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Seven Deadly Sins Discussion
[Nanook is talking with Father Vincent]
Limitations of the 10 Commandments
"But, tell me this. Let’s say the 10 Commandments aren’t really what we thought they were – I mean, given to us by God on stone tablets. Let’s say they were just made up by some of the smart people who wrote the Bible. They still seem like a pretty good guide to life. Why can’t we all just agree that they are a good model and live by them?”
“I wish it were that easy. You are leaving out two very BIG problems.”
"OK. What are they?”
“Well, first off, if you can’t find a clear description of what we need to do to get to heaven in the Bible, then how can we say that the Bible is so important?”
"OK. That is a big problem.”
“Secondly, you are closing your eyes to the biggest obstacle the whole world faces to live in peace and harmony.”
"OK. So, what’s that?”
"OK. And what about it? I don’t get the connection.”
“Nanook. I’m not surprised at that. Some of the smartest people in all of human history didn’t have their eyes open to this. Most leaders today don’t even think about it. And human nature is at the root of almost every social problem we have. Maybe I can get you on the right path to think about this with a few questions. Ok?”
"Sure. Go for it!”
“Most Catholics have never had the discussion about the 10 Commandments and Single Sentence Logic that we have. That is, they fully believe that God sent down the 10 Commandments you know on two tablets. Agreed?”
“And they think, if they don’t obey them, the consequences can be pretty grave, right?”
"Absolutely. Hell for all eternity.”
“So, do Catholics obey the Commandments?”
"No way. In fact, most Catholics transgress most of the Commandments at one time or another.”
“Correct. So, what’s that all about?”
"You mean, why do they do it? Good question. I mean, I’d like to fire back the quick answer that the Devil is the reason. But I’m not at all easy with that. The whole thing about the Devil is very troubling to me.”
“Hmmm. How so?”
"Well, first off, there’s the whole issue of FREEWILL. I mean, the Devil can’t actually MAKE people do bad things. If the Devil could directly cause people to do bad things, then those things would be his fault, and not the person. So, the best the Devil can do is throw temptations in front of us. So it’s back to us making the decisions. So, I guess people just have a hard time making good decisions.”
“So, keep going. Why would people find it so hard to make good decisions.”
"Well . . . I guess it comes down to temptations of the flesh. I mean, there are still temptations . . . but why would we automatically just follow them . . . . ????? I guess, I don’t really understand how this all fits together.”
“Again, Nanook, don’t feel bad about that. The greatest minds in history have struggled with this question. But there is actually a pretty simple answer that most of them just keep ignoring.”
"There is???? OK. What is it?”
“I just told you: HUMAN NATURE!”
"Duh??? I know that’s what you said. But I still don’t get it.”
With this, Father Vincent broke into a great big smile. He came over and grabbed me in his arms and gave me a hug. I could see, through his smile, that there were also tears on his face. He just held me like some huge crisis had just been lifted off our shoulders. He just held me, and didn’t say anything for the longest time.
“Nanook. You’re going to be OK.”
"Hmmmm. . . Why do you say that?”
“Because, you are willing to listen. You haven’t told me you accept any of the things I’ve told you yet. But you keep listening. You keep letting the ideas in for consideration. That’s the key. That’s the open door to an open mind.
So, let’s try to answer this in a few steps. The words I used were: HUMAN and NATURE. Think about them just one at a time. What do they mean to you?”
"Well, human . . . . I guess I think of flesh and blood. We have a soul. But that’s not what makes up the human part. Nature means . . . . . hmmmm . . . . I guess . . . . this is very interesting. When you tie the word ‘nature’ with human, I guess we are talking about people as animals. Sure, we are above the animals. But on a scale with animals at one end and God and the angels at the other, I’d say we have to be pretty close to the animal end. Especially when we consider monkeys and the great apes at the top of the animal end.”
“Correct. And that’s what I am talking about. Whether Christians believe in evolution or not, humans share a lot of traits with animals. So when I say, quote, ‘human nature’, I might as well be saying the ANIMAL NATURE OF HUMANS. Sure, I’ll give humans some rope to be, quote, ‘above’ animals, in some ways. But, from my experience, it’s not going to be a lot of rope. And sure, there are some individuals who are outstanding examples of how humans can rise above animal behavior. But there are also many examples of animals that express very admirable abilities. And there are many examples of humans who are clear examples of being lower than many animals. Would you agree with that?”
"Unfortunately, I think I would.”
“So, now, do you think you can answer the question on the table? Why can so many people find it so hard to make good decisions?”
"Wow. So if we use this animal nature model for humans, maybe what you are saying is that there is something inside of people, that leads them to do things in ways that are different from the things the Commandments tell us. In fact, we might even say that it is the NATURE of people to do things in ways that are different from the Commandments.”
“Precisely! And if we allow ourselves to think about humans, using an evolutionary model, we might say that humans have MILLIONS OF YEARS of conditioning to do things in an animal way.”
"That’s a pretty strong image.”
“But furthermore, even if you reject the evolutionary model, but read how fire and brimstone preachers describe the depravity of most of the human race under the influence of Satan, you won’t come up with much of a difference in the description.”
"Wow! This is a pretty profound way to look at this. At least for me it is. I guess I see it that way because it can open up a pretty simple way to understand this whole issue.”
“Precisely! And, in fact, there have been some pretty smart people who already knew this a long, long time ago. They just didn’t use current terminology. The thinkers of old referred to the drives of human nature as the SEVEN DEADLY SINS. Have you ever heard of them? Do you know what they are?”
"Sure, I think so: Pride, Greed, Lust, Anger, Gluttony, Envy and Sloth.”
“Precisely! And what do you know about them?”
"Actually, I guess I don’t know much at all about them as a group. I mean, I heard the term Seven Deadly Sins a lot so I looked them up once and memorized them. But I never read much about them. I know there were a lot of sermons about each of them individually in church. But what I recall from the sermons is that these were things that could get you in trouble. They weren’t really sins by themselves unless you got carried away and what you did was against one of the Commandments.”
“Right. That’s how people generally think about them. And in relation to the Christian concept of sin, this is correct. But, as usual, people are only seeing the tip of the iceberg. THE SEVEN DEADLY SINS ARE THE KEY TO UNDERSTANDING WHY HUMANS HAVE SO MUCH TROUBLE DOING THE RIGHT THINGS. Both religion and society in general fail to understand this. So, failing to understand it, they just keep blundering into repeating the same old catastrophes over and over again.
[Ironically, the Seven Deadly Sins and the 10 Commandments don’t have much in common.]
Let’s start back in the beginning. In Hebrew tradition, the word for SIN means to “miss the mark”. It didn’t only mean to go against the Commandments. So a person would be guilty of sin if they were trying to do something but failed. Each of the traits that became known as the Seven Deadly Sins were observed to drive humans to miss the ‘mark’ in ways that could DESTROY both people and nations. The ‘mark’ generally meant SOCIAL HARMONY, either on a personal or broadly social basis. So, as a rule, the Seven Deadly Sins relate to INTERACTIONS BETWEEN PEOPLE, rather than actions internal to a person.
The identification and definition of the seven deadly sins throughout history has been a fluid process. The idea of what each of the seven sins actually encompasses has also evolved over time. This wandering has been aided by the fact that they are not referred to in a straightforward manner in the Bible itself. As a result, other literary and religious works referring to the seven deadly sins were consulted as sources for the definitions. Part II of Dante's Divine Comedy, The Purgatorio, has almost certainly been the best known source since the Renaissance.
But let’s dig into one of them a little so you’ll understand better what I’m talking about.
The first on the list is PRIDE. In almost every Seven Deadly Sins list, pride is considered the original and most serious of the seven deadly sins. It is often believed to be the ultimate source from which the others arise. What do you think pride means?”
"Well, actually, I never thought that pride was bad. It didn’t make sense to me, right from the beginning, that it was called a sin. To me, pride is a feeling people get when they do something good. Or it’s a feeling that a person gets when someone they know does something good. For example, say I do a public service project for scouts. Then, later, I get an award for that. The feeling I get having done something important enough for society that they’d give me an award for it, is what I’d call pride. And the feeling my mother would have standing next to me when I get the award is what I’d call pride.”
