinction between Mortal and Venial sin. However, like the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox, the Eastern Catholic Churches do make a distinction between sins that are serious enough to bar one from Holy Communion (and must be confessed before receiving once again) and those which are not sufficiently serious to do so. In this respect, the Eastern Tradition is similar to the Western, but the Eastern Churches do not consider death in such a state to automatically mean damnation to Hell.

Emerging Church, Liberal Theology, and Liberation Theology

Within the emerging church movement and other progressive forms of Christianity, the definition of "sin" may or may not be central to an understanding of Christianity and its relationship to society. This non-dogmatic formulation of sin is perhaps more characteristic of the post-modern fluid views of the emerging church. Sin in this context can have multiple meanings, including but not limited to interpersonal sins (harming one's neighbours, friends, or families with negative actions), environmental sins (pollution, overconsumption), structural sins (homophobia or heterosexism, misogyny, racism, etc.), or even personal sins (actions which are harmful to oneself). As a result of this re-interpretation of the traditional concept of sin, new concepts of liberation and salvation are required.

Christian teachings on atonement, or the remedy for sin

In Christianity, atonement can refer to the redemption achieved by Jesus Christ by his virgin birth, sinless life, crucifixion, and resurrection, thereby fulfilling more than 300 Old Testament prophecies. Its centrality to traditional interpretations of Christian theology means that it has been the source of much discussion and some controversy throughout Christian history. Generally it is understood that the death of Jesus Christ was a sacrifice that relieves believers of the burden of their sins. However, the actual meaning of this precept is very widely debated. The traditional teaching of some churches traces this idea of atonement to blood sacrifices in the ancient Hebraic faith.

Christian theologians have presented different interpretations of atonement:

  • Origen taught that the death of Christ was a ransom paid to Satan in satisfaction of his just claim on the souls of humanity as a result of sin. This was opposed by theologians like St. Gregory Nazianzen, who maintained that this would have made Satan equal to God.
  • Irenaeus of Lyons taught that Christ recapitulated in Himself all the stages of life of sinful man, and that His perfect obedience substituted for Adam's disobedience.
  • Athanasius of Alexandria taught that Christ came to overcome death and corruption, and to remake humanity in God's image again. See On the Incarnation by St. Athanasius.
  • Augustine of Hippo said that sin was not a created thing at all, but that it was "privatio boni", a "taking away of good", and uncreation.
  • Anselm of Canterbury taught that Christ's death satisfied God's offended sense of justice over the sins of humanity. Also, God rewarded Christ's obedience, which built up a storehouse of merit and a treasury of grace that believers could share by their faith in Christ. This view is known as the satisfaction theory, the merit theory, or sometimes the commercial theory. Anselm's teaching is contained in his treatise Cur Deus Homo, which means Why God Became Human. Anselm's ideas were later expanded utilizing Aristotelian philosophy into a grand theological system by Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century, particularly in his masterpiece, the Summa Theologica, which eventually became official Roman Catholic doctrine.
  • Pierre Abélard held that Christ's Passion was God suffering with His creatures in order to show the greatness of His love for them. This is often known as the moral influence view, and has dominated Christian liberalism.
  • Martin Luther and John Calvin, leaders of the Protestant Reformation, owed much to Anselm's theory and taught that Christ, the only sinless person, was obedient to take upon Himself the penalty for the sins that should have been visited on men and women. This view is a version of substitutionary atonement and is sometimes called substitutionary punishment or a satisfaction theory, though it is not identical to that of Anselm. Calvin additionally advocated the doctrine of limited atonement, which teaches that the atonement applies only to the sins of the elect rather than to all of humanity.
  • D.L. Moody once said, "If you are under the power of evil, and you want to get under the power of God, cry to Him to bring you over to His service; cry to Him to take you into His army. He will hear you; He will come to you, and, if need be, He will send a legion of angels to help you to fight your way up to heaven. God will take you by the right hand and lead you through this wilderness, over death, and take you right into His kingdom. That's what the Son of Man came to do. He has never deceived us; just say here; "Christ is my deliverer.""
  • Arminianism has traditionally taught what is known as "Moral Government" theology or the Governmental theory. Drawing primarily from the works of Jacobus Arminius and Hugo Grotius, the Governmental theory teaches that Christ suffered for humankind so that God could forgive humans while still maintaining divine justice. Unlike the perspectives of Anselm of Canterbury or Calvinism, this view states that Christ was not punished for humanity, for true forgiveness would not be possible if humankind's offenses were already punished. Christ's suffering was a real and meaningful substitutionary atonement for the punishment humans deserve, but Christ was not punished on behalf of the human race. This view has prospered in traditional Methodism and all who follow the teachings of John Wesley, and has been detailed by, among others, 19th century Methodist theologian John Miley in his classic Atonement in Christ and 20th century Church of the Nazarene theologian J. Kenneth Grider in his Wesleyan-Holiness Theology. Variations of this view have also been espoused by 18th century Puritan Jonathan Edwards and 19th century revival leader Charles Grandison Finney.
  • Karl Barth taught that Christ's death manifested God's love and His hatred for sin.
  • Barbara Reid (theologian), a feminist Dominican theologian argues that atonement is a harmful theology, especially to women and other oppressed groups. Other Liberal or Progressive theologians have also challenged the traditional view of atonement. In this view, atonement theology--as central as it is to traditional Christian faith--needs to be re-interpreted or perhaps even disposed of as it focuses on death, sin, and suffering as opposed to liberation, life, and resurrection.
  • Mary Baker Eddy taught that atonement exemplifies our underlying spiritual unity with God, whereby we reflect divine Love (God): Christ's atonement reconciles man to God, not God to man.

