Member Rara Avis
Religion is a business and, as any successful business, it needs a product. The product of religion is salvation.
You've got it all wrong, Mike. If religion can be said to have a product, that product would be Life. It has to help you live your life better today, else the religion is a false one. You have to "do this" or "do that" because it will make you a more fulfilled, more content, more fully realized human being immediately, not because of a future promise you can neither see nor touch. Get it wrong and you're going to suffer. Get it right and you're going to prosper. It's really as simple as that.
Salvation is a by-product of religion, not its goal.
The concept of original sin, like most of the Big Concepts in the Old Testament, rests on the shoulders of law and comes from a time much different than today, a time when family meant something more than it does to most of us. In modern times we only feel entitled to inherit our parents' and grandparents' wealth, not their debts or obligations. It wasn't always like that, though. The death of the extended family covers no more than a hundred or so years, while the responsibility of family extends back several thousand.
Just as kings beget kings, so too did slaves beget slaves, and even the progeny of convicts sent to Australia didn't suddenly find themselves with a free ticket back to Europe just because they were "innocent" children. That seems completely unfair to this age's more self-centered individual, and in some ways, I think that's a bit of a shame. That shift in thinking, I suspect, has led to a culture where too many forget that their actions have consequences beyond themselves. The son of an alcoholic need not become an alcoholic (chances are good he will, but it's still a choice to be made), but he will most certainly STILL pay a hard price for his father's choices. We try to act as if it's no longer so, but family binds us in ways far beyond those of simple blood. We try to celebrate the bond, as well we should, but too easily forget that a bond implies a bondage, and in this case, one not easily escaped. Responsibility is NEVER a one-way street, and the parent can't be responsible for the child, something we are all still quick to acknowledge, unless the child is also responsible for the parent.
There are no innocent children, there are only receptacles into which the shape of the parents' lives are poured.
Nothing can grow in the soil until first a seed or two is planted, and you're always going to get more from your parents than just the color of your eyes, Grandma's upturned nose, and maybe a good chance for Parkinson's or sickle cell anemia.
Back when I was still a teen and writing badly clichéd science fiction stories about a man and a woman being marooned on a pristine planet and suddenly revealed as Adam and Eve, I also remember writing a short story based on the premise that succumbing to temptation in the Garden wasn't necessarily inevitable. What would our world be like today if our First Parents hadn't disobeyed and been separated from God? In a world where God came down and talked to us every now and then, maybe like a State of the Union address, would we even have a word for religion?
More importantly to this discussion, though, would each of us born throughout the intervening years have to earn our way into God's presence? Or would those born within the Garden claim it as their birthright?
If Adam and Eve had never sinned, would we today be claiming our inheritance just as vehemently as so many now deny any responsibility?
In my opinion, Original Sin isn't a justification for today's choices, nor even an excuse. After all, Jesus proved those choices are, indeed, choices and need not be made. However, the cost of disobedience was separation from God, a cost born by all, and THAT will have an inevitable effect on our choices, too. It's a bit like being raised by parents who leave you notes about what you should do today, but never seem to be around to tell if you if got it right or not. We lost access to that direct feedback, and that makes our choices a little harder to make.
We screw up. A lot.
Faith isn't just something someone grabbed to build a religion around. It is, rather, the only possible answer to being separated from God. It's a bit like pretending -- really, really hard -- that He is still a direct part of your life.
The crazy part is that sometimes it actually works pretty well. We screw up a little less. Indeed, the lesson Jesus taught, through the example of His life, was that perfect faith can bridge the separation brought about by Original Sin. Faith can put us on the same footing as Adam and Eve before they disobeyed and cost us all so dearly. Adam, through direct contact, knew God's will and chose to disobey. Jesus, through perfect faith, gleaned God's will and chose to not disobey. We're all stuck somewhere in the middle, denied the direct contact but clearly still unable to live through perfect faith. So we screw up more than we should, and every bit of pain we suffer in this life (never mind the next one) is a direct result of being stuck in the middle, caught in the paradox of knowing better but not always believing in what we know.
We screw up. A lot.
That is the human condition.