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Author: David Dillard-Wright

Understand the concept of sin within the Christian and Buddhist traditions.

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[THEME MUSIC] Welcome to this tutorial on sin. In the Abrahamic religions, sin is a transgression of the divine law or divine will. To start with Christianity, sin is considered to alienate humanity from God, so that there is simply no way to cross over from one to the other.

Sin damages the human relationship to God, and human beings are helpless to do anything to change this relationship because they have an innate sinfulness called "original sin." The only thing that can be done to make this problem any better is if the initiative comes on the part of God. So God sent God's Son, Jesus, who is fully human and fully divine, as a sacrifice for sin.

There are many different versions of the atonement, that is there's many different ways that theologians have of talking about how forgiveness of sins take place. But in general it's considered to be a substitutionary sacrifice for the sin of humankind, where Jesus, this perfectly innocent victim, is sacrificed for humanity.

So God takes on the sins of humankind in the person of Jesus, who dies and comes back to life again. And through that process of crucifixion, death and resurrection, humanity is restored once again to relationship with God. That is for those who are willing to accept that forgiveness.

Let's take a look now at sin in Buddhism. In Buddhism, sin is thought to arise from what are called "kleshas," the afflicted emotions. There are three primary kleshas, which are ignorance, attachment and aversion. And the other negative emotions stem from these three primary kleshas. Emotions like anxiety, fear, anger, jealousy, conceit and doubt--really any negative emotion that we can think of.

So these primary kleshas lead to all these negative emotions, which in turn lead to all sorts of negative actions. And then these negative actions, in turn, are going to produce guess what? More kleshas, more negative the afflicted emotions. And the cycle continues again and again.

Klesha comes from--it's a Sanskrit term originally meaning "grief or trouble or pain or hardship." In Buddhism, the Sanskrit term acquires this slightly more technical meaning, although most Hindus consider Buddhism to be a school of thought within Hinduism.

Buddhist monks do confess their sins regularly. And some Buddhist sutras or scriptures begin with a confession of sin. So this is not a concept that is unique to Western religions or the Abrahamic religions.

Thanks for watching this tutorial on sin. We said that sin in the Abrahamic traditions is regarded as a transgression of divine law. We also said that in Christianity sin alienates the sinner from a relationship to God. And that the relationship can only be restored through God's action in Jesus Christ, who sacrifices on the cross in a substitutionary fashion for humanity.

We discussed sin and Buddhism, which is different from the Abrahamic notion. And arises from the kleshas, the negative emotions that impede liberation and enlightenment. We said that the term "klesha" had many previous associations in Sanskrit, including grief, trouble, pain, hardship and distress.

Terms to Know

One of many different negative emotions that impede liberation and enlightenment.


Violation of divine will.