There are two realms of morality. There are two types of wrongdoings: crimes and sins. A crime is a civic wrongdoing. A sin is a religious wrongdoing.
The difference is twofold. First, the selection: some wrongs are classed as the former, and others the ladder. Second, the arbitration: how the wrong is punished. Crimes are typically punished by the state with fines and prison sentences, sins are punished by society by denunciations and excommunication (canceling).
You won’t get cancelled in 2020 for breaking one of the 10 Commandments. Readers of this blog will know that the dominant religion in the west today is not Christianity, it is a modern form of progressivism. The progressives do not use the word “sin,” but only because of its association with Christianity; they otherwise would use “sin,” because its the perfect word for them.
The most illustrative wrongdoings are the ones that are both crimes and sins at the same time. An example from Christian days was lying. It counts as “bearing false witness” (sin), but also “perjury/fraud” (crime).
In the modern era, “hate crimes” is an example. Composed of two words, “hate” is the sin, “crimes” is the crime. The fact that an actual crime was committed satisfies criminal law. But it is not treated like an ordinary crime, because of the “hate speech” involved. That is the sin component.
Rape is an interesting case. In pre-Christian days, it was usually punished as a property crime. Then, in the Christian world, it was punished both as a crime and as a sin (a sleight against God, “Thou Shall not Commit Adultery”). In the modern era, the law changed to reflect that it is a crime against the woman, rather than her husband. After that, the religion also changed. It is no longer the church enforcing the 10 Commandments, it is feminists enforcing women’s protections.
Sam Harris, speaking about cancel culture, often inquires about when we should forgive people for their misdeeds. He asks (not a direct quote), “is it fair that we can forgive murderers, but we can never forgive people who were cancelled for saying something racist? When should we forgive people who were cancelled, and how far should that forgiveness extend?”
This statement points at a fundamental confusion: the conflation/comparison of crimes and sins. It’s amazing to watch these clips; it’s like Harris doesn’t know the year we’re living in.
We have an easy time forgiving people who committed crimes. Suppose you commit murder, then serve your 40 year sentence. The victim’s family will still obviously hold a grudge. But much of society will say, “it’s ok, you did a bad thing, but you served your time, and you are reformed now.” It carries a stigma, but not active hatred. The legal punishment creates catharsis.
Crimes can be forgiven by the serving of the punishment. In this interview, the host tells Mike Tyson that he is convicted rapist. Mike Tyson got very agitated and belligerent. Many people think Tyson was justified and came out better in the exchange. That’s because his crime is being treated as a crime, not a sin, one that he is absolved of by dint of serving his time in prison.
Sins will not be forgiven in the same way. The social exclusion, the reputation damage, is how they are punished in the first place. To forgive someone would remove that reputation damage, so it will not happen so easily.
Forgiveness of sins is handled differently by different religions. But at very least, they require you to defenestrate yourself, fully admitting/emphasizing that what you did was wrong… and in many cases, to do so for actions that are only wrong in the corrupt eyes of the dogma.