Rhetoric | An Agnostic's View of Sin

One of my friends and mutual followers on WordPress, Mitch Teemley, has just posted an interesting synopsis on the subject of “Sin.”  His post includes  several interesting quotes about the subject, see:

Popular Idea, Unpopular Word

After reading the post I was inspired to leave the following comment.

Aren’t all “sins” simply unhealthy behavior; either unhealthy to the individual or unhealthy to human society? Even without believing a Bible or a Quran literally, it seems that a loving creator would only want what is healthy for us. The “sin” (unhealthy action) carries its own purnishment and its own hell. I’m sure God empathizes but requires no further hell than that which has already been suffered.

I need to explain that my life’s spiritual journey includes an upbringing in an “unchurched” family where I was able to eventually evolve into atheistic beliefs, without the intervention of my parents and with the willing acquiescence, moreover encouragement, of the public school system.

But in my adult life, my wife and I became involved in the highly legalistic, fundamental, cult-like Worldwide Church of God.  After our nearly 25 years as members,  the church  disolved and fragmented after the death of its founder, Herbert W. Armstrong.  Attendance at other churches, forbidden under Armstrong’s reign, was blessed by his successors; so my Christian phase included stints of attendance in several evangelical and even pentecostal churches. This “empirical” experience with Christianity made a very strong impression on me of how varied and how  relative religious doctrines are—especially when purportedly based on  the inviolable  inspired word of the supreme being of the holy books.

In his argument for the observance of the Seventh Day Sabbath, Herbert W. Armstrong used to thunder (while waving a copy of the Bible in the air) “These are not the Ten Suggestions, these are the Ten Commnandments and the 4th Commandment is that you keep the Seventh Day Holy!”

But I would beg to differ. Perhaps God’s original intention in inspiring the Bible was to suggest that humans avoid unhealthy behavior, even setting forth some guidelines in order to accomplish that—one of which suggested that devoting all of one’s time to making a living was unhealthy and that one day of rest, relaxation and meditation would contribute to health and happiness. Like much else in the Bible and— I’m sure— the Quran, the Book of Mormon or the Bhagavad Gita, there is an undeniable strain of logic and wisdom in the Hebrew 4th Commandment.

But the Judeo-Christian Bible and—I assume— those other holy books, as edited and evolved by early sages,  goes one step farther: it codifies those original suggestions and adds “sanctions,” penalties for non-observance. Those penalties can range from simple lifelong guilt to eternal suffering in a lake of fire. The concept of the suffering of Christ  having paid the penalty and thereby having absolved believers from these dire ends notwithstanding, those sanctions still seem to be a strong motivator today, even for professed Christians.  And, let’s not forget the extreme examples of man’s pollution of a basically good concept where  he disrespectfully takes it upon himself to impose the sanctions for nonobserers during earthly life:  The Spanish Inquisition and ISIS.

Perhaps these books of ancient wisdom called scriptures were, to some degree, originally inspired by a loving creator, I don’t know.  That’s what the Greek-derived word agnostic means:  one who doesn’t know. I view my childhood and young adulthood atheism as basically an uniformed period of wishful thinking. I had not yet been smitten, moreover struck down—gobsmacked  by the order, the logic, the infinitely unknowable, interwoven, co-dependent web of life on our planet.  For me to put a stake in the ground by saying “there is no God,” would require a form of religious faith in itself: wishful thinking in the extreme.

So having been one who disdains solutions that throw the baby out with the bathwater, I say let us all not reject man’s aeon-long production of holy books as primitive, superstitious and the catalyst for all that is wrong with Earth today, but let’s extract the gold from that dross, the possible suggestions of God that we avoid unhealthy behavior, to ourselves and others, and eventually create a heaven on Earth. An Earth without—or largely without, Sin.