Vanity thought #1367. Original Sin 3

For the past couple of days I’ve been talking about the meaning of original sin in different traditions. They all have some things in common and at the same time they all are obviously different. Christian concept is unique and it overshadows pre-JC understanding of faulty human nature which was otherwise common across all religious traditions.

We all might disagree on exact causes of sin and evil in this world but Buddha had a very practical outlook on all this – it doesn’t really matter how it all started, it’s more important what we are going to do about it. Life is short to waste it on chasing the impossible.

In Kṛṣṇa consciousness we are not that different in this regard – we don’t waste our time on trying to find the exact reason of our falldown and whether it was a falldown at all. Until “no fall” vādīs challenged us on that we simply didn’t think about it and were caught by surprise by their suggestion. It was, and still is, plainly obvious that our origin lies in the spiritual world and we somehow or other left it. The exact circumstances were never of interest to us and we still can’t find them anywhere in our books.

I’m not sure refuting “no fall” arguments is not a giant waste of time. It does make us search through tons of books for exact quotes and then analyze them in every possible way but I’ve also seen a warning not to treat our literature like that. We should stick with one book and read and understand it thoroughly, then move on. Reading a passage from here and a passage from there to prove a point is not how we should take association of the ācāryas, which is what studying their books is.

Anyway, we might attribute sin and evil to predominance of the modes of ignorance and passion, or we might talk about the collection of anarthas in our hearts because real sin is not serving the Lord even if it might not look like a sin according to mundane morality. I don’t think other religions make similar distinctions, but we all have to deal with the same effects regardless of the causes, and all religions prescribe following rules and regulations to purify one’s existence.

Buddhists talk about four noble truths, for example – the world is full of suffering, desires and attachments are the cause of suffering, the cessation of suffering means giving up desires, and that following the path would lead one to this end. Same thing expressed in different words. Absence of God and relationships with Him is a major drawback, but that happens AFTER the liberation anyway, which is of immediate concern to Buddhists.

They deal with the unpleasant nature of this world, we are not interested in it very much, we want devotional service right from the start and are not interested in cessation of suffering – it goes away on its own as we gradually realize our spiritual identity. We need Kṛṣṇa, everything else is of no importance whatsoever.

Anyway, Christian concept of Original Sin serves as a ground for endless attacks on their doctrine. Why all people in entire history are made to suffer for one mistake of one man? Why does God allow evil at all? Does it mean that He is not all powerful?

This problem of evil has been dogging Christians since forever but we can turn it around against atheists as well. What are their answers to the existence of evil in this world? Why do innocent children die of cancer or born with deformities? What is the source of evil according to their understanding.

Turns out, they don’t have answers. They say that evil doesn’t really exist, it’s just mindless and impersonal material nature. Well, that’s what we, Hare Kṛṣṇas, have been telling them all along, except we call it karma.

Look what Richard Dawkins writes in River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life:

    In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.

First question – if that’s how they see the world, why bother Christians for explanations to something that doesn’t exist? They could be making an argument that Christianity is internally inconsistent in that it can’t explain its concept of evil according to its own doctrine, but that’s not how they usually present it – they really think that evil is real and want Christians to explain it.

Christians have an answer, Original Sin, so internal inconsistency isn’t there, so atheists talk about inconsistency between what they see and what the Bible tells us about it. In short, they see evil as real and often undeserved. That’s a natural reaction of any human being while Dawkins’ quote above is a mature understanding of a hardcore atheist. The problem is that most atheists aren’t going to go as far as that and deny that there’s no purpose, no good, no evil in our lives.

This is their internal inconsistency – if they take atheism to its logical end it’s where they should arrive, but they abandon logic somewhere along the way.

So, if evil doesn’t exist – why bother Christians about it? Or why bother attacking law of karma? And if evil does exist – what is their explanation for it?

Afaik, they don’t have one. They can blame things like child suffering on unfortunate circumstances, which means there’s no evil per se, but they have no idea what compels people to sin.

In the Dawkins quote there’s a mention of “selfish gene” and it might sound like a good answer, expect that it’s not actually a gene in Dawkins view. It’s the name of his book, not that there’s a gene that one can flip and make someone unselfish. He talks about natural selection as a reason for both selfishness and altruism without specifying any particular carriers of these traits.

The problem of evil in atheism is compounded by a lack of objective definition. We say that it’s any action not in service to the Lord but atheists don’t have such a luxury. They have to deal with the fact that what is evil for one man or one culture might be considered good by others. They have to deal with the failure of pure pragmatism to console people whose comfort is sacrificed for the “common good”. They have to deal with the popular understanding that ends do not always justify the means. They have to deal with the fact that there’s no common yardstick to measure either good or evil.

It’s so much easier to say that none of it truly exists, like Dawkins did. Except that everyone says that it does.

I wonder why the outspoken atheists are not challenged on this point, even Christians get it, but somehow they don’t use it and get stuck in defending themselves instead.

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