Can where you live be a sin?

Salvete, omnes!

(First of all, I posted much of what I post here on another thread, though, on that one, I take a slightly different angle on the matter than I do here.)

Depending on risk to property, livelihood, or, most importantly, life due to the possibility ofnatural disasters ofvarious kinds, can it be sinful to live in certain locations? Can it be sinful to live in some locations with more risk to them but not sinful to live in otehrs with less risk?

Here are some scenarios I thought of:

  1. Especially today, when we don’t all need to live close to the water to sustain our lives, is living close to the water’s edge, say, for the beauty of the area, a sin because doing so leads to increased risk to life and loss of property due to the possibility of flooding that would not otherwise exist if one lived further inland and/or on higher ground?

  2. Is living in an area of volcanic activity such as the Big Island in Hawai’i or on Sicily near Mt. Aetna or under the shadow of Mt. Vesuvius simply because of the beauty of these places to be considered sinful because of the increased risk of volcanic eruptions that could result in loss of life and/or property/livelihood? What about living on land even formed by previous volcanic activity because there is some risk of such areas at some point coming out of their dormancy? (I’m thinking again of Hawai’i and, specifically, those who live in the crater of Diamond Head on O’ahu. …Yes, there are people who liver there. I’ve seen it myself. Granted, the volcano has been dormant for some time. Still, there is always some risk, is there not, that it could become active again at any time?)

  3. Is living in an area more prone to earthquakes sinful because of risk (albeit low) of loss of life and the higher risk of loosing property? What if you really enjoy the climate such as that which we find in various areas of California? Is that sufficient reason to stay there instead of moving to another location?

  4. What about tornadic activity? Should we try to avoid certain areas of the country/world because of that increased risk, especially if our motivation for living there is based merely on liking the scenery?

  5. What about living by the seaside and the risk of hurricanes?

In any of these scenarios, are the beauty of a place, the desire to not have to relocate or the love of the community built in these places good enough reasons to risk one’s life in the eyes of the Church?

Obviously, I know that, if we were to avoid all these places, mankind (or, at least, Christians) would likely have to do mass re-location and the world could get a lot more crowded. Indeed, whole nations would have to be uprooted? So, is living in one place listed above acceptable while living in another is not? Should we, for instance, take the earthquake option over the volcanic option because of the lesser risk to life in the first case? Are we even at all permitted to live inc certain locations, say, such as in immediately volcanic surroundings such as in Diamond Head crater or below Vesuvius, because the risk to life/property is too high? Or, would God consider any such thing too impractical and, thus, not necessary?

Or, rather, is it acceptable to live in any of these places? If so, why, as it seems we are putting unnecessary risk on our lives and property? Are the “risk to life” statements of the Church grounded in any way on the “amount” of risk versus “any risk at all”? Or, rather, if there is “any” unnecessary risk to life, is any such risk to be avoided? What about loss of property/livelihood? What rules govern how much risk we are to take in those matters, particularly when it comes to deciding where to live?

Some would argue that, in Genesis, God wanted (or allowed) us to “fill the earth” and that this should mean “all” the earth, but, isn’t living in some places simply imprudent, especially if it is for reasons of personal pleasure such as the scenery? Indeed, these first few chapters in Genesis often come under question to begin with. Furthermore, we all know that, in Sacred Scripture, “all” does not necessarily always mean “all”, as in 100%, no more, no less, of the time. If “all” meant “all” in this case, perhaps we should be desiring to more fully populate Antarctica…

BTW, I would definitely appreciate it if you all could, if possible, address each of the above scenarios in light of the questions I’ve raised.

Gratias vobis!

The simple answer is no.

It might be imprudent to live in a flood plain and you won’t be able to get flood insurance. But where exactly is a perfectly safe place to live? People who life in tornado alley could move to and area that has very few tornadoes but get nailed by an F3 one year and flooding the next.

Liking the scenery in areas prone to tornadoes is funny to me because they are often flat as flat can be but if you look at a tornado map there there are few if any tornadoes in the Rockies, one of the most picturesque places (to me anyway) in the country.

So should people who live on islands that are regularly hit with typhoons and flooding move? Where should the entire population of a country and a culture move to?

This question reminds me of a song by Lone Justice called “After the Flood.” Some of the lyrics:

A place to call your very own means so much
Though it’s a little soggy
After all the water’s gone
I’ll scrub it clean and make it home again

A natural disaster can’t hold nothin’ on me
They’re quakin’ out west and freezin’ back east
So I think I’ll stick around
And show a little faith in a weary town

After the flood
After the flood
The land it washed away
Felt like my flesh and blood

I’d rather be shovelin’
Through the slush and mud
Than to leave my home where I grew up
Life goes on after the flood

Is there a safe place to live?

The vast majority of people in this world have no say (or very little say) in where they live.

Seriously, Misty, either:

  1. You suffer from scrupulosity (since you seem to see sin everywhere, and are completely resistant to others who have suggested this) and/or
  2. You are really, *really *impressed with how smart you are, and want us to be equally impressed too (multi-page debates with oneself can lend to that impression).

Asking questions no one else thinks about does not mean you’re brilliant.

Ditto. Great answer!


scruples are deadly.

I’ve thought that, too. Especially since all the questions are hypothetical.

Yes, where you live can be a sin, but not because of any of the reasons you mentioned.

First, it’s not sinful to live anywhere unless you have a choice. A lot of people don’t have much choice, as PolarGuy mentioned.

However, if you have a choice and for example are an alcoholic and choose to live next door to a bar, that could be sinful.

Or if you have problems with pornography and you live next door to a strip club or dirty book store, that could be sinful.

