World Scripture, A Comparative Anthology Of Sacred Texts

Editor, Andrew Wilson


Chapter Nine: The Major Sins

1. Good and Evil
2. Adultery
3. Murder
4. Theft
5. Lying and Deceit
6. Hypocrisy
7. Slander, Gossip, and Foul Speech
8. Addiction

In this chapter we turn from the causes and motivations of evil to its specific manifestations in daily life. In the opening section, we have selected passages on the difference between good and evil. The remaining sections treat each of the major sins individually. There are various ways of classifying evil deeds: sins of the mind, of the mouth, and of the body, for example. Most commonly, however, the variety of evil deeds can be classified according to four major sins: (1) sexual immorality, (2) murder, (3) stealing, and (4) lying. Crimes of the tongue may be further subdivided: lying and deliberate deception, hypocrisy--especially in matters of religion, slander and bearing false witness, and foul speech. The final section deals with addictions to liquor, drugs, and gambling, the so-called "victimless crimes" which are really crimes against oneself.

The world's religions are quite unanimous in their condemnation of these sins and group them together in listing the most serious evils. We refer to injunctions in various expressions of the Decalogue, pp. 166-71, and to the following typical passages:

Whoso in this world destroys life, tells lies, takes what is not given, goes to others' wives, and is addicted to intoxicating drinks, such a one digs up his own root in this world.

Buddhism. Dhammapada 246-47

Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the immoral, nor idolators, nor adulterers, nor sexual perverts, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God.

Christianity. 1 Corinthians 6.9-10

The plunderer of gold, the liquor-drinker, the invader of a teacher's bed, the brahmin-killer: These four sink downward in the scale-- And, fifth, he who consorts with them.

Hinduism. Chandogya Upanishad 5.10.9


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