Sin and Pain
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Sin and Pain • Posted: Nov 29, 2008 03:03:29Comments WelcomeVote CoolPhotoblogsPurchase a PrintShare

Many of us have friends eager to share with us their newly found joy, comfort, insight, or relief with some aspect of religious teaching. Because they are our friends, we feel the pain that undermines them and only half-heartedly protest the appropriateness of their desire to share and hopefully include us in their new community. But their blindness and inflexibility is annoying. Nobody wants to be thrust into a category of misunderstanding that ignores or attempts to negate huge portions of our being. It wouldn't be any different if they tried to give us a pair of shoes hopelessly the wrong size and expected us to wear them in comfort just because they were given with "love".

What is much harder to ignore is the underlying pain that fuels their aspirations. Pain takes on so many forms, ranging from discomforting to debilitating, and has so many causes. Biologically, pain is a warning that wants to prompt us into action that will, hopefully, relieve the pain. The problem is that very few of us understand the true nature of the pains we experience. We neither understand their cause nor what would be a healthy response to their promptings. But that fact has kept none of us from experimenting, nor kept many of us from offering "cures" for one another's pain. Many religions offer their own proscriptions for avoiding pain, threatening even greater pain if the proscriptions are ignored. The act of ignoring religious proscriptions is labeled "sin". The fallacy in such a belief is that waging war on sin or sinners will rid the world of pain. It won't. Pain is biological, not moral.

And if so, is the "real" cure for pain a drug, like heroin, as opposed to an idea, like education or love? I don't think so. A "real" cure for pain, I think, would be to investigate the actual cause of pain and plan a response that healthfully addresses that cause. Education helps. A sharing and supportive community helps. Learned expertise helps. Better public health policies would help. Continued funding for science would help. And it might help a great deal if better ethics guidelines and laws regulating truth in advertising were implemented. I'd also suggest religions take up the cause by relabeling sin as that which falsely professes a cure for pain.

Put a few folks out of business, thinking like that, wouldn't it?

Thursday, August 21st, 2008
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