Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on ReligionInstitute for Studies of Relgion
IJRR :: 2012 Volume 8 :: Article 7
2012 Volume 8, Article 7
Pride, Sloth/Lust/Gluttony, Envy, Greed/Wrath: Rating the Seven Deadly Sins

Author: Douglas M. Stenstrom (California State University, Los Angeles) and Mathew Curtis (University of Southern California))

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Is one sin worse than another? Although hundreds of transgressions and vices are listed in religious works, the seven deadly sins (lust, greed, pride, envy, gluttony, sloth, and wrath) are considered the origin of all sin. In a psychological context, they involve basic emotions, attitudes, cognitions and behaviors related to central areas of psychology such as self-identity, interpersonal and intergroup relations, and psychological dysfunction and improvement. This article investigates how religious and nonreligious individuals in the United States distinguish the relative weight of different transgressions. A repeated measures analysis found a cultural “sin pattern” ranging from self-focused to other-focused and falling into four clusters that include biological desires and evolutionary adaptive mechanisms. A mixed factorial ANOVA analysis across different groups that were differentiated by gender, religion, age, marital status, and politics found moderating variables, including a “lust effect.” These variables also predicted severity ratings for six of the seven deadly sins, with a unique set of predictors for each type of sin. Although religious variables might be expected to be the driving force behind appraisals of sin, our research provides new insight into the complex nature of how sin is evaluated, including the possibility that a cultural understanding of the seven deadly sins has subsumed the religious meaning of certain deadly sins in U.S. culture.

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