Sin is the refusal to submit to the order of things. Any act or thought which tends to diminish, disintegrate or destroy life in its specifically human expression is a sin. It is a sin to hate one's neighbor, for hate is destructive both of body and spirit. Vice is the result of habitual sin. As to virtue, it does not consist only, as Socrates taught, in the knowledge of good; it is an act of the will, a habit which increases the quantity, intensity, and quality of life. It builds up, strengthens and vivifies personality. Hope, faith, enthusiasm and the will to succeed act on the body like steam on a turbine. Physical and mental activities are purified by love. These virtues heighten the personality and make it stronger and more closely knit. Vice, on the contrary, lessens and disintegrates it: laziness, vacillation, self-pity and melancholy arrest mental development. As to pride, egoism and jealousy, they separate those who are guilty of them from their fellows and dry up the springs of the spirit in themselves. Sexual excesses, gluttony and drunkenness attack the spirit at its source by causing disorders in the body.
In communal life there are social virtues and antisocial vices. Courtesy, cleanliness, love of one's native land, common ideals and a common religion make a society strong and harmonious. Antisocial vices such as rudeness, backbiting and mutual detestation sow discord among members of the same family or social group and eventually bring a nation to impotence and destruction.
Sin appeared in the world at the moment when man, freed from the automatism of instinct, became capable of error. Sin can be voluntary or involuntary. It can result from ignorance of the laws of life, from inability to obey them or from the refusal to conform to the order of things. To what extent is any given man morally responsible for any given act? We do not know.
No one can explore the brain, organs and mind of his neighbor to discover the cause of his actions. The judge himself, being only a man, is incapable of plumbing the souls of other men. He must give up trying, even with the help of the psychiatrists, to find out whether an accused man is or is not morally responsible for his conduct He must be content with deciding whether the man in the dock is really the author of the crime. Rage, drunkenness, weak-mindedness or madness should not be any excuse for the criminal. Whether the aggressor is a drunkard, a lunatic or a gangster, he Has, none the less, victimized someone. The damage suffered by that victim is not lessened by the moral irresponsibility of the offender. Society is not qualified to punish its members, but it has the duty of protecting them. It should put those who are a danger to the existence of their neighbors or to their material or spiritual progress in a position where they can do no further harm. Legislation needs to be revolutionized. If the drunken motorist who kills a pedestrian risked the death penalty, drunkenness would soon appear as something to be avoided. The majority of sins, whether voluntary or involuntary, which an individual commits damage not only himself but his neighbors. Why does society not protect its members against slanderers, drunkards and the mentally unbalanced as it protects them against the germs of typhoid fever or cholera?
Sins are classified on a scale of gravity which has changed arbitrarily in different ages. Nevertheless, the seven deadly sins recognized by the Church continue to deserve first place in the hierarchy of human disorders. Perhaps we have underestimated the seriousness of some of these for the consequences of certain vices do not appear till after many years and sometimes after many generations. It is only now, for example, that we realize what part alcoholism, egoism and envy play in the degeneration of a people. Side by side with such ancient sins as pride, jealousy and intemperance there has been a growth of new and very grievous sins. Our greater knowledge of natural laws teaches us to appreciate the importance of faults which once seemed negligible. Wrong nutrition can cause incurable defects of body and mind in a child. Therefore parents who do not take the trouble to learn how to look after their children properly commit a grave sin. We know nowadays that marriage between first cousins, drunkards, syphilitics or carriers of hereditary mental taints is an extremely reprehensible thing. Let us not forget the history of the Jukes family. Among the descendants of two habitual criminals of the State of New York, there were 339 prostitutes, 181 chronic drunkards, 170 tramps, 118 criminals and 86 brothel-keepers. Goddard observes that, in a certain number of families where the father and mother were feebleminded, 470 children were mental defectives and only 6 normal. It is a definite crime to engender a long line of physical and mental degenerates, gangsters or idiots. Dys-genism constitutes a capital offense. Addiction to opium, morphia, cocaine or hashish is equivalent to suicide.