“Nanook. Leave it to you to focus on the positive side of this. What you say is very true. And that’s a complicating factor about this first of the Seven Deadly Sins. Pride does have a positive side to it. Of course, that’s not where the problem lies. In fact, having this positive side is one of the reasons the negative side of this sin is so easily missed. So, first off, we should actually change the word used for this first sin from the word pride to the word SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS. Do you know that word?”
"Sure. It means someone who thinks they know the truth and won’t listen to anything anyone else has to say about it.”
“OK. Pretty close I guess. Let me read you a discussion of this that I have marked in a book. It’s by a person named Barbara Brown Taylor.”
With that, Father Vincent walked to one of his library book shelves and searched for a book. It was a pretty small booklet, actually. More like a monograph.
- “The Evils of Pride and Self-Righteousness
- In a culture that sanctions every individual's right to seek his or her own path to perfection, self-righteousness can seem only an irritating character flaw. One person decides that steaming vegetables is the responsible way to eat and turns pale when her friends order meat. Someone else discovers the aerobic benefits of running and begins to badger all his sedentary friends. We all do it on some level. We find something that gives us life and we want everyone else to have it too. We want to share the good we have found, whether it is as simple as a new way of losing weight or as profound as a new way of approaching God.
- But when I turn MY good into YOUR duty and judge you for YOUR failure to perform it according to MY standards, then my wish for your well-being becomes something darker and more dangerous. My altruism becomes self-righteousness, which is no longer an annoying habit but a PERNICIOUS PRIDE that works evil in the human soul.
- It may be difficult at first to hear something as common as self-righteousness called evil, but read any gospel listening for that connection and it is hard to miss. Take Luke for instance. John the Baptist sets the stage as early as chapter three. ‘Do not begin to say to yourselves, `We have Abraham for our ancestor,’ ‘ he warns the crowds (3:8), reminding them that God alone is their progenitor. No other lineage can save their lives, not even honorable Abraham's. The matter of their righteousness belongs to God alone.
- Then in chapter four Jesus preaches his first sermon in his hometown synagogue, telling all those faithful Jews how God sometimes prefers foreigners to chosen people (4:24-27). Stung to the quick, they hustle him to the edge of the town cliff.
- They mean to kill him for challenging their righteousness, which means that Jesus' first act of ministry foreshadows his last.
- In the sermon on the plain he continues his theme. ‘Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn and you will not be condemned’ (6:37). Advising the crowd that they are as blind as those they seek to reform, he suggests that they do some work on themselves before presuming to fix anyone else.
- His disciples hear him but do not understand. When a village of Samaritans refuses them hospitality on their way to Jerusalem, they ignite. ‘Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them’ (9:54)? They are as murderous as the offended ones who led Jesus to the cliff. . . . . .
- Jesus has a relatively easy time with sinners. Their hearts are already broken, so it is not hard for him to get inside.
- But the righteous are like vaults. They are so full of their precious values and so defended against those who do not share them that even the dynamite of the gospel has little effect on them. ‘Woe to the Pharisees,’ Jesus wails at them, ‘for you tithe mint and rue and herbs of all kinds, and neglect justice and the love of God’ (11:42).
- He cannot seem to make his point often enough. Self-righteousness kills, not only those who are bludgeoned by it but those who wield it as well. Sometimes it kills them softly with gossip and cruel humor. Sometimes it works systemically, consigning some people to live in grim buildings with broken plumbing while others stroll neighborhoods full of thick green lawns.”
“Now, listen to this part very closely.” And he deliberately read it very slowly.
- “And sometimes it works violently, getting people in the middle of the night to light torches and break windows.
- Jesus does not preach humility because modesty is becoming. He preaches it because it is the only cure for the DEADLY PRIDE and ARROGANCE that make us want to kill each other, whether the murder is as subtle as purging someone from our circle of friends or as bloody as nailing someone to a tree. The only cure is to recognize each other as kin, united by the only one who was ever right.”
“. . . . . . . . What do you think about this?”
"Wow. That sure presents a different side of the issue to me. And I see how it can be connected to pride – or more specifically, false-pride. That is, FALSE-PRIDE is pride that isn’t based on the truth about the value a person has really contributed to society.”
“PRECISELY! Precisely! Now, think about the strong words: ‘deadly pride’ and ‘arrogance that make us want to KILL each other.’ Unfortunately, this paragraph only begins to list the horrors of this sin.
Satan’s fall – Dante’s definition of pride
False-Pride is identified as a belief that we are more important or attractive than others, failing to give compliments to others though they may be deserving of them. It is excessive love of self. Dante's definition was ‘love of self perverted to hatred and contempt for one's neighbor."’ In perhaps the most famous example, the story of Lucifer, pride was what caused his Fall from Heaven, and his resultant transformation into Satan.”
"Hmmm. . . I do remember that. But Satan - caused by pride - this is getting to be some very heavy stuff!”
“Precisely! Now let me include two more complications and you will see how bizarre and cancerous pride can get.
The second complication is the connection between pride and NARCISSISM. Do you know that word?”
"I’ve read the story about the Greek hero Narcissus who fell in love with his image in the water. I also read a psychology book by Alice Miller about Narcissistic mental illness where a person is very self centered. But, if I remember right, these people are not really centered on themselves. They are centered on images they want for themselves just like Narcissus fell in love with his image in the water. They are focused on images of what they think they are, or what they think they should be.”
“VERY GOOD! And very precisely stated! And you’ve understood a very important distinction. A Narcissist is not in love with himself. He is in love with images of things he wants to be. When it becomes a mental illness, it is because the person becomes those images.
The key to understanding Narcissism is to understand that it occurs when a person cannot find value in himself. Due to some severe trauma, usually in childhood, the good image that children usually develop about themselves is destroyed. So, the Narcissist looks outside to create that image and fill their need for self esteem. So let’s use that model. And let me be specific and discuss a form of Narcissism that George calls Narcissistic Trauma Syndrome or NTS. NTS is a disease that drives a person to protect an image of him or herself which they’ve captured from outside themselves that they believe is good. What makes the disease so devastating is that they can never find peace because the elements of the image are not inside them. The drive is a bottomless pit.”
"Why is that?”
“Well, it’s actually a long story. I think its better that you talk to George about that.”
“George again! OK. I guess I’d better go meet him.”
Clans, gangs, movements
“Good. The third complication with pride occurs when a person associates their personal image with some group of people or a movement. For example, a person can have pride because they are a MEMBER of a famous family. They can have pride for being a MEMBER of a high school, or a town, or a state or a country or a nationality, or a club. In fact, they can have this pride by believing they are associated with almost any DEFINED group of people. But they can also have pride for an association with a criminal family or a movement that is aimed at destruction.”
"Hmmm. . . . Wow! I’ve sure seen that. The kids at my high school would go crazy at football and basketball games. They used to go out and start fights with gangs from other schools. The irony of this was that the kids who were going crazy and starting the fights were the dumbest kids in the school. During regular school activities, they never made any contribution of value to the school. In fact, they were the ones who caused most of the trouble.”
“Preeeciiiisssely! That’s the FALSE-PRIDE. Those kids were not able to contribute to the school with skills the community normally defined as desirable. But, like most humans, these kids had a desperate need to be valued. So, in their mind, they resorted to the primitive behavior of violence in the misguided notion that ‘killing off the enemy’ would be seen as defending their peer group. In the larger world, this behavior causes what we call ‘Nationalism’. It can be so strong it leads to war.”
"Hmmm . . . Wow! I never thought that pride, or really, False-Pride, was the cause of this.”
“Wow is right. You seem to be putting a good picture of this together in your head.”
"Well. Now that you’ve put these three pieces together, it really makes sense. The sin of pride is really self-righteousness. Narcissism leads people to seek peace outside of themselves. They try to do this by becoming someone else or affiliating with some group. But because it doesn’t fill the need inside themselves, they push their search to extremes. ”
“Precisely! And it is this desperate push for more that connects pride to greed, which we’ll talk about next.
Let me read you some things about pride from a well known philosopher, Eric Hoffer. I like him because he makes a lot of sense challenging some of society’s pretty sacred assumptions. This is from his book titled, ‘A Passionate State of Mind’. Page 37:”
- “Monotheism – the adherence to a one and only God, truth, cause, leader, nation and so on – is usually the end result of a search for pride. It was the craving to be a one and only people which impelled the ancient Hebrews to invent a one and only God whose one and only people they were to be. Whenever we proclaim the uniqueness of a religion, a truth, a leader, a nation, a race, a party or a holy cause, we are proclaiming our own uniqueness. ...Nationalist pride, like other variants of pride, can be a substitute for self-respect.”
