Published online by Cambridge University Press: 30 January 2009
‘Whatever became of sin?’ – the title of American psychiatrist Kark Menninger's book – encapsulates the problem with which I begin. That there is appalling suffering today, organized crime on a scale which almost defies analysis – and certainly detection! – moral evil in a variety of repugnant forms and so-called ‘natural’ catastrophes which threaten the very continuation of human life on our planet, is beyond dispute. But ‘sin’? Is sinfulness still an accepted category in our society for eidier religious believer or nonbeliever? It is hard to accept that when Professor Kerkhofs (from the University of Leuven, Belgium), surveyed the attitudes on sin and guilt of European Christians in 1985, 40% of those interviewed admitted that they had never experienced any feelings of regret about their actions! There is a double tendency prevailing with regard to responsibility for acknowledged wrongdoing: increasing sense of diminished responsibility for crime seeks either to scapegoat a certain sector of the populace as blameworthy, or attempts are made to cope with criminal damage – for example, injuries sustained by drink-driving – by assessing it in exclusively (reductive) monetary terms.
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