Original Sin: The Biggest Lie

Original sin. The fall of man into his sinful nature. The depravity of our human flesh brought to reality through this one act. The betrayal of the God that gave us everything and gave only one command: but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” – Genesis 2:17

Anyone raised in church or that has gone to church is sure to know this story. It’s the biggest hinge that all of Christianity hangs upon. It’s the reason Jesus had to come and save us. Save us from the hell he’ll throw us in if we don’t love and accept him.

To effectively relay my point I feel that there needs to be some back tracking done or some ground work laid. If you’re the type of believer that believes in the account of creation as a literal retelling of the creation of the universe then I don’t feel anything I’m going to say will apply to you.

If you feel the earth is really 6,000 to 12,000 years old then you’ve effectively showcased your purposeful ignorance to science. You’ve shown that the assertions of an ancient and contradictory text are more meaningful than everything we’ve come to learn about the earth through study and observation.

Whenever someone tells me that I can’t prove that the universe wasn’t created in 6 literal days I simply point them to the fact that, in their bible, the sun wasn’t created until the 4th day. Since we count days as rotations of the earth, which orbits around the sun, there’s no way a literal 6 day count could have transpired.

Also, it seems people are ignorant of the fact that Genesis actually has 2 different timelines on creation:

Humans were created after the other animals: God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. 26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” – Genesis 1:25-26

Humans were created before the other animals: 18 The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” 19 Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. – Genesis 2:18-19

Adam and Eve were created simultaneously: 27 So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. – Genesis 1:27

Adam was created first, then animals and then Eve from Adam’s rib: 20 So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals. But for Adam no suitable helper was found. 21 So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. 22 Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. – Genesis 2:20-22

So, if you want to take the creation story as literal feel free to, but know that you have conflicting information as well as no way to count the first few days as literal. To a reasonable person this information, coupled with all we know about the earth taught to us through science, it pretty much is the Mozambique Drill to a literal interpretation of Genesis.

What’s that leave us with if the creation story is not literal? It leaves us where most believers seems to fall. A poetic retelling of what actually happened.

At first glance this seems to do away with many of the problems I stated above. It doesn’t matter that the creation account is scrambled because it’s not literal. It doesn’t matter that the sun wasn’t created until the 4th day because He’s God and He can do those things. It’s just a poetic way to explain the origins of the universe.

If evolution is true, which it is, it creates a massive problem for the creation story, literal or poetic. Even theistic evolution is an insurmountable problem.

What you’ve effectively taken out the equation with a poetic retelling of creation or naturalistic and theistic evolution is original sin.

Please let that sink in. If the creation story is a poetic retelling it means that those events didn’t literally take place. There is no literal Adam and Eve or serpent to deceive them. There is no garden and there is no tree.

Naturalistic and theistic evolution also means that there were no homosapiens around to get themselves into such a quandary. So again, no Adam, Eve, serpent, garden or tree.

So now the big issue. Please try to realize how large of a problem this is and what it implicates. If we’ve concluded that the above statements eliminate the possibility of Adam and Eve and that the whole story is basically not trustworthy and doesn’t warrant serious consideration to be literal, then original sin, Adam and Eve betraying God and bringing about our sinful natures from which we’d need Jesus to be saved, is a sham. It’s a lie. A lie to sell you a cure to a disease you don’t have.

The entire purpose of Jesus coming to earth and being crucified was quite literally for something that never happened. He saved us from something that we can deduce didn’t happen.

The real kicker is that Jesus also seemed to have taught that Adam and Eve were literal people:

6 “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’ – Mark 10:6

4 “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ – Matthew 19:4

And here, here’s the spot where I actually feel a bit bad because it’s all salt on an open wound at this point, but Jesus is shown to be a descendant of Adam in Luke 3:38 – “the son of Enosh, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.”

So where does this leave a reasonable believer? Someone that tries to make faith and science work together. Or get logic and emotion or feelings to play together nicely. Sadly, I feel that this is a topic that is irreconcilable. There’s jumps in thinking that can’t be made. You can have all the faith in the world, but you can’t be saved by something (Jesus) from something that didn’t happen (original sin).

Jesus, if he existed, was no doubt a very forward thinking guy, but he was no messiah. He was just another guy that made extraordinary claims about being the Son of God. Our insane asylums and prisons are full of these people and we don’t take a one of them seriously.

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14 thoughts on “Original Sin: The Biggest Lie

  1. “It’s a lie. A lie to sell you a cure to a disease you don’t have.”

    “You can have all the faith in the world, but you can’t be saved by something (Jesus) from something that didn’t happen (original sin).”

    Diagnosis spot on. Its funny, but Genesis really does present believers with irreducible complexity… just not the kind they are usually thinking about. 🙂

  2. We are not perfect, but that does not mean we are diseased. I may be clumsy at times, but that does not mean that I have cancer. And as you say, people are being sold a cure, but they are being sold a disease first.

    I do hope people can escape such thinking. As I said in my Epilogue: Life is beautiful, and whole, even if fleeting.

  3. This was the eventual death blow to my belief. When I accepted evolution that was the end of original sin. Without original sin what need was there of a Savior. Save me from what?