"So, let me see if I understand that. He’s saying, when a person insists that there is only ONE RIGHT way to do something, what he is really saying is that HIS way is right. The hidden assumption is that he, of course, wouldn’t do something another way if there was only one RIGHT way. So, his way must be the right way.”
“Correct. And he believes he has such a strong case for that belief because he can point to OTHERS who also have that belief. His own self-respect is based on the collected belief of others. But, since the world is diverse, with many opinions, eventually the person runs into others who don’t share his belief. When that happens, he no longer gets the respect he is searching for. When that happens, this kind of person is driven by desperation to FORCE those non-believing others to give him respect. Page 42:”
- “Note also how perverse is the attitude of the weak toward their benefactors. They feel generosity as oppression; they want to retaliate…. You do not win the weak by sharing your wealth with them; it will but infect them with greed and resentment. You can win the weak only by sharing your pride, hope or hatred with them.”
"So, do I understand this right? He then adds a new twist. I usually think of self-righteousness as related to leaders. But Hoffer points out how this plays out with poor people, and maybe poor countries that we try to help. Money might reduce their hunger for food, but it can’t satisfy their hunger to feel valued and important.”
“Correct. And then another twist. Page 212.”
- “Humility is NOT renunciation of pride but the substitute of one pride for another.”
"Whoa! I’m not sure I understand that.”
“In catechism, how would they tell you to control your pride?”
"They’d tell us to be humble.”
“Correct. And for some people, this could work. But Hoffer was saying that for a lot of people, they have to overtly display their humility to the point where the humility itself becomes something they are proud of. And when they are living with a bottomless pit of self-doubt, that humility becomes excessive.”
"Wow! Sure. I guess this was the message we got reading about the Puritans in New England.”
“Yes. Good example. And a good transition to where I was headed with this point. So, now, consider how far this sin of pride has gone with humans. Pride leads people to believe their religion is the ONE and only religion. Their need to be right leads them to believe that all other religions are wrong. And if their leaders, or holy books tell them they are justified in killing others, they will go to war over it. This has been going on for ten thousand years.”
"So, are you saying we can trace one of the major roots of war to the sin of PRIDE?”
“PRECISELY! Let me read a little more from Eric Hoffer that discusses the intense passions around this issue.”
- “Passions usually have their roots in that which is blemished, crippled, incomplete and insecure within us. The passionate attitude is less a response to stimuli from without than an emanation of an inner dissatisfaction.
- …A poignant dissatisfaction, whatever be its cause, is at bottom a dissatisfaction with ourselves. It is surprising how much hardship and humiliation a man will endure without bitterness when he has not the least doubt about his worth or when he is so integrated with others that he is not aware of a separate self.
- …In every passionate pursuit, the pursuit counts more than the object pursued.
- …It seems that we are most busy when we do not do the one thing we ought to do; most greedy when we cannot have the one thing we really want; most hurried when we can never arrive; most self-righteous when irrevocably in the wrong. There is apparently a link between excess and unattainability.
- …To believe that if we could but have this or that we would be happy is to suppress the realization that the cause of our unhappiness is in our inadequate and blemished selves. Excessive desire is thus a means of suppressing our sense of worthlessness.
- …Where there is the necessary technical skill to move mountains, there is no need for the faith that moves mountains.
- …Give people pride and they’ll live on bread and water, bless their exploiters and even die for them.
“This is especially so of False-Pride for things which can’t be measured.”
- “To most of us nothing is so invisible as an unpleasant truth. Though it is held before our eyes, pushed under our noses, rammed down our throats – we know it not.
- … Vehemence is the expression of a blind effort to support and uphold something that can never stand on its own.
- ...Intolerance is the ‘Do Not Touch’ sign on something that cannot bear touching. We do not mind having our hair ruffled, but we will not tolerate any familiarity with the toupee which covers our baldness.”
“And even when pride doesn’t get to the extreme of war, it is the basis of race hatred, and national hatred, and community hatred.”
"Wow! I can see that. This is a really big deal!”
**Denial of Evolution - most destruction to social harmony
“But before we’re done, we have to address the case of false-pride that has done the greatest social damage to the human race. That is the DENIAL OF EVOLUTION - the idea that humans are distinct from and above animals.”
"Whoa! You think this is that destructive?”
“Precisely! And it is so destructive, because, as you will see, it has blocked the human race from understanding the foundation and importance of the Seven Deadly Sins. By denying the connection between humans and our animal past, we deny that humans have inherited the millions of years the animal brain developed to deal with survival in a brutal, hostile environment. When we deny that, and replace it with erudite ideas of angelic virtues, we throw away the key factors to explain why humans do the things they do.”
“I don’t know what to say. This is a pretty profound observation. So how do we solve this?”
“Sure! You want me to just tell you the solution to one of the oldest problems on earth. Probably in 25 words or less, even?”
"Well … . . . .”
“OK. Actually, there are many good solutions to this dilemma. But humans are not good at solving problems that deal with defects in our own human nature. So, we really have a lot of work to do for any solution. But let me give you just one example. Are you ready? HUMILITY MUST BE MADE A WAY OF LIFE.”
"OK????? Humility must be made a way of life. So??? How do we do that?”
“That’s the problem. It’s not easy. There are a lot of rewards for being arrogant; for taking wild chances. For humility to become a way of life, society has to create new social structures to reward it.”
"And, tell me again, why we would want people to be humble? I mean, the major push of education is to make people reach for the moon. The major push of business is getting people to compete.”
“And do you think those are good objectives?”
"Hmmm… I guess what you’re trying to tell me is that my first reaction to the needed solutions is bound to be backwards from what we really need to do?”
“Precisely! But let’s just focus on one issue that is the foundation for our need to be humble. The reason humans need to learn to be humble is that society has not yet agreed on a way to find TRUTH.”
"Hmmm… I think I understand that. Without an agreed way to find truth, we are all just throwing Single Sentence Logic at each other.”
“Precisely! It’s all just verbal arm wrestling to see who’s best at verbal arm wrestling. Truth may be a goal, but it’s not a goal we know how to reach. So, we’re all just playing games.”
“Are you ready to take a look at Seven Deadly Sin number 2?”
"Sure. Might as well. My head isn’t going to stop spinning no matter what. Go ahead. Pour it on.”
“Good. So let’s talk about GREED. What do you think that means?”
"Greed means you want more of something. But, to be greed, it usually means you are driven to it - that you want more and more and can’t stop, or want more than everyone else.”
“Right. So why do you think this is such a big deal?”
"Hmmm. I don’t know. I know there are greedy people. But there are a lot of things wrong in the world. So, I don’t know why.”
“Well, for the people who sorted out the Seven Deadly Sins, greed was a VERY BIG DEAL. So, first, let’s break it up into two separate categories. The first, for which I’ll always use the word GREED, is just a desire to have more of something, like money, power or property. The second category, for which I’ll always use the word COVET, stresses a secret longing to have something that already belongs to someone else. Is that clear?”
"Sure. Greed means that you want more; Covet means you want something another person has.”
“Correct. So, have you heard the word covet before?”
"Actually, that’s a good question. Sure I’ve heard it before. There are two Commandments that use the word covet: 9, Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife; and 10, Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s goods. But when we talked about it in catechism, it was always presented as some ‘adults only’ kind of thing, like adultery. So, they couldn’t tell us the details. I thought, maybe it was like stealing. But covet can’t mean steal because there’s a whole separate commandment for stealing. So, I’m still confused about it.”
“You and a lot of other people. It turns out to be a very complex issue. First, note that both covet and greed are different from stealing. Stealing actually involves taking an ACTION. It means taking something away from someone else that you don’t have a right to. But covet and greed mean that you only have a DESIRE to steal it! That you just WANT to steal it. Is that clear?”
"Sure. Stealing is an action; greed and coveting are thoughts.”
“Right. Now, think about this for a moment. This is a VERY BIG problem.”
"OK? You mean to be greedy for something, you only have to THINK to commit a sin? Where as stealing requires that you take an ACTION.”
