Original sin

Christian belief in the state of sin in which humanity has existed since the fall of man

Original sin is, according to Christian tradition, the general condition of sinfulness into which human beings are born.

Michelangelo's painting of the sin of Adam and Eve from the Sistine Chapel ceiling
A person of an honourable mind,
Religiously devout, faithful and kind,
Is doom'd to pay the lamentable score
Of guilt accumulated long before.
~ Theognis of Megara


  • It is a question here not of ethical guilt (how could the child acquire it?) but rather of the natural kind, which befalls human beings not by decision and action but by negligence and celebration. When they turn their attention away from the human and succumb to the power of nature, then natural life, which in man preserves its innocence only so long as natural life binds itself to something higher, drags the human down. With the disappearance of supernatural life in man, his natural life turns into guilt, even without his committing an act contrary to ethics.
  • Evil does not approach us as pride any more, but on the contrary as slumber, lassitude, concealment of the "I." … It may make us so quickly contented, that any definitive fire will die down. The venomous, breathtaking frigid mist seems able … to harden hearts and fill them with envy, obduracy and resentment, with bloody scorn for the divine image and light, with all the causes of the only true original sin, which is not wanting to be like God.
    • Ernst Bloch, Man on His Own (1959), B. Ashton, trans. (1970), p. 62.
  • We take nothing from the womb but pure filth [meras sordes]. The seething spring of sin is so deep and abundant that vices are always bubbling up form it to bespatter and stain what is otherwise pure.... We should remember that we are not guilty of one offense only but are buried in innumerable impurities.... all human works, if judged according to their own worth, are nothing but filth and defilement.... they are always spattered and befouled with many stains.... it is certain that there is no one who is not covered with infinite filth.
  • In scriptures of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the following explanation is given to Enoch by God:
    "And our father Adam spake unto the Lord, and said: Why is it that men must repent and be baptized in water? And the Lord said unto Adam: Behold I have forgiven thee thy transgression in the Garden of Eden.
    Hence came the saying abroad among the people, that the Son of God hath atoned for original guilt, wherein the sins of the parents cannot be answered upon the heads of the children, for they are whole from the foundation of the world."
    • Enoch, a fourth great-grandson of Adam, in "Selections from the Book of Moses", Moses 6:53-54 in "The Pearl of Great Price", pp. 18-19, (c) The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
  • Aquinas and Augustus of Hippo, both proposed this extraordinary idea that babies who were unbaptised would not know heaven. They also proposed the idea of purgatory which doesn’t exist in The Bible. There’s absolutely no evidence for it. However, what an extraordinary brilliant coup to imagine such a thing as purgatory. That a soul needs to be prayed for, in order to go to heaven. In order to turn left when he enters the aeroplane of heaven and get a first class seat. That, he needs to be prayed for. And many hundreds, indeed over a thousand years, you’ll be amazed what generous terms those prayers came at. Sometimes as little as two thirds of a year’s salary. Could ensure that a dead loved one would go to heaven. And money could ensure that your baby. Your dead child, your dead uncle, your dead mother, could go to heaven. And if you were rich enough, you could have a charm tree built and monks would permanently sing prayers so that that existence in heaven for the child would go up and up and up until they were at the table of the Lord themselves.
  • Only Hope was left within her unbreakable house, she remained under the lip of the jar, and did not fly away. Before [she could], Pandora replaced the lid of the jar. This was the will of aegis-bearing Zeus the Cloudgatherer.
  • [M]an cannot be wicked without being evil, nor evil without being degraded, nor degraded without being punished, nor punished without being guilty. In short … there is nothing so intrinsically plausible as the theory of original sin.
