Society and the Seven Deadly Sins

James Wright is no stranger to publishing, having already written 25 books and over 300 articles and essays. Now, this retired sociology professor adds another publishing success under his belt- as of May 16, his new book, Lost Souls: Manners and Morals in Contemporary American Society, is out in the world!

In Lost Souls, Wright examines the seven deadly sins and their relation to modern society. He carefully spends time with each one of the sins: Greed, Gluttony, Lust, Sloth, Anger, Envy and Pride, breaking down their origins, true meaning and historical influence over the years. Using research and surveys on a vast range of topics, Wright then applies the sins to current society, making connections and statements about how life today is lived.

“As I worked along, it soon became apparent that the seven deadly sins were no longer even sins and had instead become essential to the operation of modern society,” he said. “Without greed there is no economy; without anger, no politics; without envy, no motivation; without pride, no accomplishment, and so on.”

It took about two years for the book to come together once Wright started writing, and that includes a partial rewrite after he discovered the meaning of the work midway through.

“I had quite a bit of it written before the true theme of the book emerged, and so I then had to go back and rewrite around that,” he said. “Sometimes I’m not sure what a book I’m working on is ‘about’ until deep into the writing process. Then it hits me and I revise accordingly.”

After all the time spent writing and revising, could it even be possible to choose a favorite sin? For Wright, yes: Gluttony.

“It is the only one of the seven that does not admit of moderation,” he said. “The section in the chapter on gluttony about how burial practices have had to be altered to accommodate the morbidly obese is my favorite part of the book.”

And that’s only one of the interesting real-life scenarios Wright details in his book. Each chapter examines prominent topics like capitalism, nationalism or voter rage, and initiates off-beat investigations into self-esteem or the advertising industry. Does sex actually sell? Wright comments on the state of human nature with plenty of research to back him up.

The idea to explore the modern-times relevance of the seven deadly sins initially stemmed from a book published by Sanford Lyman titled Seven Deadly Sins. In it, Lyman approached the sins through sociological and social-psychological eyes.

“I found the book enormously informative and entertaining, but largely theoretical and seriously out of date,” he said. “So it occurred to me that an update focused on more recent research might be fun to write. And it was!”

Since publishing Lost Souls, Wright already has six new book projects in the works. One of them models a similar pattern as his analysis of the seven deadly sins, but researches the Ten Commandments, instead.

“I have always loved to write,” he said. “Writing is my hobby, my retirement fantasy. My wife Chris spends hours each day in her garden tending to the plants. I spend hours each day in my study tending to the English language, and weeding and watering my book projects.”

Wright often finds himself writing ten pages a day, and preaches discipline in getting the words flowing.

“I try to write every day,” he said. “If I didn’t have writing projects to pursue, I don’t know what I would do with my time.”

Lost Souls: Manners and Morals in Contemporary American Society can be purchased on Amazon, through Barnes and Noble or directly through the publisher. On the publisher’s site, current students can use code FLR40 to receive 20 percent off their purchase. Information about Wright’s other books and writing projects can be found at his website.

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