The Seven Deadly Sins: Jewish, Christian, and Classical Reflections on Human Nature

Overview

Most people think of sin as an outmoded idea - part of an obsolete, "medieval" frame of reference. But Solomon Schimmel maintains that "the seven deadly sins" are alive and well and deadlier than ever. Greed, envy, lust, pride, anger, sloth, and gluttony are a permanent part of human nature, and they cause as much unhappiness - both psychological and social - today as at any time in history. Yet the waning of the great religious traditions in the modern world has left us with nothing but secular psychology to ...
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Overview

Most people think of sin as an outmoded idea - part of an obsolete, "medieval" frame of reference. But Solomon Schimmel maintains that "the seven deadly sins" are alive and well and deadlier than ever. Greed, envy, lust, pride, anger, sloth, and gluttony are a permanent part of human nature, and they cause as much unhappiness - both psychological and social - today as at any time in history. Yet the waning of the great religious traditions in the modern world has left us with nothing but secular psychology to guide us in the perennial struggle with our flawed and "fallen" nature. And psychology appears to be inadequate to this task. What else but this inadequacy of contemporary psychology can explain the proliferation in American culture of self-help groups like Alcoholics Anonymous, Smokers Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous, and Shoppers Anonymous, and the growing range of 12-step programs and other support organizations concerned to help us rein in our uncontrollable appetites? A large array of even more bizarre personal therapies associated with the New Age movement address themselves to spiritual needs which modern man has lost the capacity to satisfy or even understand. Thus people swim with dolphins in order to heal their sense of alienation, or resort to shamanistic rituals and witchcraft to restore their lost community with other human beings. All these problems, Schimmel argues, can be better understood - and therapeutically addressed - within the context of traditional religious and moral teachings about sin (or vice) and virtue. While the great traditions differ with respect to their conception of human origin and destiny, all agree that we can realize happiness only by exercising self-control, or virtue. We must be good in order to be happy. These great traditions are a long-neglected mine of psychological wisdom and practical advice, which Schimmel judiciously culls in an attempt to enhance our diminished understanding of our inner moral lives. Drawing
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
According to Schimmel, the seven deadly sins underlie many of today's personal neuroses and social ills. Unlike those who call substance abuse a disease or an addiction, this psychotherapist points to sloth, greed and anger at work. Behind the passions evoked by the Persian Gulf war, he detects the sin of pride. He faults society for a massive failure of self-control and perceives the hand of envy, lust, gluttony and the other vices in rampant divorce, overeating, pornography, abuse of public trust and indifference to the suffering of others. A professor at Hebrew College in Massachusetts, Schimmel draws on the moral teachings of Judaism, Graecostet -Roman philosophy and Christianity, along with insights gleaned from his clinical practice and nuggets from Dante and Shakespeare. His point that the high self-esteem advocated by modern secular psychology often slipsok, or spills?/I like slips better.gs over into selfishness is well taken. More than an old-fashioned hellfire sermon, this is a surprising, humane handbook for self-transformation. (May)
Library Journal
Schimmel, a practicing psychotherapist, believes that early Jewish, Graeco-Roman, and Christian moralistic and philosophical instruction provides valuable insight into the human condition. He attempts ``to translate its relevant teachings into an idiom that speaks to modern man while respecting his skepticism about religious dogma.'' The seven deadly sins, their destructive results, and psychological techniques for overcoming them provide the outline for the author's discussion, buttressed with anecdotes from his practice. The work ends with a discussion of sin and responsibility in terms of determinism versus free will. This is a well-argued attack on value-free theories of psychoanalysis for general religion and psychology collections.-- Richard S. Watts, San Bernardino Cty. Lib., Cal.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780029279014
  • Publisher: Free Press
  • Publication date: 2/15/1992
  • Pages: 300

Table of Contents

1 The Persistence of Sin 1
2 Pride 27
3 Envy 55
4 Anger 83
5 Lust 111
6 Gluttony 139
7 Greed 165
8 Sloth 191
9 Sin and Responsibility 217
Notes 245
Bibliography 269
Acknowledgments 277
Name Index 279
Subject Index 283
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