Throughout the bible, homosexuality is put in the same category as bestiality, incest, lying, stealing, murdering, and other detestable sins before god.
Sin? Homosexuality was, and is, considered a sin? As usual, reading my friends’ blogs causes me to think about what they say, and often, as it should, sparks a thought in another direction. Here, I’m thinking about sin. What is it, where did it come from, why do humans suffer it, who decides what it is, etc.? All those natural questions that should come to mind, but usually don’t once you’ve been indoctrinated into a particular religious belief and dogma, in the process becoming impervious to questioning. Let’s look at it.
What is sin? A simple three-letter word. What does the word mean? According to Wikipedia,
While Wikipedia is not the best source for definitive knowledge, this definition is adequate to start. Interestingly, the fact that the word was originally an archery term makes sense, as noted here:
The truth is that sin, as defined in the original translations of the Bible, means “to miss the mark.”
(You learn something new every day, don’t you?)
At this point it appears that sin is just a word to describe a transgression against established moral precepts. A nice, short word for “a bad thing”. If your aim in life is to always “hit the mark”, i.e. achieve as close to perfection as you can, then it makes sense that when you fail, that’s bad, and you’ve sinned. I actually find the word more palatable in its original usage.
What I can’t figure out is how the word came to be transformed into the concept we all know and love (or is that “hate”!). The Catholics have an entire subset of theology wrapped around those three letters. And no one has ever been able to explain to me in a satisfactory manner exactly why sin is such a bad thing, as opposed to simply another side of human nature, if God, in his infinite wisdom and power, the being who is responsible for the creation of everything, allows sin to exist. Since he created everything, isn’t he responsible for the creation of sin? Are we supposed to believe that he isn’t? If not, who is? Satan? Adam and Eve? Do you see the inherent contradiction here, the quandary these facts imply? God, that omnipotent, omniscient, supernatural yet divine entity, the one billions of people worship, is the creator of this terrible scourge we humans have had to live with for the past six millennium. And then, to fix his mistake, he sent his son, (who previously was doing who-knows-what in heaven) down to earth to temporarily die so as to atone for not only the sin of Adam of Eve, but all sin. It’s beyond belief. Literally.
To add to this confusion, there are so many types of sin to choose from. There are venial sins, which we learned were the minor sins, those sins which a trip to purgatory, for a short time, would cleanse from our soul. Then there are the mortal sins, those major sins that take a good bit more effort to get rid of, before we are allowed to go to heaven.
Then there is this concept of the soul as a sort of database and repository of information concerning our sins. The nuns used to tell us that each sin was like a black mark or stain on the soul, and if our souls had too many black marks, or if the black marks were too big, when we died, we’d go to hell. So we couldn’t die unless we made sure that they were cleansed from our soul. And how did we do that? By confessing them to a priest in the confessional. This caused no end of embarrassment to children who were forced to partake of this particular sacrament.
Finally, there’s the biggie – Original Sin! We were born with souls already pre-stained, like modern day jeans. This was the sin of Adam (and Eve) who ate the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil and discovered that they were naked. OK, I simplified that, but really, that’s what it boiled down to. God put a tree in the Garden of Eden (according to the story in Genesis) that bore fruit that apparently contained some knowledge that he didn’t want humans to have. (Arguably, our first hint of the anti-scientific nature of religion.)
Why he (a) thought it was necessary to keep this knowledge from man and (b) placed temptation in their heads and expected them to resist it (Quick! Do not think of pink elephants! Ooops! Too late.) is beyond explanation. It would seem that god was just some masochistic little pervert that enjoyed watching naked humans frolic in the Garden of Eden, got bored with that, and decided to test them, knowing full well in advance that they would fail his test, and that he would impose original sin on all of their ancestors to this very day, so that their ancestors could continue to wriggle and squirm under his divine microscope. He’d even get to throw a good many of them into the eternal flames of hell! What fun!
What god is this? Not mine. But I digress.
So what is sin? Can you look at a sin? Can you touch it, feel it, smell it, taste it? No. It is a concept that did not even exist until religion entered human discourse. Did it exist as a black mark or stain on our souls before Christ showed up? Doubtful. It took people like St. Augustine, Thomas Aquinas and others to flesh out the theory and practical effects of this new concept. One can just see the church fathers, at archery practice, trying to decide how they can control their adherents to this new religion.
Why don’t we come up with something that’ll scare them into subservience with the threat of eternal damnation, cannot be falsified by any human, but ties in to those great stories in the Old Testament, like the one about Adam and Eve. That’ll force them to come to us for their tickets to heaven. We could sell them indulgences. Collect tithes. What a great money making racket! This should keep us in business for 2000 years!
So, my cynicism notwithstanding, the bottom line is that, as a theological phenomenon, sin does not exist. Let me repeat that, because it is important. Sin does not exist. Like god, it’s a concept that was devised by human minds to attempt to explain the (at the time) unexplainable. There is no clearing house of sinful information on the other side of the pearly gates, residing on the hard drive of some heavenly server. There are no pearly gates, for that matter. If there is no heaven, no hell and no god, then there is no such thing as sin, except in the metaphorical sense as a convenient way to describe those things we do that are against our sense of human morality, and metaphors are tools of language also devised by humans. Those things we humans have decided are no-nos: murder, rape, theft, deception, etc. Those are sins, but the kind that stains the rap sheet, not the soul.
Since sin doesn’t exist, in the theological sense, we can shed the guilt associated with it, at least that aspect of guilt that allows us to fear some divine retribution. When we “sin”, we should fear human retribution, in the form of criminal penalties, at the most, or perhaps the enmity and harsh judgment of our fellow humans at the least. That’s all we really need.
We can also look closely at those things religion calls sin, like homosexuality, or even the one set forth in the 9th Commandment – coveting thy neighbor’s wife – and discard them. Homosexuality is natural, at least for approximately ten percent of the world’s population. Think 661,138,242 homosexual sinners in the entire world (as of the time I wrote this post). That’s 661 million, that religion, by mere definition, relegates to the status of sinners.