Atheism-Theism Debate and The Myth of Sin

One of the significant differences I see between the believer and non-believers is their attitude towards humanity.

May theists, the western Abrahamic faiths hold to the idea that we are irrevocably tarnished, our nature or soul is corrupted, by sin.

Some will turn towards books like Dostoevsky’s to show point out this truth.

‘If there’s no God, all is permitted.’

Dostoevsky Fyodor
Artist Graham Higgins

Such is our nature; they argue that we need an all-powerful authority, a god that rewards and punishments to keep up a more ethical path. These believers seem baffled that only some hold to their understanding towards human nature.

I too, grew up thinking I was worthless, not because of religion, but at school and college, and I was the shyest and suffered from bullying. I developed beliefs about myself that made me sink into anxiety and depression.

No later in life is see the falsity of such beliefs. Furthermore we can find and discover examples of incorruptible people in fiction and art.

Corporal Carrot

One example I have found in the story is that of Corporal Carrot of the Night Watch.

In this Discworld Novel, Men-at-Arms, there is ‘the Gonne’, a weapon that corrupts those who wield it. Just like the ‘One ring’ in Lord of the Rings.

When you pick it up, it whispers ideas of power and domination. Yet with Carrot it has no effect. Because Cpl Carrot doesn’t have a corrupted self. Buddhism says we don’t have a self, much less corrupted.

So the Ring of Power would have no effect because there is no sinful self to magnify. The only way the Ring of Power could work in the Buddhist view is if it magnifies illusion, deception and misunderstanding.

But Carrot is an exception in the story; its power does not corrupt him, but he never seems to notice it. Why? Because not everyone is seduced by power, some fear it; some see where it leads. They are not so insecure. They don’t seek power to compensate for their perceived shortcomings.

The cynicism about humanity by theists is corrosive, like the Joker, that all we need ‘is a little push’ to get us to act like a monster because we are all monsters inside. Batman/Bruce Wayne shows himself to be incorruptible and points out that, given an opportunity, not everyone acts in an evil manner.

We’re not blank slates, we have a nature, but we’re not tarnished slates either.

What kind of attitude is to believe that everyone is already corrupted?

Ego The Self

It made me think about the attitude we have to ourselves and our nature. It’s those who think they can’t be wrong, self-aggrandising crusaders in a world full of corrupted souls. They’re the ones who are dangerous, the ones who start wars.

In another Terry Pratchett novel, Small Gods, a point is made about the villain. ‘They make copies of themselves.’

Their insecurity and fear manifest as hate, anger, bigotry and the horror they unleash; this nurtures the egotism of others, so they become more like the villain, spreading the fear and anger further. ‘They make copies of themselves.

Demagogues and fearmongers try to make you as afraid and insecure as they are.

The Buddha message

The message of the Buddha rings like a bell. We are not evil inside, at heart; some people are incorruptible because there is no essence. No soul, no sin to grow and flower in the wrong circumstances.

For some Buddhists, our ‘Buddha-Nature’ is uncorrupted; it’s a belief shared by some other eastern philosophies. Such religions reject the theists’ worldview of sin, the duality of good vs evil, and us vs them.

The poisonous side of society convinces us were worthless at heart. We hear such voices so often that we end up believing them.

Liberation in Buddhism is to see the falsehoods that imprisons us, that make us feel small and worthless and fosters insecurity and hate. The aim is to find and address the root causes of suffering in ourselves and others.

I reject the idea of sin, of the separate self, a real. Buddhism helped me see through what I was doing to myself—the severe lack of self-worth in my youth and adulthood.

What I have and want to practice more is compassion, more for me and more for you. The only way we can free ourselves.

Closing thoughts

Many of us were convinced by others of our essential worthlessness. They, too, were once convinced of the same belief.

But where is the proof we are all sinful, where’s this essence? They need to show this essence that is corrupted.

The baton of self-hatred is passed on. You can’t sell a God like the Abrahamic God when people don’t hate themselves.

Some envy those who get out of that system. ‘Be with a majority, they say, ‘the one who believes in our essential wickedness’. It raises another question ‘Why do some people cling to their worthlessness? It returns to the insecure ego, the separate self we believe exists.

No, we are not corrupted and don’t need a God to save us. This is not a fallen world; there is no sin, we don’t have a fixed self, and we don’t need saving. We need to wake up.