Christianity, Sin, and Thought Crime

Growing up in a fundamentalist evangelical home, I had little chance to commit any serious sins. To some extent this didn’t matter: I was taught that a sin is a sin is a sin, and talking back to your mother is just as bad in God’s eyes as was murder. Practically, though, what sins I did commit – being mean to a younger sibling, not coming immediately when called, doing a chore sloppily – were rare and easily made right. What I was much, much more concerned about was committing thought crime.

You see, I was taught that you could commit murder without laying a hand to someone. You could commit adultery without so much as touching anyone. You could do all of this inside your mind and it counted just as much as if you’d actually done it. And it’s not like my parents made this up – they got it straight from Jesus himself.

Matthew 5:21-22, 27-28

“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

I know the Christianese rationales for this passage and this doctrine. “Jesus cares more about the state of your heart than about your actions,” or “Jesus wanted people to be heartfelt, not legalistic.” But the reality is that this passage creates a whole new category of sin: thought crime. It also creates a whole new category of surveillance: God doesn’t just watch what you do, he’s in your mind reading your thoughts.

Needless to say, this made me very concerned. I knew that I was a sinner and needed a savior, and I’d already given my life over to Jesus. I wanted to be righteous and to live a godly life to please God and to witness to others, not to work my way to heaven. This is why I worked hard to do what was right and to avoid sin. But no matter how hard I tried, I found that I could never be truly godly.

In some sense, thought crime decreases the importance of one’s actions. After all, if I could work as hard as I could to be kind to my siblings and obedient to my parents and then still commit murder in my mind if I so much as became angry inside at my little brother, what was the point? If I could keep my body pure and not so much as talk to a boy my age and still commit adultery by so much as thinking a sexual thought, what was the point?

Let me give an example. I obeyed my parents. I did everything they told me to do. I voluntarily took on more chores. I took over some homeschool subjects and became my siblings’ teacher. I dressed my little sisters in the morning and dressed them again for bed. I did everything I could be to be a perfect daughter. But sometimes I felt misunderstood by them, sometimes I felt smothered and ignored, and in those moments I felt angry with my parents, which, I knew, was just the same in God’s eyes as if I’d murdered my parents.

My mind became my enemy. Emotions like anger and resentment were sins. Sometimes you can’t control where your mind goes, and I did the best I could to clamp down on that. I knew I must never think an angry thought, must never think a hateful or resentful thought. I became afraid of feeling angry at my brothers because I was tired of committing mental murder, and I did the best I could to smother those feelings as soon as they arose. I did the same with feelings of resentment toward my parents, and with sexual thoughts. As I’ve mentioned before, I managed to strangle my sexuality entirely, thus shutting off the possibility of committing adultery. I struggled to do the same with feelings of discontentment, anger, or unfairness. I knew that to be truly godly I must control not only my actions but also my thoughts. A stray thought could be just as sinful as a heinous crime.

I have to say, when I became an atheist as a young adult what relieved me most was not realizing that there was no hell, no Satan, and no demons, but rather realizing that I couldn’t commit a crime with my thoughts.

Am I saying that our thoughts don’t matter at all? Of course not! Angry or resentful thoughts can lead to us mistreating other people, but if they do, the problem is not the thought but rather the action. Angry and resentful thoughts can lead to unhappiness and depression, but if they do, the problem is letting those thoughts rule your life and not dealing with them, not feeling angry in the first place. What matters is not what thoughts we have but rather what we do with the thoughts we have.

Furthermore, our emotions are things that need to be understood and dealt with, not simply suppressed. If I feel angry, it’s important to not simply suppress that feeling but rather to seek to understand why I feel angry and what I should do about it. Pushing it all away and pasting on a fake smile is counterproductive. Every time you see the Duggar kids smiles, remember this: they have been taught that feeling angry is a sin.

Today, I am no longer at war with my mind. Today, I no longer live in fear of committing thought crime. Today, I am no longer afraid of my emotions. Today, I am free.