“YES, exactly! This becomes a very big problem when you try to think through the concept of FREEWILL. I’ll come back to freewill in more detail later. But let’s focus on the Commandments.
Sin - criterion for
First off, what did you learn in catechism about the criterion for committing a sin?”
"Well, first, what you do has to be an offense against God. Second, you have to know that it is an offense. Third, you have to do it anyway.”
“Very good. You sure get a gold star for knowing your catechism. So, now, how does that definition fit with what you just said about greed and coveting?”
"Ah! I think I see what you mean. If you only have to THINK about wanting something that another person has for it to be a sin, it’s not like you get to KNOW about it ahead of time or have the ability to decide that you are going to think it or not. It’s as if the thought just pops into your head all on its own.”
“Very good. So, how do you think the Church explains that?”
Devil – source of evil thoughts
"Actually, very simple. They blame it on the DEVIL. The devil puts those thoughts into your head.”
“OK. Then why is the sin of having one of these thoughts YOUR sin? Why isn’t it the devil’s sin?”
“Hmmmm is right! This is not an easy question. As I said, it’s a really big problem for the concept of freewill. And this problem is actually a problem for freewill whether philosophers assume there is a God or not. As I said, let’s get back to that later. For now, let’s make the assumption that what the Commandments and the Seven Deadly Sins CONDEMNED was not thoughts, but the actions that resulted from the thoughts. Can we do that?”
"Sure. I understand. The real sin is acting.”
“Good. But even though you and I understand this, remember, not many other people do. So keep in mind that what people have said and written about the Commandments and the Seven Deadly Sins blurs this concept.”
Seven Deadly Sins – importance – to avoid violence
“The concept of greed, in the Seven Deadly Sins, is actually so important, it is broken down and covered separately by 5 of the deadly sins. Pride, is one, which we just talked about; Greed is the second, which we are talking about now. LUST, GLUTTONY and ENVY are the others.
So, let’s talk a little more about what greed means besides pride, lust, gluttony, and envy and why it is such a big deal.
Greed is the SIN OF EXCESS. Greed is a problem because, even though it isn’t an action, it drives people to take action. This causes a problem when people congregate into SOCIETIES. It becomes a problem because, in a material universe, ALL RESOURCES ARE LIMITED. So if one person tries to amass any kind of resource, then others may be deprived of those resources. And when deprivation becomes an issue, people take action to eliminate their deprivation. Over the entire history of mankind, this has led to violence. Violence in society is a PRIMARY threat to society. So, the Seven Deadly Sins were prescribed TO GUIDE PEOPLE AWAY FROM VIOLENCE. The last 7 Commandments are aimed at the same goal. Did you ever understand that?”
"Wow! No. Whenever I think about the Commandments, it was always just about me doing what God said was the right thing. I never looked at it as a way to achieve harmony in the world.”
“And, again, you aren’t the only one. St.Thomas Aquinas wrote that Greed was a sin against God, just as all mortal sins are, because man condemns things eternal for the sake of earthly things. That is, St. Thomas viewed the sin of greed from it’s effect on the individual in his quest to get into heaven. Note, he felt it was a serious enough issue to call it a MORTAL sin.”
"Wow! This is mind blowing. You’re painting a very different picture of the world from the one I’ve been taught. In essence, you are saying that the PRIMARY problem in life is that resources are limited. And when people are faced with limits, to things they need for survival, or what they perceive as something they need, or something they have a right to, they have historically turned to violence to get those things. Then add in greed. In the middle of a perceived resource shortage, due to human nature, humans will build up piles of that resource for themselves. Not a good situation.”
“What do you mean by not a good situation? I mean, how bad can this possibly be? Don’t you think people can just work with each other to make everyone happy?”
"Come on, Father. Give me a break. This is mind boggling. What you are describing here is not only a behavior in humans that might get people mad at each other. This is probably even the basic reason for war among nations. Wow!”
“Precisely! That’s what this is all about. And that’s why understanding the Seven Deadly Sins is so important to society.
Lord of the Flies
Now, let me ask you a question. Have you read the book called Lord of the Flies by William Golding?”
"What did you learn?”
"It was a very disturbing book. When the boys were stranded on the island, I figured they would pull together in a common effort to get rescued. But as the book unfolded, the kids broke into warring groups. I thought they would listen to the smart kids who had good ideas about how to survive and signal for help. But the tough and ruthless kids played on the fears of the other kids and took control. They even killed the smart kids when they didn’t go along.”
"So? What did you learn from that?”
"I guess I didn’t want to admit what the book was trying to say. I wanted to believe that people will respect wisdom and work to produce harmony in the world. The book says that this is wishful thinking. Given human nature, wisdom will not be respected and society will revert to war led by the most ruthless among us.”
"OK. As you look around the world, what do you think reality is telling you?”
"That’s the disturbing part. The history of man, even with all the great, great thinkers like Aristotle and Plato, is a history of war. Even today, 1966, the planet is best described as being made up of nations hostile to each other. And I think we kid ourselves if we try to group the nations into just a few friendly camps. As soon as some big companies in the U.S. are challenged by cheap lumber from Canada, or cheap electronics from Japan, the exchange with them gets hostile right away. The book was trying to tell us this. But, it seems, humans can’t grasp what it has to say.”
"There’s a pretty simple but tragic explanation for this. Talk to George about it.”
"Again! Talk to George.”
"Yes. Talk to George. But let me give you just a glimpse. Let me read a statement from Nietzsche in his book Beyond Good and Evil. Page 15. “
- “The physiologists should take heed before they assume self-preservation as the cardinal drive of an organic being. Above all, a living thing wants to discharge its energy: life as such is: will to power.”
“What he’s saying here is that self-preservation is only one concern of life forms. And, while it may take precedence when life is directly threatened, at other times, other concerns become more important. Have you ever heard of Maslow’s hierarchy?”
"Actually yes. And Ben and I talked about it.”
“That’s the observation Nietzsche was making. But, to come back to Lord of the Flies, just think about the problem in the book by seeing that it is primarily driven by GREED. In this case, it is greed for power. And, yes, this greed still plays a dominant role in all of human society. Our inability to control this could lead to the downfall of society.
So, now, let’s talk about coveting. To begin with, the basic meaning of covet is not complicated. It’s simply greed for something someone else has. The reason the nuns didn’t want to talk to you about the ninth commandment is that you’d start asking a lot of questions about why a man would want to have his neighbor’s wife. This would open up Pandora’s box about sex, which is something they don’t want to deal with. But that was the big reason it was hushed up. All in all, however, that’s a very small part of the problem with these two commandments.
You said, in the Commandments, the object of coveting is specifically stated. That is, the Commandments state that you can’t covet your neighbor’s wife or your neighbors goods. But if these are so important they are specifically listed separately, then what isn’t specifically listed? And why isn’t it specifically listed? Is it OK to covet other things from your neighbor?”
"Like what other things?”
“For example, it doesn’t say anything about a neighbor’s reputation, or his artistic ideas, or his rights. Most importantly, it doesn’t say anything specific about coveting a neighbor’s independence.”
"OK. I see that. I just don’t know why it’s important.”
“One of the biggest holes in the 10 Commandments is the absence of a statement about SLAVERY. We are told not to covet our neighbor’s wife, or his goods, but what about our neighbor himself? Shouldn’t there have been a commandment that said, Thou shalt not covet another person or own or manage slaves?”
" I never thought about that. But I’m sure everyone knows that, right?”
“Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. In fact, I don’t believe you can find a single clear statement anywhere in the Bible that forbids slavery. Let me read a verse for you that, in fact, suggests just the opposite. Here it is.”
- “1 Timothy, Chapter 6: All those under the yoke of slavery must have unqualified respect for their masters, so that the name of God and our teaching are not brought into disrepute. Those whose masters are believers are not to respect them less because they are brothers; on the contrary, they should serve them all the better, since those who have the benefit of their services are believers and dear to God.”
"Wow! This is unbelievable. I don’t know how to understand this. I can’t understand how this can be.”
“This verse tells us two very important things. First, Christians, who are slaves, should respect their masters. That is, the existence of slavery should be accepted and not fought. Second, it states that Christians can also be slave owners!
I bet right now you are kind of feeling like you’re living in a house of cards in a hurricane, right?”