The ideas of these and other Christian theologians can be summed up under these rubrics:[original research?]

  • Victory: the idea that Jesus defeated Death through his death, and gave life to those in the grave. Both following models may be understood as variations of the Victory idea:
  • Participation: the idea that God's death on the cross completed his identification with humanity - God's participation in our sin and sorrow allowing our participation in his love and triumph;
  • Ransom: the idea that Jesus released humanity from a legal obligation to the Devil, incurred by sin. (Theories involving ransom owed to divine justice are generally classified under Punishment, below.)
  • Punishment: the idea that God assumed the penalty for human sins on the Cross, and volunteered punishment as the price paid to release humanity from so that the faithful might escape it;
  • Government: the idea that God forgives the penalty due humans for their sins, provisioned on their acceptance of that forgiveness, but that Christ suffered on the Cross in order to demonstrate the seriousness of sin;
  • Example: the idea that Jesus' death was meant as a lesson in ideal submission to the will of God, and to show the path to eternal life;
  • Revelation: the idea that Jesus' death was meant to reveal God's nature and to help humans know God better.
  • Liberation: the concept that both the life and death of Jesus are somehow responsible for social and personal liberation from the effects of sin.
See also: Salvation; Penance; Repentance; Reconciliation; Sacraments (Catholic Church)

Islamic views of sin

Islam sees sin (dhanb, thanb ذنب) as anything that goes against the will of Allah (God). Islam teaches that sin is an act and not a state of being. The Qur'an teaches that "the (human) soul is certainly prone to evil, unless the Lord does bestow His Mercy" and that even the prophets do not absolve themselves of the blame (Qur'an

  1. REDIRECT: Template:Cite quran

). Muhammad advised:

"Do good deeds properly, sincerely and moderately, and rejoice, for no one's good deeds will put him in Paradise." The Companions asked, "Not even you O Messenger of Allah?" He replied, "Not even me unless Allah bestows His pardon and mercy on me".[How to reference and link to summary or text]

In Islam, there are several gradations of sin:

  • sayyia, khatia: mistakes (Suras 7:168; 17:31; 40:45; 47:19 48:2)
  • itada, junah, dhanb: immorality (Suras 2:190,229; 17:17 33:55)
  • haram: transgressions (Suras 5:4; 6:146)
  • ithm, dhulam, fujur, su, fasad, fisk, kufr: wickedness and depravity (Suras 2:99, 205; 4:50, 112, 123, 136; 12:79; 38:62; 82:14)
  • shirk: ascribing a partner to God (Sura 4:48)

