I've never really liked the original 7 deadly sins.
Pride. What's wrong with taking pride in doing a good job at something? Without pride we would have no impetus to ever doing anything above the mediocre. I think the original idea behind this is that excessive belief in one's own abilities could interfere with one's recognition of the "supreme grace of God". But if God is so supreme why would He feel the need to limit our belief in our own abilities? Surely nobody is so proud that they think they can do anything that God can supposedly do? Also, take a look at modern technology today. We do things without thinking that would have been “in the realm of the Gods” a couple of thousand years ago. Without the pride of the creators of that technology, we would still be living in the dark ages.
Envy. Whilst there is such a thing as destructive envy I think that’s the exception rather than the rule. Envy can inspire one to greatness. If I see someone else who has something that I want I am inspired to better myself so that I can have one too. It’s only destructive if you try to take away something someone else has so that you can have it instead. But in that case it’s the taking (the action) that should be the sin rather than the envy which was the inspiration for it.
Gluttony. I can definitely see how this could be considered a sin in times or places where food was scarcer than it is now – eating more than you needed could mean someone else ended up starving. But that’s simply not true in today’s world. Enough food is grown to feed the whole world – huge amounts of food are destroyed every day. The problem is getting it to people who need it, not people eating more than their fair share. Now conceivably some people could eat less, spend less money on food and donate the spare money to charities which would feed the hungry. But in practice that wouldn’t happen – rather than donating the spare money to charity people would put it towards their next holiday or the house remodeling account. The sin there is lack of charity (selfishness) rather than gluttony.
Lust. That is a perfectly natural and wholesome phenomenon. We have evolved to lust in order to propagate the species. Without lust we would have no impetus to reproduce, or at the very least we would just reproduce with the first willing participant who came along rather than with somebody we are actually attracted to. Now again it is possible to take things too far and go around raping people but again the sin there would be the action rather than the feeling which inspired it. Denying lust is denying our own nature and doesn’t do anybody any good.
Anger. This one has inspired plenty of bad things but also (perhaps surprisingly) plenty of good things. Anger at some injustice inspires the injustice to be corrected. Without anger against tyrants, those tyrants would be running the planet. Unchecked anger (like so many other unchecked things) can be bad but again it is a natural emotion and has its purpose if we avoid being controlled by it (as most of us can).
Greed. Kind of redundant given that the same ideas are covered in Envy, Gluttony and Lust. Greed is nothing more than wanting to improve oneself (albeit materialistically) and without people wanting material goods much of the industry which sustains our society would collapse.
Sloth. In the field in which I work, laziness is a highly prized quality – if you can write a program to automate some repetitious task and save effort in the long run that is a very good thing. One can also avoid having to answer questions about that program by documenting it well. In both cases the world is better off in the long run. As most disciplines could in principle be automated this applies to fields other than programming too.
Here’s my proposal for a better set of sins for the modern age: Hate, Thoughtlessness, Boredom, Guilt, Insincerity, Cowardice and Regret.
Hate. Specifically, hate for hate’s sake – hate for no reason (or no reason that holds up to scrutiny). Much evil in the world comes from people hating people who are different somehow, or come from a different place or who believe different things to the hater.
Thoughtlessness. Be thoughtful in all you do, and the people who interact with you will thank you for it. If you’re thoughtless you will be inconsiderate of the lives of people around you and make them miserable. If everybody was thoughtful of others the world would be a much better place.
Boredom. If you’re bored you’re wasting your life. Do something constructive with that time – there’s much more to do in this universe (more books to read, more programs to write, more games to play) that you’ll ever have time for so make the most of what little time you have. Get rid of anything in your life that you find boring. If your job bores you, leave it and find something better to do, something that utilizes your unique talents better. If you don’t think you have any unique talents, spend some of that time you would be spending bored developing some. If there’s some job that bores everybody who tries it, it should probably be automated but won’t be as long as there are people who are prepared to do boring work for less money than it would take to do that automation.
Guilt. Some may find this an odd thing to consider a sin (especially Catholics, who seem to thrive on it). There are two types of guilt: (1) feeling guilty about something you have no control over and (2) feeling guilty about something that you do have control over. In neither case is guilt constructive. If your guilt is of type (1), get over it already because there’s nothing you can do. If your guilt is of type (2), just get on with doing the thing you’re feeling guilty about not doing. Guilt can generally be replaced with a “to do list”, avoiding a lot of stress and emotional baggage.
Insincerity. Life is too short for lying. While a little white lie may save feelings in the short term, it doesn’t help the person being lied to make better choices in the future. And in the long term, lies about anything important are always found out. Always be sincere in what you do and that sincerity will be recognized and respected - you will get a reputation as someone who can always be trusted to say what they really mean.
Cowardice. While some cowardice (avoidance of things which are likely to injure or kill you) is sensible, too many people are afraid of doing things just because they’re difficult, because they might fail, or from an over-inflated sense of the danger that is involved. The greatest rewards in life come from doing things which may seem terrifying at first, like moving to a new continent to start a new job, or asking out someone you’ve admired from afar. Cowering in the corner will get you nothing except a wasted life.
Regret. As with guilt, there are two types of regret – regret about something that you have no control over and regret if about something that you do have control over. If you have the means, fix it so that you no longer have that regret. If you don’t, well there isn’t much you can do but always try to live your life in such that way that at the end you will able to say that you regret nothing. Whenever there’s a decision to make – to do something or not to do something, think to yourself “am I more likely to regret doing this, or to regret not doing it”.