A Sistine Chapel fresco depicts the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the garden of Eden for their sin of eating from the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

A sin (also called peccancy) is an act that violates a known moral rule in a religion. The term sin may also refer to the state of having committed such a violation. Christians believe the moral code of conduct is decreed by God (cf Epistle to the Romans chapter 7: 'the law code itself is God's good and common sense' (verse 8 The Message (Bible)). Sin may also refer to refraining from action or simply desiring to act in violation of a moral norm. Fundamentally, sin is rebellion against, or resistance to, the direction of supreme authority, and enmity toward, avoidance of, or hatred of the good.[1][2][3] Sin may also refer to something within human nature that has a proclivity to sin (see concupiscence).

"Sin" is often used to mean an action that is prohibited or considered wrong. In some religions (notably in Christianity), sin can refer not only to physical actions taken, but also to thoughts and internalized motivations and feelings. Colloquially, any thought, word, or act considered immoral, selfish, shameful, harmful, or alienating might be termed "sinful".

An elementary concept of "sin" concerns acts and elements of mundane earthly living that one cannot take into transcendental living. Food, for example, while a necessary good for the (health of the temporal) body, is not of (eternal) transcendental living and therefore its excessive savoring is considered a sin.[4][5][6][7] A more complex concept of "sin," elaborated from Catholicism, deals with a distinction between destructive (deadly) sins (mortal sin) and the merely dishonorable (harmful) sins of careless human living (venial sin) frequently tolerated by societies as a whole, or even encouraged by various cultures. In that context, mortal sins (sacrilege, murder, mortal violence, devastating calumny, hatred) are said to have the dire consequence of mortal penalty, while sins of careless living (gluttony, casual or informal sexuality, constant play, inebriation, gambling) have been philosophically regarded by some as essential spice for "transcendent" living, even though these may be destructive in the context of human living (obesity, drunkenness, vagrancy, infidelity, child abandonment, criminal negligence). See Asceticism, Stoic philosophy, Epicurean philosophy, and Hedonism.

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 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 and the importance of responsibility.
  • 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.


Bahá'í faith

In the Bahá'í Faith, humans are considered to be naturally good (perfect), 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.


The concept of Buddhist ethics is consequentialist in nature and is not based upon duty towards any deities. It is founded upon compassion for all sentient beings and upon a principle not to induce unhappiness or suffering. The well-being of all sentient beings is seen as a positive approach to interrelationships with mankind and not as a means towards any transcendent end. While there is no Buddhist equivalent of the Abrahamic concept of sin, sin itself, or wrongdoing, is recognized in Buddhism. Also refer to [8] Buddhism recognizes a natural principle of Karma whereby widespread suffering is the inevitable consequence of greed, hatred and delusion. Buddhism claims to offer a path to enlightenment, or to a philosophical destination where the truth about reality is finally realized.


In Western Christianity, "sin is lawlessness" (1John 3:4) and so salvation tends to be understood in legal terms, similar to Jewish law. Sin alienates the sinner from God. It has damaged, and completely severed, the relationship of humanity to God. That relationship can only be restored through repentance unto Christ and acceptance of Jesus Christ and his death on the cross as a sacrifice for mankind's sin (see Salvation and Substitutionary atonement). Jesus Christ states in Matthew 22:35-40 what Christian Law is.

Then one of them, [which was] a lawyer, asked [him a question], tempting him, and saying, "Master, which [is] the great commandment in the law?" Jesus said unto him, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second [is] like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."

In Eastern Christianity, sin is viewed in terms of its effects on relationships, both among people and between people and God. Sin is seen as the refusal to follow God's plan, and the desire to be "like God" (Genesis 3:5) and thus in direct opposition to God's desires (see the account of Adam and Eve in the Book of Genesis). To sin is to want control of one's destiny in opposition to the will of God, to do some rigid beliefs.[citation needed]

In the Russian variant of Eastern Christianity, sin sometimes is regarded as any mistake made by people in their life. From this point of view every person is sinful because every person makes mistakes during their life. When a person accuses others of sins they always must remember that they are also sinners and so they must have mercy for others remembering that God is also merciful to them and to all of humanity.

Jehovah's Witnesses

Jehovah's Witnesses believe that sin is inherited, like a disease, and has been passed on from generation to generation of humans, beginning with Adam and Eve, whom Witnesses believe are real historical characters.[9] They believe that it began with Humans wanting to decide for themselves what was Good and Bad. They believe that at that very moment they lost perfection and began to die. Jehovah's Witnesses consider human beings to be souls, and so when a human dies due to sin they believe that their soul dies as well.[10] They believe that Jesus is the only human ever to have lived and died sinless.


Islam sees sin ("khati'a") 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).[Quran 12:53]


Judaism regards the breaking of any of the divine commandments to be a sin. Judaism teaches that sin is an act, and not a state of being. Sin is any thought, word, or deed that breaks God's law by omission or commission.


Within Shinto there is no doctrine of sin, rather good and evil are conceived of in "aesthetic terms, likening them to straight and curved lines". Matagatsubi, the curved spirit, causes "evil deeds and any misfortune or disasters" by creating imbalance, distorting the "straight and clear". Evil deeds fall into two categories in Shinto: amatsu tsumi, "the most pernicious crimes of all", and kunitsu tsumi, "or more commonly called misdemeanors".[11]


Atheism often draws a distinction between sin[clarification needed] and an unethical code of conduct. As the term is most often associated with theological belief, atheists do not use the word in the association of an immoral/unethical act.

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ Hanegraaff, Hank. "The Bible Answer Book" pg. 18-21. ISBN: 0-8499-9544-2
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ Hanegraaff, Hank. "The Bible Answer Book" pg. 18-21. ISBN: 0-8499-9544-2
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ Charles Goodman Consequences of Compassion: An interpretation and Defense of Buddhist Ethics Oxford University Press (2009) ISBN 978-0-19-537519-0
  9. ^ "What Does the Bible Really Teach" pp. 61-63 'Why humans die?'
  10. ^ "What Does the Bible Really Teach" pp. 57-65 'Where are the Dead?'
  11. ^ The Essence of Shinto: The Spiritual Heart of Japan by Motohisa Yamakage


  • Hein, David. "Regrets Only: A Theology of Remorse." The Anglican 33, no. 4 (October 2004): 5-6
  • Schumacher, Meinolf. Sündenschmutz und Herzensreinheit: Studien zur Metaphorik der Sünde in lateinischer und deutscher Literatur des Mittelalters. Munich: Fink, 1996

External links

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