It is believed that Iblis (Satan) has a significant role in tempting humankind towards sin. Thus, Islamic theology identifies and warns of an external enemy of humankind who leads humankind towards sin (

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etc.) The Qur'an in several verses (
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) states the details of the Iblis’s temptation of Adam and in (Qur'an

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) states that the Iblis’s pattern of temptation of man is the same as that of Adam, i.e. Allah decrees a law for man but instead man obeys his own base desires and does not guard himself against the allurements of his enemy. Iblis deceives human being with vain hopes whereby he is led astray and fate helps him in that respect. Thus he transgresses some of the limits set for him by Allah and disobeys some of Allah's commandments. He therefore becomes justifiably liable to Allah's judgement and afflictions. But as proposed in the Qur'anic version of the story of Adam, man can turn towards Allah by the words inspired by Allah after being failed in Allah's test, because He is Oft-Returning and Most Merciful (Qur'an

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Muslims believe that Allah is angered by sin and punishes some sinners with the fires of جهنم‎ jahannam (Hell), but that He is also ar-rahman (the Merciful) and al-ghaffar (the Oft-Forgiving). It is believed that the جهنم‎ jahannam fire has purification functionality and that after purification, an individual who has been condemned to enter جهنم‎ jahannam is eligible to go to جنّة jannah(the Garden), if he "had an atom's worth of faith". Some Qur'anic commentaries such as Allameh Tabatabaei

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state that the fire is nothing but a transformed form of the human’s sin itself: 
Those who unjustly eat up the property of orphans, eat up a Fire into their own bodies: They will soon be enduring a Blazing Fire![10]
Those who conceal Allah's revelations in the Book, and purchase for them a miserable profit - they swallow into themselves naught but Fire...[11]

Some Islamic scholars such as Ibn Sina and Eghbal believe that jahannam (Hell) is not material.

In Islam there are opposing views that if a person commits a sin, he will be out of Islam.

Islamic conceptions of atonement for sin

Qur'an teaches that the main way back to Allah is through genuine tawbah (repentance) which literally means 'to return'). See Repentance in Islam for further discussions.

Say: "O my Servants who have transgressed against their souls! Despair not of the Mercy of Allah: for Allah forgives all sins: for He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. Turn ye to our Lord (in repentance) and bow to His (will), before the Penalty comes on you: after that ye shall not be helped.[12]
Verily! Allah Accepts the repentance of those who do evil in ignorance and repent soon afterwards, to them Allah will turn in Mercy, for Allah is Full of Knowledge and Wisdom. And of no effect is the repentance of those who continue to do evil, until death faces one of them and he says "now have I repented indeed", nor of those who die rejecting faith: for them have we prepared a chastisement most grievous.[13]

Islam does not accept any blood sacrifice for sin. The Islamic understanding of forgiveness is that it is made on the basis of divine grace and repentance. According to Islam, no sacrifice can add to divine grace nor replace the necessity of repentance. In the Islamic theology, the animal sacrifices or blood are not directly linked to atonement (Qur'an

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"It is not their meat nor their blood that reaches Allah. it is your piety that reaches Him..."). On the other hand, the sacrifice is done to help the poor, and in remembrance of Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son at God's command. (The son is not named in the Qur'an and in early Islam, there was a fierce controversy over the identity of the son. However, the belief that it was Ishmael prevailed later.[14])

In many verses of the Qur'an, Allah promises to forgive the sins of Muslims (those who believe and do good works) (

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Prayer and good deeds can also be atonements for sins (Qur'an

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). The Islamic Law, Sharia specifies the atonement of any particular sin. Depending on the sin, the atonement can range from repentance and compensation of the sin if possible, feeding the poor, freeing slaves to even stoning to death or cutting hands.

Some of the major sins are held to be legally punishable in an Islamic state (for example, murder, theft, adultery, and in some views apostasy; see sharia). Most are left to Allah to punish (for example, backbiting, hypocrisy arrogance, filial disrespect, lying).

