Sin and Society


Edward Alsworth Ross

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THIS book deals with sin, but it does not entreat the sinner to mend his ways. It seeks to influence no one in his conduct. It does seek to influence men in their attitude toward the conduct of others. Its exhortation is not Be good, but Be rational. To modify conduct one touches the heart. To modify the judgments on conduct one speaks to the intellect. The latter is the method of this book. Its aim is to enlighten rather than to move.

In praising or blaming each of us exerts a power over his fellows. When the praises or blames of many men run together, they become a torrent no one can withstand. Why let this moral power run to waste? Why not use this public opinion to protect our dearest possessions ?

In its reactions against wrong-doing the public is childishly nave and sentimental. It is content with the surface look of things. It lays emphasis where emphasis was laid centuries ago. It beholds sin in a false perspective, seeing peccadillos as crimes, and crimes as peccadillos. It

(viii) never occurs to the public that sin evolves along with society, and that the perspective in which it is necessary to view misconduct changes from age to age. Hence, in to-day's warfare on sin, the reactions of the public are about as serviceable as gongs and stink-pots in a modern battle. Rationalize public opinion; modernize it and bring it abreast of latter-day sin ; make the blame of the many into a flaming sword guarding the sacred interests of society - such is the lesson this little book seeks to impress.

MADISON, WIS., September, 1907


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