    I can’t wrap my head around liberal/progressive Christianity that throws that out the window, yet insists that faith is still important.

  4. As any thinking person who has spent any time studying the history of the Bible knows, and as I point out ad nauseum on my own website, the Torah, the first five books of the Bible (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy) were not written by Moses, c1250 BCE, but rather by four separate groups of Hebrew priests. A group that has come to be known as the Yahwist (J) Source, writing c950 BCE, in the Southern kingdom of Judea, at Jerusalem, shortly after the Hebrews developed a written language, the Elohist (E) Source, writing in Schechem, in the Northern Kingdom of Israel, in 850 BCE, the Deuteronomist (D) Source, written in the seventh century BCE, during the reign of Josiah, and the Priestly (P) Source, a group of Levite priests, writing in captivity in Babylon.

    The Priestly (P) Source believed that the reason Israel fell to so many foreign invaders had to do with what they conceived as the straying of the Jews from the mandates of their god (rather than their stubborn refusal to pay tribute to those conquering forces). They view Gen 2 and 3, for example, as too anthropomorphic. The god of Gen 2 and 3 actually popped down to earth for walks “in the cool of the day,” when – what with there being a shortage of air conditioning repairmen in heaven, due to their innate tendency to pad their bills – there was no one to fix the heavenly AC system when it went on the fritz, and all of that heat from Hell kept wafting up. He actually made clothes for Adam and Eve, personally stitched on his Celestial Singer, and in 3, just happened to be passing by shortly after Cain laid out Able. So the P Source decided to go all Orwellian on that which had been so far written, the works of the J and E sources, which were combined by a Redactor around 750 BCE, into JE. The P Source tossed out some parts they didn’t like, and totally rewrote others, case in point, the Creation story, but the Master Redactor, who, in c400 BCE, as skillfully as was humanly possible, wove all three, the J, E and P Source works into a single patchwork quilt. However, to cover his behind, for fear of what he perceived as Big Guy, he included both versions – Gen 1, written by the Priestly Source, and Gen 2 and 3, by the Yahwist Source.

    I’ve also pointed out the 4th Day sun creation contradiction of the word, “Day“.

  5. Hmm … interesting post. You won’t agree with my perspective, but here it is anyway. 🙂

    I don’t think that Adam and Eve as mythological characters necessarily undermines the idea of original sin. If we take myths in the literary sense, as stories created to express truths that are other inexpressible, there’s no need to disregard the message just because the format isn’t strictly historical. Maybe the story of the “fall” is an over-dramatization of something that really happened, a symbolic retelling of a something someone experienced, or a fictionalized legend told by a group of people who had observed human nature. These are plausible explanations to me and none of them make the story any less “true” in the deepest sense.

    For example, I don’t believe that George Washington confessed to his dad about chopping down an actual cherry tree. But that’s not the point of the story. The point is that George Washington was an honest kid. I can buy that. I don’t believe that there was really a person named Robin Hood who robbed from the rich and gave to the poor, but the story of Robin Hood isn’t about the historical accuracy of the lead character. It’s one of the origin story of England’s national identity and the necessity of noblesse oblige. It vividly reflects the historical truth that there was rampant class inequality during the middle ages and a push to redistribute wealth.

    That’s why it doesn’t trouble me to think of Jesus’ genealogy as mythologized. Even if Adam never existed, it would make sense for the gospel writers to reference him as a way of emphasizing Jesus’ significance and his place in the story of Judaism. If I had been an American patriot during the 1700’s, someone might have called me a “Daughter of the Revolution.” You wouldn’t have argued that revolutions can’t have daughters. 🙂 You would have understood that they were placing me in context, associating me with something bigger than my birth parents.

    I don’t think it has to be either truth or falsehood. I think there’s plenty of space in between. But then, take my perspective for what it’s worth – the ramblings of a literature major. 🙂

    • “I don’t believe that George Washington confessed to his dad about chopping down an actual cherry tree. But that’s not the point of the story. The point is that George Washington was an honest kid.

      Interesting you should mention that – one would think it to be a story intended to promote honesty, but what is the value of such a story, if the story itself is a lie?

      One thing I recall vividly from my text book in second grade, was the story of how the Father of America, George Washington, when just a child himself, received a new hatchet for his birthday. Anxious to try it out, little George surveyed the rows of blossoming cherry trees lining his father’s long, winding driveway. Choosing one of these, he commenced to break up the set by using his hatchet and chopping it down. Obviously his father noticed its absence on the buggyride up the driveway to the house, after a long day at the office, located his young son, and asked him about it.

      I think even those readers who may not be native to America are familiar with little George’s famous reply, “Father, I cannot tell a lie – I did it with my little hatchet.”