Also, it is said that for every good deed that is done, 10 bad ones (sins) will be taken off.

Islamic Major sins: Al-Kaba'ir

There is considerable difference among scholars as to which sins are Al-Kaba'r (major sins).

According to Sahih Bukhari there are seven al-Kaba'ir (major sins) according to this tradition: >[15]

"Avoid the seven noxious things"- and after having said this, the prophet (saw) mentioned them: "associating anything with Allah; magic (Equivalent to Witchcraft and Sorcery in English); killing one whom Allah has declared inviolate without a just case, consuming the property of an orphan, devouring usury, turning back when the army advances, and slandering chaste women who are believers but indiscreet." ,"

'Abdullah ibn 'Abbas said:

Seventy is closer to their number than seven.[15][16]

Major 70 Sins in Islam [17]

This list is a collection of deeds of varying degrees of offensiveness that have been compiled by religious scholars after Mohammed's time, according to the beliefs of their respective periods.[How to reference and link to summary or text] The deeds are interpreted as implied by the canon of the Qur'an.

  1. Associating anything with Allah
  2. Murder
  3. Practicing magic/ (khurafah)
  4. Not praying
  5. Not paying Zakat
  6. Not fasting on a Day of Ramadan without excuse
  7. Not performing Hajj, while being able to do so
  8. Disrespect to parents
  9. Abandoning relatives
  10. Fornication and Adultery
  11. Sodomy
  12. Interest
  13. Wrongfully consuming the property of an orphan
  14. Lying about Allah and His Messenger
  15. Running away from the battlefield
  16. A leader's deceiving his people and being unjust to them
  17. Pride and arrogance
  18. Bearing false witness
  19. Drinking Khamr (wine)
  20. Gambling
  21. Slandering chaste women
  22. Stealing from the spoils of war
  23. Stealing
  24. Highway Robbery
  25. Taking false oath
  26. Oppression
  27. Illegal gain
  28. Consuming wealth acquired unlawfully
  29. Committing suicide
  30. Frequent lying
  31. Judging unjustly
  32. Giving and accepting bribes
  33. Women imitating men and men imitating women
  34. Being cuckolded
  35. Marrying a divorced woman in order to make her lawful for the husband

  1. Not protecting oneself from urine
  2. Showing off
  3. Learning knowledge of the religion for the sake of this world and concealing that knowledge
  4. Betrayal of trust
  5. Recounting favours
  6. Denying Allah's Decree
  7. Listening (to) people's private conversations
  8. Carrying tales
  9. Cursing
  10. Breaking contracts
  11. Believing in fortune-tellers and astrologers
  12. A woman's bad conduct towards her husband
  13. Begging
  14. Lamenting, wailing, tearing the clothing, and doing other things of this sort when an affliction befalls
  15. Treating others unjustly
  16. Overbearing conduct toward the wife, the servant, the weak, and animals
  17. Offending one's neighbour
  18. Offending and abusing Muslims
  19. Offending people and having an arrogant attitude toward them
  20. Trailing one's garment in pride
  21. Men wearing silk and gold
  22. Be in a business that deals with drugs, alcohol or pig meat
  23. Slaughtering an animal which has been dedicated to anyone other than Allah
  24. To knowingly ascribe one's paternity to a father other than one's own
  25. Arguing and disputing violently
  26. Withholding excess water
  27. Giving short weight or measure
  28. Feeling secure from Allah's Plan
  29. Offending Allah's righteous friends
  30. Not praying in congregation but praying alone without an excuse
  31. Persistently missing Friday Prayers without any excuse
  32. Usurping the rights of the heir through bequests
  33. Deceiving and plotting evil
  34. Spying for the enemy of the Muslims
  35. Cursing or insulting any of the Companions of Allah's Messenger

Bahá'í views of sin

In the Bahá'í Faith, humans are considered to be naturally good, fundamentally spiritual beings. Human beings were created because of God's immeasurable love for us. However, the Bahá'í teachings compare the human heart to a mirror, which, if turned away from the light of the sun (i.e. God), is incapable of receiving God's love. It is only by turning unto God that the spiritual advancement can be made. In this sense, "sinning" is to follow the inclinations of one's own lower nature, to turn the mirror of one's heart away from God.

