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Original Thoughts on The Original Sin

(The 'Methodists') demonstrate to secure, contented, happy mankind that it is really unhappy and desperate, and merely unwilling to realize that it is in severe straits it knows nothing at all about, from which only they can rescue it. Wherever there is health, strength, security, simplicity, they spy luscious fruit to gnaw at or to lay their pernicious eggs in. They make it their object first of all to drive men to inward despair, and then it is all theirs.
- Deitrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison




Evangelical Christianity: Being made to feel sinful and guilty for not having felt sinful and guilty, in order that one might experience release from sin and guilt; Like donning lead boots and walking about in them until totally exhausted in order to have the exhilarating experience of taking them off again.
- Conrad Hyers, Once-Born, Twice-Born Zen




IS THE HEART OF MAN DECEITFUL ABOVE ALL THINGS, AND DESPERATELY WICKED?
According to the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus taught, "If you see a woman and lust after her, I say that you have already committed adultery in your heart." In other words, even if you don't commit adultery in the flesh, you've committed it just by lusting after someone. Now suppose you see someone in need, who needs some cash or a kind word, and you yearn in your heart to give it to them, but don't. Does that mean you have already committed "charity" in your heart? Think about it. If a lust-filled yearning is evidence of the depravity of the human heart, then what about the yearnings people feel to help one another? Is that not an indication of goodness in people's hearts?


Gandhi, the famous Hindu peace-activist, taught that people should seek out what was best in their own religions and hearts. Even Jesus put a positive spin on "the heart" when he taught that "The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart" (Luke 6:45 & Mat. 12:35), and when he taught that people ought to "Love God with all thy heart," (Mat. 22:37).


No doubt the "wickedness" of "the heart" expressed by Jeremiah 17:9 ("The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked") certainly applies to some people at some times when they do certain things, especially when they are at their lowest and weakest points. But to take Jeremiah's hyperbole and bake it in an oven until it becomes as dry and hard as a brick of dogma, and make that brick a cornerstone of your theology, takes a genuinely deceived heart, a heart dry of true feelings and honest appraisals of others' beliefs and actions.
- Skip Church




One of Christianity's chief offenses is not that it has enlisted the services of bad men, but that it has misdirected the energies of good ones. The kindly, the sensitive, the thoughtful, those who are striving to do their best under its influence, are troubled, and consequently often develop a more or less morbid frame of mind. The biographies of the best men in Christian history offer many melancholy examples of the extent to which they have falsely accused themselves of sins during their "unconverted" state, and the manner in which harmless actions are magnified into deadly offenses.
- Chapman Cohen, Essays in Freethinking




The church must stop trying to act like a "spiritual pharmacist" - working to produce acute guilt, and then in effect saying, "We just happen to have the remedy for your guilt here in our pocket."
- Dietrich Bonhoeffer


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