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I am not a Sinner

I'm not perfect but I do not commit sins

Apparently, to be 'saved', I have to repent of my sins. But that's a bit tricky for me, because I haven't got any. No, I'm not saying I don't do anything wrong. Of course I do. Every day. But sin? No, sorry, not in my philosophy.

What is sin?

Sin is not simply wrong-doing. If it were, I'd happily admit to being a sinner like everyone else. If I commit a crime, I can expect to be censured by the criminal justice system. If I commit a civil offence, there is the civil law to answer to. And if I'm just a general pain in the arse, friends and neighbours will sort me out. But sin is different. Sin is that special class of wrong-doing that is 'an abomination in the eyes of the Lord'. It is sin, not crime or anti-social behaviour, that will debar me from heaven when I die. But aren't we getting ahead of ourselves here?

Trivial and non-Trivial Pursuits

According to the psychologist Abraham Maslow, the various human needs form a hierarchy. We cannot focus on the higher needs while the more basic needs are unsatisfied. The ultimate goal of self actualisation depends on us first 'getting our lives in order'. Self actualisation, in simpler terms, usually comes down to what I like to call pursuits (or hobbies or passions) in which we lose ourselves and through which we define ourselves. For some, sporting achievement is everything. For others, it may be music, sculpture, poetry. And for some, religion. We can hold our own opinions on the relative value (to society) of these pursuits. But we can't deny that to the individual, his/her chosen path is paramount.

Ready, Steady - Choose!

So, you're not cold, hungry, thirsty and you've recently been to the bathroom (level 1). Your house is comfortable enough and no bailiffs are beating on the door (level 2). You're happy with your partner and popular enough with the neighbours (level 3). Colleagues and friends seem to hold you in high regard as a 'good sort' (level 4). But now you need something to give meaning to your life (level 5, pending!) The choice is yours.

Let's suppose you choose music. When you enter into that world, you find it full of rules, or at least standards and expectations. For example, to play with others, you may have to tune to concert pitch. If you don't conform, the musical world will not embrace you. But if you do, you will find that your chosen world is limitless in its potential to offer fulfilment at the highest 'spiritual' level.

Similarly, if you choose golf, your progress in that world depends on conformity with the rules of the game (and normal clubhouse behaviour too!) But if you are willing to play the game, again there is the possibility of a lifetime journey, in pursuit of the unattainable perfect drive or approach shot.

Or you may choose to follow a religion. If you do, you voluntarily enter a very elaborate world of god(s), devil(s), angels, heaven, hell, holy books, rituals, sin, redemption, salvation and so on. These are simply the features of your chosen world.

Golf is not Music

I've played music all my life and never been called on to avoid the bunkers. We don't have them. And golfers don't have to tune up before playing. The point is simply that the many thousands of 'games' people choose to play for personal fulfilment are mutually exclusive (give or take a few overlaps).

Which brings me back to sin. Sin is a necessary concept in certain religions all of which are approached by an act of faith, i.e. a decision to believe that which cannot be proven. Sin is an abomination in the eyes of a God who may very well not exist. If I play a wrong note or slice my drive into the rough, it is not a sin, as religion, golf and music are separate pursuits.

For religious people, religion is important. For irreligious people it is of no consequence. Similarly, for the unmusical, music amounts to very little. Both music and religion are complex 'worlds' with no logical or necessary connection to the lower world of preponent needs. Both are places that people irrationally, but very humanly, choose to go for fulfilment.

Particularly meaningless to the irreligious is the concept of original sin which depends on a creation story that flies in the face of experience, rationality and common sense.

Looking at all of this logically, the only possible sinners are religious folk; for the rest of us, the word is without meaning. We can't sin - we don't have the clubs in our bags. We can, of course, offend other people. (And we do!)

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