American Obessions: Lust, Gluttony & Greed

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Lust, gluttony, and greed- three of the seven deadly sins- are considered to be the some of gravest offenses of the human species. Although these vices were originally elements of religions such as Roman Catholicism and Christianity, they have since been ingrained into western culture as immoral. These cardinal sins are not only sins themselves, but have often been thought to incite further ‘evil’ behaviors. Are these sins really all so terrible? Can lust, gluttony, and greed lead America towards success and happiness? Throughout his book, The Science of Sin, Simon M. Laham claims these hallmark physiological characteristics of humankind are not mortal sins, and in fact not necessarily sins at all, but can instead lead towards success and happiness if utilized correctly. In order to further analyze the affect of these sins on our present day society, we must first look at their history. So how did the seven deadly sins earn their bad reputation? Over sixteen centuries ago, two monks, Evagrius Ponticus and John Cassian, created a list of sins that were a hindrance to the ascetic communities. They organized this list in an attempt to keep the monks on the ‘right path’ towards their spiritual calling, and help maintain social order in the monasteries. Pope Gregory the Great later simplified this list in his A.D. 590 book, Morals on the Book of Job. This refined list essentially created the seven deadly sins that we know today. These sins were not normal transgressions with small penalties- these could condemn you to an eternity in hell. As much as he champions for their potential, Laham admits that if used improperly, each of these sins does have it’s downside. He also says that in psychology, these aren’t necessarily considered sins, morally bad, or even wrong. Laham claims : In the psychological sciences, however, the concepts of sin and morality have quite a different history. Over the years, philosophers and scientists have made attempts to naturalize morality, stripping any divine gloss from the concept. Morality is now considered a set of evolved mechanisms that serve useful evolutionary ends. As are the traditional “sins.” (p. 9) These ‘sins,’ as we refer to them, are actually complex “psychological states,” that turn out to be largely functional in our modern times. Calling them sins merely stigmatizes them, breeds disdain, and is an overall simplistic label. Although many people in western society may no longer see the cardinal sins as ‘deadly,’ many still live strictly by these religious doctrines.

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