Originally posted by echecero
Sin is a word that refers to moral guilt. It comes to us through Germanic roots that mean "it is so", specifically in the context of a judgment, meaning that the charges are true.
Therefore, the word "sin" is appropriately applied to any morally wrong act. To say that I have sinned is to say that I have acted morally wrong.
In that, it is a rather ...[text shortened]... cause it seems genuinely easier to perceive that morality is not bound to a particular religion.
You make a good point that notions of morality are universal, inherent in the nature of society. However, the English word sin
is terribly inadequate to describe the universal sense of moral lapses. Sin
denotes moral error--a violation of the social and spiritual order. However, it connotes a specific moral code--decreed by peoples' notion of God--that developed in the Western Christian tradition. These connotations are central to the standard definition found in an American dictionary:
a) an offense against God, religion, or good morals b) the condition of being guilty of continued offense against God, religion, or good morals
(Webster's New World Dictionary
The term entered English from about 1125 as synne
from Old English synn
, a term meaning wrongdoing, offense, misdeed. This term is cognate with several Germainic words, including Old Frisian sende
, Old Saxon sundia
, Old High German sunta, suntea
, and Old Icelandic synd
, among others.
It is noteworthy, and I argue central to an understanding of the word, that this complex of words entered English and other Germanic languages during the expansion of Christianity into the regions where these languages were spoken. Accordingly, the word's fundamental connotations are rooted in the Christian moral code, and that code is far from universal.
Closely related to the concept expressed by the word sin
is that expressed by the word impeccable
--a word that exists in English only as a negative. Joseph Shipley's comments illuminate:
is so general that the word sinful
is most frequent; hence sin
, very common Teut., from the present participle of the root es
, to be: to exist is to be a sinner
. ... But to be exempt from sin
is so rare that we have kept the L. negative form, Eng. impesccable
, from L. in
, not, + peccare, to sin
." (Dictionary of Word Origins
Morality may be universal, but sin is not.