Original Sin: A Cultural History, by Alan Jacobs – This book discusses the doctrine of original sin throughout the ages, and how it rose and fell in popularity among theologians and society in general. Jacobs does not limit the overview to Christianity, instead including many examples from secular philosophy and popular culture, comparing original sin to the idea that humanity has a natural tendency toward rebellion and evil, as opposed to the blank slate concept. While I do see the connection here, I feel that Jacobs never really gets into the significant differences between secular philosophy and the specifically Christian doctrine. I suppose I am biased, however, as I find the entire concept of sin to be an oversimplification of a complex issue.
Really, asking me what I think of original sin is like asking someone who’s established that they don’t believe in dragons whether they believe in RED dragons. If I don’t believe in sin, I obviously don’t believe in original sin. That said, examining the doctrine on its own, I do have some specific problems with it. I don’t really buy the blank slate idea, but the Biblical explanation for sin is rather problematic. The general Christian idea is that sin came into the world when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit.
Whether a specific Christian believes that the Garden of Eden story is literal or figurative, there’s the general sense that mankind chose knowledge over innocence. As I’ve seen argued many times, however, how can God blame people he created to not know the difference between right and wrong for doing the wrong thing? Apparently the way to remain in Paradise would have been to blindly obey the guy in charge, a philosophy that has led to a great deal of evil behavior throughout the ages. Doesn’t true innocence lie not in ignorance of right and wrong, but in knowing the difference and choosing what you feel is right? To my mind, ignorance is not paradise.