A Letter from Hell, and Self-Reinforcing Beliefs
My Kindergartener Knows What It Means to Be Transgender (and the Sky Hasn't Fallen)
A Matter of Patriarchy
Andrée Seu Peterson's Appalling Column on Bisexuality
About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • Jason Dick

    Yes, yes, yes! This, to me, is perhaps the number one reason why I don't believe religious people for one second when they claim that they're happier with religion. Now, granted, maybe not all religion is like this, but the Christianity I was exposed to certainly was.For me, I didn't even realize how much better I felt, not for a long time. Years later, I finally looked back and realized just how guilty I felt all the time as a Christian. Having left the faith, the unnecessary guilt slowly melted away (over a span of years).But now I realize that there's also a flip side to this attitude, one I think that is particularly nasty. If Jesus only cares where your heart is, then that means it is okay to do grievous harm as long as you mean well! Me, I don't think that's okay at all. Mistakes are expected, but we should also expect everybody to learn from their mistakes and do better next time. Simply claiming to "mean well" while not doing anything at all to change harmful behavior is a pitiful excuse.Of course, fortunately I think that many people link "means well" with attempts to correct the behavior, but my impression is that some do not. They simply consider it enough to mean well, and never concern themselves about checking to make sure that their impact actually was positive. And that, I think, is the danger of thinking that it is thoughts that matter instead of actions.

  • Anonymous

    Another insidious aspect of this is that it makes you hyper-aware of *other people's thoughts*. The teaching that girls dressed immodestly will cause their brothers to stumble (definitely in their thought life, and possibly in their actions) absolutely contributes to this. You are always wondering if you are causing sin in other people's minds, which is simply unhealthy.

  • OneSmallStep

    I've always found this logic fascinating. If hating someone is the same as murder, then by reversing that, loving someone should be the same as physically meeting their needs.

  • JW

    Do you have anything to do with your family since leaving Christianity?

  • Retha

    This is the kind of post where I don't know if speaking or shutting up is best. I won't try to convert you, nor to humiliate you, but believers sometimes can't see your point – and you can't blame them:What they taught you about the Bible is not true. Anger is not equal to murder, and sexual thoughts not equal to sexual behavior. It say that not only murderers is subject to judgment, but also those with – shall I call it "word crimes"? It don't say they will be punished the same, or even that all anger will be judged negatively. (I experienced anger today ago when reading of a child molester and people keeping quiet about what they knew, and I am pretty sure God is not calling me a murderer for that.) And the text never say that sexual immorality in the heart is equal to sexual immorality in the flesh. It fits in with all the "you become what you nurture in your heart" types of teaching in the New Testament.You can't help it. You read the Bible from the lenses you were taught to read it with. But you are sometimes blaming the text when your lenses is the problem. At least that is how I see it.

  • quietpanther

    I am terribly sorry, but I simply could not help myself. Please forgive me.

  • Stephanie

    I struggled desperately with fear of thought crimes, too. I got so discouraged that I became paralysed (not literally) – I couldn't function as a human being because I didn't see the point of living if I could easily commit a heinous sin without even doing anything.I also managed to completely strangle my sexuality because of this. Now sitting on the other side of all of that negativity, I see how incredibly harmful it was. Strangling sexuality and essentially becoming asexual wasn't a blessing – it was a curse. I'm not saying that I run around and have wanton sex – I never have! – but to strangle such an important part of yourself which is healthy and necessary in terms of romantic attachments was devastating to my psyche. It ruined me.All I can say is that I am grateful that I am now on the other side, and I finally feel at peace.