"That’s an understatement, Father.”
“Hang in there, Nanook. We have a long way to go. Your house of cards is going the way of Noah’s flood. And I’m going to apologize up front that I’m not going to be able to rebuild much of a new house for you.”
“Unfortunately, no. I do think I know the foundation stones. But what your new house will look like trying to live in today’s society, I don’t really know.”
“So, what am I going to do then?”
“Well, you actually don’t have much choice. You can’t stay in the house you’re already in. You know it’s full of contradictions. You know it can’t be the TRUTH. So, it’s not going to get you to your primary goal - a sure fire way to get into heaven. So, you, like me, have to tear down the old house and start on your own journey to build a new one.”
"I sure have a lot to think about, that’s for sure.”
“Yes, you sure do. But let’s continue with this issue of slavery.
First, let me be clear, slavery, while related to coveting, is not just a thought. Slavery comes from and is driven by the thought of coveting a neighbor’s independence. BUT, SLAVERY IS AN ACTION.”
"Meaning, if slavery were a grievous offense against God, it could be a mortal sin to do it because we could also contemplate it before we did it?”
“Correct. But, that’s not where I’m headed right now. What I want to bring up is that the whole issue of slavery is actually an extreme form of the MISUSE OF POWER. It’s easy to see power as an evil. So the question becomes where do we cross the line?”
"I can see how important this is. The misuse of power is the stuff that fills the history books and creates the dramas on TV.”
“Correct. And this is a very big issue. Everyone knows about this. Everyone complains about it and condemns it. But as soon as they get into a position where THEY can wield power, most people become ruthless! Let me go back to Eric Hoffer again and read another section. Page 41:”
- “It has been often said that power corrupts. But it is perhaps equally important to realize that weakness, too, corrupts. Power corrupts the few, while weakness corrupts the many. Hatred, malice, rudeness, intolerance, and suspicion are the fruits of weakness. The resentment of the weak does not spring from any injustice done to them but from the sense of their inadequacy and impotence. They hate not wickedness but weakness. When it is in their power to do so, the weak destroy weakness wherever they see it. Woe to the weak when they are preyed upon by the weak.”
"I guess you’re describing what happens in government when incompetent people get into power positions.”
“Precisely! The whole idea that government employees are, quote, ‘civil servants’, is a crock!
Shall we move on?”
"Sure! Why not. My head is like spaghetti anyway.”
“The third Deadly Sin is LUST. What do you think it means?”
"Well, you mentioned that LUST was just a specific form of greed, right? So, I’ll guess that LUST is and excessive greed for sex.”
“Very good. And simply stated, that’s a good definition. So, why is it such a big problem? Didn’t you say, about greed, that you knew there were a lot of greedy people. But given that there were so many things wrong in the world, why should it be such a big deal. So why should greed for sex be such a big deal?”
"Duhhhh??? Father!! I’m going to take the fifth on this. Remember, this is the subject that the nuns didn’t talk about. In fact, this was a subject that no one seemed to talk about. I asked my parents about it once. They gave me the standard brush off about the birds and the bees and said I’d figure it out when I grew up. Yeah, right.”
Father V broke into a muffled laugh.
“OK Nanook. You have my sympathy. You and every other human being going through puberty. This is another topic best left for George. But I’m going to guess that you’ve already done the research to know the basics, right?”
"Sure! Go ahead. You’re running away from the topic too. OK! If you want to play that game, for the purposes of this discussion, sex means a bee grabs a flower and dusts off a birds tail with the pollen and out pops an egg!”
Father Vincent’s muffled laugh became an outright chuckle.
“Touche! I assure you, George won’t be a coward like I am. But let’s keep this a, quote, ‘philosophical’ discussion.
Lust is usually described as involving obsessive or excessive thoughts or desires of a sexual nature. I think phrases like ‘lust for power’ are just a misuse of the word when greed should be used. Dante's criterion was "excessive love of others". For him, lust was bad because it rendered love and devotion to God as secondary.
Greek words for love
But I think that’s a misuse of the word as well. Lust and love are two very different things. The ancient Greeks already understood love a lot better than modern man does. They had three separate words for love: Agape, Philia and Eros. Agape meant the emotion of love felt between a husband and wife for their bond as partners in life. It was not related to sexual attraction. Philia was love for a person or even an institution expressed as devotion or friendship. A good example is love of country or love of work. Eros was the word used for the passionate emotions that were associated with sexual attraction. The fact that our modern language does not have words to keep these issues separate has caused no end to the disasters it has caused us. So let’s confine lust to the sexual connection.
The reason lust is such a problem is that it so often leads to actions that western society CURRENTLY labels TABOOS. These are primarily related to the Judeo-Christian social institution of marriage - i.e. the union of one man with one woman. The taboos are then specific cases where people have sex outside of their marriage. You understand that right?”
"Sure. Thou shalt not commit adultery!”
“OK. And what does that mean?”
"Ugh, ugh! Remember, I’m taking the fifth on this. That’s the other commandment the nuns didn’t want to explain.”
“Right! God help us! OK. It’s time to shoo away the birds and bees and get into the details.
Let’s recall the basic value of studying the Seven Deadly Sins: the seven deadly sins are the key to understanding why humans have so much trouble doing the right things. One of the biggest denials in Christianity is the animal nature of humans. Because of human false pride, we desperately need to believe we are special. We have to separate ourselves from the animals. That’s the big reason Christians reject evolution. They need to break the tie between humans and animals. But the tie is as clear as any logical argument about anything can be made.”
“So why is this important in relation to lust?”
“Because, if we look at the entire range of animals, there is a clear connection between sex and aggressive male behavior. The males of every species, all the way from fruit flies to elephants, including humans, compete in violent conflict to mate with females.
Lust results in physical aggression
And let me interject a very important point here. In humans, this type of male competition DOES NOT INCLUDE RAPE! Sexual activity doesn’t enter the picture at that point. It is still a step away. Listing lust as a deadly sin tells us to watch out for this. It tells us that the animal emotions related to mating instincts will come up strongly in humans. It will result in violence. And society will not easily be able to stop it.
Rape, on the other hand, is a different behavior. Rape is AGGRESSION expressed in a sexual way, NOT an aggressive expression of sex. It is driven by false pride. It occurs when one person, typically a male, but also in females as well, sexually abuses another, of either sex, to show their dominance. The primary drive is power, not sexual fulfillment. The connection to lust is that a sexual interaction is involved. An unfulfilled sex need may steer aggression toward sexual activity at the beginning of the aggression, or after the aggression begins. Does this make sense to you?”
"I guess so. The common denominator is that the result is violence and the sex drive is involved. So, what are we supposed to do about it? I mean, God’s law is pretty clear. The sixth commandment says, ‘Thou shalt not commit adultery’.”
“Sure. It does say that. But what does adultery mean?”
"Ugh, ugh! Remember, I already took the fifth on this.”
Marriage - structure
“Touché! So let’s go back to the basics again. Laws are essentially established to control violence and minimize pain and suffering. In a society where humans were allowed to approach mating in the same way animals approach it, there would be a lot of violence. Humans would probably be like herd animals. There would be many cases where privileged males had large harems of women and many males had none. So, to get around this, SOCIAL SYSTEMS WERE DEVELOPED to provide EACH MALE WITH AT LEAST ONE FEMALE. This goes a long way to reducing the violence. But, knowing that, even with one female partner, males would still be driven by natural instincts to mate with additional females. So, laws were established to limit that as well. Over time, these systems came to be known as MARRIAGE.
The stated goal of marriage, in Genesis, was to “be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it.” But to do this in a non-violent way, a system was needed to protect the union of a man and woman from outside predators so a safe environment was available to raise children. That is the basis for the principle of ADULTERY. Let me quote this straight from the Catholic Encyclopedia.”
- “Adultery is defined as carnal connection between a married person and one unmarried, or between a married person and the spouse of another. It is seen to differ from fornication in that it supposes the marriage of one or both of the agents.”
"FINALLY! Finally someone told me what this means. Why all the fuss? I mean, this isn’t a complicated thing.”
“Nanook. If we kept to the STATED principles, life would be a whole lot simpler. But that’s not how it is. Understanding life is about reading between the lines. It’s about the hidden rules. It’s about uncovering the LIES and the LIARS. Sex and adultery are very complicated things.
