Email List

Latest News

Letters to the Editor




Original Fiction

Real Tech


Support Us


Win Cool Stuff!

Institutional Member of SFWA

All original content is 

© John C. Snider  

unless otherwise indicated.

All opinions expressed are solely those of the authors.

No duplication without

 express written permission.

J. Neil Schulman on...Religious Dos and Don'ts

GARY YORK: Is smoking a sin?


J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Smoking is a perfect place to start.
Why would God consider smoking to be a sin? Because it's calming and pleasurable? Or because it increases the odds of getting sick?
We on earth live in bodies that decay and die. Our souls are immortal but our bodies are mortal. They get sick, break down, eventually cease their ability to contain our souls.
Smoking is at worst something that contributes to the breakdown of our bodies. But so does a thousand different things. The difference is that smoking, for some people, compensates by giving small pleasures in return.
I can't see how God could possibly see smoking as sinful. If it is sinful, so is cheesecake ... and I don't know any religion that condemns that!


GARY YORK: Are dietary laws important; is it a sin if you don’t “keep kosher?”

J. NEIL SCHULMAN:  If you feel you need to do these things to keep yourself centered, go for it. Otherwise, not.
I've never been one for regularity in my life, and that has up sides and down sides. I sleep odd hours -- sometimes going to bed early and sometimes going to bed late, sometimes getting a good night's sleep and sometimes being dog tired. I don't eat at regular mealtimes, and have had days where I eat five meals and some where I eat one. I've spent years as a vegetarian and years where I ate mostly meat. Some days I'm productive, some days I just screw around.  The idea, for someone like me, that one day out of seven is a regular Day of Rest from the other Six is absurd to me -- who says I worked the other six and deserve a day off?
I figure if I eat something and it doesn't poison me or make me fatter than I already am, that's more important to me than whether I'm eating a bacon cheese lobsterburger during Passover on a leavened low-carb bun, and I don't think God cares one way or the other.  And I don't eat anything smart enough to be bothered by the fact that I'm eating it.
I have two Dietary Laws in my home. I don't have the right to make my daughter eat anything she doesn't want to eat, and she doesn't have the right to tell me what I shouldn't be eating. I keep the Law better than she does.

GARY YORK: What is a Spiritual sin?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: A spiritual sin is one that transcends and outlives the physical body. Being cruel to someone or murdering them may follow them into their next life. All the serious sins are felonies against the immortal soul, as opposed to waste of the body’s potential – gluttony or self-neglect, a sterile sex life, which can include both homosexuality and celibacy, spending one’s life getting drunk or stoned – which rates on the sin scale somewhere between a parking ticket and a night in the drunk tank.
To the extent that sexual behavior is harmful to the soul -- breaking solemn oaths, being callous to someone's feelings, putting someone else at risk of harmful consequences, molesting children, creating new life without taking responsibility for that new life or destroying life carelessly -- sexual behavior can include spiritual sins. But merely engaging in sex-play outside of traditional marriage – even if it’s gay sex-play or the pursuit of other harmless fetishes -- isn't in and of itself sinful.


The one thing that strikes me about conventional religion is that it spends more effort preventing people from violating its sexual code or eating things not on its menu than it does with the important sins. But then again, the secular moralists these days seem more outraged by smokers than by murderers.

GARY YORK:  Do we exist eternally?

J. NEIL SCHULMAN:  If we don’t do destructive things that rate a real death sentence, then yes – we can live forever ... if we can become strong enough to endure it.


God will render a judgment on whether the soul is recoverable or whether it must be isolated or destroyed to protect the rest of existence.  And I don't assume that even the most evil among us is necessarily a throw-away. God may know where the damage is and where the hidden keys to recovery are. Remember, with all of eternity at his disposal, God can afford to be patient.


Back to Gary York's interview with J. Neil Schulman






Amazon Canada

Amazon UK