Why Original Sin is a good idea

The doctrine of Original Sin encourages us to inch towards moral improvement by understanding that the faults we despise in ourselves are inevitable feautres of the species. We can therefore admit to them candidly and attempt to rectify them in the light of day…Enlightenment thinkers believed that they were doing us a favour by declaring man to be originally and naturally good. However, being repeatedly informed of our native decency can cause us to become paralysed with remorse over our failure to measure up to impossible standards of integrity. Confessions of universal sinfulness turn out to be a better starting point from which to take our first modest steps towards virtue.

Alain de Botton, Religion for Atheists, Hamish Hamilton, 2012, p.82-83

De Botton, as an atheist, admits the helpfulness of Original Sin unlike some of his fellow atheists who see it as ‘repressive’, ‘pessimistic’ etc. As de Botton helpfully points out, if we are all naturally ‘good’ it hardly makes me feel better about my (inevitable) moral failings.

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