      As a reward for his honesty, little George’s father, George Herbert Walker Washington, declined to punish little George W for his behavior, thus freeing little George from the belief that actions require a willingness to accept responsibility for those actions, so that should he decide to invade a country for its oil, once he’d become president, he would feel no compunction about inventing weapons of mass destruction as an excuse. But I digress —

      Once upon a time in America, in 1800, there was a “gentleman,” and I use the term ever so loosely, named Weems. Reverend Mason Locke Weems, it seems, was not only a pastor but also, each in its turn, a sailor, a medical student, an accomplished player of the fiddle, author, and a traveling book salesman. During his pastoring days, which occurred sporadically whenever his book sales were down, he found himself teaching a Sunday School class in addition to his regular duties, predicting hellfire and damnation. He wanted his wide-eyed young class to learn the evil of telling lies, so he concocted the story of young Washington as a shining example of the reward for always being truthful. He taught his lesson of truthfulness by fabricating a lie and passing it on to innocent little minds as the truth, a lie so convincing, that generations later, that lie could still be found in reputable text books designed to educate other little children.

      Later, he wrote a book about the life of Washington, likely just as authentic as his Sunday School story, but because, in the early 1800’s, the public was hungry to learn about the father of their country (combined with the fact that there was little else but the Bible to take to the outhouse for reading material) that, authentic or not, it sold well. The story has since been deleted from all official public school books, but for many years, it was what all young children were taught.

    • Aesop wrote a book of fables, Malinda – as a literature major, you’re likely familiar with them. They are filled with morals, and principles by which to live, but at no point in time, did he ever try to pass them off as true, nor that a watchful god would punish those who failed to live up to them.

      I have no problem with teaching morals or mores through stories – the very first theater was in the form of “morality plays,” produced by the Church, and from this humble springboard, all of our TV and movie industry today, sprang. And if you’ll notice, even they have morals – the bad guys never win, right always wins out. But they don’t purport to be the truth, and that’s where my issue lies.

  6. The folks at the 1st Council of Nicaea really blundered terribly by being either too lazy, or perhaps just not creative enough to write a new creation myth. Hooking their wagon to the Pentateuch was a hilarious error.

  7. In Pygmy Kitabu, Belgian anthropologist Dr. Jean-Pierre Hallet relates numerous detailed legends of the Pygmy people of the Ituri Forest in the Congo, including their origin and savior myths. Hallet, who spent some 30 years living off and on with the Pygmies, including one 18-month stint completely immersed with the Efé people, relies not only on his own copious firsthand experiences but also the works of other scientists, such as the Jesuit missionary and anthropologist Dr. Paul Schebesta, who likewise lived among and visited the Ituri Forest people for many years from the 1920s to through the 1950s. As have been others who studied the Pygmies, both scientists were stunned to discover what appeared to be the origins of much biblical and other religious traditions, and both were quite certain that these isolated people were completely uninfluenced by any outside agencies, including Christian missionaries.

    Remarkably, the Pygmy origin story largely revolves around a monotheistic God the Father who resides in heaven, as was related to Hallet by Efé elders of the Erengeti region:

    One fine day in heaven, God told his chief helper to make the first man. The angel of the moon descended. He modeled the first man from earth, wrapped a skin around the earth, poured blood into the skin, and punched holes for the nostrils, eyes, ears and mouth. He made another hole in the first man’s bottom, and put all the organs in his insides. Then he breathed his own vital force into the little earthen statue. He entered into the body. It moved… It sat up… It stood up… It walked. It was Efé, the first man and father of all who came after.

    God said to Efé, “Beget children to people my forest. I shall give them everything they need to be happy. They will never have to work. They will be lords of the earth. They will live forever. There is only one thing I forbid them. Now–listen well–give my words to your children, and tell them to transmit this commandment to every generation. The tahu tree is absolutely forbidden to man. You must never, for any reason, violate this law.”
    Efé obeyed these instructions. He, and his children, never went near the tree. Many years passed. Then God called to Efé, “Come up to heaven. I need your help!” So Efé went up to the sky. After he left, the ancestors lived in accordance with his laws and teachings for a long, long time. Then, one terrible day, a pregnant woman said to her husband, “Darling, I want to eat the fruit of the tahu tree.” He said, “You know that is wrong.” She said, “Why?” He said, “It is against the law.” She said, “That is a silly old law. Which do you care about more–me, or some silly old law?”

    They argued and argued. Finally, he gave in. His heart pounded with fear as he sneaked into the deep, deep forest. Closer and closer he came. There it was–the forbidden tree of God. The sinner picked a tahu fruit. He peeled the tahu fruit. He hid the peel under a pile of leaves. Then he returned to camp and gave the fruit to his wife. She tasted it. She urged her husband to taste it. He did. All of the other Pygmies had a bit. Everyone ate the forbidden fruit, and everyone thought that God would never find out.

    Meanwhile, the angel of the moon watched from on high. He rushed a message to his master: “The people have eaten the fruit of the tahu tree!” God was infuriated. “You have disobeyed my orders,” he said to the ancestors. “For this you will die!” (Hallet, 144-5)

  8. I really appreciate this post, Nate. Thanks.

    One of the biggest reasons I couldn’t accept theistic evolution, is the fact that I’d then have accept that god turned a blind eye to the violence and harshness of evolving life for millions of years before he decided to send a savior only 2,000 years ago. I think of Christopher Hitchens and his eloquence on this topic.

    But, as you say, there’s no disease and no need for a savior.

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