Social Ethics: Sociology and the Future of Society

By Charlotte Perkins Gilman; Michael R. Hill et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter 5
SIN

IN THE slow, irregular growth of our understanding of ethics one of the heaviest arresting forces is the ancient race-concept of “Sin.”

Sin, as such, has not the faintest connection with ethics. It is a wholly arbitrary term, applied to various acts and lines of conduct in accordance with primitive religious views; views held at a period long before even our present meager knowledge of the real laws of right and wrong.

Race ideas grow one from another, in long lines of slow development, modified from age to age by those “mutations,” those splendid leaps forward in our race-psychology made by the great founders of new religions.

Even they have always felt the influence of the more ancient thought, and have struggled mightily against it, as in the valiant protest of Jesus— “Ye have heard it said by them of old time”—“But I say unto you—“1— and he did, speaking “as one having authority, not as the scribes.”2

In view of this glorious revolt of new percepts is it not amusing to note how the later compilers, striving to harmonize the New Testament with the old—(that deadly mistaken compromise) carefully wrote in from time to time—“And this he said that it might be fulfilled which was written—.”3

Fancy that splendid iconoclast, whose teaching was in such rampant opposition to “that which was written,” carefully looking up his authorities and arranging his doings accordingly!

Yet in spite of the grand independence of its founder the Christian

-45-

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