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Our readers asked:

Is drinking a 20 oz. soda a sin?

Charles C. Camosy, PhD Answers:

Question: The new ban on large sugary drinks in New York City has me wondering, was I indulging in gluttony each time I had a 20 oz. soda? Was that a sin?

Like the answer to many questions about ethics, “it depends.” Is the drinking of the soda helping or hurting your living a flourishing life? Not all drinking of such soda is bad, but if it is hurting your health and your state of mind, then it is probably a bad idea to be drinking it. It is only “gluttony” if you are caught in a vicious cycle of addiction to this and other kinds of sugar and/or caffeine. If drinking such sodas are part of your life such that you find difficult to stop, then chances are you are caught in a gluttonous cycle and need to get the proper resources and support to help break it.

Something that is often overlooked, however, is the social injustice of gluttony. Especially if drinking such sodas contributes to obesity, then one is also morally responsible for the social injustice this brings about. Consider, for instance, that being obese contributes to higher health costs for our society and that it actually costs significantly more in fuel (and therefore ecological damage) to transport our much heavier population than even just a couple decades ago. Gluttonous consuming of sugary sodas, then, can be both personally and socially problematic — but this needs to be separated from the (separate though related) question of whether government should ban such sodas.

The Author : Charles C. Camosy, PhD
Charlie Camosy is assistant professor of Christian ethics at Fordham University where he has been since finishing his Ph.D. in theology at Notre Dame in 2008. His book Too Expensive to Treat? Finitude, Tragedy, and the Neonatal ICU (Eerdmans, 2010) was honored at the 2011 Catholic Media Association awards. Peter Singer and Christian Ethics: Beyond Polarization was released with Cambridge University Press in May of 2012. Charlie is also the founder and co-director of the Catholic Conversation Project and a member of the ethics committee at the Children's Hospital of New York.
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