Catholic Church and Power
The aim of the Catholic Church is not about helping people find happiness on earth. The aim of the Catholic Church is POWER. It’s about raising armies and controlling societies. SEX plays a huge role in this. People who can fulfill their animal needs can be happy content people. If they were content, they would not need Priests or church leaders to help them understand life. So, religion NEEDS TO CREATE PROBLEMS in life that require Priests and a formally structured church to solve. The church has to make itself important or they will be irrelevant.”
"Hold on here! Are you saying that a lot of the things we are told we have to do are not just about loving God and getting into heaven?”
“Nanook, dear boy. You have so much to learn. I hate to say it, but you are being fed a huge pack of LIES.”
Small Christian Sects - Bible Truth
"I don’t know if I can accept that. You’re talking about the whole Catholic Church. I mean, two thousand years of theologians.
But, for the sake of discussion, let’s just say that you’re right. What about all those people who call themselves bible believers who don’t have a large church structure, or maybe even no church at all?
“Good question. But the picture you just painted is an illusion. That is, you just implied a picture that the small religious groups have a stable philosophy in their own right. That isn’t correct. They could not exist without the larger Christian community. They are essentially just a rebellious fringe hanging on to that larger community.”
"Hang on now. Please explain that.”
“Sure. What makes these small groups what they are? First, they claim to be Christian. But what does that mean? In a general sense, they are believers in the teachings of Jesus as described in the Bible. But the Bible is a construct of Judaism plus the development of the New Testament by the Catholic Church plus reconstruction of parts of Catholic doctrine by the Protestants. There has been a huge addition to the Bible by this process.”
"But, how does that matter? The Bible is still the Word of God, right?”
“Where have you been for the last hour? What about the real story of the 10 Commandments I outlined for you? Sure, that’s what you’ve been taught. But a lot of what you’ve been taught, by the Catholic Church, is not true.
Do you know that there is NOT just one version of the Bible?”
"Hmmm. No, I didn’t know that. . . . WELL . . . actually, I did know that. My mother isn’t Catholic. She had a version of the Bible called the King James version. And I remember being told that Catholics were supposed to only read the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine version. So, I guess I did know that there was more than one version.”
“Good. Now think about what you just said. How can the, QUOTE, ‘Bible’, be the, QUOTE, ‘Word of God’, if there is more than one version of the Bible out there?
"Hmmmm. Good question . . . . Goooood question!”
"I’m thinking! I’m thinking! I know, it would be very easy to fire a quick comeback saying ‘of course, only one of them can be right. That must be the Catholic version.’ But with all the cards you’ve already pulled out of my Catholic house of cards, I’m reluctant to say that so easily.”
“And very wise of you. I assure you, there is NO Bible out there that accurately communicates what Jesus told us. And even if any existing Bible did, if Jesus actually spoke the way that Bible says he did, then we don’t have sufficient clarity to set the standards for our lives based on what he said. I don’t want to get into the details of BIBLE TRUTH right now, but please trust me. There is NO Bible out there that accurately communicates what Jesus told us.
So, the problem of small Christian groups is that they don’t have a reliable method to find sacred truth on their own. Sure they can claim that they get their truth from the Bible. But, the fact that they each interpret the Bible in a different way destroys that claim. They can’t all be right.”
"But can’t they all be, at least, generally right?”
“Generally? Of course. But that’s not what they tell us and it’s not how we understand God’s approach to things. The Old Testament makes it perfectly clear that God is a stickler for detail. If a group of people didn’t do what He said, they were toast.
But even given some flexibility, the problems the small groups face are still impossibly serious. The things that the separate groups differ about are not trivial. You can’t just throw out a whole sacrament that we are told is necessary to obtain your way into heaven, like confession, and claim it’s only a general variation.”
"OK. This is all very interesting. But we’ve strayed a long way from the original point. What does SEX have to do with all of this?”
Father V broke into a long quiet laugh.
“I see that part of the young man’s brain is still wired like a big horn ram. OK. Fair enough. The problem with sex is that NONE of the religious groups, small or large, have figured out how to manage it. Sure, the sixth commandment says, ‘Thou shalt not commit adultery’. But that does not solve the problem of getting human males to stop fighting over females. Just as important, however, the sixth commandment doesn’t get people to pay homage to church leaders, in any of the religious groups. So, every one of those religious groups has made up an endless list of restrictions that include just about everything related to sex. This goes way beyond the definition of adultery that I read to you to include everything from looking at photos of naked women, to even thinking about such photos, to a whole list of sex related words that people aren’t even allowed to say.”
"So? What’s wrong with that?”
“What’s wrong with that? I thought when God gave us commandments, we were supposed to obey EXACTLY what they said? If you don’t limit our leaders to that, then they will keep making things up until we are all slaves to every wild notion they have.
Furthermore, creating all these restrictions goes directly against what the third deadly sin warns us about. The third deadly sin tells us that humans, because of their animal drives, will have a huge problem controlling their sexual impulses. And what is well known from psychology, if a major human drive, like sex, is suppressed, it will eventually come out in some form anyway, but in an exaggerated and intense way. So what do the major religions attempt to do? They attempt to put sex in a straight jacket. And the result is exactly what the third deadly sin tells us it will be. People will rebel with excess.”
"But, as I said, we don’t have any choice. The sixth commandment is clear on this.”
“No it’s NOT! The sixth commandment is VERY clear on ADULTERY. But the churches of the world are not putting into effect what that commandment says. They are making up their own rules and claiming that’s what the commandment says. It’s a bunch of LIES. And the result is they are NOT achieving what they are attempting to achieve. The result is rampant LUST throughout society along with the huge occurrence of hidden behaviors that are categorically denied that we refer to as the DOUBLE STANDARD! Have you ever heard of that?”
"The DOUBLE STANDARD? No. I don’t think so.”
“Well, I guess you are a little young to have heard much about it. In short, in spite of all the preaching the Church has done about the sixth commandment, and in this instance I mean precisely what the commandment says, people still didn’t do what they were told. And I’m specifically talking about human MALES. Men have continually broken the sixth commandment all the time. Over the history of the Church, this also included a lot of the clergy including the Pope himself. Over the history of society, this included a lot of high placed community leaders and political figures. If the church and society were to have taken strong action to enforce this Commandment, a lot of important men would have been exposed and needed to be punished. So, what has society’s response been? DENIAL! There are a whole set of UNWRITTEN rules that allow men to break the sixth commandment and get off either Scott-free, or at least with almost no punishment. While you said you never heard of this, I bet you’ve read about it. Haven’t you studied the book by Hawthorn called the Scarlet Letter?”
"Sure. Everyone in high school has read that.”
“So, didn’t you see the Double Standard there?”
"Actually no. I don’t see where it applies. The Scarlet Letter was about a woman caught in adultery.”
“OK. And how does the woman manage to do this ‘adultery’ thing on her own?”
"OK. Fair enough. There was a guy involved. It was the minister.”
“Correct. And what was his punishment?”
"From the community, none. They never found out he did it. His torment was totally self inflicted.”
“But why didn’t the community find out who did it?”
"Because Hester Prynne wouldn’t tell?”
“Why didn’t the society force her to tell? Conversely, why didn’t the society provide her protection so she COULD tell?”
"I don’t know.”
“They didn’t do it because the male leadership of the church and the community created a whole set of cultural conventions to get men off without punishment and let the women bear the burden. This is the saga of the Double Standard. And it’s not a recent invention. The Double Standard has been a fact of discrimination against women from the beginning of time. The Bible even supports it and provides many examples. There is rule after rule describing how women who are caught in adultery are to be treated. But there are very few rules about how men are to be treated. And the result of this discrimination has been the development of the institution we call MARRIAGE.
**The Marriage Trap - summary
While marriage is usually presented as a blissful place for both husband and wife, there is a huge sinister side in it for women. In fact, for women, its a BIG TRAP. The trap is the role women are required to play. George calls it the Marriage Trap. It’s a trap because it has a hidden requirement: women have NO social status value of their own.
