Religious Traditions

The human problem that religious traditions attempt to solve

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Religion is one of the oldest human activities that have ever existed since man started interacting with each other. With interaction, there are bound to be challenges coming up between the people involved and concerns of what is the wrong thing or the right thing to be done in such circumstances. This is where the issue of sin and ignorance comes up and in order to well explain and define these, religion is evoked. This shows that religion and man has been growing hand in hand from historical times and as times go by, there are different forms that religion takes within different societies. Indeed it is religion that separates us and sets us apart from the other living species on the earth.

Religion exists to solve a given range of problems and the most fundamental one is the problem of sin. It is important to understand first the concept of religion before delving into the purposes that it serves like that of solving sin as a problem. Despite there being several definitions of religion that come up as a result of studies conducted on the same, there has hardly been any agreement on a single definition of religion. Scholars from different backgrounds have varying contention as to what religion really is. One of the closest and favorite definitions of religion is by James Martineau as quoted by James Livingston (2009) that defines religion as “the belief in an ever-living God, that is, in a Devine Mind and Will ruling the Universe and holding moral relations with mankind.” This indicates that religion encourages man to find their point of reference in God or the divine being. It is these divine beings that will help man know what is to be done from what needs not be done. The different divine beings have their own ways of speaking and giving instructions to man depending on the particular religion. One thing that comes clear is that each religion strives towards developing moral relations with each other. This can be done with avoidance of what is considered sin in that particular religion, most of which are similar in most religions, hence homogeneity in view of sin.

In most religions, sin is the greatest problem that religion needs to fight or endures to fight each day. There is a general belief that religion is the cure to sin and religions define sin as doing what is opposed to the teaching of the divine being with full knowledge of the evils of doing so. This brings in the concept of ignorance, which means if one does that without the full knowledge of the teachings of divine being on that particular evil, then it is not a sin anymore.

Sin is considered as a transgression against the law of the divine being/God or the offense against the moral or the religious law (, 2014). Religions often derive their commands from the divine being and hence these commands need to be followed to the letter since they are non-negotiable and binding due to the divine source and the divine nature of the laws. Doing the contrary to what the religion says calls for punishment for committing sin. Religion hence has a double role when it comes to the aspect of sin; it both defines what sin is and also acts as a guard against sin. Without religion, it would be a society where knowing what is morally accepted and reprehensible would be impossible, there would be each individual setting their own standards and abiding by them, and this is the void that religion has effectively filled by having clear cut lines on what is permissible and what is considered as sinful. This definition of the boundaries of sin is a significant problem solution that religion brings about. According to Davis C., (1975) it is religion and the roles it plays such as defining what sin is that forms and sustains a sober society as one of the roles of religion.

On the other hand, there is the aspect of ignorance in the religious angle of it. Apparently, this is an aspect that cuts across many religions since James Livingston (2009) indicates that various religions share certain characteristics, strictures and analogies which actually are what set them apart as religions that are distinct from other human activities. This then implies that the spectrum of ignorance cuts across several religions in the same manner. Sin, as described above is derived from the knowledge of the moral teachings or the right thing or the divine commands from God. First it starts with the knowledge of God or the Divine being and then knowing what God wants of people. It is these that bring the knowledge, absence of these two renders one ignorant of God. According to the Christian religion and the Jewish religion, ignorance of the presence of God and the word of God was overlooked by God, in that God never counted that as sin but innocent ignorance, but immediately one came to know of the word of God and presence of God, any doings in contravention of the laws of God would then be counted as sin (, 2014). These are categorized under the sins of ignorance as portrayed in many religions. There is however a contestation on this aspect of sin of ignorance among scholars and theologians. An instance is when ., (1983) contested this idea of sin of ignorance being offered atonement unconditionally, he insists that these sins committed even in ignorance must be recognized, repented upon and that is when they can be forgiven.

These two concepts in theology can be seen to be different yet still have to be used together a lot of times when making apologetics on sin and religion. The difference comes majorly in the fact that sin indicates intentional transgressions against the laws or directions of the divine being hence counted as a wrong in the religious aspect and yet on the other hand ignorance could be a transgression but without knowledge of the laws being transgressed against hence not counted as a wrong in the religious aspect.

The only slight similarity that emerges between these two concepts is that some divine law has been broken. This then indicates that both the difference and the similarity are of significance in studies of religion. The similarities here draw attention to the fact that laws could be within the religious scripts and deities but if they are not explained to man, then they cease to be of any help to man since they wil be broken without the knowledge of the individual. The difference that is seen above draws attention to the fact that in religion the laws are only possible to be considered as laws in as much as they are applicable and understandable by man.

There is the other way of accounting for the concept of sin and ignorance in religion. There is the sin that one commits intentionally knowing well the law but goes against it, yet there is the other category where the individual knows the law but breaks it unknowingly. Different religions have different takes on such situations and the rewards that are extended to such sinners vary. Here, there is no aspect of ignorance, but intention is considered when making account for such.


Davis C., (1975). Religion and the making of Society. Retrieved November 22, 2014 from

Dunaway Russell H., (1983). Sins of Ignorance. Truth Magazine. Retrieved November 22, 2014 from

James Livingston, (2009). Anatomy of the Sacred: An Introduction to Religion. , NJ: . Retrieved November 22, 2014 from

Merriam Webster, (2014). Sin. Retrieved November 22, 2014 from

New International Version, (2014). Acts 17: 30. Retrieved November 22, 2014 from