So, choosing to live somewhere that increases your temptation to sin and risks your immortal soul can be sinful. Choosing to live somewhere with an increased risk of property damage is not the same thing at all. Choosing to live somewhere that there is a very slight increased risk of bodily harm is still not the same sort of thing, unless you are choosing to live there because of the increased risk–that one is too close for me to call, and anyway I’m not a moral theologian.

If there is a specific place that you want to live, I would suggest directing your question to a priest living in the area, who would be better able to speak to the specifics of the location. If this is just an academic question, I would suggest letting it go in favor of more practical matters, especially if you are just starting to look into the Church.


Well, I live in a city that was devastated by a tsunami a few years ago, and the government has now re-zoned the coastal area so that no one is allowed to live there. A lot of people were forced to relocate inland. Would it have been a sin of omission on the part of the government not to re-zone the land in order to protect the lives of its citizens? I don’t know, but I don’t find the idea entirely implausible.

On the other hand, my city is also prone to very large earthquakes, but as a result of that, the building codes have been made so strict that buildings rarely collapse and lives are rarely lost due to an earthquake. So moving away is not always the only option. I think the key here is to take reasonable precautions to protect your life and the lives of your family.

I guess it’s a sin to live in a high crime area…you could get killed in a drive - by. :eek:

The answer to all of the above is NO. God created this beautiful, scenic world for us to live in and He did not set aside anywhere in it for us to avoid because of the climate.


These would describe what we used to call “near* occasions of sin”, but would not constitute sins in themselves.

(* Literally!)

The first example that comes to mind of a situation where one’s choice of living quarters would be a sin would be to share quarters and physical intimacy with someone to whom you are not married. Again, we used to have a phrase for this: Living in sin.

The only other situation which comes to mind is only sort of where-you-live-being-sinful, and is really how-you-live-being-sinful. If I were to live in such a way as to deny to others resources to which they are justly entitled (say I owned and “lived on” the only arable land for many miles, but refused to share my bounties with my neighbors), that seems to me would be sinful.


If living in an area that is disaster-prone is a sin, then a large swathe of the world’s population is living in perpetual sin?
Makes no sense to me why any reasonable person would consider this a sin.

My understanding is that putting yourself voluntarily into a near occasion of sin without a good reason can be sinful, but I may be wrong.


If the risk to property damage is a deciding factor, I guess it depends on whether paying very high insurance premiums is a sin. If moving 2 suburbs over means you have an extra $7 - 10K each year that could go to charity for example, perhaps it is a sin not to do so.

I live in a high flood area and this is the reality here. Thankfully I work for a leading insurance company and get a ridiculious discount. So if it is a sin, it’s one my neighbours are committing but I have a pass on.

My neighbours certainly seem to think the insurance premiums are a sin. They’re trying everything they can to sell and get out.

Thanks for all of your input.

Still, I was hoping, as I suggested in my original post, that folks would specifically address the scenarios I spoke of in that post. For instance…

  1. Is living in the crater of Diamond Head on O’ahu a sin because there is at least a slight risk of the dormant volcano ofwhich the crater is a part coming back to life?

  2. Is living anywhere on the Hawaiian Islands a sin because at any time volcanic activity may start up again and lead to loss of life or at least property?

  3. Is living at the foot of Mt. Vesuvius in Italy a sin because it has erupted very recently and could do so unexpectedly, leading to loss of life and property?

  4. Is living on the slopes of Mt. Aetna in Sicily a sin because it is indeed still quite active and its eruption may lead to loss of life and/or property?

  5. Is living anywhere where volcanic activity has produced land a sin because such areas could become active again and lead to loss of life/property?

  6. Is living along the coastlines because of the beauty of the area sinful because of increased risk to life/property due to hurricanes?

I am asking these questions both in the context of the present time and earlier times when methods of prediction/detection of such things as volcanic eruptions and hurricanes were less refined. Would God, say, have allowed settlement in the above places centuries ago despite the risk and even though methods of detection/rpediction were not as relaible? I mean, obviously, today, there is less of a risk because of more sophsticated methods than there would’ve been only a century ago. I would appreciate folks addressing this point of the discussion as well.

I would appreciate all these (or ate leas those which you know how to answer) being addressed point-by-point and reasons given for your answers, please.


P.S. To address some earlier posts, just because I think of things that others might think about doesn’t mean I am “trying to be brilliant” or anything like that. I think more deeply than most perhaps, but these questions are legitimate to me and I would appreciate them being treated honestly and with respect.

Times however many times you asked.
People chose to live where they are comfortable.
We cannot control the weather. Living just about anywhere can involve risk. There are many huge trees in Atlanta. Sometimes they topple. It is the owner of the house’s fault if they fall on the roof? Of course not. Even if you are suggesting that people deliberately seek out unsafe places to live due to the risk of natural forces, I would still say no.

I am going to try to understand why or how living in dangerous places could be considered a sin: I am winging it here. I have never thought about this before.

To deliberately live in one of these places in order to defy or challenge God or to deliberately put oneself in danger in order to self destruct may be a cause to sin.

But, there is no place on Earth that is safe. Harsh winters in Colorado can and do kill. In addition the constant threat of sun-strokes, the Arizona Desert has dust storms that cause car accidents and kill. Living in any city is dangerous. I know of no place on Earth where there is no danger. Living anywhere within 1,000 miles of Yellowstone National Park invites instantaneous death when it blows up (which by the way has every possibility of doing so at any time)

To become a missionary and live among lepers is dangerous.
To wake up in the morning and step outside is dangerous.
To give birth to a baby is dangerous.
I hardly believe God desires us to hide from danger. We do the best we can and listen to Him when He says, “Fear not. I am with you.”

If we go by your assumptions and move away from the coast and possibly deadly volcanoes, and live in let’s say the heartland, would you still be in sin? Yes.


Tornadoes. They are also the cause of loss of life and property.

Honestly, is any place safe?

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