The 28 Deadly Sins

My leftist, atheist and “green” friend Opher Goodwin recently re-published a list, which he made seven years ago, of what he called “obscenities.” He didn’t mean violations of traditional Christian views on sexual conduct; nor, indeed, did he mean deficiencies in dress code, even when committed by emperors. Or even violations of bad “laws” made by even worse politicians. What he meant was things that happen in the human world, that are in his words “cruel, vicious and mean.”

His list is worth recording. It was: the destruction of the environment, war, the indoctrination of children, overpopulation, cynical exploitation, cruelty to animals and people, grotesque disparity of wealth, de-forestation, fanaticism in politics and religion, and pollution.

Now, I must say that I come from an opposite position from Opher on environmentalism. I regard planet Earth, not as a pristine thing which must be frozen in some particular state and never again disturbed, but as a resource to be wisely used by us human beings to make a home and garden fit for a civilized species. Despite this, I agree with the thrust of most if not all of the ideas he listed, if not with his specific statements of them.

So, I set myself to write my own list. I ended up with 28 as against Opher’s 10. And since I am a mere agnostic rather than an atheist, I felt myself free to use religious phraseology when it helps make my case. So, I called my list “The 28 Deadly Sins.”

Here’s my first-cut list:

  1. Fanaticism in politics or religion
  2. Disregard for the moral equality of all human beings
  3. Disregard for the ideal of justice for every individual; that is, that every individual deserves, as far as practicable, to be treated as he or she treats others
  4. Interfering in, disrupting or lowering the quality of others’ lives without good and provable reason
  5. Promoting, supporting, making or enforcing harmful or unjust laws
  6. Intentionally harming, harassing, impoverishing or inconveniencing people who do not harm you or others
  7. Seeking to compel people who do not harm you or others to do things against their wills
  8. War, aggressive violence, pre-meditated homicide
  9. Lies, spin, hype, promulgating falsehoods, spreading unfounded or exaggerated scares
  10. Dishonesty, deceit, cheating, bullshit, insincerity, unscrupulousness, bad faith
  11. Arrogance, claiming superiority over others, authoritarianism
  12. Hypocrisy; failing to practise what you preach
  13. Lack of empathy; failing to recognize that every person is different and an individual
  14. Violating the rights of human beings, such as dignity, property, privacy and the right to make individual choices
  15. Violating human freedoms such as freedom of speech, association, movement, opinion, religion, expression, communication, peaceful assembly and protest against injustice
  16. Violating procedural rights such as the presumption of innocence, due process, an independent and impartial hearing, and no punishment unless and until guilt has been proven beyond reasonable doubt
  17. Untrustworthiness, empty promises
  18. Recklessness towards others
  19. Failing to accept responsibility and accountability for the consequences of willed actions on others; lack of remorse
  20. Taking wealth away from people without delivering equivalent value to them in return
  21. Putting obstacles in the way of the free market economy, or of people’s access to it
  22. Unjust and unearned enrichment
  23. Cronyism, unjust favouritism
  24. Indoctrinating children
  25. Seeking to indoctrinate people with falsehoods or emotional manipulation
  26. Cynical exploitation of people
  27. Cruelty to people
  28. Unnecessary cruelty to animals

Does anyone out there have constructive comments, or additions?


  1. I don’t want the planet frozen and pristine Neil. Evolution is change. But I do not want us trashing it, destroying it and damaging the ecosystems (which we are doing to a huge extent). As an intelligent species we do have responsibility and should be custodians of the planet. Our actions have massive impacts. We are directly responsible for huge impacts on the climate and biodiversity.
    This plnet ios our life support system. We don’t have another. The ecosystem is extremely complex and this intricacy is resilient to a degree but also delicate. We are responsible for mass extinctions and major changes. This is unnecessary. We can live in harmony with nature to mutual benefit. We do not have to be destructive. These changes we have brought are not beneficial to us or the creatures and plants we share the planet with.
    As a biologist I am appalled.

    • Well Opher, it’s good to hear that you don’t want to freeze the planet into a stasis. But the green extremists do. They don’t want global temperatures to go up – even though that is a perfectly natural thing to expect, given that we’re still recovering from the Little Ice Age. They don’t want any species at all to go extinct – even though that, too, is a perfectly normal thing. They don’t want us to take control of our environment, and make the planet a better place for human beings. Instead, they want to take control over us, suffocate our economy, and trash our freedoms and our standards and quality of living.

      Yes, evolution is change. Yes, we should live in harmony with nature – and that means living in harmony with our nature, just as a lion or a giraffe must live in harmony with the nature of its own species. And our nature as human beings is to build civilizations, in which we human beings can live happily and prosperously. Yes, we have responsibility – but our first responsibility must be to our fellow human beings. Yes, we should be custodians of the planet – and a lot more. As I said in the article, I see our remit as “to make a home and garden fit for a civilized species.” Yes, we don’t (yet) have another life support system – all the more reason, then, to make the Earth into as good a place for human beings as we possibly can. (In order to do which, we will need to get rid of war, bad politics, heavy taxes, rights violations and all the other machinations of those that commit one or more of my 28 deadly sins).

      I notice that, when you criticize humans for environmental failings, you always talk about “we.” You say that “our actions have massive impacts” and “we are directly responsible for huge impacts on the climate and biodiversity.” You know me well enough to understand that I am not willing to accept any form of collective guilt, and that I can only contemplate guilt for my own actions if there is hard evidence of damage caused by those actions, and the case against me is proven beyond reasonable doubt. I have asked you (and other environmentalists) several times to name a species to whose extinction I have contributed, and to say exactly what I did, and approximately when, to contribute to that extinction. I have never yet got any explicit answer. Nor have I never yet seen a factual, accurate, unbiased assessment of just how much of any impacts there may be on the climate from human activities are actually down to each the different kinds of activities which are claimed to affect the climate (land use, CO2, aerosol emissions, etc. etc. etc.) Nor, indeed, have I seen a factual, accurate, unbiased assessment of what are the effects of these “impacts” on human civilization or on the planet as a whole. Or even of the sign of these effects – whether, for example, the effects of claimed human-caused “global warming” would be nett positive or negative!

      Personally, I think you’re letting yourself be influenced by propaganda and hype into giving credit to accusations, against you, me and human civilization in general, which have not been proven beyond reasonable doubt. I think you would do better to disregard the hype, look at the facts the whole facts and nothing but the facts, and if you see damage that is objectively caused by human activities, assess which specific individuals and groups are causing that damage, and how much.

Leave a Reply