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.
Christian views of sin
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).
"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.
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 [Qur'an 12:53]). 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".
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)
Major 70 Sins in Islam
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. The deeds are interpreted as implied by the canon of the Qur'an.
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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.
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
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.
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.
- I undertake the rule to refrain from destroying living creatures.
- I undertake the rule to refrain from taking that which is not given.
- I undertake the rule to refrain from sexual misconduct.
- I undertake the rule to refrain from incorrect speech.
- I undertake the rule to refrain from intoxicants which lead to carelessness.
- Noble Eightfold Path
- Right View
- Right Intention
- Right Speech
- Right Action
- Right Work
- Right Effort
- Right Mindfulness
- Right Concentration
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). 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." 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:
- God is merciful before someone sins, even though God knows that a person is capable of sin.
- God is merciful to a sinner even after the person has sinned.
- God represents the power to be merciful even in areas that a human would not expect or deserve.
- God is compassionate, and eases the punishment of the guilty.
- God is gracious even to those who are not deserving.
- God is slow to anger.
- God is abundant in kindness.
- God is the god of truth, thus we can count on God's promises to forgive repentant sinners.
- God guarantees kindness to future generations, as the deeds of the righteous patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) have benefits to all their descendants.
- God forgives intentional sins if the sinner repents.
- God forgives a deliberate angering of Him if the sinner repents.
- God forgives sins that are committed in error.
- God wipes away the sins from those who repent.