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Survey provokes debate on relevance of Seven Deadly Sins

A poll commissioned for a BBC TV program reveals that most people believe the seven deadly sins are out of date, and that cruelty is now considered the worst sin anyone can commit.

The Guardian lists other contemporary sins in order: adultery, bigotry, dishonesty, hypocrisy and selfishness.

It says that of the seven deadly sins enumerated in their present form by Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century, only greed is still viewed as a reliable passport to eternal damnation.

Anger is the sin we commit most often, followed by pride, envy, gluttony, lust, sloth and greed.

Ross Kelly, presenter of the Heaven & Earth Show, the BBC program which commissioned the survey, believes there has been a genuine shift in attitudes towards sin.

"We're less concerned with the seven deadly sins and more concerned with actions that hurt others," he said. "For instance, we're less bothered about anger than we are about cruelty; and, while many of us actually enjoy lust, we still frown on adultery."

But Fr Alban McCoy, Catholic chaplain at Cambridge University, believes the seven deadly sins are still relevant to modern life.

"Much about human nature changes, but much remains constant. The seven deadly sins ... are still a valid way of describing the deepest and most corrosive propensities that we share. If anything, they cash out in modern terms pretty easily. They manifest themselves in different ways in the present situation, but at root they are the same problems."

Never mind sloth, lust and gluttony - but look out if you're a cruel, bigoted adulterer (The Guardian 7/2/05)

Heaven & Earth (BBC) | The Seven Deadly Sins

French chefs bid to remove gluttony from sin list (CathNews 14/1/03)

The seven deadly sins have been knocked for six (The Age/Guardian 8/2/05)

8 Feb 2005