Seven deadly sins

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Hieronymus Bosch (1450-1516): The Seven Deadly Sins.

Some followers of Christianity say that there are sins that are the causes of all others. There are seven sins that they call deadly. Although the Bible does not list the seven deadly sins, they are in the book The Divine Comedy.

Ranked in order (starting with the lightest and least evil) like in Dante's Divine Comedy (in the Purgatorio), the seven deadly sins are:

  • Lust (fornication) — Unlawful sexual desire, such as desiring sex with a person outside marriage. (Dante's definition was "excessive love of others," and this reduced the love that a person could give God).
  • Gluttony — Wasting of food, either through eating too much food, drink or drugs, misplaced desire for food for its taste, or not giving food to the needy ("excessive love of pleasure" was Dante's definition).
  • Greed (covetousness, avarice) — Greed is when somebody wants more things than the person needs or can use. Dante wrote that greed is too much "love of money and power".
  • Sloth (also accidie, acedia) — Laziness; idleness and wastefulness of time that a person has. Laziness is hated because:
  • Others have to work harder
  • Delaying what God wants a person to do or not doing it at all
  • It makes life harder for oneself, because useful work does not get done
  • It, like gluttony, is a sin of waste, for it wastes time, maybe because of pride
  • Sloth is a state of equilibrium: one does not produce much, but one does not need much either (in Dante's theology, sloth is the "failure to love God with all one's heart, all one's mind, and all one's soul"; specific examples including being lazy, being scared, lack of imagination, complacency, and not doing what the person should do).
  • Wrath (anger, hate) — Inappropriate (not right) feelings of hatred, revenge or even denial, as well as punitive desires outside of justice (Dante's description was "love of justice perverted to revenge and spite").
  • Envy (jealousy) — Hating other people for what they have. Dante wrote that envy is "Love of one's own good perverted to a desire to deprive other men of theirs" (in other words, thinking that the person himself should have more, even if it means someone else will have less because of him.)
  • Pride (vanity) — A desire to be important or attractive to others or excessive love of self (holding self out of proper position toward God or fellows; Dante's definition was "love of self perverted to hatred and contempt for one's neighbor").

People see that some of these sins are connected. They have tried to put an order to them. For example, pride (love of self out of proportion) is needed for gluttony (the over-consumption or waste of food), as well as sloth, envy, and most of the others. Each of these sins is a way of not loving God and not loving others as much as oneself. Scholasticism developed schema of attribute and substance of will to explain these sins.

As previously mentioned, the Latin words for the sins are: superbia, avaritia, luxuria, invidia, gula, ira and accidia. The first letters of these words form the medieval Latin word saligia, whence the verb saligiare (to commit a deadly sin) is taken. Various mnemonic devices exist for remembering the sins in English, e.g. PEG'S LAW (pride, envy, gluttony, sloth, lust, avarice, wrath).

In the official Catechism of the Catholic Church, consisting of 2,865 numbered sections and first published in 1992 by order of Pope John Paul II, the seven deadly sins are dealt with in one paragraph. The principal codification of moral transgression for Christians continues to be the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes, which are a positive statement of morality, and part of the Sermon on the Mount.

The opposite of these sins are the seven virtues (chastity, moderation, charity, zeal, meekness, generosity, and humility) in corresponding order to the above seven deadly sins.

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