Yes, you read the title correctly. I’ve followed a fairly typical trajectory of being brought up with “I’m a lowly worm” theology towards an understanding of humans as essentially good, if marred by by sin. I was always under the impression that this was the “right” trajectory, but I’m having second thoughts, partly due to Scot McKnight’s series on original sin, and partly because of the following passage from Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age.
Taylor looks at our seeming fundamental recognition–no matter our beliefs–that something is wrong with us and in the world. Christians explain this wrongness in terms of evil as embodied in original sin, while the materialist-humanist notions of wrongness tend towards the category of sickness. Taylor goes on to make come interesting comparisons (some of which I anticipated in an older post, Demons and Germs):
So the difference is this: evil has the dignity of an option for an apparent good; sickness has not. This dignity is conceded, even in the discourse of conversion that purports to show evil up as false good, and hence really empty, really only a kind of alienation. It is conceded not in the text, but in the context, in the manner of address, which recognizes the power of the oponent.
Now the pathos involved in the triumph of the therapeutic is this: One reason to throw over the spritiual perspective [of] evil/holiness was to reject the idea that our normal, middle-range existence is imperfect. We’re perfectly all right as we are, as “natural” beings. So the dignity of ordinary, “natural” existence is even further enhanced. This ought to have liberated us from what were recognized frequently as the fruits of sin: impotence, division, anguish, spleen, melancholy, emptiness, incapacity, paralyzing gloom, acedia, etc. But in fact hese abound.
Only now, as afflictions of beings destined for middle-range normalcy, they must be seen as the result of sickness. They must be treated therapeutically. But the person being treated is now being approached as one who is just incapacitated. He has less dignity than the sinner. So what was supposed to enhance our dignity has reduced it. We are just to be dealt with, manipulated into health.
From another angle: casting off religion was meant to free us, give us our full dignity of agnets; throwing off the tutelage of religion, hence of the church, hence of the clergy. But now we are forced to go to new experts, therapists, doctors, who exercise the kind of control that is appropriate over blind and compulsive mechanisms; who may even be administering drugs to us. Our sick selves are even more being talked down to, just treated as things, than were the faithful of yore in churches.
A Secular Age, 619-20.