Maybe we’ll get back to this in more detail sometime. But for now, let me summarize it in relation to another model we’ve talked about as I see it evolving in the Brave New World that is emerging. Cultural brainwashing has created in most people, a "house of cards", made of FALSE beliefs. This house of cards may have held together in the previous world. In that world, women BELONGED to men. As long as women played by the rules, their marriage was "protected". Divorce was NOT and still is not allowed in the Catholic Church. Divorce was NOT granted in U.S. courts except for FAULT which mostly meant adultery. But women paid a big price for this. They couldn't vote. They had to obey their husbands about almost everything. They had little control in regard to a career because they either "had" to stay home and take care of the kids, or got moved at the whim of their husband's job. Sex was very tightly controlled for them while men played the "double standard". Birth control was forbidden. Their role was truly the role of a slave.
Birth control is a key to modern social change
Things are about to change drastically. The invention of BIRTH CONTROL will change EVERYTHING.”
"I think I need to slow you down a little here. You’re right. All of this is really foreign to me. I’ve never thought about any of it. Of course, why should I. I’m nowhere near even thinking about a family yet.”
“Single sentence logic, Nanook! Sure, you aren’t ready to have a family. But what about the 10 Commandments? What about the Seven Deadly Sins? What about how humans live their lives. It’s all tied together. So, you’d better start thinking about it. There’s a crisis of major proportions about to unfold in the world.”
"And all of this is due to the invention of Birth Control?”
“CORRECT! Of course, I don’t mean absolutely everything. But so much will change, that not to fully understand the impact of birth control will throw society on its head.”
Birth control destroyed fraternal groups
"OK. So give me some examples of what changes you think are going to occur because of Birth Control.”
“Before birth control, people still wanted to limit the number of children in a family. This would lead to a lot of sexual stress in relationships. The sex drive in humans is EASIER to control if it is totally shut down and sexual energy is routed into other channels. To deal with this, society evolved the practice of GAMES and MEN’S SOCIAL CLUBS. Marriage was largely a legal arrangement where men worked, brought home the paycheck, and went out to the club.
Birth control will NOW change all of this. Both men and women will have higher expectations for sex in the relationship. This will lead to a higher expectation for male-female companionship in the marriage. That will bring higher emotional stress into the relationship as men and women actually try to communicate with each other. The result will be a disaster. Marriages will break down and the outside social structures built on games and social clubs will also break down. The world has no idea where it is going.
Birth control will bring women into the labor pool
Once women are able to control the number and timing of their children, they will force many social changes. Some of these are: smaller families, more women with jobs, more women in traditional male occupations like doctors and lawyers, and more women in leadership positions. Since the responsibilities for raising children will end sooner, and life spans are growing longer, the workplace will fill with middle and older age women. These women will then have a financial foundation of their own, allowing them to more easily break out of marriages.”
"Wow. These are big changes. And I think we already see how disruptive to society they will be with the Women’s Lib movement. So now what?”
Social leaders will deny the changes
“Now what? I told you, we’re on the verge of a catastrophe that can turn our society on its head. Why? Because even when all the unwritten rules about sex change, even when it becomes widely talked about in everyday media, the formal, institutional messages being fed to society will not change from the traditional rules. The so called LIARSHIP, oops, I mean ‘leadership’ of our society will still be preaching the old messages.
I'm pretty sure you were brought up largely by the old rules. So you will try to deal with the ‘modern culture of women’ with a brain full of OLD RULES. HELLO! How can this NOT tear your insides out?
The old world was run by the DOUBLE STANDARD. In the old world, look how your interaction with women would go. You would expect them to "fear" each other as rivals. You would expect both males and females to close their eyes to clandestine sexual relationships, even those that involved marriage. Men would be expected to fulfill their needs secretly while no one acknowledged that anything is going on. Women would be expected to "give in" to men and keep it a secret. Like in the Scarlet Letter, if a woman overstepped her boundaries, she would exposed and be labeled an ‘adulteress’. Her husband would divorce her and she would be stoned to death. She would be severely chastised by the community for ‘failing to provide adequate sexual relief for her husband’. The man’s role in this would just be ignored. In return for playing this game, the ‘marriage’ would be upheld and the woman would be ‘safe’. Do you want to play this game?”
"Well, actually, I didn’t know anything about this game. I was just planning on looking for a simple, quiet, conventional old ‘down on the farm’ type marriage.”
“Guess what? Sorry! You don't have any choice in the matter. That game is GONE. BUT, DAMN IT, THE RULES OF THAT GAME ARE STILL GOING TO BE PUSHED DOWN OUR THROATS. Those rules will still be floating around inside YOUR head. And when you try to turn your mental models into action, with all the single sentence prescriptions, you’re going to think you’re in a washing machine. If you want to keep the pain and suffering away, you need to develop a very new set of rules. They must not have the built in denial and distortion mechanisms which deny human male animal needs and the new possibilities for female empowerment.”
"Whoa! This is surely NOT what I expected to encounter on my adventure in Alaska. I sure didn’t prepare by bringing ten pounds of aspirin!”
“See! You didn’t believe me when I told you Lust was a huge problem. And we haven’t yet talked about what it might mean to commit, quote, ‘adultery’ in one’s heart?”
"OK. OK. I give up. Here we go again with freewill and not-taking-any-action sins! HELP! Send me back to the safety and security of the good ol’ U. S. of A.”
At that point I thought Father V was going to start crying with hysterics. I thought, if Santa Clause, beard trimmed for the summer, ever got into a laughing spell, this is what it might look like.
“NANOOK! You’ve got it backwards. It’s the good ol’ U. S. of A. that isn’t the good ol’ U. S. of A anymore. And you can never go back to the good ol’ U. S. of A. Those people who told you that history always repeats itself - they’re LIARS! Add them to the list. Society has changed forever. Coming here is like climbing the mountain to find your guru. Let the ADVENTURE continue.”
"Oh, what a headache!”
“Come on. Just a few more Deadly Sins to go. Let’s talk some about ANGER.”
"Phew! Finally something I know something about.”
“Are you sure?”
"Ugh Oh! Something tells me Ben is about to show up and stuff a boot down my throat.”
“Anger, as referred to in the Seven Deadly Sins isn’t just getting mad at someone. This kind of anger is how it appears as an extreme emotion. In that form, it is also referred to as BLIND RAGE or WRATH. Wrath can be described as an extreme or uncontrolled expression of hatred. As an action, it often involves violence. Probably the most important factor is to understand how anger shows itself as an animal drive. Once we see that, we can go digging for its source and characteristics in our evolutionary past.
So, let’s look at how humans are controlled by this. The word BLIND is the tip-off. When a person is overcome by rage, they become blind to reason. Now mix this with false pride, greed, lust and envy and you have the perfect recipe for violence that is very hard to stop. When a person becomes blind with anger, they vehemently deny the truth. While they deny it to others, more important, they very often deny it to themselves. Once that happens, a downward spiral occurs. Anger drives lies; lies drive more anger. The bottom of the pit is where we find REVENGE. And what makes revenge so hard to stop is that it is not based on truth. It is not based on logic or facts. The emotion of anger, or rage, becomes the driver itself. That rage then reaches out and grabs any piece of Single Sentence Logic that appears to fit any part of the situation to justify the rage.
But the KEY is that ANGER IS THE EMOTIONAL PROCESS THAT CONVERTS FEAR INTO VIOLENCE. It is the FIGHT element in the phrase FIGHT or FLIGHT. This is a process that is hard wired into our brains from the earliest levels of animal evolution. This is not an easy problem to deal with. And anyone who thinks it can be cured by telling someone ‘JUST SAY NO’ doesn’t have a clue which way is up.”
"OK. I’ll buy all of that. So, again, what do you think can be done about this?”
“Actually, quite a bit. But it can’t be done in a vacuum. You have to deal with the whole list of deadly sins as a system. You have to deal with society as a system.
So, let’s go on to sin number five: Gluttony. How do you understand that?”
"Gluttony means over eating. I can see how it’s not a good thing to do. But I don’t have a clue why it would be listed along with the other sins. This sin seems like it is both self limiting and personal. That is, a person can only eat so much. When they do eat too much, they get sick and throw up. Also, the process doesn’t affect anyone else. So, I surely don’t see this as a big problem for society.”
“In this case, I agree with you. I don’t have a clue why this issue would be considered a danger to society. But, maybe it made sense a long time ago. For example, I’ve mentioned how important power is to the Catholic Church. So, calling gluttony a sin might have had something to do with control of wealthy people. Maybe in the ancient world, gluttony was a way that wealthy people flaunted their wealth to the average and poor people.
