How do you define sin? (If you’re not of a religious bent, please feel free to insert “unethical behavior” or “immoral action” for the last word of that sentence.) In your answers, please state how you arrive at your definition–that is, whether it’s based on your religion, a particular philosopher, your personal views, and so forth. If you want to give both positive and negative actions examples (actions that are and are not sinful) that’s weclome too.
I’ll begin with my own definition, which I’ll admit doesn’t entirely satisfy me:
A sin is either
(a) an action, deliberate on the part of the actor, which causes or has the potential to cause unjustified, avoidable, and **foreseeable ** harm to another person, or which abrogates the rights of another person; and
(b) a failure to fulfill freely-undertaken obligations.
Here’s my reasoning. No act can have any moral value, either positive or negative, unless it is willed by the actor. For instance, say I am allergic to peanuts; I go out to eat and inform the waiter of this when making my order. If he disregards my request because he doesn’t believe in peanut allergies, or because he dislikes me, and thus brings me a meal with peanuts in it, causing me to have an allergic reaction, he has committed a sin. However, if he attempts to do as I have requested but, unknown to him, a package has been mislabeled as peanut-free when in fact it has peanut products in it, he is blameless.
The sinfulness of an act depends on the circumstances in which it is committed. For example, a man having sexual intercourse with his wife because he loves her and they have mutual desire for one another, each desiring to bring the other pleasure, is morally good. A man having consensual sexual intercourse with a woman he’s met in a bar, using appropriate precautions to minimize the chance of disease or pregnancy but caring only about his own pleasure (and assuming she also only cares about her pleasure, not his) is morally neutral. A man having sexual intercourse with a woman he’s stalked, assaulted, and overpowered is sinful.
If I get any responses to this post I’ll share the problems I have with my own definition. First, though, I’d like some feedback from fellow Dopers.