Anyone familiar with the teachings of Christianity is familiar with the concept of sin and our need for reconciliation. This is the main theme, if you will, of the religion. Basically, God is good. We are not. God demands that we fix that and become acceptable in his eyes. But what does that really mean?
The concept of original sin comes to us via the Bible in Genesis 3:6.
“When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.”
This is where “the fall of man” happened. Eve disobeyed God, as did Adam, and humanity was cursed because of it. In Romans 5:12, it is said “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned” Sin was said to have entered into this world through Adam. This one man sinned and now we are all guilty of sin simply by being born. We are all said to be descendants of Adam and are therefore guilty by association. We have a sinful nature about us. Cursed from the moment of our conception. God was so angry that Adam disobeyed him, he cursed all of those who came after him. Such love. Such justice.
There those of us who no longer believe this. Of course, there are some of us who never believed it. There are a lot of us who are disgusted at the mere thought of it. And then there are those among us who not only believe it, but preach it and are quite troubled when others refuse to accept it. There is some flawed reasoning among believers when it comes to the idea of sin. There is a misunderstanding of human nature that, when brought up in a conversation, goes something like this (I have added what my responses would be if I were in this conversation):
“You know right from wrong, don’t you?”
“Yes. I have a conscience.”
“How is it that we all know right from wrong, even from the earliest age? How is it that children know they are being bad or good? Why do young children do bad things?”
“People have to live with other people. They can ascertain what is beneficial or harmful to the group by interacting with others. Living together as a society helps determine what we do. Hurting others, stealing or lying is not in the best interest of the group. There are exceptions, of course, and oftentimes we have to lie or do things for our own survival or well-being. Why do children do bad things? Because they have limited abilities. Their language is underdeveloped. So they hit, kick and bite in order to show their displeasure. They scream when their thoughts cannot be properly conveyed due to limitations of their speech. In short, they simply do not know any better…yet.”
“Wrong. Kids are bad because they are born into sin through the fall of man. God cursed us all because of Adam’s sins and we now need to be made pure in God’s eyes. Our children need to raised up in homes that preach the truth, know the gospel and love God. Good only comes from God and therefore our own desires are not of God, but of the enemy of God. Our words and deeds, if done on our own, will lead us to destruction. God gives us a moral compass in the form of the holy spirit which lives in us and guides us. That is how we know right from wrong.”
“Well that sounds a bit ridiculous to me. I assume you have some evidence of this. Do you have a way to prove what you say is true or are you just saying it is true because you believe it?”
“I have all the proof I’ll ever need right here.” (holds up Bible)
“Okay, we’re done here.”
Yes, most of us have a good understanding of right and wrong. We know what is beneficial to ourselves and others and also what is not. We, even as children, know if we are being “good” or “bad.” We know this regardless of whether we believe in a god or not. The atheist, as well as the most pious of believers, know right from wrong. It is a universal knowledge. The few who do not know the difference, often commit horrible atrocities. Okay, so we know right from wrong? So what? What is your point? The problem we see with Christianity is that people go too far. They take people’s understanding of morality and try to manipulate it. Christianity tries to shove original sin into the same box as our conscience. And it simply does not fit.
We know when we are wrong. We know when we’ve hurt someone else. We know what guilt, shame and remorse feel like. We recognize it and want to do better in order to not feel that way again. What Christianity tries to do is take advantage of those feelings and add some more guilt, shame and remorse to your life. We all have the ability to recognize when we are in the wrong. We don’t, however, inherently know about original sin. We have to be taught about Adam, Eve, Jesus and God. These are not instinctually supplied to our brains the way our conscience is. We could go our whole lives without hearing the stories contained in the gospels and we’d be just fine. We’d still know right from wrong and we’d know what was beneficial or harmful to others. Hearing the gospel only adds unnecessary guilt without providing one shred of evidence of its veracity outside of the scriptures.
So, if there is no evidence that corroborates the Genesis story or any other scripture-based story, why would anyone believe in the concept of sin? If there is no evidence that there are eternal consequences of our actions, why do people tell others that they are cursed and need to repent…or else? Why would there be a need for a savior, such as Jesus, to come and make things right in order to cancel our debts and clear a pathway to heaven? Is it for control? Financial gain? Sure, these things do exist in our churches and they certainly existed in the ancient churches. But I think, more often than not, we are simply deceived. We were taught something that someone else believed, who was taught it by someone else, who was taught it by someone else, etc… Our emotions play a big role in our beliefs. Trust does as well. We trust those who teach us out of love, even though they may be wrong.
The bottom line is this: We should only believe things for which we have good reason to do so. Yes, we have a conscience. Yes, we have an understanding of right and wrong. We can believe this is true because we can observe it, as can others. We don’t, however, have good evidence to conclude anyone named Adam or Eve existed in a Garden of Eden. We have no evidence of a talking serpent who deceived them, causing them to sin. We have no evidence for a god and therefore have no reason to think that sin is a real thing. Needing to be saved from our sin is especially difficult without good reason to believe it exists in the first place. There really is no reason to accept the notion that someone named Jesus died for our sins, rose again and is awaiting us in heaven when none of the things he came here for can be reasonably accounted for. If you have one source that cannot be corroborated or substantiated, it is not good evidence. And if it is not good evidence and you have no good reason to believe it, why hold onto it? And, more importantly, why would you ever try to teach it to others? If it was so important and we were all supposed to know it, we would. A loving god would see to that. But that hasn’t happened, has it?
If you have to teach someone to feel something that they were supposedly born with, then they were not born with it. If you have to teach someone about something that they were not aware of and then teach them to feel bad about it, you are wrong. Teaching children to feel ashamed of things for which they are not guilty, is not just wrong. It is abuse. Teaching children these stories quite often leads them to teach their own children. I know. I did it myself. This endless cycle of shaming others might help keep the pews filled on Sunday, but it is doing serious harm to the mental well-being of those who hear that message. If you truly believe what you preach, then you would not mind providing some evidence to back it up. If you have none, keep your message to yourselves and stop trying to convince people they are guilty of anything that happened before they were born or before they were of an age where they could comprehend right and wrong.