I just had an epiphany.
You may be familiar with the “seven deadly sins,” listed here for your convenience:
Something has always bothered me about that list. It didn’t seem balanced. It didn’t seem complete. Something … I just couldn’t put my finger on it. Then I saw a meme that applied the whole list to our current president, and it hit me. It’s one-sided, not meant to apply to everyone. The rich and powerful are exempt, and this is by design. It isn’t that the privileged few can escape the consequences of breaking the rules, it is that these rules were never intended to cover the elite. These rules, “sins,” are meant only for the rabble that make the privileged lifestyle possible.
Look at how each of them is directed to control the lives of those without power.
- Pride: Know your place, don’t get uppity.
- Envy: Don’t threaten the position or possessions of those above you.
- Gluttony: Be satisfied with less than your fair share.
- Lust: You do not have free choice in who to desire, that’s for the powerful.
- Wrath: Stay calm and don’t threaten the order.
- Greed: Material gain is for the wealthy, focus on spiritual things.
- Sloth: Keep working hard to support your overlords.
When you see that connection, it all makes more sense. It is hardly a new idea that religion in general is designed to maintain the social order for the benefit of those in power. What was enlightening to me was to see how this order is enforced indirectly by means of rules and regulations that seem to be “spiritual” in nature, but use psychology to control the masses.
This is hardly the only instance of religions using control tactics. Consider the Ten Commandments. The first four are all about fearing and respecting the One in ultimate power. The fifth is “Honor thy father and thy mother;” nothing there about respecting thy children, because they are at the bottom of the power structure. The remainder cover much of the same ground as the seven sins. The whole package seems designed to support a social order where the privileged are assumed to deserve their position, and are not to be subjected to any criticism.
Perhaps that’s why so many people see religion as a mechanism of oppression. I need to add that my experience is mostly with Christian varieties of religion. This analysis applies equally to Islam and Judaism, I suppose. If anyone would like to make comparisons with other religions, I would be glad to hear your opinions.