  • Elin

    Jason DickI am one of those people whom you do not believe telling the truth. I am a Christian and definitely not heavy from the burden of my sin. I know I am a sinner and I sin every day. I do my best to avoid it but the rest is up to god. He can and have changed me bit by bit but it is a road and I am not where I would like to be but perhaps where god wants me to be now. It should be said that I found my faith as an adult and I was surprised by just that sense of freedom that I speak of, I thought that Christians would be walking around trying not to sin. I know that there are people who feel that way but I haven't and I just feel supported by god to do what is good and helped by god to abstain from what is bad. If I fail, god still loves me.

  • Anonymous

    This is a really interesting post! On some level I identify with what you were feeling; when I was younger, I was exposed to a lot of this thinking within my church (although not so much at home with my family).It took me a long time to start seeing things differently. I actually changed my mind about a lot of things after I went to see a Christian counselor to help me deal with some anxiety problems. She figured out pretty fast that much of my anxiety was coming from a misplaced sense of needing to "stop" thoughts that I had been taught I "shouldn't" feel. (I had been taught this by some of the tenets of the North American Christian sub culture that exists today).Nowadays, I look directly at the Bible and see something very different than what the church culture TOLD me the Bible said about thought crime. I see verses that tell you it's okay to be angry, just don't use that anger to fuel sin (which I think is a view that you and others on here think makes more sense). I read those verses you were talking about and see a Jesus who is calling me to not get complacent about the state of my heart (and yet knows that my heart is never going to be perfect).It's a much freer, happier place. I'm glad that you and some of your readers aren't still living under the burden of trying to be perfect. I know we disagree about the person of Christ, but I'm relieved that none of you are still suffering from a strange sort of legalism which has, unfortunately, become pretty rampant in the church today.

  • Anonymous

    As I have read what the fundamentalist teachings are, I have only been appalled. The teachings I have read about here and on various blogs, are not correct. They are not Biblical. It seems they have Bible twisted and mixed into their teachings, to where it doesn't make any sense. The fundamentalist's teachings create angst, guilt and turmoil. I am saddened and angered for all the hypocrisy that has been shown in raising children in these beliefs. It sickens me. And no I am not fearful I am commiting murder in my anger. Fundamentalist teachings have so many holes, they don't add up. What I see in my reading of the parents promoting the nonsense is ignorance, pride, hatred, controlling personalities, little man syndrome, abuse, and those are the ones coming off the top of my head. I realize this sounds judgemental but I would wonder if some of these people really KNOW the God of the Bible. They certainly don't behave like they do. Yes, they can mimic a lot of language and reiterate a lot of it, but I question if it is real. Child raised in this nonsense I feel for you, I can hear what you are saying and I too see the holes in what you were taught. In my way of thinking you were taught falsely. Beverly

  • OneSmallStep

    It feels like those who are saying that hatred isn't the same as murder are missing the fundamental point of the essay: the creation of a new sin, which is a thought crime. Hatred, lust in the heart — those are still considered sins. Those still make one ungodly, and qualify one for the need of a Savior. Not only that, but all sins receive the same punishment — hell. Adultery in one's heart is a sin, and the punishment for that is hell. Physical adultery is a sin, and the punishment for that is hell. So, since the punishments are the same, it will come across that adultery in the heart is the same as adultery in the flesh. To be taught that God judges you, condemns you, will punish you for the very idea of having a thought like hatred, or lust for another person will create fear of one's mind.

  • boomSLANG

    "The teachings I have read about here and on various blogs, are not correct."What objective standard are you presumably using to make that determination? I'm genuinely curious."It seems they have Bible twisted and mixed into their teachings, to where it doesn't make any sense."It obviously "makes sense" to those whom you are targeting with your sentiments, since I think it's a safe bet that people don't willingly believe what doesn't make sense to them. Part of the problem, IMO, is that the bible is an enormous, subjective grab-bag. To add to the confusion, said book says, "do [X, Y, and Z]", in one chapter, and a few chapters later you may find it saying, "do NOT do [X, Y, or Z]!". And "God" is not the author of confusion? No book has caused so much confusion. Could it be that it's not inspired by a "God" at all?

