Sin In Religion
Disobedience of god’s commands in the scriptures is a sin. Most religions have sin as part of their theology.
Jerry Coyne, the evolutionary biologist states the fact:
‘The central lesson of Christianity is that sin was brought into the world by the transgression of Adam and Eve, the Primal Couple, and expiated by the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ, whose acceptance as savior removes the taint of sin.’
Thus, Christianity has the concept of the original sin of man and woman.
Man, a sinner from his birth? Is it not absurd, unjustifiable and strange? On the day of his birth, he carries on his head an unknown burden of his basic sin!
In Hinduism, there is no conception of the original sin. But here also, disobedience of the edicts of the Hindu scriptures of Vedas, Upanishads, Bhagavadgita, and so on is a sin. A sinner has rebirths till he is purged of his sin.
As Jayaram. V observes:
‘The idea of sin forms the basis of Hindu ethics and morality. Its purpose is to facilitate the order and regularity of the world, the enforcement of Dharma and the evolution of beings through the corrective and punitive process. Sin may arise from both intentional and unintentional actions and through negligence and ignorance.’
Sin Outside Religion
In the rational and humanist worldview, there is no concept of sin.
Human beings commit moral mistakes, knowingly or unknowingly. To err is human. Their offenses or crimes meet with punishments awarded by punitive agencies of the society. After undergoing the punishment, they have a chance to be transformed into new individuals and to step into a new life.
Morality and ethics have links with the humanist principles that are not static or dogmatic.
Punishment for human mistakes is not a permanent taint.
For the human beings on this Earth, salvation or deliverance or liberation or moksha is and means freedom from hunger, disease, fundamentalism, bigotry, superstitions, religious violence, destruction of natural resources, authoritarianism, absence or lack of freedom of expression, and other individual and social ills.
Rationalists and most of the humanists are unbelievers and do not accept holy books, the concept of sin, divine rewards and punishments, judgment day, an afterlife, and so on and do not believe in the concept of human salvation in the religious sense.
As a ‘sinless’ individual on Earth, the human being desires to sing, dance, write, paint, do sports, meditate, practice yoga, travel, write, fly to the moon and so on.
As Dan Barker, the rationalist author observes:
“Sin is a religious concept and in some religions, salvation is the deliverance from the ‘wages of sin’-death or eternal punishment. Sin has been defined as missing the mark of God’s expectations or holiness, or ‘offending God,’ so it follows that there is no god, there is no sin, therefore no need for salvation. Only those who consider themselves ‘sinners’ need this kind of salvation. It is a religious solution to a religious problem.”
The linkage of human ‘sin’ to god operates outside this world and belittles or nullifies human effort for self-improvement and self-transformation and shackles human beings to an external supernatural deity.
Basavanna, the Indian rational mystic welcomed all offenders, irrespective of their creed, social status, and gender, to his side if they gave up their immoral actions and started their new journey on the morally right path. Once an offender, always an offender? No. His vachanas (prose poems) vouch for this commitment as one of the basic tenets of his philosophy.
I quote two of his vachanas:
‘ Man, O man, you who committed the sin,
Man, O man, you who slew the saint,
Do say but once, ‘I bow,’
All sinning flies away!
The golden mountains will not suffice
For atonement of all your sins
Do say, ‘I bow to One
To our Lord,……….’
‘If I call them thieves, prisoners,
snake charmers, whoremongers,
servants and warriors,
and not call them you yourself
when the devotees come keeping you in the front
that is treachery.’
(Basavanna’s ‘Lord’ is not a supernatural god rewarding or punishing man. His god is man’s conscience in a broad sense; his god is the ‘divine’ element in man himself and his god’s temple is in the human body itself. Basavanna forbade his followers to visit temples to offer prayers to god.)
The priests, the self-appointed agents of god on Earth may demand a mountain of gold from the sinner for his redemption. But even if the sinner gifts more than a golden mountain to them, they cannot redeem the sinner through the god.
What the human needs is his sincere and firm repentance. Repentance for him is redemption from his sin and a fresh path. Basavanna, by this simple, effective and potent method, cleansed the masses of their inferiority mentality, instilled self-confidence in them, and freed them from the exploitative clutches of the wily, parasitic priests and from their bondage to a supernatural world-governing god.
Basavanna brought about a sweeping sea-change in the people’s spiritual mindset.
It was an explosive spiritual and social movement in the twelfth century- the twelfth century!
We always remember that there was a time in human history when human beings had no religion, no concept of sin, no god, no concept of the soul, and so on and that they just lived a natural life as the children of mother nature free from the mental prison of religion.
We have ever the hope and the scope to transform ourselves into better human beings. We can leave behind us the shadows of our repentant past lives and take the new step onto the right path, the fundamentals of which, according to Basavanna, are:
‘Do not steal, do not kill,
do not lie, do not rage,
do not loathe the other,
do not brag of yourself,
do not revile the opponent.
This itself is inner purity,
this itself is outer purity.
This alone is the way to win
our Koodalasangamadeva’ (‘Lord’ as defined above).
Sin evaporates once the sinner repents and starts a new life on the right path.