‘Born Bad’: How the idea that we’re all sinners has shaped Western culture – The Washington Post

‘Born Bad’: How the idea that we’re all sinners has shaped Western culture – The Washington Post.

Read this book review by Michael Dirda and consider where the argument about original sin and the history of Christian doctrine errs.

Your observations are welcome. Feel free to share using the comments box below.

About Doug Geivett
University Professor; PhD in philosophy; author; conference speaker. Hobbies include motorcycling, travel, kayaking, sailing.

One Response to ‘Born Bad’: How the idea that we’re all sinners has shaped Western culture – The Washington Post

  1. Mark says:

    I think at least the most obvious error is this: “As the medieval church spread, the notion that baptism alone was sufficient for salvation was augmented by …” I found this review of the book to be helpful: https://coburgreviewofbooks.wordpress.com/2014/11/08/makes-us-do-other-than-the-right-things/

    I think he’s right that an understanding of the Fall is a fundamental aspect of the West, but it seems amazing to me that he thinks this even though he regards the idea as false. Ideas are powerful, but to have the power he ascribes to the idea it has to have some ground in human nature in my opinion. If the idea were false, I would think to believe it to have such an effect throughout history would still require a good account of what sustains it. I’d think some account of the idea’s attraction within human nature would be required, which it seems to me would lead back to at least some idea of sin.

    I also think even among those who believe in the traditional Christian view of the Fall, their particular grasp of what it is determines a lot of their view of human nature and moral or social practice. Believing in the Fall is just a entry point. Among Christians, there are such anti-liberal ideas such as Southern Agrarianism or Slavophilia to Americans and Russians respectively. Similarly, Christianity is no stranger to cranky anti-liberalism and misanthropy of all sorts. There are also many far more subtle forms of idealism now in the realm of the interpersonal that are more pervasive and dangerous and amount to Pharisaism which endangers the weaker ones among us. I think such things are arguably misunderstandings about the Fall by those who believe in it.

    Anyway, I look forward to reading the book because it sounds very thought provoking. But I don’t see why the political and social theorists might not have simply seen the reality of humans in a sinful world that they were trying to incorporate with the political ideas of the day, and might have had no particular view on original sin. I also wonder how he deals with Western ideas about the “noble savage” and such. I wonder if one way to look at the matter is to think that the West’s view of sin provided an opposing view to temper idealism and utopianism, which never fail to spawn the most deadly and destructive forms of error.


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