One of the main hindrances to spiritual development is the Bahá'í concept of the "insistent self" which is a self-serving inclination within all people. Bahá'ís interpret this to be the true meaning of Satan, often referred to in the Bahá'í Writings as "the Evil One".

Watch over yourselves, for the Evil One is lying in wait, ready to entrap you. Gird yourselves against his wicked devices, and, led by the light of the name of the All-Seeing God, make your escape from the darkness that surroundeth you. — Bahá'u'lláh [3]

This lower nature in humans is symbolized as Satan — the evil ego within us, not an evil personality outside. — `Abdu'l-Bahá [18]

The Bahá'í concept of God is both just and merciful. God is seen as being "He Who forgiveth even the most grievous of sins".[4] Bahá'ís are meant to refrain from focussing on the sins of others, and are meant to have a "sin-covering eye".[19] Bahá'ís are also forbidden to confess their sins to others in order to have their sins removed. Forgiveness is between a person and God alone, and is thus a very personal affair.

Should anyone be afflicted by a sin, it behoveth him to repent thereof and return unto his Lord. He, verily, granteth forgiveness unto whomsoever He willeth, and none may question that which it pleaseth Him to ordain. He is, in truth, the Ever-Forgiving, the Almighty, the All-Praised. — Bahá'u'lláh [20]

Bahá'u'lláh taught that one should bring one's self to account each day, and be constantly concerned with self-improvement. Sin is an inevitable stumbling block, but it should not be allowing to halt one's spiritual progress. One should ask for forgiveness from God alone and then try to develop oneself through acquisition of virtues and communion with God (through prayer, fasting, meditation and other spiritual practices). There are many Bahá'í prayers for forgiveness of oneself, one's parents, and even the deceased. The Bahá'í Faith teaches that pardon can be obtained even in the afterlife and that deeds done in the name of the departed or wealth left by the departed for charity can benefit and advance their souls in the afterlife.

The Bahá'í Faith accepts the Biblical teaching that the sin against the Holy Spirit cannot be forgiven, in this world or the world to come.

The Prophets of God are manifestations for the lordly perfections - that is, the Holy Spirit is apparent in Them. If a soul remains far from the manifestation, he may yet be awakened; for he did not recognize the manifestation of the divine perfections. But if he loathe the divine perfections themselves - in other words, the Holy Spirit - it is evident that he is like a bat which hates the light. This detestation of the light has no remedy and cannot be forgiven - that is to say, it is impossible for him to come near unto God. This lamp is a lamp because of its light; without the light it would not be a lamp. Now if a soul has an aversion for the light of the lamp, he is, as it were, blind, and cannot comprehend the light; and blindness is the cause of everlasting banishment from God. — `Abdu'l-Bahá [21]

In the end, only God can decide who is forgiven and who is not.

Hindu views of sin

In Hinduism, the term sin (pāpa in Sanskrit) is often used to describe actions that create negative karma by violating moral and ethical codes. This differs from other religions like Judaism, Christianity and Islam in the sense that sin is against the will of God. In fact, it is often described in the scriptures that chanting the name of Hari or Narayana or Shiva is the one of the ways to atone for sins, prevent rebirth and attain moksha. For reference, see the famous story of Ajamila described in the Bhagavata Purana[22].

Shaivite guru Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami explains in the lexicon section of his book, Dancing with Siva, that "sin is an intentional transgression of divine law and is not viewed in Hinduism as a crime against God as in Judaeo-Christian religions, but rather as 1) an act against dharma, or moral order and 2) one's own self." Furthermore, he notes that it is thought natural, if unfortunate, that young souls act wrongly, for they are living in nescience, avidya, the darkness of ignorance.

He further mentions that sin in Hinduism is an adharmic course of action which automatically brings negative consequences. Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami explains that the term sin carries a double meaning, as do its Sanskrit equivalents: 1) a wrongful act, 2) the negative consequences resulting from a wrongful act. In Sanskrit the wrongful act is known by several terms, including pataka (from pat, "to fall"), pāpa, enas, kilbisha, adharma, anrita and rina (transgress, in the sense of omission).

