Seven Deadly Sins: Jewish, Christian, and Classical Reflections on Human Nature
- Publish Date: 1992-03-01
- Binding: Hardcover
- Author: Solomon Schimmel
Most people think of sin as an outmoded idea - part of an obsolete, medieval frame of reference. But Solomon Schimmel maintains that the seven deadly sins are alive and well and deadlier than ever. Greed, envy, lust, pride, anger, sloth, and gluttony are a permanent part of human nature, and they cause as much unhappiness - both psychological and social - today as at any time in history. Yet the waning of the great religious traditions in the modern world has left us with nothing but secular psychology to guide us in the perennial struggle with our flawed and fallen nature. And psychology appears to be inadequate to this task.
What else but this inadequacy of contemporary psychology can explain the proliferation in American culture of self-help groups like Alcoholics Anonymous, Smokers Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous, and Shoppers Anonymous, and the growing range of 12-step programs and other support organizations concerned to help us rein in our uncontrollable appetites? A large array of even more bizarre personal therapies associated with the New Age movement address themselves to spiritual needs which modern man has lost the capacity to satisfy or even understand. Thus people swim with dolphins in order to heal their sense of alienation, or resort to shamanistic rituals and witchcraft to restore their lost community with other human beings.
All these problems, Schimmel argues, can be better understood - and therapeutically addressed - within the context of traditional religious and moral teachings about sin (or vice) and virtue. While the great traditions differ with respect to their conception of human origin and destiny, all agree that we can realize happiness only by exercising self-control, or virtue. We must be good in order to be happy.
These great traditions are a long-neglected mine of psychological wisdom and practical advice, which Schimmel judiciously culls in an attempt to enhance our diminished understanding of our inner moral lives. Drawing widely on the classical, Jewish, and Christian traditions, Schimmel explores their different visions of each deadly sin, contrasts them with the vision of modern secular psychology, and tells us something of the necessary virtues that contribute to self-mastery and happiness.