  • boomSLANG

    "Not only that, but all sins receive the same punishment — hell. Adultery in one's heart is a sin, and the punishment for that is hell. Physical adultery is a sin, and the punishment for that is hell" ~ OneSmallStepWhat's interesting to me about those who believe that particular tenet of Christianity as you describe it..i.e.."Hell" for the "sinner", is that the punishment for those immoral actions you describe is only carried out if one doesn't accept Jesus as their Lord [etc., etc.] So, at face-value, it seems that the only relevant "sin" is to not do just that. That kind of makes a mockery of "justice", doesn't it?

  • Ana

    This reminds me of a book I read as a teenager, that started with: "Imagine if tomorrow a new machine arrived at your school that broadcasted thoughts as a TV set." It describes the first student to go (his parents are appalled, his girlfriend runs away ashamed, etc.), and then says the reader is next in line…The thing I now can't understand is why the rest of the book was a guide on how to change and control your thoughts and not a condemnation of the machine…and mind you, this was a mainstream evangelical book for kids!

  • Marcso

    I think this is where the epistles expand on. Apostle Paul says he dies daily. John speaks of righteous anger, among others. As a christian, yes our thoughts can deceive us, but we can repent and be thankful we dont allow ourselves to expand on those thoughts. I believe thats where the real sin is.

  • Taxidriver42

    Thank you for this post, I recently discovered your blog and I'm finding that many of the things you have to talk about are issues that I have dealt with/am dealing with from growing up in a extremist Christian house. While I wasn't in a QF household, my parents' church community held a lot of similar values (place of a woman, attitudes towards sex, thought crime). I see the points of the commenters above, and I think they apply, but only to mature adults. To teach children who are still trying to learn to control the affect their thoughts and emotions have on their actions that simply thinking something "bad" means you have sinned can cause great damage. As a child who strived to do exactly as I was told, this pushed me to almost panic attacks in the middle of the night. I sometimes would lay awake for hours as a 10-12 year old worried that if I thought a bad thought before sleep and died unexpectedly in the night that I would be eternally damned. It's a hard thing for a child to grasp, and while many children aren't affected like I was, I'd bet I'm not the only one who had such problems. Again, thank you for writing this, there's always comfort in knowing you aren't the only one who has felt pain from something.

  • Petticoat Philosopher

    "What they taught you about the Bible is not true. Anger is not equal to murder, and sexual thoughts not equal to sexual behavior.""You can't help it. You read the Bible from the lenses you were taught to read it with. But you are sometimes blaming the text when your lenses is the problem. At least that is how I see it."Retha, I know you mean well, and believe me, I MUCH prefer your intepretation of this passage to the fundamentalist one but this attitude seems a little patronizing to me. The way you read the bible is as much through a "lens" as the way Libby was taught to read it. We all read texts through our own lenses. Personally, I don't see anything wrong with this.I've been noticing that some liberal Christians seem to do this a lot (I didn't grow up as part of Christian discourse so a lot of these dynamics I'm not so familiar with.). This trend of telling non-believers who were raised conservative or fundamentalist Christian that they were taught the "wrong" way to read the bible. And while I think it makes sense to say that the fundamentalist reading of the bible is certainly "wrong" in the sense that it is morally incorrect, I don't think it makes sense to say that it's "wrong" in the sense that it's less accurate. It's just a different interpretation.And in some cases, it seems like the fundamentalist interpretation IS the one that's closer to what the actual words mean. Because I'm looking at that passage and it seems pretty clear to me that it IS saying that lustful thoughts are the same as adultery. I'm just not seeing how it's possible to take anything else away from that sentence without fudging with it a little. (And I wasn't raised to read the New Testament with any particular lens–I wasn't raised to read it at all. I grew up Jewish and never read the whole thing until my teens.)But, the thing is, I think fudging with it is fine. Fudge away, if that's what it takes to square religious texts with morality. Sometimes a less literal reading is necessary, and I don't think that it's less "right" to get a little creative with how we interpret these things. That's just religion changing with the times, which is fine and necessary. What I don't understand is why so much importance is placed on having the most "correct" interpretation of religious texts. Why not simply say "My interpretation is the better interpretation because I judge it to be the morally better one" instead of tying oneself in knots to demonstrate that this is what the words WOULD mean to anyone who's paying enough attention. Obviously this just isn't true.The whole attitude just reeks of the "No True Scotsman" phallacy to me.

