The 8th Deadly Sin

Most of us in Western cultures are familiar with the Seven Deadly Sins: Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Sloth, Wrath, Envy, and Pride. These Cardinal Vices were enumerated by the early Christian church as a way to educate and instruct followers concerning man’s tendency to sin. I believe we must add an eighth Deadly Sin to that list – Guiltism.

Guiltism:

Guiltism is a mindset or belief system that espouses that an individual or group is inherently “evil” because they are possessed of some innate benefit that they did not earn and must be ashamed of. At guiltism’s core is the mandate that since someone or some group has privilege, they must pay reparations to all others who do not possess that privilege. Failure to pay without complaint absolves all others who harm the privileged person or group from some or all responsibility for their actions.

This is an insidious and pernicious belief structure. Guiltism it is on both the idea of collective guilt, which is guilt attributed to someone who has some sort of relationship – familial or societal – with someone else who perpetrated some transgression, and upon the idea any privilege automatically incurs an individual or group the burden of guilt and the need to offer both apology and recompense to diverse strangers.

Guiltism is an extremely damaging “sin”, possibly worse than the original seven combined. It corrupts the Seven Contrary Virtues: chastity, abstinence, liberality, diligence, patience, kindness, and humility.

  • Guiltism corrupts Chastity by causing a beautiful person to hate their own bodies – an unearned privilege, which detracts from successful integration of sexuality within the person and thus the inner unity of a human person in his or her bodily and spiritual being.
  • Guiltism denies Abstinence because the virtue of abstinence is intended to be a conscious act, freely chosen to enhance life, and guiltism twists this into repressive self-denial.
  • Guiltism counters Liberality by denying any act of charity. Guiltism would claim that any charitable act was actually nothing more than rendering partial payment due.
  • Guiltism perverts Diligence. Diligence requires that a human being freely to direct himself to conform to the good promised by God and attested by moral conscience. Guiltism both adds a goad, which precludes the person’s freedom of action and supplants the purpose of a vocation to divine beatitude with the assuagement of guilt and reduction of personal tribulation.
  • Guiltism defies Patience by forcing a person to defy the existence of a divine plan and divine wisdom in favor of acting at their own pace to correct perceived injustices.
  • Guiltism refuses Kindness by making all good acts towards others who carry this burden of adopted guilt an exacerbation of their condition, and any good act to the less privileged being recompense as opposed to kindness.
  • Guiltism contravenes Humility by causing a person to aggrandize themselves and their self perception of their power and influence. To carry guilt implies the belief that one had the power to enact either harm or good.

Guiltism is by far the most deadly and corruptive of “sins.” It’s corrosive effects upon the human soul are unequaled in Man.

Related Reading:

Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World (Posthumanities)
Meditations on First Philosophy (Hackett Classics)
The Stone Reader: Modern Philosophy in 133 Arguments
The Philosophy Book: Big Ideas Simply Explained
Philosophy (Quickstudy: Academic)

Tags: |

12 Responses to “The 8th Deadly Sin”

  1. Nabiha Meher Shaikh Says:

    I like your argument. But I don’t see anything wrong with the belief that one should help the underprivileged.

  2. jonolan Says:

    My only problem with the idea is that word “should”. Should in this context means, or implies “Something, such as an order, promise, requirement, or obligation”. I strongly dispute the compulsory nature of the sentiment.

    I CHOOSE; I am not obliged to.

  3. Nabiha Meher Shaikh Says:

    It all depends on one’s belief system doesn’t it? I feel I should. However, I do realise that people will do so because they want to. Either way, I don’t see anything wrong with it. I see it as the right thing to do. It probably has a lot to do with the fact that the should was something my parents and my society ingrained in me.

  4. Jackson K. Eskew Says:

    Interesting. However, the situation is precisely the opposite. More guilt is needed, not less. For instance, the women who abort 1,300,000 babies a year need to be shamed, and shamed severely, along with their accomplices. As do the barbarians of specialization, etc. etc. etc. etc. “O shame, where is thy blush?” Though it doesn’t know it, these words of Shakespeare are this hollow age’s epitaph. Instead, we hear this: “I gotta be me!!” Wonderful.

  5. jonolan Says:

    I think you may have missed my point. I was talking specifically about the evils associated with accepting guilt or obligation for things that a person didn’t do. Think of phrases like ethno-guiltism or America must feed the world and you’ll be on the track that I was speaking of.

  6. Christy Says:

    Thanks for the link, Jonolan. Provocative as always.

    I’m curious – did you formulate your argument using Guiltism’s effect on the seven virtues or did you draw from another source? Reading through your post, I felt like I was in my philosophy classes again. 😉 It was great.

    I’m curious how Guiltism denies abstinence; could you explicate? How it specifically twists abstinence into repressive self-denial?

    You also state that Guiltism contravenes Humility by causing a person to assume they have more power and influence than they truly do. I’m not sure I accept that premise. You would question whether or not one has the power to enact either harm or good?

