Whatever happened to sin? I heard a lot about it growing up”too much really”but that word has dropped out of our modern vocabulary.

The dictionary defines sin as an offense against religious or moral law. Did we stop breaking moral laws? Or are we just uncomfortable admitting it?

When we were children, many of us got tired of hearing about our sinful nature and sinful actions. Just about everything was a sin, including not finishing your plate. I grew up so guilt-stricken; I had the heavy conscience of an Alcatraz convict. It was a shock for me to look back and see ” hey, I wasn’t even arrested.

Sin was overemphasized in the past yet the moral pendulum has swung completely the other way. Our society threw sin out the window, along with guilt and self-responsibility. There are some that say”not just religious leaders”our communities would be better places if we redeveloped our awareness of sin.

Author Alan Ehrenhalt believes we lost some sense of community, when we lost our sense of sin. Avoiding sin meant living decently, resisting self-indulgence and having what was called character.

   Nowadays, people believe something has to be illegal in order to be wrong. Even when a defendant is convicted, they offer extenuating circumstances to relieve them of responsibility. An individual not admitting their sins is one problem but a larger problem is that government and big business have appropriated “sin.”

For instance, gambling was once seen as a sinful activity. Small-time sinners would indulge in this vice by playing the numbers, or using a bookie to put money on a horse. 

Our state government must have seen how lucrative this was, because they’ve taken over the lottery and legalized other forms of gambling. The philosophy seems to be: if you can’t stop sin, legalize it and give us our cut.

Drug dealers are seen as pariahs of our society but what are the giant pharmaceutical companies, if not drug pushers? Drugs that make us feel good can be purchased openly from the pharmacy, while other such drugs are relegated to the street corner. Our government decides which drugs are legal and their decisions have enabled pharmaceutical companies to make fortunes.

Pornography, which was once considered sinful, has also turned into a profitable business.

How about loan-sharking or, in sinful terms, usury? That’s been taken over by credit card companies and payday loan shops. In the old days, if you obtained a high-interest loan from a mobster, you knew it was wrong and you were in trouble. These days, you’re just another debt-ridden consumer.

As individuals we no longer acknowledge sin. (For example, we don’t have the sin of gluttony any more. It’s now a health problem called obesity). In fact, government and business leaders turned once-forbidden pleasures into huge moneymakers.

I was reminded of the old-fashioned concept of sin watching the movie “To Kill A Mockingbird.”

It wasn’t against the law to shoot songbirds, or to publicize the heroism of the reclusive Boo Radley. Not illegal, just sinful.

John Rice

John Rice is a columnist/novelist who has seen his family thrive in Forest Park. He has published two books set in the village: The Ghost of Cleopatra and The Doll with the Sad Face.