42) What is the punishment for sin?
One of the main reasons people are hesitant to leave behind notions of an afterlife is that, if this reality is all there is, there will be some who get away with atrocities. But even those capable of an enormous level of self deceit or incapable of empathy face consequences eventually. Even the perfect criminal, who raped and murdered and cheated his way to the top and lived there until the end of his days will not be remembered well. The cosmology of religions which embrace karma is flawed, as they reinforce a caste system which is self-evidently man-made. In principle however, the case for something like karma is not difficult to make. Every action has a reaction, and even if consequences are slow to come, they arrive eventually. A man who can hide infidelity, embezzlement, and murder from the world is either racked by guilt every night, remembered by his family and community as the worm he was, or else is so distant from normal human emotions as to be worthy of pity more than anything else. Evildoers can get away with a lot, but not with everything. The punishment for sin, then, is guilt. Shame, bankruptcy, divorce. A tarnished legacy, estranged kids, jail.
We all have our days when this isn’t enough. Days when we hope there is a hell so that those who truly violated the human story get what they deserve. But even if the afterlife holds some final vengeance, in this world, all we can do is learn from the mistakes and misdeeds of these men and women of infamy.