AskDefine | Define impiety

Dictionary Definition

impiety n : unrighteousness by virtue of lacking respect for a god [syn: impiousness] [ant: piety]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. the state of being impious
  2. an impious act
  3. the lack of respect for a god or something sacred

Extensive Definition

Impiety is a lack of proper concern for the obligations owed to cult; that is, to the outward practices of a belief system. Impiety was a main Pagan objection to Christianity, for unlike other initiates into mystery religions, early Christians refused to cast a pinch of incense before the images of the gods, among whom were the protective deified Emperors. Impiety in ancient civilizations was a civic concern, rather than religious. It was believed that it could bring down upon the whole res publica the wrath of the tutelary gods who protected the polis. Impiety is not a Christian phenomenon.
Socrates and Anaxagoras were put to death for impiety (against ancient Greek gods), and Aristotle was also charged with impiety after the death of Alexander the Great. According to the Vita Aristotelis Marciana, a much mutilated single manuscript in the Biblioteca Nazionale di San Marco in Venice, written about 1300, Aristotle left the city, saying, "I will not allow the Athenians to sin twice against philosophy" (Vita Aristotelis, 41). The medieval Christian compiler has rendered the Athenians' crime as a "sin". Sin, however, sin was an alien concept to the Greeks and Romans. When Aramaic had to be translated into Greek in editing the New Testament, the Greek word hamartia came to be used. Hamartia ("missing the mark") is only very approximately translated as "sin."

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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