What is sin?
According to most religions, there are consequences when we commit sins in the real world.
In Judea-Christian religions there are the 7 deadly sins which include envy, gluttony, greed, lust, pride, sloth, and wrath. If we sin, we will be punished by God in this life or in the after life. In the New Testament there is also an emphasis on forgiveness. To avoid punishment, we must admit to our sins, ask for forgiveness, and then sin no more.
In Islam, a sin is any action or thought that does not follow the commands of Allah. There are also several levels of sin including
mistakes, immorality, transgressions, wickedness, and ascribing a partner to God. ~~ [Wikipedia]
Sin and the fear of punishment from God are effective ways of control over our conduct and they keep us from indulging in excess.
Today, we spend a big portion of our time interacting with others in online virtual worlds.
- Can we sin while in an online virtual world?
- Is virtual sin like real sin?
Presumably, our soul is one and the same in the real world as well as in a virtual world, therefore, it should follow that we can also sin in a virtual world.
However, the physical aspect is missing in a virtual environment. Since many sins do involve some physical components, the absence of real world contact must surely affect the form of those sins.
- If we kill another player in a virtual game, does that mean that we have committed murder?
- If we lust after another in an online world, does that mean we have committed adultery?
Real Sin vs. Virtual Sin
Clearly our laws do not consider a virtual kill to be on par with an actual murder. From a religious perspective, a virtual kill is different as well because it does not entail the taking of another’s life.
However, some have argued that killing others in a virtual world numbs us to the thought of killing and makes it more likely for us to engage in similar thoughtless and sinful behaviors in the real world. We may also develop a joy for killing others.
In this way, engaging in virtual sin weakens our spirit and resolve against committing real sins.
Similarly, it may also deal a mental blow to our online victim. Being killed in a virtual environment may not be as final as a real death, but it is unpleasant nevertheless. Often, it will involve some loss of time and virtual resources. It may also cause embarrassment and a feeling of worthlessness.
In turn, this may cause us to get angry and we may want to strike out at the one who has done us wrong. This is called wrath and it is one of the 7 deadly sins. In fact, there have been some reported instances where a virtual killing has resulted in real world violence.
Similarly, engaging in online love with a married online character may not involve any intimate physical touches, but it can certainly be an emotional betrayal.
Engaging in illicit virtual relations may also lead to illicit real world relations.
Is Virtual Sin Like Real Sin?
Virtual sin is different from real sin. However, it can be harmful and it can lead us to real sin.
- Frequent repetition of virtual sins may numb our feelings towards others. This lack of empathy makes is easier for us to commit sinful acts on our fellow man.
- Virtual sin may encourage us to commit real sin, for example taking vengeance on those who have virtually wronged us.
- If we think that virtual sins are harmless, we may also start taking real sins less seriously. In this way, we become more susceptible to temptation.
In general, performing negative or sinful acts that hurt others is never a good solution in the real or virtual world. Negative energy will only generate more negative energy. It does not matter who is really right or wrong, because in the end, there are only losers.
Similarly, if we act in a positive way and help others, we will not only make life better for them, but also for ourselves. This is true both online and offline.