  • Retha

    Petticoat philosopher ask: "Why not simply say "My interpretation is the better interpretation because I judge it to be the morally better one" instead of tying oneself in knots to demonstrate that this is what the words WOULD mean to anyone who's paying enough attention. Obviously this just isn't true."———–I don't say that, because, at simple face value, the text does not say what Libby Anne has been taught. It don't say, literally, thoughts and deeds are equally bad.("The punishment is the same", as OneSmallStep claimed, is not in the Bible either – all sin does not lead to the same things (1 Jn 5:16) and some lost will have it better in the day of judgment than others. (Matt 11:22-24)) Nevermind. If you want to believe I'm tying myself into knots, it is your prerogative. This will be my last comment on this thread. But for the record, I don't say this because of what I morally prefer. I say it because the text certainly don't spell out what you think is there. Paying attention is needed.I once wrote about the no true Scotsman fallacy:, I am out of this thread now. If you want the last word, you can have it. I certainly believe that Christians like Elin and Anonymous November 10, 4:21 PM mean more to unbelievers than someone who point out factual misunderstanding.

  • Petticoat Philosopher

    Retha–I certainly didn't mean to come off as combative or dismissive and I certainly am not after the last word. On the contrary, I'm interested in what you have to say, as you are clearly an intelligent person. You seem to have taken my words as hostile. If that's how they sounded, I apologize.But I have to ask–and if you really don't want to respond, you don't have to, but I'm genuinely interested–how does that passage NOT say what Libby and I (who, I will again point out, have radically different experiences with this text) and others think it says? As you might guess from the second part of my name, I have spent a great deal of time reading difficult and sometimes cryptic texts and I have always loved literature. Subtext is no alien concept to me and I am aware that words are often not as simple as they seem. All this is to say, I am definitely someone who "pays attention."And so is Libby. She is a humanities Ph.D candidate–paying close attention to text is part of her job. And she was raised to pay VERY close attention to the bible. I don't think anyone here who's interpretation differs from yours can be accused of not paying close enough attention. This is not a matter of "facts," it's a matter of interpretation. Which is fine. It's simply the nature of the beast.I put forth again that there is nothing WRONG or inauthentic about reading what you morally prefer into religious texts. Often there are many things you can take away from these things so why NOT choose the one that sits well with your morals? I think religion ought to follow morality, not the other way around.

  • OneSmallStep

    Retha,So are you saying then that the end result of all unsaved sinners is not hell? That some are punished with hell, and others are punished with … something else? That the end result of the unsaved, regardless of the sins committed, is not hell? And that's not in the Bible? Because all that quote is referencing is that there is a sin that leads to death (and there is tons of commentary as to what that means. The favorite interpretation seems to be relating back to blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, which is unforgivable), but all sin is wrongdoing. If you have a serial killer who is unsaved, and a regular citizen who is unsaved, at the time of judgement, they're both going to hell, based on typical conservative Christian theology. So, yes, the punishment and judgement is the same, regardless of how bearable one finds the judgement (and that passage seems more focused on the fact that those who witnessed miracles still didn't repent. They saw the works of God/Holy Spirit and still weren't persuaded)

  • shadowspring

    Oh dear god, yet another example of where overkill in religion does more damage than good. The words of Jesus were clear enough to me: all actions start with a thought. Cognitive behavioral therapy is based on this reality. Taking it any further than this is just ridiculous.

