Friday, June 13, 2008

The Devil in the Details

Paradise Lost, Again and Again - "Mr. Jacobs presents an impressive gallery of thinkers convinced of the reality of a hereditary stain in human nature. He starts with St. Augustine, who saw evidence for Original Sin 'everywhere, from the angry cry of a baby to his own tendency to be distracted from prayer.' There are classic Protestants like Luther and John Bunyan, as well as the Russian novelist Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who in the Gulag came to realize that the real fault line ran not between the guards and prisoners but within each human soul.

Of course, they are all Christians. When we turn to modern thinkers who take a dim view of religion – Marx, Freud, the current batch of evolutionary psychologists – Mr. Jacobs sees a pattern: They dismiss the idea of Original Sin but then try to sneak it through the back door and give it another name.

Kant, who had little use for Christian revelation, talked about 'the crooked timber of humanity.' For Marx, human behavior was skewed by immemorial social arrangements. Freud talked about the dark forces of the subconscious. One way or another, these thinkers were wrestling with the question that God directed to Adam and Eve after the Fall: 'Where are you?' In other words: Why are we not where we ought to be?"

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