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Friday, June 2, 2017

Original Sin

Let's say a basic capacity of the human mind is to find fault with itself. A squirrel does not awaken in the morning and wonder how to be a better squirrel, or more of a squirrel, because all squirrels are basically perfect squirrels already. So to explain this anomalous fact about humans, we have a myth like "original sin." (Well, there is a myth, first, and then its interpretation.) But we can see that the purpose of the myth is to explain why there is something wrong with us, but the real feature we need to explain is not why there something wrong, but why we think there is in the first place. Why do we have a capacity to find fault with ourselves?  The oak tree presumably lacks that feature.

Another approach would be to unlearn the habit of fault finding, or to reduce it to its most banal dimension, where any observation of the self would be free from shame and guilt. Self-acceptance feels utterly foreign to me, because I am attached to certain negative ideas. These ideas are, even, a source of reassurance.  To renounce them would be to accept defeat.    


el curioso impertinente said...

No, original sin was invented to explain why we are mortal.

Jonathan said...

There are various views about the relation between death and sin, among the theologians, so this is not at all clear to me. Most associate sin with sex, right?

On the other hand, the relation between original sin and ... sinfulness and human imperfection in general, is undeniable. It seems hard to defend the view that death is the result of sin, since it is a biological fact affecting creatures who find no self-consciousness of the imperfections.

Leslie B. said...

I think you are born in sin, so you do the pilgrim's progress and then get purified in the afterlife. I don't think we are, although I do think a lot of people are damaged.

el curioso impertinente said...

Yes, it's all interconnected.

The G of E story is a transparent version of growing up; A and E are innocent, pre-pubescent children who then hit puberty (E before A), and this leads to sexual activity and the expulsion, expulsion into the "real", adult world of birth, work, and death. But of course here sexual activity (temptation and the "fall) is closely tied to procreation. And you wouldn't need procreation if humans were immortal.

You can also argue it backwards, too. Humans are mortal, and mortality is seen as a fundamental flaw, an in-built imperfection. Why are they that way? Why are they not immortal? Come did they get that way? Were they always that way? Aetiological myths, like Rudyard Kipling's stories, are created to explain why things are a certain way, and how they came to be so. If humans are flawed/imperfect, then they must have done something wrong, way back when. Enter original sin--the mark of Adam. The nature of the wrongdoing, for which humankind is forevermore punished, fits perfectly, because this "forbidden thing" is what brings about procreation. There a circularity (in a good sense) to the argument here.