Original sin. As I’ve written before, you don’t have to believe in the literal accuracy of Genesis or in the doctrine of Original Sin to find it a useful metaphor for why the world is less-than-perfect, and the people in the world likewise. The idea that at some point, humans went astray from the divine ideal and as a result the perfect world became corrupt, permeates a lot of Western and Islamic teaching, even among those who profess not to believe in traditional religion. Looking over events since June 2019, I’m tempted to call these past twelve months “The Year of Original Sin,” because that’s what’s been trumpeted by activists of various stripes. Not the Christian doctrine, but variations on it, often even harsher than the Christian version is claimed to be.
The original Original Sin is found in Genesis, and refers to Adam’s knowing disobedience of G-d’s rule about “Don’t eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” Eve disobeyed first (thanks to the Serpent) but (Protestant-Calvin) Adam saw what sin had done to her and went on and ate anyway. According to the theologians, this first sin passed from Adam to all of his children and their children. Or as the New England Primer put it under “A is for Apple,” “Through Adam’s fall, sinned we all.” And so humans became corrupt and fallen, requiring divine intervention to regain the option of choosing salvation and redemption. Depending on which teachings one follows, Original Sin led to Innate Depravity, and to Election and Reprobation. Only G-d knows who has been Elected to salvation, or who has been Reprobated for eternity. But some have been saved! Even double predestination is not hopeless doom.
The modern versions . . . are hopeless doom, in part because they deny the salvation part of eternity. Free-market supporters, or people of a certain culture, or now of a certain skin-color and ancestry, are cursed forever, no matter what sort of atonement is made. To warp St. Paul, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of [whatever deity is being worshiped this week.]” I have this mental vision of John Calvin and John Knox sitting up in their graves and snarling, “Fools! One, you’re leaving out the most important part and two, to say that you are damned and not even G-d can save you is the worst sin of pride!” Then they probably go back to spinning in said graves.
If you listen to some of the intellectual and academic supporters of the 1619 Project, environmentalism-as-a-faith, and other movements, you hear the language of Calvin and Augustin, but without any hope for redemption. There is nothing more than the material world. Even if all power plants are shut down and all motorized transport halts instantly, if all property in the world is turned over to [somebody or something], if all people of a certain ancestry spend the rest of their lives serving and supporting people of other ancestries, the sin can not be expiated. Anything touched by that sin is forever tainted and corrupt, unworthy of preservation or memory.
What this leads to is fury, despair, and “Nihil ex nihilo.” Nothing comes out of nothing. Instead of building a new, better world, the old one is torn down and . . . Ashes. It is a profoundly sad philosophy, as well as a terrible one. Hope is forbidden, redemption is forbidden. From sackcloth and ashes comes nothing.
“All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of G-d.” And in all traditional religions, Deity will and does forgive, for reasons we perhaps just can’t grasp yet (Calvin). Love, mercy, forgiveness. “Faith, hope, and charity, but the greatest of these is charity.” Loving kindness, forgiveness, hope . . . the best of humanity is barred by the prophets of 2019-2020.
If it were not so dangerous, this heresy would be something to pity. Except they cost lives and probably souls—people who come to believe that there is no hope, no redemption, and that they are not worth saving. Which leads to other things, to orgies of destruction and wrath. “If we destroy the fallen world, we can be saved! Destroy everything, and then Paradise!” Ragnorak, but worse.