  • Retha

    Thank you for your willingness to listen. I'll start with the hell question.I plan to make a long post on that on my christianrethinker blog, but the short answer is: That is conservative Christian theology, but the Bible never say all unbelievers will be in hell. The Bible do say some people will be in hell, but it does not spell out they all will be. If hell will be cast into the lake of fire, (Rev. 20:14 is the closest the Bible comes to teaching all unsaved will be in hell, it say they will be in the lake of fire), hell is not a lake of fire. You can't throw anything into itself. Nor does it say people in the lake – or in hell – will be there forever. It say the devil will be tormented forever, but is silent about the people in :14. I won't say "no true Christian …" but I will say that evangelicals make an assumption here beyond scripture. And some clues suggest degrees of punishment in hell: Nothing in the Bible suggest hell is equally bad for all sent there.As such, claiming all sin are equal because all lead to hell is just not what the Bible teach. Hell is not taught to be for all, and probably not equally bad for all there.————–And on the real topic: "You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.People who murder are subject to judgment. People who are angry are also subject to judgment. Compare it to this: People who commit fraud of millions is likely to end up in court. So are those who neglect to pay a traffic fine. It don't mean the two are equal.Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.That is a terrible threat. But to be in danger of something is not to say it will happen. And by several Biblical clues evangelicals don't say all in hell will be punished the same.“You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart." The one who looks with lust commits adultery in his heart, but nothing in the text spell out that adultery in the heart is just as bad as adultery in the flesh. To compare: To steal a pencil from an employer and to steal a BMW are both theft. The pencil thief also stole. That don't mean the two are equal. Is my reading clearer now?

  • Retha

    I don't think anyone here who's interpretation differs from yours can be accused of not paying close enough attention. This is not a matter of "facts," it's a matter of interpretation.The first sentence is your opinion, and I already showed you mine. As for the second, this is a matter of facts. Either Jesus said they are equal, or he did not. Whoever understand the text right, the text has a meaning – there is a correct and a wrong interpretation. Even if I am wrong as to the meaning – and I've often been wrong in my life – the text has a meaning and all interpretations are not equal.

  • OneSmallStep

    Retha,On what basis do you say that not all unbelievers won't go to hell? Is there a specific quote you can reference? You did reference Revelations, but because that book is huge on symbolism, is there a more straight-forward verse you could reference? Especially as the hell there is actually Hades, not Gehenna. And the whole chapter speaks of those not found in the book of life cast into he lake of fire. I think the problem we're having here is how we view hell. To me, the level of degrees don't matter. For those who steal the BMW and those who steal the pencil, they get the same judgement. Sentenced to hell. Which is why I say that both are viewed the same, because both are punished the same. Say we lived in a society where all crime, including thought crimes, were punished by death. So a serial killer receives the same punishment as someone who lusts after non-spouses. The point is that the punishment is the same — death, even though many don't consider the second a legal crime. Which meaner that they are considered to be equally bad.To you, the judgement/sentence isn't about hell, but the degree of hell one suffers. So that's why you're saying we can't say all punishment is the same, correct? To me, hell is hell. There are no degrees. Especially because when evangelising, degrees suddenly don't matter. If someone says s/he is a good person, the response is that if you've ever even lied, or broken one of the 10 commandments, you still deserve hell. The degrees of badness suddenly don't matter. I looked at the website you listed, but the only examples are quotes where Jesus is specifically calling them out for not recognising him even because of the miracles. And he's always had issues with those not recognising and appropriately giving credit to the holy spirit.

  • Libby Anne

    Just to clarify one point on the idea that all sin is equally bad: James 2:10 – For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.Thus, even if you only do a little sin, you're still guilt of breaking "all of it." So I think this is the passage, or one of the passages, where the idea that all sin is equally bad comes from.

