Emotions, Sins, and Virtues

A Christian view of ethics defines a set of thought crimes claimed to be the seven deadly sins. This ultimate list of the most evil emotions have seven virtues to counter them and guide Christian lives. Here’s the apparent do’s and don’ts for being emotionally right:

Vice : Virtue
Lust : Chastity
Gluttony : Temperance
Greed : Charity
Sloth : Diligence
Wrath : Patience
Envy : Kindness
Pride : Humility

Religions oversimplify their fictional guidance and it’s usually easy for me to see huge flaws in their charlatan sales pitches now that my mind isn’t clouded by blind faith. Hidden underneath this obvious attempt at controlling human behavior are some of our most basic emotions. These real emotions are as much a part of our humanity as the molecules that make up our bodies. Where’s the love, laughter, and overall happiness in this scheme? Where’s the healthy fear of dangerous situations that kicks in for the self-preservation and continuation of our species? Where’s the positive side of feeling anger at perceived injustices that drives us to act in defense of others?

I can look at this list and see some right in the vices and wrong in the virtues because emotions aren’t this simple. Would it really be bad if my desire for my wife or any woman is on the lustful end of the spectrum? Unleashing wrath against people that are screwing over others usually improves the situation. The religious didn’t stick to patience in World War II. Too much charity can promote dependency on the givers and isn’t a virtuous situation in the long term. The caregiver could abuse people’s dependency and that might be the real motivation for religions to promote charity. The thought often crosses my mind every time I see religions spreading their message through charitable acts.

The Christian sins and virtues try to tell us how much of an emotion we should have and where on the scale we should have them. Emotions aren’t this simple and the main flaw here is thinking they come from some higher order act of creation instead of from our most basic biology. Ekman’s list of six basic emotions is: anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness, and surprise. A newer classification list from Plutchik lists eight primary bipolar emotions which blend into additional emotions on a wheel of emotions: joy versus sadness; anger versus fear; trust versus disgust; and surprise versus anticipation.

Love and awe are emotions built from the more basic animal emotions I see in my cat and dog. You would think our most basic desire is to keep experiencing good emotions and avoid the bad ones. However, doesn’t it sometimes feel good in our core to experience some of the generally bad emotions? Having just come out of Halloween it’s easy to point out that we do seek out the excitement of fear and sometimes find humor in disgust. I can find good and bad in each emotion depending on the situations we experience them in considering the full spectrum of human emotions and life situations.

The seven deadly sins aren’t deadly and they aren’t as clearly negative as the label of sin might suggest. The same holds true for the supposed virtues. Our emotions are complex and we each have to struggle with how we feel them and what we do with those feelings. The only thing I know is that each emotion isn’t permanent as they come and go. I think we can change how we feel and how they impact our overall moods because what we do helps impact which emotions we encounter. I think love and joy can be emotions we choose to build up in ourselves from our more basic emotions coming from the choices we make. Happiness has nothing to do with religions and gods and has everything to do with what we do with our own bodies and minds.

I may not know exactly how or why existence came to be, but it’s obvious from my observations that we’re naturally emotional creatures lacking any specific natural disposition for our emotions. Agnosticism should lead you to question the guidance and motives of anybody claiming special knowledge that we were created as sinners and their beliefs are needed to become virtuous.

4 thoughts on “Emotions, Sins, and Virtues

  1. Jeff,
    With many mammals, the strongest males mated with most of the females. The males would often fight duels to the death to stick their dicks in a warm wet hole. One must imagine that the same was true in human history, previous to written history. That some male clubbed his friend to death so he could fuck his woman. Then he would leave her without a provider for her child.
    Civilization began where law and enforcement thereof began to equalize the interest of society with animal instincts and the beast within us. Murder and rape became illegal and punishable, but, before humans understood how unimportant they are in this universe, they attached some god to the law and some punishment in the afterlife to make the laws stick. One can argue that at somehow in human mental evolution they needed a sky daddy to inflict fear in them to do the right thing. But, the problem with that scenario is that since that time religion has been at war with science in order to preserve it power over mankind. Even if religion once provided some source of guidance out of barbarism, it is now barbarism’s last tower in the center of it’s stronghold. The only occupants are the fanatics and their satellites. But, the nuclear genie is out of the bottle, and we can’t put him back in. Now we have to convert humanity from religion to reason. Get to work, freethinker. NOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Norman Lycan

  2. If the dinosaurs had an intellectual guru, his name would have been Jeff. Things remain as they have always been throughout memory. Therefore, they must be anticipated to remain the same indefinitely. None of your posts have ever reflected any consideration of the total end of humankind. Yet, it is as real as the end of the dinosaurs and 95 percent of every species of plant and animal that has ever existed on this planet. From my perspective, it is not inevitable, but, it might be, if real freethinkers don’t broadcast the reality that the weapons of war in the hands of fundamentalist religionists can end humanity. To whom I refer, Jeff, is your children and your grandchildren and their children’s children’s children. But, you want to talk about love like it’s magic. It’s not. It’s fifty percent divorce rate, broken families, and rich lawyers. The belief in magic love is some teenager hormone notion that is as antiquated as religion. Agnosticism is not an online journal. It’s the final best hope of humanity. Wake up, freethinker. Then get to work.

    Norman Lycan

  3. I don’t know why you keep commenting like a toxic muse demanding I work simply because you wish it. I barely glance over such comments. You don’t define what this is, what I do here, or how much effort I exert in this area. You’re wasting your energy if you think anything you write motivates me on the positive or the negative. Your attitude is more often negative and sad instead of positive and freeing. If I had any sort of goals for my ramblings then it’d be for it to be as positive as having a freedom of mind should be.

  4. Jeff,
    You said, “I don’t know why you keep commenting like a toxic muse demanding I work simply because you wish it.”
    Reply: I would never ask you to do something that you do not wish, or even something you do not completely believe in. You have written very eloquent posts about lack of belief, or refusal to believe when evidence is absent, that is freethought. All I have ever tried to do is help you see how humans are slaves to their nature the same as any other species on the planet. They make babies and perform whatever work necessary to make the next generation independent when they inevitably die. That is not magic or spiritual, it just evolution doing what it does.

    You said: ” You’re wasting your energy if you think anything you write motivates me on the positive or the negative. Your attitude is more often negative and sad instead of positive and freeing.”
    Reply: I never hoped to create a vision of anything but reality. This planet is infested with religious wars and Sandy Hooks. Humans have been like this since history was written, yet you think my comments should be positive and freeing? Do you think that humans will change if they are not given a rational option? If you do, you are living a delusion that denies all human history. Optimism about the future does absolutely nothing to solve the problem until someone discovers and deploys a remedy. Something revolutionary like a whole new way to perceive the universe.

    You said: “If I had any sort of goals for my ramblings then it’d be for it to be as positive as having a freedom of mind should be.”
    Reply: As a freethinker, I cannot imagine how you could set the bar any lower. Perhaps you could have it mortised into the floor. While you were a promising discovery, you are like every other agnostic, you sit and hope for the best. So, I must conclude that it is not your fault.
    But, Jeff, it is obvious to see, gods aside, that a formula is brewing where mankind’s weapons have exceeded it’s wisdom and led to a situation where mankind could very really extinguish itself. Watch, if it happens, religion will be the trigger. I’m old, and death is coming for me anyway, but, what will your family do without a planet to live on? Look on the bright side of extinction? Evolution will hold no funerals, it will just try again.

    Norman Lycan

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