He comments that the residue of sin is called pāpa, sometimes conceived of as a sticky, astral substance which can be dissolved through penance (prayashchitta), austerity (tapas) and good deeds (sukritya). Note that papa is also accrued through unknowing or unintentional transgressions of dharma, as in the term aparadha (offense, fault, mistake).

Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami further notes that in Hinduism, except for Dvaita school of Shri Madhvacharya, there are no such concepts of inherent or mortal sin, according to some theologies, which he defined as sins so grave that they can never be expiated and which cause the soul to be condemned to suffer eternally in hell.

Adapted and cited from lexicon section of his book, Dancing with Siva, with italics to indicate non-quotes.

Virtues in Hinduism: Yamas

Ranks of Ethical practices in Samkhya Hinduism:

  • Sattva(pure)- purity, clarity, and healthy calmness (Life of devotion) practiced by Sannyasa/Saints.
  • Rajas(dim)- action, change, passion, excitement, creation, generation, etc. (Life of activity)
  • Tamas(dark)- darkness, death, destruction, ignorance, laziness, inactivity, etc. (Life of indifference) practiced by asuras/demons.

Atheist views of sin

Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to:

Atheism often draws a distinction between sin and an ethical code of conduct. Sin is a term generally associated with a theological belief system (which is antithetical to atheism), and is separate from the concept of "right or wrong." Atheists typically do not use the term "sinful" to refer to actions that violate their particular moral system (particularly if "sinful" is taken to mean "acting against the wishes or commands of a deity"), preferring terms such as "wrong" or "unethical," which do not carry religious connotations. Most atheists hold that moral codes derive from societal mores or innate human characteristics, rather than religious authority. Atheists may still adhere to a strong ethical code, even if they do not use the concept of sin.

"Atheism" is as vague a category as "theism", however: just as there is no universal doctrine of "theism" (apart from the basic assertion that some divine entity or entities exist), there is no universal doctrine of "atheism," and no unified atheistic view on the concept of sin.

See also


Notes and references

  1. Editorial board. Oxford English Dictionary (1971) ISBN 0198612125. Earliest citation c.825.
  2. Bartleby - Sin
  3. The Sience of God: The Convergence of Scientific and Biblical Wisdom by Gerald L. Schroeder
  4. Liddell and Scott: Greek-English Lexicon 9th ed. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
  5. Danker, Frederick W. A: Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. 3d ed. Chicago/London: University of Chicago Press.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 -[1]/web/pdf/EnglishHandbook.pdf English Handbook of Jews for Judaism]
  7. - SIN:
  8. (2008). Vatican lists new sinful behaviors. The Associated Press. URL accessed on 2008-03-10.
  9. Catechism of the Chatolic Church, 1997: "1867 The catechetical tradition also recalls that there are "sins that cry to heaven": the blood of Abel, the sin of the Sodomites, the cry of the people oppressed in Egypt, the cry of the foreigner, the widow, and the orphan, injustice to the wage earner."
  10. Qur'an
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  11. Qur'an
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  12. Qur'an
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  13. Qur'an
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  14. William Montgomery Watt, Encyclopedia of Islam, Ishaq
  15. 15.0 15.1 ISBN 1-56744-489-X The Major Sins Al-Kaba'ir By Muhammad bin 'Uthman Adh-Dhahabi, rendered into English by Mohammad Moinuddin Siddiqui
  16. Muhammad Tahlawi The Path to Paradise by M.Tahlawi, Trans. By J. Zarabozo [IANA books]
  17. The Major Sins - Al-Kaba'r.
  18. Bahá'í Reference Library - The Promulgation of Universal Peace, Pages 284-289
  19. Bahá'í Reference Library - Directives from the Guardian, Pages 41-42
  20. Bahá'í Reference Library - The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Pages 34-49
  21. [2]
  22. Bhāgavata Purāṇa 6, ch. 1-2



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