  • Has any one ever clearly understood the celebrated story at the beginning of the Bible - of God's mortal terror of science? . . . No one, in fact, has understood it. This priest-book par excellence opens, as is fitting, with the great inner difficulty of the priest: he faces only one great danger; ergo, "God" faces only one great danger. The old God, wholly "spirit," wholly the high-priest, wholly perfect, is promenading his garden: he is bored and trying to kill time. Against boredom even gods struggle in vain. What does he do? He creates man - man is entertaining. . . But then he notices that man is also bored. God's pity for the only form of distress that invades all paradises knows no bounds: so he forthwith creates other animals. God's first mistake: to man these other animals were not entertaining - he sought dominion over them; he did not want to be an "animal" himself. So God created woman. In the act he brought boredom to an end - and also many other things! Woman was the second mistake of God. "Woman, at bottom, is a serpent, Heva" - every priest knows that; "from woman comes every evil in the world" - every priest knows that, too. Ergo, she is also to blame for science. . . It was through woman that man learned to taste of the tree of knowledge. What happened? The old God was seized by mortal terror. Man himself had been his greatest blunder; he had created a rival to himself; science makes men godlike - it is all up with priests and gods when man becomes scientific! Moral: science is the forbidden per se; it alone is forbidden. Science is the first of sins, the germ of all sins, the original sin. This is all there is of morality. "Thou shalt not know" - the rest follows from that.
  • What is the nature of the guilt that your teachers call his Original Sin? What are the evils man acquired when he fell from a state they consider perfection? Their myth declares that he ate the fruit of the tree of knowledge — he acquired a mind and became a rational being. It was the knowledge of good and evil — he became a moral being. He was sentenced to earn his bread by his labor — he became a productive being. He was sentenced to experience desire — he acquired the capacity of sexual enjoyment. The evils for which they damn him are reason, morality, creativeness, joy — all the cardinal values of his existence. It is not his vices that their myth of man's fall is designed to explain and condemn, it is not his errors that they hold as his guilt, but the essence of his nature as man. Whatever he was — that robot in the Garden of Eden, who existed without mind, without values, without labor, without love — he was not man.
    • Ayn Rand, "Atlas Shrugged," Part III, Chapter VII: "This Is John Galt Speaking".
  • Kings, priests and statesmen blast the human flower
    Even in its tender bud; their influence darts
    Like subtle poison through the bloodless veins
    Of desolate society. The child,
    Ere he can lisp his mother’s sacred name,
    Swells with the unnatural pride of crime, and lifts
    His baby-sword even in a hero’s mood.
    This infant arm becomes the bloodiest scourge
    Of devastated earth; whilst specious names,
    Learnt in soft childhood’s unsuspecting hour,
    Serve as the sophisms with which manhood dims
    Bright reason’s ray and sanctifies the sword
    Upraised to shed a brother’s innocent blood.
    Let priest-led slaves cease to proclaim that man
    Inherits vice and misery, when force
    And falsehood hang even o'er the cradled babe,
    Stifling with rudest grasp all natural good.
  • We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression.
    • Joseph Smith, Jr., "The Articles of Faith" # 2, in "The Pearl of Great Price", p. 60, (c) The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
  • A person of an honourable mind,
    Religiously devout, faithful and kind,
    Is doom'd to pay the lamentable score
    Of guilt accumulated long before—
    Some wicked ancestor's unholy deed. —
    I wish that it were otherwise decreed!
    For now we witness wealth and power enjoy'd
    By wicked doers ; and the good destroyed
    Quite undeservedly ; doom'd to atone,
    In other times, for actions not their own.
  • Human nature is evil; its goodness derives from conscious activity. Now it is human nature to be born with a fondness for profit. Indulging this leads to contention and strife, and the sense of modesty and yielding with which one was born disappears. One is born with feelings of envy and hate, and, by indulging these, one is led into banditry and theft, so that the sense of loyalty and good faith with which he was born disappears. One is born with the desires of the ears and eyes and with a fondness for beautiful sights and sounds, and, by indulging these, one is led to licentiousness and chaos, so that the sense of ritual, rightness, refinement, and principle with which one was born is lost. Hence, following human nature and indulging human emotions will inevitably lead to contention and strife, causing one to rebel against one’s proper duty, reduce principle to chaos, and revert to violence. Therefore one must be transformed by the example of a teacher and guided by the way of ritual and rightness before one will attain modesty and yielding, accord with refinement and ritual, and return to order.
    • Xun Zi, "Human nature is evil," in Sources of Chinese Tradition (1999), vol. 1, pp. 179-180

See also

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