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Abstract

This paper presents findings from an exploratory study of sin. Based on nine in-depth interviews with self-identified religious people, we demonstrate that respondents define sin as (1) nonconformity, (2) relative to other social realities, and (3) taught by moral authorities. In so doing, respondents’ definitions reveal that sin, despite its use to justify all types of social policies, is a social construction that has no established concrete meaning in daily life. In conclusion, we argue that social scientists would benefit greatly from systematic analyses of the meaning (lessness) and significance of sin in people’s lives as well as within existing social scientific literature, and propose avenues for research concerning this term.

Keywords

Research Report, Religion, Sin, Deviance, Meaning-Making

Author Bio(s)

J. E. Sumerau is an assistant professor of sociology and the director of applied sociology at the University of Tampa. Zir teaching and research focuses on the interrelation of sexualities, gender, religion, and health in the lives of sexual, religious, and gender minorities. Correspondence regarding this article can be addressed directly to: jsumerau@ut.edu.

Lain A. B. Mathers is a doctoral student in sociology at the University of Illinois Chicago. Zir teaching and research focuses on intersections of sexualities, gender, religion, and space. Correspondence regarding this article can also be addressed directly to: amathe33@uic.edu.

Ryan T. Cragun is an associate professor of sociology at the University of Tampa. His research focuses on religion, nonreligion, and Mormonism. Correspondence regarding this article can also be addressed directly to: rcragun@ut.edu.

Publication Date

6-20-2016

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 4.0 License.

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