The idea of believing in God purely due to the traditions of our ancestors is as problematic to those sincerely engaged in religion, as it is to (I presume) atheists/humanists. This is a classical example of a Straw Man Fallacy. The idea that we can attack someone's argument by first painting a caricature of it, and then making fun of the caricature. In this case, the central issue, and indeed conflict (how to stop sinning) remains unresolved.

Now, attacks on religion to one side, the nominal argument given above applies to a primarily Christian view of 'Sin'. As most of the readership of this node will be familiar with the association of the two words above the notion of 'sin' in other religions, it's fair to assume they may not realize just how limited the scope of the argument actually is when rendered. I propose that a more general view of sin is needed so here's the oxford compact dictionary definition:


• noun (1) an immoral act considered to violate divine law. (2) an act regarded as a serious offence.

• verb (sinned, sinning) commit a sin.

There is a subtle but profound difference in the two definitions above. Note that (1) is personal and ideal, while (2) may also be considered in a wider community context. The notion of divine law can only extend as far as the persons understanding of the law, and the underlying principles enacted by the law, consequently there is a scope for escaping the wrath of the Divine as anything beyond normative cognitive closure may be discounted. A good example of this is in babies, those with severe learning disabilities, or those whose mental function is impaired through environmental or other causes. For these individuals they cannot sin beyond their reason in much the same way that a dog can't make a mistake at calculus - the issue is simply orthagonal. The principle can also be extended to those incapable through other means.

This leaves two conditions for option (1). The sincere, or the insincere agent responsible for the act. As someone sincere, they must show that they were coerced in order to escape the sin, for just as someone who is hypnotised cannot be blamed for clucking like a chicken when prompted, neither can someone who was forced at gunpoint to empty the cash register. This is basic jurisprudence and can be left here neatly.

The real interesting stuff happens with the second case. How can someone who maliciously, and insincerely commits an immoral act in violation of Divine Law stop sinning? The differing religions have a variety of views. There is the ready acceptance that this is impossible, and consequently the individual is doomed to Hell, or at the very least Purgatory. There is also the view that repairing the damage as much as possible, atoning, repenting, and altering one's behaviour and personality to prevent the violation and further violations is enough. There is the view that one may accumulate good/bad karma from the actions within the universe and this will all eventually catch up until enlightened guidance steers one to a life of goodness and bliss and consequent freedom from the cycle of rebirth.. etc etc.. Basically you can take your pick.

My personal view is that the only way to escape sin is through remaining sincere, and constantly evolving to meet the challenges of living with the personal ideal each day. Regardless of one's faith I believe elements of this approach can be seen.

This still leads to the question of (2). The Serious Offence. That is, ironically, more of an ecumenical matter. Hire a Lawyer, Publicist or Bodyguard as appropriate. Beware though, like O.J Simpson the shadow of the sin will follow you around always and will taint future actions. Best not to offend in the first place, and for that one needs to bind oneself back from excesses of character. The latin for this is the reflexive of ligio (to bind) which is re-ligio, from which 'Religion' comes.


Alrighty, firstly there is no difference between a 'meme' and an 'idea'. The only thing is that they are used in different ways. Ideas are open to analysis, discussion, revision, insight, and the whole glorious variety of thoughts available to human being. Memes are ideas which are just passed on and traded. It's an economic thing, and honestly I think Dawkins coined it (pun intended) because it sounded clever, while anyone with any real sense would ignore the terminology for what it is, a dead end. It's valid in the sense that saying the bachelor is single is valid. It adds nothing of substance - no matter how many other people assert it. The notion that ideas are traded and replicated has been around for Aeons. Credit where credit is due, and it ain't due to him.

"I do nothing more than expose the fragile nature of ..." This is a vastly grandiose claim considering the muddled thinking inherent in the whole paragraph from which it is lifted. After all, the whole of academia is the development of belief structures which are verified to a greater or lesser extent by the experience of the mind which hold them. This is true of Einstein (e.g is E=mc^2 just a belief?), Kant with his synthetic and analytic, Dawkins with his neo-darwinist rants, or the Hasidic Jews and praying Muslims of the world, or indeed anyone. The distinctions between noetic structures, and rational leafing and action states are under considerable scrutiny by neurologists, psychologists, and the vanguard of modern thinkers. If they find it difficult if not impossible to rule out normalised cognitive function (of whatever sort including religion) I daresay it would be premature for us to do so here.