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October 24, 2019 / Congau

Sinful Man

Man is sinful, the religious fundamentalist says. Every day, every hour, every minute, you sin in thoughts, words and deeds, so bow down your head and repent. Despair in your gloom.

No, thank you. We don’t want to listen to that anymore. Cheer up, boy, and delight in life, do what pleases you. You’re a good chap.

Yes, that’s more like it. That’s what we want to hear.

There’s no market for depression, but sometimes we may privately ask ourselves: What is the truth?

For all optimism and cheerfulness, we know very well that we are not perfect. We are just human and therefore our imperfection penetrates our whole being along with our humanity. It’s not just a matter of momentary lapses, as if we were only occasionally human. No, we are human all the time, always imperfect, and therefore, well, constantly sinful.

Sure, there may be a slight problem with my language here. “Sinful” is usually used in a religious context, so let’s substitute it with the more secular words “immoral” or “unethical”. (The words basically mean the same, it’s just that a sin is a transgression against God as well as man.)

Ethics is right conduct and it deals with all human activity. Since we are never perfect and are always engaging in some sort of activity (thinking is also an activity) we never behave completely ethically.

Does that sound depressing? I don’t think so. On the contrary, by emphasizing the impossibility of perfection there’s no reason to despair every time we do something wrong, since that is all the time anyway.

Unethical behavior is a matter of degree. We always do wrong but hopefully we are not so often terribly wrong.

If our wrongdoing were exceptional, every bad act would be a blow. Instead, in the midst of our sins, we can cheerfully go on.

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