But I didn’t say I was defending the entire list of Deadly Sins. If it was up to me, I’d take gluttony off the list and add a few more. So, let’s just call Gluttony a ‘mystery of faith’. Five down, two to go.
**Envy – as related to anger
The next sin is ENVY. What do you think that means?”
"Envy is an emotion a person has when they think someone else is being treated better than they are. The closest word I can think of that’s like envy is JEALOUSY.”
“Very good. So, based on everything we’ve talked about, why might envy be a huge social problem?”
"Well, I think this is pretty easy to see. When people get jealous, one way they often try to solve the problem is by some violent behavior.”
“Precisely! And how bad a problem can this be for society?”
"How bad? I think pretty bad. Jealousy seems to be driven by false pride. It can be an excuse a person gives himself for greed. It surely plays a part in love relationships. And it usually involves anger and violence. So, right off the top, it is applicable to the first four deadly sins.”
"But what makes it different from, say, pride or greed?”
"Hmmmm. I guess I don’t know. I don’t see a clear distinction. It’s still about a person thinking they are better than someone else or that someone else has something they don’t.”
"There is an easy way to understand the distinction. Envy focuses on the elements of pride and greed that point to another person. Pride and greed, by themselves, are focused inward. Pride is about ‘me’: I’m great; we are the greatest; my country is the best. Greed is ‘I’ want more. But envy singles out the other person that is challenging our pride or greed. While our pride and greed are stirred when we feel we are not being given something we deserve, envy focuses our anger at another party that we can blame for our misfortune.”
"OK. Good distinction. And I can see how this would be a severe problem in society. It’s actually the process that singles out enemies.”
"Precisely! Envy takes the anger that results from the first four Deadly Sins and finds a target for it.
Now, last but not least, SLOTH. What do you think that means?”
"Sloth is actually not a common word. But I remember it from when I looked up the Seven Deadly Sins. Sloth means to be lazy.”
"Correct. So why should this be on the list of deadly sins?”
" I don’t know about this either. Maybe this is like Gluttony and shouldn’t be on the list. I mean, if someone is lazy, it only hurts them. So, I don’t know why.”
“What you said would be right if we only look at sloth from its effect on the lazy individual. But it takes on a whole new meaning in a social context. What happens if a large part of our society decides not to vote because they are just too lazy? What happens to a form of government like socialism if people are lazy and don’t want to do their fair share? What happens to our family structures if young people become lazy about taking care of their aging parents, or parents get tired and lazy about taking care of their kids? What happens if a husband or wife is lazy and won’t contribute to the marriage?”
Sloth and Socialism
"OK. Now I see what you mean. The Seven Deadly Sins primarily apply to social issues. We’re talking about society and human nature. Ben tried to get me to see that, despite my idealism, most people really won’t work without a strong incentive. Now you’ve given me a much better way to understand what he said. But more important, this sin tells us why forms of government, like socialism are doomed to failure. It tells us that programs we start in this country that don’t account for sloth are doomed to failure.”
"Precisely! But, even though this is pretty easy to understand, society is still filled with people who have socialist delusions. So, answer this question. Why don’t the socialist believers, including the socialist governments, just force people to work the way the socialist system thinks they should?”
"Hmmm. Let’s see if I can work this out. . . . . . . Think SYSTEM, Nanook. . . . . Think system.”
"Are you enjoying talking to yourself?”
"Neat! It really works. What I just did was try to think through some of the elements that would be needed for a government to force it’s people to work. The failures started popping up immediately. First, there would have to be an army of people designated to do the forcing. These would have to be like police. That would be a very unpopular job. Then we would need an army of people to prepare standards to measure the effort each person was putting in. That wouldn’t be a very popular job either because most people would believe they were being asked to do too much. Then we would need an army of people to measure work effort against those standards. That wouldn’t be a very popular job because people would resent being measured. Then a system would be needed to oversee and manage all of this. That means centralization. That brings in corruption and mediocre results.”
"I see Ben has taught you well! Very good analysis. With all this unpopular structure, the new system would just replace the resentment of a class structure with the resentment of government control. Society has always had the inequity between rich and poor. Socialism is focused on removing this inequity by pulling down the rich. This always fails because Socialism is based on the inaccurate assumption that, given freedom, people will organize themselves for the common good and contribute a fair effort. The seventh deadly sin tells us that this is totally NOT how the human animal is programmed. People are inherently lazy. They will not put forth effort without huge incentives. And if anyone is given authority over others, to enforce a socialist system, because of the other deadly sins, they will organize, primarily, not to achieve the stated goals, but to grow their own power position and get special privileges for themselves. To counteract sloth, a system is needed that gives strong incentives for individual effort.”
"So, Father, you’ve just brought up the problems of socialism again, just like Ben did. Can you please try to summarize them for me?”
“Sure. Socialism, as currently understood, requires two elements: 1. dependence on individuals to contribute effort, in an unequal way, at high potential, motivated by just an idealization of a better society; 2. centralization of the ownership of property and control of all the economic activities of society. Both of these elements fail catastrophically when they are implemented by creatures who’s nature is dominated by behaviors summarized by the Seven Deadly Sins. So, socialism fails because it refuses to accept human nature.
We have an animal nature at our base, even if God infused us with a soul. We still respond to instincts that we can identify as honed into animals millions of years ago. It was observed a long time ago, that human animals were subject to “human” faults. In Hebrew, the concept of SIN means to “miss the mark”. Sin, therefore, has a much broader role than just an offense against God. It is also a failing to be able to reach a social goal. This principle in humans was summarized in what we know as the SEVEN deadly sins: PRIDE, GREED, LUST, ANGER, GLUTONY, ENVY and SLOTH.
Socialism fails at the first element because of sloth ( laziness ) and greed.
Socialism assumes that humans will ‘give according to their ability and take only according to their need.’ This has been proven false since the beginning of time. Humans, as a rule, only GIVE what they are MOTIVATED to give, usually by FEAR, or one of the Seven Deadly Sins. This motivation, however, can also be driven by LOVE as well. Humans, as a rule, only restrict what they take to that which they need, if they are limited by FEAR or LOVE, which are the TWO PRIMARY EMOTIONS.
Sloth, Entitlement and Needs
In addition, there is a category of greed we call ENTITLEMENT. To escape having to put out effort, humans quickly grab on to promises from their leaders, that the government will take care of them. Now add in greed. People are not willing to stop at just basic needs. They quickly convince themselves that everything they WANT is something they NEED. And, they want it ALL. Then, by going the route of Single Sentence Logic, they convince themselves that the government, who promised to meet their needs, is supposed to give them everything they want. In their view, then, people believe they are ENTITLED to everything they want. Socialism plays into these deadly sins by promising to meet peoples needs, whatever they are. This failure has been known for a long time. Let me read a short piece from a book called The Poor Laws written by Joseph Townsend in 1786:
- “To a man of common sensibility nothing can be more distressing than to hear the complaints of wretchedness, which he hath no power to redress, and to be daily conversant with misery, which he can neither fly from nor relieve. …
- The Poor Laws, so beautiful in theory, promote the evils they mean to remedy and aggravate the distress they were intended to relieve . . .
- MOTIVATION – what encouragement have the poor to be industrious and frugal, when they know for certain, that should they increase their share it will be devoured by the drones? Or what cause have they to fear, when they are assured, that if by their indolence and extravagance, by their drunkenness and vices, they should be reduced to want, they shall be abundantly supplied, not only with food and raimament, but with their accustomed luxuries at the expense of others. The poor know little of the motives which stimulate the higher ranks to action – pride, honor and ambition. In general it is only hunger which can spur and goad them on to labor; yet our laws have said, they shall never hunger.
- The laws, it must be confessed, have likewise said that they shall be compelled to work. But then, legal constraint is attended with too much trouble, violence and noise; creates ill will, and never can be productive of good and acceptable service: whereas hunger is not only a peaceable, silent, unremitting pressure, but calls forth the most powerful exertions.
- He who statedly employs the poor in useful labour, is their only friend; he, who only feeds them, their greatest enemy. Their hopes and fears should center in themselves.”
“So, there are some huge “human” forces working against Socialism in this regard, both in the motives of the people who live it and the denial of those who claim to promote it.”