The word "halitosis" is a household term which everyone knows means bad breath.
But did you know that the word has been around for less than a hundred years, and was invented not by the medical field, but by advertisers?
Back in the 1920s, people didn't worry about body odor as much as they do now. They didn't bathe nearly as often, they didn't wear deodorant, and some bodily smells weren't necessarily considered socially catastrophic.
Listerine had been around since the 1880s, marketed as a household cleaner, a medical antiseptic, and a treatment for gonorrhea, among many other uses.
Forty years later, the company's owner and his son came up with the brilliant idea to look up a fancy Latin word for bad breath that sounds like a medical condition and then market it as though it's an actual diagnosable disease that is crippling everyone's social life.
They ran advertisements telling wives that their halitosis was making them unappealing to their husbands, telling husbands that their halitosis was making their wives not want to kiss them, telling young women that they'd remain unmarried and unwanted forever if they didn't cure their "unexcusable" condition with Listerine, even telling mothers that their breath may be grossing out their own children.
And it worked...
People began throwing their money at this company, suddenly desperate to cure a horrible medical condition that they'd only just found out was a thing.
By manufacturing demand for their product using artificially instilled shame and fear, Listerine made a fortune.
This type of advertisement is now commonplace, because it works...
People are manipulated into fretting about a problem they didn't know they had till two seconds ago, then sold the solution.
What people think of as "sin" is a lot like Listerine's halitosis marketing ploy, except unlike bad breath, sin doesn't actually exist. And, for those who profit from religion, it's also been exponentially more lucrative.
Sin is completely made up; we're all a bunch of large-brained primates moving around in the world and experiencing the consequences of those movements, no more, no less.
As a Catholic, I was told that all babies were born sinners, with tiny little blackened souls that would go straight to hell if the priest didn't get to them first and dunk their deceptively pretty little demon heads in magic water tout suite.
It didn't stop there either.
You had to celebrate an ancient Nazarene zombie who came back from the dead because somehow that made our sins go away for a little while, just as long as you turned up each week to drink zombie blood and eat zombie body in some kind of pretend cannibal ritual.
The weirdest thing about it was that I thought it was perfectly 'normal.' That's how you avoided being a sinner...
When you unplug those stories from the power of belief, it's a laughably transparent marketing scheme.
Ridiculous, manipulative hogwash...
Fear isn't the only thing factoring into people's belief in sin, of course.
It can be egoically gratifying to believe that the real assholes in our world will spend eternity writhing in a state of eternal torture for their transgressions.
Also, more significantly, it can feel very comforting to have a set of prescribed "do"s and "don't"s in a world that is otherwise a completely boundless and open-ended improvisation exercise, with no ultimate rules or guidelines of any kind.
It can feel very comforting to have a set of guidelines to live by for which you have no responsibility, which were handed to you from On High by a flawless omniscient and omnipotent deity underlying the fundamental ground of reality.
But that's just it:
Sin and sanctity are made-up bullshit concepts, which means that the only understanding of how to behave in this world that has any relevance to you at all is your own understanding.
This responsibility can be daunting, but taking it seriously is the first step to becoming the kind of human being that can overcome the huge challenges that our species is facing in the near future.
If you had the ability to make a movie and have the movie contain anything you want to see, it wouldn't be full of rape and murder and destruction; you'd try your best to create a thing of beauty.
Our lives are the same way.
The only exception to this would perhaps be sociopaths and psychopaths and people with other severe personality disorders, but their type has never truly believed in sin anyway.
Sin is a construct of social manipulation, and manipulators recognize manipulation. A sociopath only cares about the concept of sin to the extent that they can use it to get what they want.
Only emotionally and empathetically normal people are impacted by the concept of sin.
The popular acceptance of the concept of sin is a consequence of the way we are psychologically hardwired and the way that that wiring has been manipulated, and you see that same wiring fiddled with in similar ways in many other areas.
The way centrists browbeat leftists for not falling in line with Hillary Clinton in the lead-up to the 2016 US elections, for example, often looked barely distinguishable from a gaggle of church ladies abusing one of their sisters for wanting to leave the church or get a divorce.
Instead of the promise of hell it was the promise of Donald Trump ending the world, and instead of sin being disobedience to God it was disobedience to the mainstream liberal orthodoxy.
But the same kind of shaming, manipulation and groupthink herd bullying was present in both cases. The notion of personal sovereign responsibility was violently rejected as anathema by the Church of the Blue Donkey.
Sin is a tool of social manipulation just like advertising, and just like propaganda.
Religion, advertising and propaganda all pull the same psychological strings. Since as far back as recorded history stretches, those with wealth and power have been using whatever tools they have at their disposal to control the ways people think and behave.
When religion held more psychological weight, they used that to justify,
Now that humanity is vomiting up the plague of religion from its DNA, propaganda and advertising are taking its place.
But it's the same kind of manipulation in each case, the same disease, and the cure for that disease is the same too.
With that clear picture, any attempts to manipulate you off of that path in any way are easily seen for the unwelcome intrusions that they are, whether they take the form of,
And you can shrug off the manipulators and stride toward the bright consequences you wish to generate with your actions.