Dogma about original sin has been a key part of the Christian business model from the beginning. It’s based upon Adam eating fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the Garden of Eden. As a result, everyone was born a sinner and fell short of the glory of God. Jesus was eventually crucified to bear the sin of the world because of this. Where animals were sacrificed for atonement in the Old Testament, Jesus became the ultimate sacrifice in the New Testament.
It cannot be disputed that humans are capable of evil, and that none of us live up to even our own standards. But, if we get the root cause wrong, it’s hard to get the solution right. People who meditate quickly become aware of the unconscious workings of their minds and eventually recognize that they are not their thoughts. It is all very natural. We are not supernaturally cursed. We are all good people, and we are all bad people.
Sin is not the supernatural result of Adam eating a piece of fruit in the Garden of Eden 6,000 years ago. Sin is a state of unconsciousness that keeps us from being the people we wish to be. Paul wrote about this struggle: “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do… For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.”(39)
There are various ways to manage what we know to be bad for us and others. Here are three ways to think about them:
- The least conscious choice is to try to ignore our weaknesses and project them on to others instead. Jesus spoke about this type of judgmental separation when people judged others instead of addressing the beams in their own eyes.(40) Projecting our problems onto others takes the focus off us and has a way of breeding hate, contempt, and ignorance in our hearts and throughout society.
- A slightly more conscious response is to try to forcefully push away from our sin. In these cases, we see sin as the enemy, and we try to put up a good fight against it to the degree that we are able.(41) Fighting unconsciousness in this way can help us live better lives when we are successful, but the so-called demons can often return when our defenses are relaxed. This is often the case with addictions.
- The most conscious response (combined with getting professional help when needed) is often to lean into our unconsciousness to understand its nature more deeply through meditation and silent prayer. Not to fight, nor give in to, but to understand, learn from, and eventually make peace with our frailties. And increasingly detach from them.
Unconsciousness is nothing to be ashamed of. As John writes, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.”(42) Since the word sin has largely been ruined by Christianity’s business models over the centuries, today, unconsciousness might be a better, less triggering term—not as a euphemism, but as a more accurate description of the problem and indicator of the resulting solution.
We have three main options. First, we can act like our own sin doesn’t exist and project our guilt on to others instead. Second, we can actively fight it as if it were a supernatural enemy and risk giving it even greater authority. Third, we can learn from and make peace with it as an unconscious pattern of thought. Through meditation and silent prayer, we can increasingly reduce its grip on our lives and learn from the lessons it has taught us.
39. Rom. 7:15,18 NIV
40. Matt. 7:5
41. Here, “evil” is anything that harms ourselves and others.
42. 1 John 1:8, NIV