The Distinction Between Crime, Morality, and Sin | Explained!

Many people often equate the meanings of crime, morality and sin, perhaps due to historical associations. In the past, these terms were closely related, but


Shubham Kumar

1/28/20244 min read

silhouette of person on window
silhouette of person on window
black round container with fire
black round container with fire

Many people often equate the meanings of crime, morality and sin, perhaps due to historical associations. In the past, these terms were closely related, but in the present day, they hold distinct meanings in different domains. Crime, morality and sin differ in content, scope, and consequences.

In this article we are going to understand the basic difference between Crime and Sin, moreover, difference between crime and morality.

Reference: Criminology, Penology, Victimology by Prof. N. V. Paranjape

Difference between Crime and Sin

Many sections of society and individuals generally, equate the meaning of crime and sin together. They address the definition of sin same as the definition of crime. It's not their mistake, though, it's because, in historic times, the word crime and sin usually bear similar meanings. However, in present date, the word sin and crime, are both different words and lands on different domains. Both the words possess differentiated content, scope and consequences.

The concept of sin is usually connected to the spiritual and religious mindsets, which aligns with the beliefs, norms of conduct, tradition and customs of society. A sin refers to the violation of beliefs, norms of conduct, tradition and customs of society. A sinner is believed to be punished by the god itself, or by the messengers of god. A sinful act generally doesn't hut other, it only sprays an indirect impact on society.

On the other hand, the concept of crime is usually connected to the law of land adopted by the state. The word crime lands more on legal parlances than that of it's social parlances. Crime involves the breach and violation of law of land adopted by state. Crime generally tends to hurt people and hits direct impact on society. The one who commit crime is called criminal and a person who commits a crime is subjected to a term of sentence by the law court.

Both the words, crime and sin, sometimes bear similar definitions, however, they are not same. They differ on the grounds where religious beliefs contradict with the legal laws. For example- Drinking Alcohol is sinful act by not a criminal act.

Difference between Crime and Morality

Crime and morality can sound similar on multiple dynamics, however, holds different concepts when it comes to punishments. A doer of an immoral act can't be punished by law enforcement; however, a criminal can be punished by law of land. It is not necessary that, every immoral act is a crime, on the same note, it also not possible, that every crime is perceived as immoral act in society. Since morality keeps changing with the change in place and time, however, crime is only influenced by the legal grounds. That's the main difference between crime and morality.

The perception of crime as an immoral act is inherited in our society, as in medieval period, societies mainly form laws based on societal norms and beliefs. At that time, the law enforcement system was subordinate to the temporal power. Therefore, crime was majorly identified as immoral act. However, since, time being in force, the legal science has also been advanced and the social norms have goon through radical change. Therefore, now crime is defined as act forbidden and punishable by law and it is immaterial whether such an act is moral or immoral from the ethical point of view.

It's only normal that, many people still find similarity between crime and morality, however, the truth is that both the words land on different note. A criminal act cannot be immoral act in some societies, in the same way, every immoral act can't be a criminal act.

For example- In some societies like Islam, child marriage is a moral act, however, on legal grounds, child marriage is criminal act.

Morality differs with change in society, but crime doesn't

Since, morality depends upon the societal beliefs, norms, traditions and customs, therefore, it differs with the change in nature of society. For example, In Islamic society, polygamy is a moral act, husband is allowed to have up to four wives at the same time. However, in Hinduism, polygamy is a sin, husband can have only wife at a time. If we take the same scenario, the crime is same for all the societies. For example, the act of domestic violence is criminal act in both the societies.

If we take a recent example, then the issue of same sex marriage and homosexuality is very much in news. Homosexuality and same sex marriage is widely opposed by multiple societies and declared as an immoral act. However, in nations like US, Canada, Europe, etc, homosexuality and same sex marriage is legal. This suggests the fact, that morality is deeply rooted in the beliefs and customs of a society, and crime is influenced by the evolution in society.

In India, there is public discontent with the Supreme Court's 2013 decision to criminalize gay sex (GLBT) under Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code. The Naz Foundation, an NGO, had filed a petition in 2001 to decriminalize sex between adult homosexuals. The Delhi High Court initially rejected the petition in 2004, but after the Supreme Court's direction in 2009, the High Court legalized consensual gay sex between adults in private. However, the Supreme Court, in 2013, upheld Section 377, criminalizing gay sex based on public morality.


The distinction between sin and crime illuminates the dynamic interplay between religious, moral, and legal realms. As societies evolve, legal definitions strive to capture a broader range of behaviors, acknowledging the nuanced relationship between law and morality. The ongoing debates and legal battles underscore the need for continued reflection on the delicate balance between legal frameworks and evolving societal values.