The new deadly sins

Have you seen the Vatican’s list of modern sins? Is most helpful. If you’re catholic, this is divine guidance on how to avoid going to hell. If you’re not, it might seem like an overgrown cult trying to induce guilt so people will go running to church, but let’s not be so hasty. Maybe we can all learn something – let’s examine the scourges of our time:

Environmental pollution

Yep, pretty bad. I’d like some quantitative measures, though. I mean, I should clearly go to confession if I leave the heating on while on holiday, but what about putting too much water in the kettle? Will God hate me? Is there a pits-of-hell-seconds / milliwatt-hour conversion table?

Drug trafficking and consumption

Let’s assume this means illegal drugs and not aspirin, or Tesco is totally screwed. Trafficking illegal drugs is indeed not good, but the evils of consumption are somewhat dubious. You could come up with hypothetical situations in which nobody is being harmed: if I grow my own marijuana, smoke it in an enclosed room and never tell anyone or endorse the product in any way, will God still hate me?

Inflicting poverty

Fair enough.

Accumulating excessive wealth

Seriously? Getting rich is in the top seven evil things? What if you bequeath it all to good causes? What if you’re Bill Gates, and you use your fortune to get direct access to important people who can help you give billions of dollars to charity? What’s ‘excessive’, anyway? I agree there may be a moral case against hoarding money, but it’s pretty low on my list of Things To Fix.

Genetic manipulation

That’s just ignorant. Genetic manipulation could and probably will save billions of lives, by producing varieties of food that can be grown in areas of most need. Any opposition that isn’t “I’m just making sure this is properly regulated” is medieval and verging on the bonkers. I’d also point out that having sex means random splicing of genetic information -far from the carefully controlled small numbers of genes manipulated in labs – and God doesn’t seem to mind that (providing you don’t have any fun in the process, obviously).

Morally debatable experiments

If this were ‘morally wrong experiments’, I’d call the argument circular. What’s evil? Evil cats! As it is, the argument is not only circular but completely insane. Anything morally debatable is a sin?! Based on the Vatican’s debating team, presumably. I’d like to give this pregnant woman a new drug to prevent her dying in childbirth; of course, as with any medical procedure there’s a million-to-one, unforeseeable chance her four-week-old feotus could react against the drug and die. Can I still do it? Can I try feeding millions of starving people with this genetically modified grain, granting that the scientists who created it are evil sinners? Can I use these embryonic stem cells, that were going to be thrown away anyway, to help cure disease and alleviate suffering worldwide? Can I compare the energy usage of normal and energy-saving light bulbs, given that the experiment will add extra environmental pollution?

Violation of fundamental rights of human nature

Well, yes. And these are…? I was aware that bad things are bad; this seems somewhat broad and already covered by commandments and things. Clarification would be appreciated. I don’t know what they could possibly be referring to, here, so let’s pluck something out of the air…say ‘freedom of religious belief’. Well, it’s clearly wrong to outlaw religious belief, yes. Oh, wait, you want ‘freedom from anything that insults our religious belief’, too? That’s not logically possible I’m afraid. Sorry.

Frankly, this list isn’t much use in avoiding eternal torment. Bad cult. Must do better. 

These sins are better than the previous seven, as they aren’t uncontrollable human instincts and laughably obvious ploys. But they’re all redundant or self-serving. It’s also unclear how any of these ‘mortal sins’ relate to the commandments: they’re the only official lists of ‘grave violations of the Ten Commandments’, but neither list contains, say, ‘genocide’, or ‘don’t fight with protestants’.