    As it has been mentioned in a previous comment, I think the understanding of obligation is based upon one’s worldview. According to mine, I do bear some obligation (Jesus said to feed the hungry and I think it was Peter who said that true religion is taking of the orphans and widows) as a direct response to God’s commandments (specifically “Love your neighbor as yourself” – it kind of encompasses a lot ;), but I don’t see it as some chore – I see it as some great opportunity to express my love for God through my love for his creation, the people around me, taking care of their needs. Jesus said if you feed and clothe the poor, you are feeding and clothing Him. When you have a love relationship with God, it just becomes a joy to give to charities, to take care of others’ needs, to give away yourself, in essence. So it’s this paradoxical understanding of an “obligation” but it doesn’t feel like an obligation – it becomes an exciting adventure. I think of it like a relationship – if there wasn’t great love expressed by my partner, serving him (whether that’s simply making him dinner, surprising him with something little like making coffee for him or doing his laundry or whatever) would become (or could become easily) very easily burdensome, but when I am loved and appreciated, those things become great joy to do. And it almost becomes a game to see how much I can serve him. (And vice versa; as I’m single currently, I’m referring at the moment to my best friend’s relationship with her husband and the relationship I saw my parents have.) Anyway, in a similar fashion, because of God’s love for me, taking care of Him (if you assume Jesus’ stating that feeding the poor is as if you were feeding Him) through charity, through service, through taking care of each other’s needs is a joy and not an obligation. =)

    I struggle with ethno-guiltism, Jonolan. So thanks for a great post. In general, and where I stand right now, I agree overall with the thrust of your post. But I sometimes question whether my apprehension about “collective” guilt is tied to my White Western upbringing; Asian and middle-eastern cultures are very community based; I was raised with a very independent-based mindset. What I do, I’m responsible for. So am I product, in part, of my upbringing and societal culture? Am I missing something from not having a more community-based understanding of life?

    Questions I am working through at the moment. =)

  7. jonolan Says:

    Christy,

    I built the post based on Guiltism’s effect of the seven virtues. It was really an exercise in taking what I wanted to say and formulating it to a specific format.

    Guiltism vs. Abstinence:
    It’s not really abstinence, now is it, if you’re abstaining from something because you been convinced you don’t really deserve to be able to do it. You’re not giving up something; you’re avoiding guilt feelings instead.

    Guiltism vs. Humility:
    Can anyone truly claim to be humble if the accept the burden of responsibility for an entire people? Did either of us actually cause famine or plague? It’s kind of like paranoia – you have to be pretty egotistical to believe you’re important enough for everyone to be out to get you, and I believe you’d have to be similarly egotistical to believe you had enough impact to deserve the guilt.

    I also see a large difference between helping others because you’re faith tells you to and doing so because of some sort of collective guilt or debt. Is anything a “good work” if it’s only to pay a debt.

  8. Christy Says:

    I also see a large difference between helping others because you’re faith tells you to and doing so because of some sort of collective guilt or debt. Is anything a “good work” if it’s only to pay a debt

    Hey Jonolan,

    In the vernacular, no. In the theological or philosophical, perhaps. You make a great point.

    Guiltism vs. Humility:
    Can anyone truly claim to be humble if the accept the burden of responsibility for an entire people? Did either of us actually cause famine or plague? It’s kind of like paranoia – you have to be pretty egotistical to believe you’re important enough for everyone to be out to get you, and I believe you’d have to be similarly egotistical to believe you had enough impact to deserve the guilt.

    I think I misunderstood what you were originally arguing; if it’s the above, then I see exactly what you mean; I’m just not sure if ethno-guiltism really assumes that you’re saying *you* are directly responsible for either good or bad. Perhaps we’re working off two different understandings of collective guilt. To me, when I hear that terminology, I think of someone saying “as a group, such and such has been done, and because I am part of that group, I accept partial responsibility for acknowledging the sins of the others that I am tied to, whether I like it or not that I’m associated with them” thus recognizing the pain of others’. It’s not saying “*I* am responsible” but rather, it takes on the responsibility – assumes the responsibility – out of a sense of seeing others who have been wronged and wanting to right it, so it become an altruistic act, not a sense of obligation but a sense of recognizing wrong, proclaiming it as such and becoming part of the solution.

    Guiltism vs. Abstinence:
    It’s not really abstinence, now is it, if you’re abstaining from something because you been convinced you don’t really deserve to be able to do it. You’re not giving up something; you’re avoiding guilt feelings instead.

    This one still has me very confused…I fail to see how abstinence is tied or even is related to guiltism. Abstinence sexually? Guilt feelings of being sexually active when a group suggests you shouldn’t? (I’m trying to get a good grasp of what the argument is.)

    Thanks for the food for thought!

  9. jonolan Says:

    Christy,

    Abstinence is opposed by Gluttony not Lust and could be described as refraining from undo or unseemly pleasure in sensual pursuits such as food and drink.

    How can you possibly enjoy that nice dinner when there are people starving in Darfur. How can you not clean your plate no matter how full you are? There children starving in China? <-- remember that one! Or did it die out with my generation?

  10. Christy Says:

    Naw, it didn’t die out in your generation; it was used around our dinner table when I was a girl. We had to clean our plates precisely because of all the starving children. 😉

    Interesting subject I revisit from time to time, but I agree with you on this one. From a theological standpoint, the way I have worked through it is that we are not to feel guilty for the power, privilege, and resources we have been born into or achieved but that we are responsible for how we use those powers, privileges, and resources. We should be wise stewards of our resources, whatever they may be, but we should not act like paupers or feel guilty if we don’t – it is not a sin to enjoy life, to enjoy what we have, etc. if we hold what we have with an open hand – if we realize that everything is a gift from God and that He can take or give as He pleases…the way I was taught as a young girl was to hold my finances (and in the time since have added everything – health, etc.) with an “open hand” not grasping onto it as if it were mine but just using it to glorify God, mindful that everything I have comes from Him. Blah blah, I ramble, but you get the picture.

  11. Bill Webb Says:

    I believe the Eighth Deadly Sin is Intolerance.

  12. jonolan Says:

    Bill, thanks for your comment!

    Wouldn’t Intolerance just be a concatenation of Wrath, Envy and Pride?

Leave a Reply