This I Believe

Gordon - Palo Alto, California
Entered on August 31, 2007
Age Group: 30 - 50

I’m not a religious person and yet I believe in original sin. When I was a boy a kindly old woman fed me milk and the most delicious homemade lemon cookies as she told me the story of Adam and Eve. In their childlike innocence Adam and Eve frolicked naked in Eden. But one day they ate the forbidden fruit. That, I was told, was the moment of original sin, a trespass so unforgivable that it tainted each and everyone of us right down to the present day. Adam and Eve’s disobedience made every last one of us sinners. It was the reason why our world was not as it should be.

Try as I might, I felt no shame and no guilt by association. Rather, I wondered how God could be so vindictive. Why should He nurse a grudge for thousands of years? Besides, Adam and Eve knew nothing of good or evil so who could blame them for being led astray? It seemed such a high price to pay for one mistake.

The kindly old woman also told me about Abraham and his beloved son Isaac. One day God ordered Abraham to kill Isaac and burn the body. So great was Abraham’s obedience to the Lord that-without a word of protest-he bound the terrified boy and took a knife to his throat. Abraham was only too willing to kill his own child to prove his love for God. Abraham, I was told, was an inspiration to us all.

But I found the story of Abraham to be so horrid that it bordered on insanity. True, God was only testing Abraham, an angel stayed Abraham’s hand the moment before blood was spilled but that was small comfort. The moment Abraham lifted the knife he confirmed his belief in a God who would order a man to slay an innocent child. I believe that that was a perversion, and I also believe that it was the true act of original sin.

Abraham was father to the Jews, the Christians and the Muslims. His descendants gave birth to all three of those great religions. But what example did Abraham set for us? He was all too willing to kill for the Lord and so, I wondered, how much different would we be if Abraham had refused God’s order?

If Abraham had acknowledged God’s existence but refused to kill, I believe that we would love our children more than we love God. I also believe that our world would be better for that.

But it’s not too late. My religious friends like to tell me that God has given us all free will. We can think and we can change our minds. To me the answer is obvious. All we need to do is realize that Abraham failed God’s test when he prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac as a burt offering. Once we do that I believe that things will get better.