Recently a friend and I were discussing the concept of ‘7 Deadly Sins’, a product of Catholic Christianity in the Dark Ages. Some of them, I observed, still have relevance today. There is indeed far too much greed, envy, gluttony, and anger in the world. I would call these character flaws rather than sins, and I pointed out that the problem with each of them lies in excess, rather than considering them absolutes.
A moderate amount of greed and envy would be called ambition, which motivates people to work for their fair share. Anger is a problem if it is overwhelming, and mostly when it is misdirected into violence, but channeled constructively, it can be a positive force to right wrongs.
As for sloth, while it is not often useful to hang upside down from tree branches eating leaves, it could be considered harmless and relaxing. Of course what they mean is laziness. The term is unfair to the poor sloth, who is working just as hard as he needs to. Some people, no doubt, should work harder, but many are working too hard, resting too little, and not enjoying life. Look for the happy medium, I say. (And when you find her, ask her why she’s happy.)
Then there’s pride. One can have too much of it, or be proud of the wrong things, but many have too little. A feeling of pride is how we reward ourselves for developing personal qualities like honesty, integrity, and compassion that often have no external reward. Most people’s achievments do not bring fame or fortune, yet we should take pride in doing anything well.
Listed last but not least is lust. Including it on a list of sins was the most harmful disservice to humanity ever done by a religion. Lust is as natural as hunger, and serves a purpose just as beneficial.
It is important to realize that the purpose of lust is not merely
reproduction. That is secondary. A high and fairly constant level of
sexual desire is the key factor in mankind developing as a social animal,
forming groups able to cooperate, sharing knowledge and skills to not
only survive but to prosper and improve. Without that socialization we
would not have been able to use our complex brains and ability to
manipulate tools to much advantage. We would not have civilization.
Prior to Christianity, men and women in highly developed civilizations
enjoyed and celebrated their sexuality. But in the middle ages, church
authorities twisted the original teachings into sexual repression,
bringing on an era of guilt and misery
Naturally, being human, we continued to enjoy our lust and express our
love, but the conflict with religion caused confusion and divisiveness.
It interfered with relationships between men and women, greatly increased
frustration, anxiety, and depression.
Much of mankind has emerged from these lingering irrational attitudes,
but they continue to inflict psychological harm on many. It is important
to recognize the beneficial nature of healthy human lust, both to
individuals and to civilization as a whole, and stop calling it a sin.