Transgression of the will of God or the gods, as revealed in the moral code laid down by a particular religion. In Roman Catholic theology, a distinction is made between mortal sins, which, if unforgiven, result in damnation, and venial sins, which are less serious. In Islam, the one unforgivable sin is shirk, denial that Allah is the only god.
In Christian belief, humanity is in a state of original sin and therefore in need of redemption through the crucifixion of Jesus. The sacrament of penance is seen as an earthly means of atonement for sin. The seven deadly sins are the vices leading to sin.
While the Jewish and Christian faiths both look to the story of Adam and Eve's disobedience in the Garden of Eden, they interpret it in different ways. In Judaism, the story is an exploration of humanity's broken relationship with God, whereas in Christian theology it gives rise to the doctrine of original sin, whereby the sin of Adam and Eve is a legacy that can only be removed by the redemption of Jesus. The Jewish scriptures (the Old Testament) contain countless calls from prophets and psalmists to repent of sin and turn back to obedience to God.
Christian theology further divides sin into material sin and formal sin. Material sin is any transgression of the divine will or law; material sins become formal sins when they are deliberately and knowingly committed. Only formal sins involve guilt.
Many of the Christian reformers, such as John Wycliffe and the Protestants Martin Luther and John Calvin, denied that there was such a thing as a venial sin, making all sins, however small, mortal and deserving of hell.
Islam divides human actions into five categories: forbidden, disapproved of but not forbidden, neutral, good and rewarded by God, and obligatory (neglect of these is a sin). Commission of the forbidden or omission of the obligatory will result in punishment at the Last Judgement. Most Eastern religions have no concept of sin as such. In Hinduism and Buddhism, karma is the inevitable result of one's actions, whether good or bad, and will determine one's next reincarnation. Taoism is concerned with the futility of attempting to act in opposition to the Tao, the way of the universe, and the suffering caused by such an attempt.
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