Lost Souls: Manners and Morals in Contemporary American Society. The Seven Deadly Sins in a Secular World

What is the state of contemporary American morality? From their original conception in Christian scripture to their assimilation into Western culture, the ‘Seven Deadly Sins’ – lust, greed, envy, pride and all the rest – have guided human morality, steering human behavior and psychology away from evil and toward a full embrace of what is good. But their hold on modern life is increasingly tenuous. Indeed, deadly sin has become far more common and more commonly practiced than its virtuous counterparts – humility, charity, kindness, industriousness. Without greed there is no economy; without anger, no politics; and without pride and envy, little motivation and no accomplishment.

Lost Souls examines the complexities and ambiguities in modern society in the context of the seven deadly sins and their corresponding virtues. Are we all lost souls, condemned by our immoral deeds, or are the trappings of older sin deteriorating? Is it time, finally, to reconsider the classifications of evil and good?

Each chapter (one for each sin) considers how the social sciences have operationalized these sins, how they have been studied, and what lessons have been learned over time. The book reviews recent trends and contemplates the societal costs and benefits of the behaviors in question. Lost Souls emerges as a meditation on contemporary sin, concluding that the line between guilt and innocence, right and wrong, is often very thin.

Lost Souls is a remarkable reflection on the shifting moral landscape of contemporary America; wherein, the seven deadly sins of lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, anger, envy and pride have seemingly been transformed into virtuous ideals. It is a must read for those of us grappling with the moral foundations of the Trump era.” — Darren E. Sherkat, Southern Illinois University

“…a clear view and analysis of contemporary culture and morality with insights in every chapter. His writing is so engaging – and often funny – that you don’t realize how much you are learning about sociological theory and social history until after you have finished a chapter…clear, scholarly and very readable. I loved it.” – Murray Webster, University of North Carolina, Charlotte.

“This erudite and fascinating book summarizes a broad swatch of sociological research as it shows convincingly that what some might regard as sinful may also be socially necessary.” — Arne L. Kalleberg, Kenan Distinguished Professor of Sociology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill