Original Virtue

Central to nearly every branch of Christianity is the notion of original sin – the belief that humans in some sense start out corrupted, that sinfulness is our default state. The apostle Paul expresses this idea in verses like these from Romans:

“Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned… Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation.” (5:12,18)

Among Christian fundamentalists, original sin usually finds expression in the belief that Adam, the first human, was the “federal head” of the human race, such that the effect of his sin was inherited by all his descendants. But even in denominations that don’t take Genesis so literally, belief in original sin is common, though they believe we came by it somewhat differently.

But regardless of the underlying interpretation, the most serious logical flaw in the doctrine is this: Why is it that this taint of badness affects the entire human race?

Neither the liberal nor the conservative interpretations of Christianity have a good answer to this. Many liberal theologians consider the source of original sin to be an event that occurred sometime in humanity’s past, such as C.S. Lewis:

We do not know how many of these creatures God made, nor how long they continued in the Paradisal state. But sooner or later they fell. Someone or something whispered that they could become as gods…

But since Lewis regards the fall as a particularly individual sin, he’s left with the unanswered question of how it came to affect every single human being. Shouldn’t there have been some people who made the right choice? If humanity was made such that everyone fell prey to this sin, we may well question whether the decision to do so was free at all, or if it was the inexorable result of something God built into our character. A defect in one or a few products may occur by chance, but an identical defect in every single product suggests a design flaw on the part of the manufacturer.

The conservative view, meanwhile, fails to explain why it is that Adam and Eve’s sin, however heinous it was, came to pollute not just them but all their descendants. Tortured apologetics about how we all sinned “in” Adam cannot change the simple facts that we did not exist, we were not there, and we certainly had no part in the decision. Why didn’t Adam’s children start out in the same state of unspoiled innocence as their forebears originally enjoyed? Why did his sin change our character? If the laws of inheritance work this way, there’s only one person who could have set them up as such – and again, the conclusion is unavoidable that God intentionally arranged things so that the curse of sin would spread to the entire human race.

The Bible tells us that God wants all people to be saved (2 Peter 3:9), and yet the unavoidable implication of the original sin doctrine is that this is a lie. If that was what God wanted, he could have made us so that our default state was good and we had to specifically choose evil, rather than creating people such that our default state was evil and we have to specifically choose good. In other words, instead of original sin, he could have given us original virtue. He could have set up the world so that every generation was born anew into the Garden of Eden, unspoiled by their parents’ transgressions, and only those who specifically chose to eat from the forbidden tree would be cast out.

But according to Christianity, this is not what God chose to do. Instead, he deliberately introduces a taint of sin into the entire human race, blames us for that flaw which he himself gave to us, and then puts his own son through horrendous suffering in an attempt to fix it; an attempt which mostly fails, as he knew in advance that it would, and results in the majority of people being eternally condemned. This is either sheer insanity or deliberate malevolence.

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • CSN

    “This is either sheer insanity or deliberate malevolence.”

    Can we put that to a vote? It’s such an insult to human dignity; it’s an astounding bit of PR that atheism is portrayed as leading to a negative world-view. And on top of it all we’re supposed to believe God is Love.

    “War is Peace; Freedom is Slavery; Ignorance is Strength.” 2 + 2 = 5.

  • Kacy Ray

    Original Sin is truly the most sinister, evil doctrine ever sold to mankind.

  • Javaman

    So, god set up an experiment? Did he not know what the outcome would be? or was the outcome a foregone conclusion ? If he didn’t know the outcome, he doesn’t know the future, not very god-like. If he knew the outcome, he created a faulty product he knew would fail, and then condemned /pronounced all future children to be morally defective? And we are supposed to worship this bastard, I don’t think so.

  • Warren

    I don’t think Christians feel a big need to defend this. Here’s why:

    One doesn’t need to know why rain falls to feel confident that an umbrella works. A scientist need not know how the first life came to be in order to feel confident that life has evolved by descent with modification from a common ancestor.

    Likewise a Christian need not explain why all men “sin” in order to be confident that they do. The theory may be that Adam’s sin or the curse thereafter is why we cannot help ourselves. But that matters little to a Christian.

    To say that we had no part in Adam’s sin is irrelevant to most, if not all, Christians. You are guilty of your own sins. All are guilty of at least some thought crime described in scripture. They need not explain why all have sinned, though they may offer an explanation, whether it answers all the questions is irrelevant to them.

    The real question, I think, is why can God guarantee no sin in heaven when he could not guarantee it on earth? If Adam was free to choose and chose sin, and we are all free to choose and chose sin, and even those “saved” continue to do so, then why will they stop when in heaven? And if God can prevent it in heaven, what stops him from preventing it on earth?

  • Maynard

    So, god set up an experiment? Did he not know what the outcome would be?

    Like all other theories based on religion, this one too fails.

  • Polly

    Sin would be a lamarckian trait it seems. I wonder if anyone justifies it that way?

  • Justin

    Tortured apologetics about how we all sinned “in” Adam cannot change the simple facts that we did not exist, we were not there, and we certainly had no part in the decision.

    Apparently, some theologians believe (or used to believe) that everybody’s soul did exist in some state or another at that time and thus was affected. The apologist Gottfried Liebniz mentioned that idea in some essays of his which I read for some reason. Liebniz seemed to disagree with that idea, but suggested that Adam’s sin affected his descendants in the same way that abusive parents often raise delinquent children, a questionable analogy which fails to explain why God didn’t intervene or at least put the forbidden tree on the Moon.

  • http://reasonvsapologetics.blogspot.com jim

    “Instead, he deliberately introduces a taint of sin into the entire human race, blames us for that flaw which he himself gave to us, and then puts his own son through horrendous suffering in an attempt to fix it; an attempt which mostly fails…”

    Curiously, it’s an attempt that ALWAYS fails, as far as actually eliminating the ‘sin’ is concerned. One of the other major problems in Christian doctrine is that Christians still admittedly sin, even though they’re supposed to have living, God infused spirits, as opposed to those of us who are ‘dead’ in sin. And how about the ‘you’ll know them by their fruits’ thing? What, the net result of being born-again is that some Christians sin somewhat less, some of the time? This magic trick gets less and less impressive.

  • 2-D Man

    Warren, the doctrine, as I remember from my days in Sunday school, is that everyone is guilty because that’s just the way humans are: deserving of nothing more than eternal torment. The post didn’t ask for an explanation for sin, but an explanation for why we are automatically called sinful.

  • http://confessionatheist.blogspot.com Dale

    A defect in one or a few products may occur by chance, but an identical defect in every single product suggests a design flaw on the part of the manufacturer.

    Haha! I laughed as I pictured the implications of this idea: God as the inept corporation, bumbling about with a faulty product, taking flak from every watchdog group out there as He tries to claim that the flaws in His creation are “there by design” or “the result of incorrect usage on the part of the consumer”. Eventually the Fed steps in and issues a mandated recall on all defective merchandise. “That’s it God. No more bailouts. Your product is dangerous and presents a huge liability. We’re pulling it from the shelves.” And so God is made to pay restitution to the entire human race: everyone gets to go to Heaven, no charge.

    Come to think of it, I think I read something to a similar effect a few years ago… I seem to remember saving it on my computer because I thought it was particularly clever. Let me see if I can dig it up…

  • http://confessionatheist.blogspot.com Dale

    Found it! All right, it was previously catalogued here; I went back to look but was unable to find it on that site, so the author must have pulled it. Anyway, away we go:

    * * * Recall Notice * * *
    The Maker of all human beings is recalling all units manufactured, regardless of make or year, due to the serious defect in the primary and central component of the heart. This is due to a malfunction in the original prototype units code named Adam and Eve, resulting in the reproduction of the same defect in all subsequent units. This defect has many symptoms commonly known as SIN, as it is primarily expressed.

    Some other symptoms:

    Loss of direction
    Foul vocal emissions
    Amnesia of origin
    Lack of peace and joy
    Selfish or violent behavior
    Depression or confusion in the mental component
    Fearfulness
    Idolatry
    Rebellion

    The Manufacturer, Who is neither liable nor at fault for this defect, is providing factory authorized repair and service free of charge to correct this SIN defect. The Repair Technician, Jesus, has most generously offered to bear the entire burden of the staggering cost of these repairs.

    There is no fee required to get repair. You only need to follow the simple procedures listed below.

    The toll free number to call for repair, in all areas, is: P-R-A-Y-E-R.

    Once connected, please upload your burden of SIN through the REPENTANCE procedure. Next, download ATONEMENT from the Repair Technician, Jesus, into the heart component. No matter how big or small the SIN defect is, Jesus will replace it with:

    Love
    Joy
    Peace
    Patience
    Kindness
    Goodness
    Faithfulness
    Gentleness
    Self-control

    IMPORTANT: Please see the operating manual, HOLY BIBLE, for further details on the use of these fixes. As an added upgrade the manufacturer has made available to all repaired units a facility enabling direct monitoring and assistance from a Resident Maintenance Technician, the Holy Ghost.

    Repaired units need only make Him welcome and He will take up permanent residence on the premises!

    WARNING: Continuing to operate the human being unit without correction voids the Manufacturer’s warranty, exposing the unit to dangers and problems too numerous to list and will result in the human unit being permanently impounded.

    For free emergency service, call on JESUS.

    DANGER: The human being units not responding to this recall action will have to be scrapped in the furnace. The SIN defect will not be permitted to enter Heaven so as to prevent contamination of that facility.

    Thank you for your attention. Please assist where possible by notifying others of this important recall notice.

  • Roy

    I like Warren’s comments.
    Original sin is a bedrock of Calvinist doctrine. That’s why babies have to be baptized. There are some protestant denominations that don’t believe “original” sin is inherited but that “all fall short” so everyone will sin. Those who die before “the age of accountability” get a Go To Heaven card.
    Picturing all those aborted babies singing God’s praises for eternity was one of the reasons I finally saw how ridiculous religion is.
    Imagine during a break, one saint looks to another: “I was a good Jewish soldier bashing little kid’s heads against the rocks and died of a heart attack.” other saint says “I was the little kid”.

  • Joffan

    There is perhaps a necessary symmetry to the idea of universal prior sinfulness courtesy of Adam, which is of course the equally tricky idea of universal prior redemption courtesy of Jesus. It seems to me that a logical framework would allow both of these, or it would allow neither. I’ll settle for neither.

  • http://evilburnee.co.uk PaulJ

    Is it really worth churning the intellectual gears to address this idea? Original sin is such a plainly ridiculous notion on practically all levels that no sensible resolution of it will ever be reached. It may keep a few theologians off the streets, but apart from that I can’t see what possible merit there is in discussing the matter. By addressing it we risk giving tacit assent to the initial premise (that God exists), without which none of theology makes the slightest sense.

  • Thumpalumpacus

    Disagreed, Paul. By that logic, we ought not discuss any of the many inanities of theism. There are many on the fence who lurk here, and I think it’s right to feed their brains.

  • Bill

    The point is not why did god do this or that, that’s a question for believers to ask of themselves (but they never do). The real question is why do people invent these preposterous fables that are designed to make them hate themselves, and why are their followers so eager to drink the poisoned kool-aid?

  • Jennifer A. Burdoo

    “By addressing it we risk giving tacit assent to the initial premise (that God exists), without which none of theology makes the slightest sense.”

    I agree with Thumpalumpacus. This is a common complaint among theists — that atheists are complaining about something they don’t believe exists. But that’s not true. Discussion of something “for argument’s sake” may be done to poke holes in the argument. Atheists tend to believe that religion is a product of human minds. Critiquing religious claims made by humans, or decrying how religious humans screw up or do terrible things, is perfectly legitimate, and doesn’t require anyone to subscribe to the belief in question. If it did, Christians wouldn’t be able to claim they know what the Old Testament means when they don’t subscribe to it.

    In fact, the entire “courtier’s argument” is a trap that the religious fall into every time they criticize a different religion. Who is a Catholic to say that an atheist hasn’t studied Catholicism, when that Catholic has never studied Islam (all half-dozen versions), Protestantism (all hundred versions) or Papuan animism (all thousand versions)?

  • Soulless Wolf

    Does anyone else see how all humans being born into sin, and inclined to sin in the absence of God from their hearts kind of defeats that whole free will thing that Christians insist we have?

    Without God most cannot help but sin and denying God is a sin. It appears to me that God designed us to have no choice but to be atheists.

  • http://www.neosnowqueen.wordpress.com neosnowqueen

    I, too, have commented on the inefficiency of God’s method of saving his creations. He seems to have gone about it in the most convoluted and ineffective ways possible.

  • Dave

    Sin would be a lamarckian trait it seems. I wonder if anyone justifies it that way?

    Comment #6 by: Polly | September 3, 2009, 11:11 am

    Polly, its an epigenetic program whereby the cells are affected by their environment the parents create.

  • http://www.failingtheinsidertest.blogspot.com/ Jeffrey

    Adam is my representative? I didn’t vote for him. Is he up for reelection soon? Will I get a chance to try and get him out? Does the opposition party offer a platform that’s different from his in any significant ways? It just seems like if someone’s going to be making decisions that influence my eternal destiny, and others are going to claim that I have a representative, I should have, you know, actual representation.

    (Loosely paraphrased from a famous skeptic whose name escapes me. If anyone knows the real quote please let me know.)

  • Javaman

    So, if god make us in his image and we are defective in morality (sin),then isn’t the master template from which all the other copies are made also defective? So, why doesn’t god just end the game if he knows the end of the movie , why does he still allow all the suffering and pain to continue? And once we are no longer here then what will god do for entertainment? god sounds like a cosmic screwup; if we ever meet I will try to educate him on compassion and kindness. The way you would correct a young child who has done something wrong. I(we) were born perfect. I did not need to be baptized as a child to make me that way.

  • http://www.WorldOfPrime.com Yahzi

    “This is either sheer insanity or deliberate malevolence.”

    Aha! I have finally caught Ebon out on a logical error – the fallacy of false dichotomy. Ebon says it’s either insanity or malevolence, but… there’s no logical reason it can’t be both.

    :D

  • Karen

    Jim:
    One of the other major problems in Christian doctrine is that Christians still admittedly sin, even though they’re supposed to have living, God infused spirits, as opposed to those of us who are ‘dead’ in sin. And how about the ‘you’ll know them by their fruits’ thing? What, the net result of being born-again is that some Christians sin somewhat less, some of the time? This magic trick gets less and less impressive.

    Thank you, Jim! This realization was one of the major turning points in my journey out of fundamentalism, yet I rarely see it addressed in these kinds of discussions.

    Of course, if you bring it up amongst believers, they immediately retreat into the “I’m not perfect, I’m just forgiven” mantra. Or they start beating themselves and other Christians up for not being “good witnesses.”

    I don’t know which is more maddening.

  • http://reasonvsapologetics.blogspot.com jim

    Karen:

    To my mind, the difference between having a ‘spiritually dead’ spirit, and one revitalized by the power of the Creator of existence, should be a HUGELY qualitative one. ESPECIALLY concerning moral actions, since that’s what all the fuss is about in the first place. Think about it: Here’s us poor ol’ sinners, led around by these shrunken up, anemic souls. Slaves to our lusts, our selfish aims, naturally rebellious against the Supreme authority figure. Then there are the ‘real’ Christians. Literally given a new kind of spirit, one conjoined with the very Spirit of God Himself. To continue with the ‘fruit’ of the spirit analogy, the difference between a Christian and a non-believer in the spheres of morality, wisdom and knowledge should be like the difference between a live apple tree, and a dead one.

    The reason the ‘I’m not perfect, just forgiven’ mantra had to be developed is because the mythos simply doesn’t line up with reality, and never did.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism Ebonmuse

    Adam is my representative? I didn’t vote for him. Is he up for reelection soon? Will I get a chance to try and get him out? Does the opposition party offer a platform that’s different from his in any significant ways? It just seems like if someone’s going to be making decisions that influence my eternal destiny, and others are going to claim that I have a representative, I should have, you know, actual representation.

    Maybe our slogan should be, “No damnation without representation.” ;)

  • paradoctor

    In a sense, atheism is the only entirely pious theology, for it gives God an airtight alibi; Not Present At The Scene Of Any Crime. Any other theology inevitably accuses God of guilt or complicity.

    (Note for instance that insurance companies call disasters Acts Of God. This neatly combines blasphemy with larceny.)

    Atheism is also the only entirely unified theology. There are infinitely many ways for there to be one god, but only one way for there to be none.

    Oh by the way, I prefer to call the human race “unrisen” rather than “fallen”. We’re still evolving; we haven’t yet reached our true potential; so in a sense the true human race does not yet exist. What _we_ are is the Missing Link, destined to become truly human, or die trying.

  • Maynard

    Maybe our slogan should be, “No damnation without representation.” ;)

    This is my new mantra! Winky emoticon aside, this sums it all up. This is the bus ad, billboard, public ad. Smaller print subtitle: “Didn’t have a say in ‘original sin’? You are not alone.”

    Ebon, you rock! (as always)

  • Maynard

    I call dibs on the T-shirt rights too!
    (Unless you print them first.)

  • gordon macintosh

    I feel that this concept of original sin is why most fundamentalist christians are so venomously against evolution. After all, if evolution is real then Adam and Eve was just a myth and there was no original sin. This means that Jeusus died on the cross for nothing and the whole basis of their religion falls apart.

  • Thumpalumpacus

    Yes, Adam, may I borrow that one? Brevity is indeed the soul of wit.

  • Leum

    I feel that this concept of original sin is why most fundamentalist christians are so venomously against evolution. After all, if evolution is real then Adam and Eve was just a myth and there was no original sin. This means that Jesus died on the cross for nothing and the whole basis of their religion falls apart.

    A number of them are quite open about it. The essentials of the belief that “if we cannot trust the Bible on the rising of the sun, how can we trust it on the rising of the Son?” live on, although not usually in anti-Copernicism.

  • http://www.thewarfareismental.info cl

    Ebonmuse,

    Here’s another example of what I mean when I say that you often overlook viable options, which unfortunately leads to a fair amount of false dichotomies in your arguments:

    The Bible tells us that God wants all people to be saved (2 Peter 3:9), and yet the unavoidable implication of the original sin doctrine is that this is a lie. If that was what God wanted, he could have made us so that our default state was good and we had to specifically choose evil, rather than creating people such that our default state was evil and we have to specifically choose good.

    First, what you claim God did not do is exactly what Genesis claims God did do: in the beginning, God made man and woman, and saw that they were good – so that part of your claim is always going to seem lackluster to anyone who knows the Bible. Second, nothing in the original sin doctrine is mutually exclusive with either 2 Peter 3:9, or the concept of free will. You asserted otherwise, but the support just isn’t there.

    ..[God] could have given us original virtue. He could have set up the world so that every generation was born anew into the Garden of Eden, unspoiled by their parents’ transgressions, and only those who specifically chose to eat from the forbidden tree would be cast out.

    One of my favorite things PhillyChief ever said was that “‘..why doesn’t God arguments’ are stupid.” To simply say that God could have done X or Y isn’t saying much at all.

    ..according to Christianity, this is not what God chose to do. Instead, he deliberately introduces a taint of sin into the entire human race, blames us for that flaw which he himself gave to us,

    Well, I can’t speak for Christianity, but according to the Bible, I believe that you’re wrong here. There is nothing in scripture to support the idea that God introduced sin into the human race. I anticipate somebody to quote Isaiah.

    Why is it that this taint of badness affects the entire human race?

    While I believe the answer certainly has spiritual considerations, I also believe genetics has something to do with it. It’s a reasonable argument that sin adversely effects the human apparatus; perhaps the original sin set something in motion (genetically). That would certainly be just the type of situation we would expect to taint “the entire human race,” a la Dave in Comment #20.

  • goyo

    cl:
    If indeed it is genetic, then could we look forward to a future removal of said gene by genetic manipulation?

  • http://prinzler@calpoly.edu Paul

    CL, can you explain why you think that your statement, “To simply say that God could have done X or Y isn’t saying much at all,” makes sense?

    Saying that God could have done X or Y is a casual, offhand way of saying “It makes no rational sense for God to do not-X.”

  • http://uncyclopedia.wikia.com/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    cl “It’s a reasonable argument that sin adversely effects the human apparatus; perhaps the original sin set something in motion (genetically).”
    And even if that were so (evidence, please), how would your genes effect the rest of the universe?

  • http://evilburnee.co.uk PaulJ

    Thumpalumpacus:

    There are many on the fence who lurk here, and I think it’s right to feed their brains.

    If there are fence-sitting lurkers here, then I would agree that rational dissection of irrational ideas could be useful. Do we know the views of people who read but don’t comment?

    Jennifer A. Burdoo:

    Discussion of something “for argument’s sake” may be done to poke holes in the argument. Atheists tend to believe that religion is a product of human minds. Critiquing religious claims made by humans, or decrying how religious humans screw up or do terrible things, is perfectly legitimate, and doesn’t require anyone to subscribe to the belief in question.

    I don’t think I was suggesting that non-belief should disqualify someone from critiquing a belief system. My concern is that by discussing the nitty-gritty of theological discourse we may be tacitly legitimising the fundamental premise. It may be a tedious precaution, but I’d like to see arguments prefaced with a disclaimer: “Let’s for the sake of argument assume that a god exists (even though we have yet to establish any truth for this assumption), what kind of deity is it?” – or something like that. Even with such a preface, in order to discuss religious claims we have to assume a great deal more than just the existence of a god. More likely we have to assume the existence of the specific God of the Christian Bible, when there’s nothing substantial to support that assumption either.

    It’s not my wish to stamp out discussions like these – I find them interesting, provocative and stimulating. I’d just like a clearer idea of the purpose behind them.

  • Ritchie

    cl

    First, what you claim God did not do is exactly what Genesis claims God did do: in the beginning, God made man and woman, and saw that they were good

    You’ve totally missed the point here. Adam and Eve may have been made innocent, but no other human being since then. Everyone else has been born into sin because hey have inherited the sin of Adam and Eve. What Ebon is saying is why can’t everyone be born with a blank slate? Why do we inherit Adam and Eve’s sin? It does no good to point out that Adam and Eve were born innocent if you and I are still born guilty.

    To simply say that God could have done X or Y isn’t saying much at all.

    ??? Why not, exactly? God, we are told, is all powerful. He could have done anything. So why can we not draw inferences on his character based on what he has done? Seems perfectly reasonable to me.

    There is nothing in scripture to support the idea that God introduced sin into the human race. I anticipate somebody to quote Isaiah.

    You think so? Who made the tree of knowledge of good and evil in the garden of Eden (knowing in advance that Adam and Eve would eat from it)? Who gave instructions to Adam and Eve not to eat the fruit despite that fact that they had no concept of good or evil and were therefore unable to make moral decisions on their own? Who created the serpent (or Satan, whichever you prefer), knowing in advance the role he would play in man’s downfall? Scripture says God, God, God. Whichever way you turn it, the entire episode in Eden is an almightly cock-up and it’s all God’s fault, frankly (despite the fact that we humans CARRY the blame for it…).

    While I believe the answer certainly has spiritual considerations, I also believe genetics has something to do with it. It’s a reasonable argument that sin adversely effects the human apparatus; perhaps the original sin set something in motion (genetically).

    You think sin gets passed on through your genes? Why? How could eating a piece of fruit affect Adam and Eve’s DNA? Do other sins affect our DNA too? When we arrest people, should we take a blood sample and examine that for traces of ‘guilt’ or ‘sin’ to determine whether they are guilty? Should criminals be denied the right to have children, since their children will be born more genetically ‘corrupted’ by sin than the children of parents who have commited no crime?

    Sounds like fluffy pseudoscientific babble to me…

  • Thumpalumpacus

    If there are fence-sitting lurkers here, then I would agree that rational dissection of irrational ideas could be useful. Do we know the views of people who read but don’t comment?

    There are many testimonials in many threads on this site to this point. You and I appear to have different definitions of “lurker”. I see a lurker as one who comments very rarely but reads often. You apparently see lurkers as those who read often but never post. If I am wrong in interpreting your view, please correct me. My original point stands, however: how do you expect to change the oil without getting your hands greasy? Insofsar as adding an unwieldy disclaimer to every argument about god, all I can say is: doesn’t the site name say it all?

  • http://avertyoureye.blogspot.com/ Teleprompter

    cl,

    First, what you claim God did not do is exactly what Genesis claims God did do: in the beginning, God made man and woman, and saw that they were good – so that part of your claim is always going to seem lackluster to anyone who knows the Bible. Second, nothing in the original sin doctrine is mutually exclusive with either 2 Peter 3:9, or the concept of free will. You asserted otherwise, but the support just isn’t there.

    If your god made man and woman, and saw that they were good, well and good. But if Adam and Eve did not know what good and evil meant, then why would it be a sin for them to disobey?

    Is it wrong for a toddler who has no knowledge of rules to disobey her parents? No, it’s only the natural order for a young mind to engage her world, occasionally making mistakes and learning what is “wrong” and what is “right”.

    Your god could’ve reproached Adam and Eve for doing wrong, and then explained to them why it was wrong, just as a human parent would do for their child. That is what a loving human parent would do. And if your god is all-loving, if your god is the very source of love, then why shouldn’t we expect your god to be more loving than a human parent? But no, your god is negligent and cruel and impatient: actually, your god is none of those things – your god, cl, is a myth, and it’s an insult to the idea of love itself to call such a thoughtless and vicious character as Yahweh “loving”.

    One of my favorite things PhillyChief ever said was that “‘..why doesn’t God arguments’ are stupid.” To simply say that God could have done X or Y isn’t saying much at all.

    What is PhillyChief, the Pope of Atheism? It’s an irrelevant argument from authority. To simply say that something is stupid because another prolific writer who happens to be an atheist said it isn’t saying much at all. Obviously, I disagree with PhillyChief, and I should add, sometimes it is stupid to argue “why doesn’t a god do something”, but that’s largely because many theists like to shift the goalposts so often.

    Well, I can’t speak for Christianity, but according to the Bible, I believe that you’re wrong here. There is nothing in scripture to support the idea that God introduced sin into the human race. I anticipate somebody to quote Isaiah.

    If your god had existed, she would’ve known that humans needed to learn what is right and wrong; she would’ve known that humans needed to be taught that it was wrong to disobey her authority. If your god did exist, there’s nothing which contradicts the idea that it was in fact the negligence of your god which introduced “sin” into the human race. But as I said earlier, your god is merely a mythical character, though the idea is still absurd.

  • goyo

    Great link Modus #36.
    “the world has changed…stinging plants, venomous animals, bacteria,… god is not responsible because we all sinned in Adam”.
    How did everything change? Was it natural evolution, or did god do it? God has to be the responsible one.

  • Karen

    Jim:
    To my mind, the difference between having a ‘spiritually dead’ spirit, and one revitalized by the power of the Creator of existence, should be a HUGELY qualitative one. ESPECIALLY concerning moral actions, since that’s what all the fuss is about in the first place. Think about it: Here’s us poor ol’ sinners, led around by these shrunken up, anemic souls. Slaves to our lusts, our selfish aims, naturally rebellious against the Supreme authority figure. Then there are the ‘real’ Christians. Literally given a new kind of spirit, one conjoined with the very Spirit of God Himself. To continue with the ‘fruit’ of the spirit analogy, the difference between a Christian and a non-believer in the spheres of morality, wisdom and knowledge should be like the difference between a live apple tree, and a dead one.

    You’re exactly right. Honestly, however, when I was getting out of religion I would have been thrilled even to see a small – but statistically significant – difference for the better on ethics and morals. There simply isn’t one.

    Indeed, I know fantastic, self-sacrificing Christians, Muslims and non-theists alike. I also know selfish, scheming, morally reprehensible people of all faiths and no faith. Most people fall somewhere in the middle; there’s no evidence to show that “spirit-filled” Christians rank any higher on the scale, despite their supposed supernatural advantage.

    The reason the ‘I’m not perfect, just forgiven’ mantra had to be developed is because the mythos simply doesn’t line up with reality, and never did.

    What’s amazing is that Christians will constantly cite verses that specifically predict their own behavior to be far different than reality (“you shall know them by their love”? – not a description of the religious right that many would recognize) and yet they don’t acknowledge the discrepancy. Or how pathetic is it to paper it over with silly slogans.

  • Karen

    PaulJ:
    If there are fence-sitting lurkers here, then I would agree that rational dissection of irrational ideas could be useful. Do we know the views of people who read but don’t comment?

    I can’t speak for fence-sitters here, but I’ll tell you that when I was in the throes of deconversion I spent a lot of time reading discussions like this (though not specifically at this site).

    Every deconvert I know says the same thing: The rational deconstruction of long-held and never-questioned religious beliefs has a HUGE impact on the confused mind.

    When you’ve constantly been exposed to strong proselytizing and never seen it challenged, it is quite a shock. First you’re amazed to see beliefs you thought were unassailable even being discussed skeptically. What’s more incredible is to follow the discussion and see those beliefs quite obviously losing out to rational argument.

    So, yes, I think it is helpful to have these discussions. What non-religious people regard as purely “irrational ideas” are not that at all to religious people who may be questioning and looking for better answers.

  • Eric

    The doctrine of sin and redemprion is nonsense. Suppose we have wronged god by disobeying him; And also suppose that we are in any way obligated to obey god: How can the actions of someone else atone for the actions of the offending party?

    I am a retail manager. Friday night my two closers showed up 20 min before clockout time and started gossiping while I finished the deposit and sales reports. They assured me the store was properly front-faced. LIAR! There are always more sections that can be brought into better order. One of them was complaining that her hours had been cut. This was after I told her two months ago that if she were to make the best effort possible on closing shifts and take a leadership and training role with new employees, she’d get four shifts a week. That didn’t happen.

    Would this employee be redeemed if another did her work for her? NO! She messed up. She needs to fix it. But she didn’t. But she didn’t. EPN backed by video and audio. Other managers prompted to issue EPN’s as ofen as possible until she can be fired. Her gossipy frend is on the block too.

    We have a knew policy of never hiring anyone 18-35 who loves with their parents. We want people who gotta pay the rent.

  • http://www.thewarfareismental.info cl

    Sorry to get back so late, and for the wall of text. Ebon perceives me as a threat and moderates me, so I have no choice but to respond in an untimely manner, and to everybody at once.

    Goyo,

    If indeed it is genetic, then could we look forward to a future removal of said gene by genetic manipulation?

    Certainly. If indeed God is going to repopulate a new human race onto a new planet at some point – if indeed there are going to be what Paul alluded to as “glorified bodies” – then this sort of manipulation is something we might reasonably expect. Although, I think there’s much more to it than just genetics; I think the underlying spirit or waveform patterns that I believe inform genetics are where the actual changes would take place. In a scenario like that, the genetics would self-correct because they’d simply be responding to information.

    Paul,

    Saying that God could have done X or Y is a casual, offhand way of saying “It makes no rational sense for God to do not-X.”

    Correct, and isn’t saying, “It makes no rational sense for God to do [~X]” a casual, offhand way of phrasing an argument from personal incredulity?

    Modusoperandi,

    And even if that were so (evidence, please), how would your genes effect the rest of the universe?

    Umm, patience, please? ;) Really though, we’re not even at that stage of the discussion yet. I commented here to note that Ebon leans on a false dichotomy to support his conclusion. As far as your actual question, it’s kind of all bundled up in a big mess of little assumptions: I’ve not said our “[fallen] genes effect the rest of the universe” – I’ve said it make sense that a “genetic downgrade” of sorts accompanied the fall of man. Something like that fits well with the idea of original sin and gives the odd notion that it affected all of humanity a real-world, empirical framework – yet here we are being told that 2 Peter 3:9 “must be a lie” just because Ebonmuse can’t get his head around any other explanations besides the two or three he criticized.

    Ritchie,

    What Ebon is saying is why can’t everyone be born with a blank slate?

    Thanks, but I really did understand that. You just didn’t like what I posited. “fluffy pseudoscientific babble,” you called it – as opposed to a cogent rebuttal.

    Who made the tree of knowledge of good and evil in the garden of Eden (knowing in advance that Adam and Eve would eat from it)? Who gave instructions to Adam and Eve not to eat the fruit despite that fact that they had no concept of good or evil and were therefore unable to make moral decisions on their own? Who created the serpent (or Satan, whichever you prefer), knowing in advance the role he would play in man’s downfall? Scripture says God, God, God. Whichever way you turn it, the entire episode in Eden is an almightly cock-up and it’s all God’s fault, frankly (despite the fact that we humans CARRY the blame for it…).

    Wow. Those are strong opinions, but not ones I share. If you really want me to answer those heavily-loaded questions, ask them anywhere on my blog. Those three questions would keep us here three weeks and spin this whole thing off the rails. My short answer is that giving someone fire doesn’t entail burning them.

    When we arrest people, should we take a blood sample and examine that for traces of ‘guilt’ or ‘sin’ to determine whether they are guilty?

    Come on, now it feels like you’re just trying to clown me, and if that’s the case, I’m sure we all have better things to do with our time.

    Teleprompter,

    First off, God is not mine, so no need to use that phrase.

    Is it wrong for a toddler who has no knowledge of rules to disobey her parents?

    With the Euthyphro entanglement cast temporarily aside – no – but let’s actually think here: were Adam and Eve toddlers who couldn’t understand clear commands?

    What is PhillyChief, the Pope of Atheism? It’s an irrelevant argument from authority.

    An argument from authority occurs when one asserts a claim is true because it comes from an authoritative source. I’ve not claimed Philly’s position is true due to any real or imagined authority on his behalf; I said I like what PhillyChief says in this regard, which is of course very different than what you apparently heard. About the matter itself – you say you disagree with Philly – that’s fine. As for me, I’m not persuaded by arguments from personal incredulity.

    ..your god is negligent and cruel and impatient: actually, your god is none of those things – your god, cl, is a myth, and it’s an insult to the idea of love itself to call such a thoughtless and vicious character as Yahweh “loving”.

    Well, then I guess you’ve got it all figured out and you won’t be needing to ask me any more questions. Should that change, hit me back when you’ve got something besides opinionated vitriol and apples-and-oranges arguments. It’s a nice day today.

  • http://avertyoureye.blogspot.com/ Teleprompter

    Well, then I guess you’ve got it all figured out and you won’t be needing to ask me any more questions. Should that change, hit me back when you’ve got something besides opinionated vitriol and apples-and-oranges arguments. It’s a nice day today.

    So you refuse to respond to my arguments directly? Could you demonstrate how any of my arguments are “apples and oranges”? I give sufficient examples of every “vitriolic” rhetorical charge I make, and you give no support to your statements, and then accuse me of having it all figured out. Thanks cl, thanks for that validation.

    Sometimes, it takes an extra rhetorical effort to grab someone’s attention. Now that I have your attention, perhaps we can have a productive discussion here. Tell me in detail your objections to my arguments, and I will try to defend them. Or, you can give me your arguments, and I will respond to you. I also will not be offended if you do not want to carry this further. But I am trying to be forward with you, and I would appreciate it if you’d extend the same courtesy.

    With the Euthyphro entanglement cast temporarily aside – no – but let’s actually think here: were Adam and Eve toddlers who couldn’t understand clear commands?

    Yes! According to your Biblical beliefs, they were beings which had no knowledge of good or evil. If “sin” (as you understand it) is evil, and they had no knowledge of evil, then how could they sin?

    It’s not a question of whether they were able to understand clear commands – it’s a question of whether they would have been to able to “sin” at all. It’s a question of whether “sin” is even a coherent standard when it applies to those who have no knowledge, because “sin” is about intent, is it not? And how can one have intent without knowledge?

    I have given you a clear argument here. What is your response? Will you have one? Or will you just accuse me of some baseless charge again with no supporting examples or evidence? I believe that you can respond honestly, but I don’t know if you will.

    Also, I apologize for misinterpreting your statements with regards to PhillyChief. If you were merely agreeing with his statement, and not leveraging it as an argument from authority, as you acknowledge, I am mistaken.

    Lastly, if you have a certain god belief, then the god that you believe in is your god, so while you may object to that particular phrase, I believe that it is accurate.

  • http://uncyclopedia.wikia.com/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    cl “As far as your actual question, it’s kind of all bundled up in a big mess of little assumptions:”
    That everything was one way for a little while, then it suddenly changed (The Fall), and even with that change the entire timeline appears as thought the change never happened (at least to “godless” science)?

    “I’ve not said our ‘[fallen] genes effect the rest of the universe’”
    You don’t. Bible does. As whacky as the YEC position is, a straight reading of Genesis (and later passages like Rom8:22) backs that up. Non-YEC apologetics strives to make the text say what it’s not saying.

    “Something like that fits well with the idea of original sin and gives the odd notion that it affected all of humanity a real-world, empirical framework.”
    Except that the evidence doesn’t back that up. From what we know about genetics, the “before” and “after” are the same.

  • http://uncyclopedia.wikia.com/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    *Grumble*
    Forget I said that. Rereading that, I doubt I’m arguing in good faith. I’m stepping back.

  • Ritchie

    cl -

    Thanks, but I really did understand that. You just didn’t like what I posited. “fluffy pseudoscientific babble,” you called it – as opposed to a cogent rebuttal.

    Whilst I did use that phrase, I notice you ignored my point. You said that you believed genetics had something to do with sin being passed down through generatrions. Why do you think that? What has led you to suspect that sins get passed down through the generations along with genes? It’s not as thopugh any record of our sins appeares anywhere in our genetic make-up…

    Come on, now it feels like you’re just trying to clown me, and if that’s the case, I’m sure we all have better things to do with our time.

    Again, you are simply avoiding my point. Obviously we wouldn’t analyse the blood samples of arrested people for traces of guilt. Why? Because ‘guilt’ does not show up in our DNA. This is the point I was making, the point which seems to me to undermine yours, and which you were not addressing.

    Wow. Those are strong opinions, but not ones I share. If you really want me to answer those heavily-loaded questions, ask them anywhere on my blog.

    Very well, I shall. Though I don’t hold out much hope that I will recieve an answer that is any more satisfactory than ones you could simply post here.

  • http://evilburnee.co.uk PaulJ

    Karen:

    I can’t speak for fence-sitters here, but I’ll tell you that when I was in the throes of deconversion I spent a lot of time reading discussions like this (though not specifically at this site).

    Perhaps I had not appreciated the number of teetering agnostics that pay attention to comments such as these, possibly because when my own atheism emerged (in my teens) it was the result of my own questioning of what I was being asked to believe rather than hearing others questioning the tenets of faith.

    I consider public debate between theists and non-theists to be useful because it lets others hear arguments on both sides, even if there is little chance of the main protagonists being swayed. So it seems I may have underestimated the degree to which comment threads like this are “public”, and I therefore take your (implied) point about the airing of arguments here being for the benefit of those on the fence.

  • http://www.thewarfareismental.info cl

    Ritchie,

    As promised, I’ve delivered.

    Though I don’t hold out much hope that I will recieve an answer that is any more satisfactory than ones you could simply post here.

    That’s too bad. I hope your low expectations of me don’t interfere with a clear resolution of the discussion. I’ve already explained why I prefer not to carry in-depth conversations here; because Ebonmuse curtails dissenting opinions from those he dislikes. At my blog, we could easily have an exchange of 7-10 rounds in a single day; such would take a week or two here.

    Teleprompter,

    So you refuse to respond to my arguments directly? Could you demonstrate how any of my arguments are “apples and oranges”? I give sufficient examples of every “vitriolic” rhetorical charge I make, and you give no support to your statements, and then accuse me of having it all figured out. Thanks cl, thanks for that validation.

    The reason I remarked that you apparently have it all figured out was because you said stuff like, “your god is merely a mythical character,” and that is clearly the type of remark that somebody whose mind is made up would make. Further, I responded to your argument directly; I asked you a question (were Adam and Eve toddlers who couldn’t understand clear commands?), which you answered, “Yes! According to your Biblical beliefs, they were beings which had no knowledge of good or evil.” You conflate “toddlers who couldn’t understand clear commands” with “beings which had no knowledge of good or evil.” Hence, apples and oranges.

    Tell me in detail your objections to my arguments, and I will try to defend them. Or, you can give me your arguments, and I will respond to you.

    Well, I already did, but I’ve elaborated on them quite a bit here, and you’re more than welcomed to stop by.

    ..will you just accuse me of some baseless charge again with no supporting examples or evidence?

    None of my initial charges were baseless.

    Also, I apologize for misinterpreting your statements with regards to PhillyChief. If you were merely agreeing with his statement, and not leveraging it as an argument from authority, as you acknowledge, I am mistaken.

    Noted, and appreciated. You know where to find me.

  • other scott

    “The reason I remarked that you apparently have it all figured out was because you said stuff like, “your god is merely a mythical character,” and that is clearly the type of remark that somebody whose mind is made up would make. Further, I responded to your argument directly; I asked you a question (were Adam and Eve toddlers who couldn’t understand clear commands?), which you answered, “Yes! According to your Biblical beliefs, they were beings which had no knowledge of good or evil.” You conflate “toddlers who couldn’t understand clear commands” with “beings which had no knowledge of good or evil.” Hence, apples and oranges.”

    If they didn’t understand good and evil, right and wrong, etc, why would they understand that disobeying an order is wrong and that following an order is right? Toddlers don’t understand when you tell them not to touch something or hot or not to play in the mud or a million other things. A comparison of Adam and Eve with toddlers is not comparing apples to oranges in the slightest. It is comparing two innocent naive creatures who are unable to understand right and wrong. You wouldn’t get angry at an innocent 3 year old who didn’t obey your commands, why get angry at somebody who has the same level of innocence as a toddler and doesn’t obey your command?

  • http://she-who-chatters.blogspot.com/ D

    Yahzi (#23): “…there’s no logical reason it can’t be both.”

    Behold the inclusive “or.”

    @ Ebonmuse: “No damnation without representation!” I love it! I want to see that on a billboard or something, this needs to be shared with the public.

    @ cl, et al: This is getting way too complex. I can pare down the issue to a measly six words: “God did it; therefore God’s responsible.” QED.

    This works for very, very simple reasons, too. You see, there is a chain of causality which links causes to effects, and each link in the chain bears its share of causal responsibility for whatever comes after it. Similarly, there is a chain of moral responsibility, and while some moral chains may not exactly follow particular causal chains, every moral chain must, must, must follow at least one causal chain. Moral chains are simply special cases of causal chains; one cannot be blameworthy for that which one did nothing to cause. If you disagree with this, you have quite simply quit the game of rationality.

    Your religion maintains that God is causally antecedent to every other bit of reality. Therefore God must perforce bear ultimate moral responsibility for everything that happens, since all causal chains end up at him. If God (i.e. “an intelligent agent causally responsible for the Universe as we know it”) exists, then God is morally responsible for his creation – all of it. Evil happens, God’s responsible, The End. It really is that simple.

    For bonus points, please explain how door-to-door infanticide a la the tenth plague does not make God an irredeemable monster. I’m looking for a rational account of how you can start with “I am good,” never compromise that principle, and arrive at, “Murdering babies is the next logical step in accomplishing my goals.” The most instructive setting for this would be the Exodus story, of course, but I leave the matter of setting up to your choice – just please keep in mind that God also has the power to perform miracles, up to and including controlling people’s minds directly, as God clearly and repeatedly did to the Pharaoh. Mysterious ways are not allowed: either you demonstrate that infanticide is a good thing to do when other options are eminently available, or you quit morality, or you quit rationality, or you quit calling God good.

    Ebon might not perceive you to be a threat; he may just be offended by your cavalier disregard of the heinous, heinous bullshit your sick and twisted deity has been credited with, and the cultural attitudes that label this deranged behavior as “good.” For my part, I would never moderate a commentator; you see, that would require restraint, and I much prefer reckless abandon and harsh invective like this.

  • http://she-who-chatters.blogspot.com/ D

    I made an MS Paint ad for the “No Damnation Without Representation” campaign. I’ve made hand-painted t-shirts in the past, but that really only covers me. Anyone else wanna take this and run with it? I, for one, think this needs to go way too far before it will be even close to far enough. But I dunno, maybe that’s just me.