What is sin? A Jewish concept that refers to violation of Torah. This does not need to be a moral lapse, but just a violation. Having rules of this sort are actually helpful because they bring into view the fact of irresistible inclination.
2000 years ago, to sin was to disobey any of 613 rules of Torah—of which 612 are arbitrary.
After the destruction of the Second Temple, to sin was to disobey any of the 245 rules of Torah that can still be followed (this number increases to 271 if you live inside occupied Palestine).
Today, any act that contradicts your official goals is a sin. To sin is to violate your own commandments.
You sin when you fail to act according to what The Voice (agentive speech) says is important. Acting contrary to your your (official) goals, resolutions, and aims is sin. These are the things that you say (to yourself and others) you really want.
- You say you want to do X.
- An impulse to do not-X arises.
- You know that you ought to fight it, but you follow it instead.
- Then you feel guilty afterwards.
Doing things that you know you out not to, and not doing things that you know you ought to, is sin.
This contemporary notion of sin is dominant in psychology and self-help. Landmark stresses being your word. Scientology stresses being at cause over your impulses. St. Paul was all about that. It was Augustine’s favorite topic. Every website has the latest tips for really keeping your resolutions this time around.
Sin is still with us. But since the content of the commandments come from oneself, they don’t appear as commandments. They lack the solidity of other-originated commandments. I want my commandments to be give to be, by Moses, on stone that has been chiseled by the fingers of Jahveh. I don’t trust my own judgment, and my will to follow through is weak. Heteronomous commandments, backed by the threat of death, are more effective. Existential and relativistic skepticism about meaning and value have made us weak. No wonder fundamentalism is on the rise. People prefer absolutes, deadlines, consequences to subjective constructions.