The median ‘rationalist’ and ‘atheist’ mind looks at the concept of ‘Original Sin’ and rebels against the implication that all people are born as sinners and deserve punishment. The idea militates against the principles of human rights that are the foundation of the modern liberal democracies.
The median religious person also doesn’t fare much better. Beleiving themselves to be sinners, they spend their whole life rejecting themselves and trying to wash away the stain. The Church, in its subsequent corruption, took full advantage of the verbiage of this doctrine and used it to drive more fear-based compliance amongst the largely uneducated laity.
But the concept is much weirder than that and in a sense is deeply psychological. The question is not whether their exists an original sin or not. And the question is not whether anyone else can punish you, or scare you with torments, for being a sinner even though ‘you’ had nothing to do with this original sin.
The question is – what happens when one believes in the concept of original sin. That it is not possible to be human and to be without sin because we were born with this sin. And what is this sin? It is the ego. It is the thing that projects our wounds out on to the world. It’s been well observed that we are most critical in others about the parts we reject in ourselves. Thus all sin is merely the reflection of the original sin of ego. This is the sin at work.
Even Hindu and Buddhist doctrine agree with this point of view – that the world is merely a reflection of the mind and the way to fix the world is to fix the mind. There’s no there there.
And what happens when we believe that the original sin is not in the other person but in us? Well, then we can begin the task of healing. We can begin to name and therefore gain a degree of control over what we project out on to the world. And we can then use our feelings to guide us to a healing of the wound.
The original original sin then was not an accusation or a condemnation. It was merely an acknowledgement of an issue that the world is essentially mind perceived back through the ego, and with the ego in the way we would always miss the truth of things. Because that’s what the word ‘sin’ originally meant – to miss the mark.
The original sin is this thing you think of when you think of yourself. And the only way to ‘wash off this stain’ is through total self love, through total acceptance of our failings, through total compassion for oneself and one’s human condition and through this self-compassion we will find our compassion for others, to the extent that they exist ;-)