  • Retha

    You asked: On what basis do you say that not all unbelievers won't go to hell? Is there a specific quote you can reference? To clarify: I have not said: "Not all unbelievers will be in hell." I said: "The Bible never spell out whether all unbelievers will be in hell or not." It speaks of people in Gehenna, but never spell out all unbelievers will be there. (You are right- gehenna is not hades.) It speak of punishment, in some gehenna verses, but don't say the punishment will last forever. And even if the Bible only hints at different degrees of punishment, nothing say that hell is the same for all. and even the verses on God being just oppose the idea. The idea that hell is the same for all is certainly not in scripture, and the opposite is hinted at. I agree that the hints say less than what I find likely, but nothing say hell is the same for all.As for the rest, if you cannot see that there could be differences in punishment, I can't explain it any better.

  • Retha

    "People who murder are subject to judgment. People who are angry are also subject to judgment. Compare it to this: People who commit fraud of millions is likely to end up in court. So are those who neglect to pay a traffic fine. It don't mean the two are equal."I should have added: And those whom the judge finds "not guilty"was also subject to being judged…

  • Libby Anne

    Also, for what it's worth, when I became Catholic I really appreciated the Catholic teaching on this. They divide sins into "venial" sins and "mortal" sins. A venial sin is the kind we commit all the time – saying something unkind in anger, etc. – while a mortal sin is more serious – murder, extortion, suicide, adultery, etc. The idea is that a venial sin doesn't cause you to lose grace but a mortal sin does, because venial sins can be committed almost on accident or out of habit while a mortal sin involves deliberately choosing to reject God's commands. If you have committed a venial sin, you have not rejected God, though venial sins do cloud our relationship with God over time. On the other hand, if you have committed a mortal sin, you have rejected God, and you are outside of God's grace. Now if you've committed a mortal sin, all is not lost; to regain God's grace, all you need to do is confess your sin to God and ask his forgiveness. But as long as you remain unrepentant and continue deliberately disobeying God's commands, you are in rebellion against God. In Catholic practice, confessing to a priest can be a good way to get it off your chest and gain some guidance. Let's just say that I much appreciated this approach, because it let me see my everyday little sins as less problematic and more understandable(though of course still something to fight) and clearly differentiated between simple anger and actual murder.

  • Amber

    I grew up Mormon. Although the church is trying to show that they are diverse and modern, it is a false attempt to bring in more members to their very fundamental religion that teaches these same principles.I had a compulsive repentance problem, in which I would spend hours on my knees repenting for sins that were not really in extant. It is an awful feeling to be burdened by false sins.

  • Christine

    As a fundamentalist, I became obsessed with avoiding any sexual thoughts. I wasn't able to kill my sexuality like you were, so I was continuously burdened with guilt. Always, always guilty of crucifying Christ in my heart, everywhere I went. If that doesn't make you crazy, I don't know what will.

  • shadowspring

    There are Christians who believe that all people are reconciled by the actions of Christ, and that hell, or Gehanna (town dump), is a metaphor for the purification (destruction) of useless/counterproductive ideas, values, etc.- not by any means the people who have embraced these hurtful ideologies. Personally, I think fundamentalism dogma is one of the things that will have to be dumped. Jesus says as much when he says that goats will be out the door for their hard hearts to those in need- but nowhere does he say that exile is forever. Fundamentalist read that into the text.The Inescapable Love of God by Thomas Talbott explains the Bible's support for the total completion of Christ's work on the cross as accomplishing all He set out to do: reconcile all things to God. All. In a similar vein, Steve McVey puts out a lot of well written commentary. hesitate to even post here, as I don't want to be seen as trying to convince or convert anyone. I just want to put it out there, that other Bible scholars, faithful Christians, see the Bible very differently than fundamentalists, or even Catholics.I don't think any one will ultimately be excluded, for what it's worth. Conversion (in my mind) is unnecessary, unless you are talking about being converted from self-righteous, selfish living to loving, compassionate living. Lots of people leaving fundamentalism for atheism are doing just that. I think they are heading in the right direction. :)

  • boomSLANG

    "Often there are many things you can take away from these things so why NOT choose the one that sits well with your morals?"'Thought long and hard before responding, simply because I don't want to come across as "combative", "I hate you!", and the like. I'm not trying to "one-up" anyone, but on the other hand, I do fully admit that I believe that Atheists are more likely to be right about "God", specifically, of the invisible, conscious, creator-being type who supposedly want to have a relationship w/humankind. In any event, my question is this: if one presumably has his or her "morals" picked out before cracking open the bible(or insert other supposed deity-inspired manuscript), then why the need to set out to square-up those morals with a deity at all? Don't get me wrong, I believe that this is what every believer does, from fundamentalist, to moderate, to liberal…i.e..they have already decided the difference between "right" and "wrong", and then, after the fact, they attempt to 'validate'(for lack of a better word) their beliefs by going into their chosen religion's respective manuscripts and doing precisely what was suggested a few posts up: pick out what aligns with what you already believe, and if you encounter something that disagrees?.. just fudge it[paraphrased]. Notice, I'm talking strictly about morals here, not anything else that can supposedly be gleaned from religion…"poetic truths", etc.

  • boomSLANG

    "Lots of people leaving fundamentalism for atheism are doing just that. I think they are heading in the right direction."idk, it….it just sounds so darned peculiar..i.e.. a Christian telling Atheists that they're "heading in the right direction". Who'd have thunk it!?! Oh, well, as an Atheist, thanks, and I think you're heading in the right direction, too. 'Just a little further to go, in the same direction you're going! ; )(j/k)

  • shadowspring


  •!/WayPastDueToo waypastduetoo

    I was a Christian for upwards of 30 years: A minister’s wife, a missionary to Africa, bible teacher, prayer warrior, evangelist, etc. I even worked at a major Christian Network for 3 years. I got ‘baptized in the Holy Ghost’ at 17 and worshipped and studied initially in the United Methodist church. After a couple years, I began attending a charismatic/full gospel church and then a decade and some change later, I went back to the Methodist church because they were more ‘female friendly’ in their doctrine. (I got sick of the sexists drivel coming from the pulpit and in bible studies.)I remember clearly being taught extreme thinking like what has been described in this blog post. “Sin is sin,” they would teach. “When you fall short of God’s glory, it doesn’t matter if you missed the mark by an inch or a mile – if you missed, you missed.” The guilt was horrible and exhausting. And as much as I was in love with god and longed to deepen my relationship with him, it haunted me no end to know he knew every single little dirty thought in my head! Oh My! What a bondage!!! I really relate to this post! Now, I am an ex-Christian, free-thinker. Why? 1) Because I read the bible cover to cover and 2) I refused to make excuses for the atrocities found in it. (I'll spare you reasons 3 through 4,892) :o)Once I stopped making excuses for god, I realized, there’s just a lot of bad stuff in that book that NO ONE should model their life after and yet, Christians ARE taught to do exactly that!! Leaving Christianity was so agonizingly painful. Learning to think for myself and shake the fear of eternal damnation was really hard. I had to teach my self NOT to pray about every little thing. It was a long row to hoe! But each year away from the faith is better and brings with it more clarity than the one before.Yes, there’s some good stuff in the bible. But I doubt there’s any other book in history that’s done more harm to the human race than this one. It certainly did in my life.

  • Aemi

    Mrs. Libby Anne, I know God sees my every sinful thought. But He loves me anyway! I do not have to be afraid of emotions and thoughts—He loves me and He has forgiven me! :') It sounds to me like, as a girl, you were trying to please God with your good life. As you found out, that doesn't work, because we simply cannot be good enough. But Jesus was good enough, and He took my sins upon Himself, and was punished—killed—for them. So now, God can pardon me. Now, any good that I do springs from gratefulness to Him. I wish you would understand how wonderful it is to be forgiven.

  • jimi

    Glad you have rid yourself of that pernicious claptrap. Stay free.