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Original sin is the doctrine that humanity is cursed because Adam and Eve listened to Satan and not God in the Garden of Eden, and ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The event of explusion from paradise that soon followed is called the Fall of Man.
Doctrine differs between different Christian sects, but in general, Fundamentalist and Evangelical sects believe that without baptism to cleanse the soul of original sin, a person cannot go to heaven. This has led to moral debate as to whether a just god would allow an unbaptized infant to be condemned to hell for having the arrogance and temerity to die without being baptized. I mean, how dare they!
 The conspiracy
According to the Bible, in reference to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, God had told Adam and Eve:
- Genesis 2:16-17
And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat:
But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.
But the serpent (who may or may not have been Satan in disguise) had said:
- Genesis 3:4-5
And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:
For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.
Naturally they ate the fruit, and the surprising thing is that it was the serpent who actually told the truth - because they did not die, but they did obtain knowledge of good and evil. It is unknown how long they resisted temptation, but it must have been less than 130 years, because Adam was 130 years when his son Seth was begotten.
 The divine cursing
In a fit of spite at being found out, God became really upset and cursed everything and everyone involved in the whole conspiracy, plus everything and anyone not involved for good measure.
 The snake
First he cursed all the world's snakes -- which was perhaps a bit unfair as the snake was only a tool of Satan, and it's a bit rough to curse all snakes for perpetuity because one of them was once possessed by Satan. Anyway, he said:
- Genesis 3:14-15
And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life:
And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.
 The woman
- Genesis 3:16
Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.
In some senses Adam (note not "The man") got away with things relatively easily as, unlike the woman and the serpent, he got no permanent biological punishment. Perhaps because he was successful in pinning the blame on the woman. Instead God cursed the ground itself:
 The ground
- Genesis 3:17-19
And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life;
Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field;
In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.
Original sin has been used as a reason to restrict womens' rights, especially on the issue of sex. It has also (at least partially) been a catalyst for the Fundamentalist anti-science movement, as it seems the 'moral' of this story is "knowledge is bad, never question what you're told to do by God (or people and/or books representing him)".
Denying it seems to carry its own consequences (for the conservative Christian that is): Christianity needs this story to promote its whole guilt trip in the New testament. After all, if there was no Original Sin, it's just something that God programmed into man from the very beginning. And if this is the case, what exactly is Jesus dying on the cross for again? On top of this, if the validity of the concept and origin of original sin is questionable, it tends to cast serious doubt on the rest of the Bible, and from here things just go completely downhill. After all, if this story, the very first story in the Bible, is revealed to be absolute bull, it gets one to think "Hmm I wonder what other stories in the Bible are also a load of crap." Liberal Christians generally have no problem admitting this.
 Symbolism of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil
Many ancient or "traditional" cultures have a moment in an adult's life where he or she escapes the innocence of childhood and becomes an adult. Often, this is at the time of a first kill, the onset of menses, or after a grueling quest to understand one's personal identity. In these cultures, the mythology often reflects this move from innocence to adulthood.
The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, and the very "fall of mankind" itself can be understood mythologically as the moment when the culture at large went from an animal-like existence, where moral reasoning is impossible because we were acting on instinct alone, to a point where there is real morality - and therefore consequences. We have stopped being animals, and become a thinking civilization with moral autonomy - we are able to reflect upon our own behaviors and decide what is good and bad, right and wrong. We will necessarily "die", not because God cursed us with death, but because we became aware of it.
The Garden of Eden can also be seen, metaphorically, as a time when we lived as children, safe in our ignorance of the troubles of life and death. We did what our parents asked, with only the slightest disobedience grounded in limits, not thought or awareness. When you first question your parents' rules, and ask for the right to make your own choices and decisions, you become an adult, but at the cost of others caring for you... at the cost of your innocence... at the cost of Eden.
Or it's just a made-up story.
 Absurdities & Contradictions
Note that this list applies to common Christian beliefs. Many of these ideas were alien to the Jewish writers of Genesis.
- Humans are punished for sins committed before they were even born.
- It was the sin that made Adam and Eve aware of good and evil, so they couldn't know that what they were doing was a good or evil act until they had done it. (Why didn't God want them to know anyway? And didn't he already know they were going to disobey his instructions? What kind of sin is this? see also: Judas' betrayal)
- There's an extremely dangerous and unprotected tree in "paradise", that an omnipotent, omniscient, perfectly loving deity doesn't want touched, but this omnipotent, omniscient, perfectly loving deity also created the beings that would touch the aforementioned tree.
- The real reason for banishing them from the Garden wasn't even so much that they sinned or that they had knowledge of good and evil. It was actually out of the fear that they might find and eat the fruit of another dangerous tree: the Tree of Life and become immortal like God. So what's the real message of Original Sin? God does not like to share power and shits his pants at the very prospect of man doing so. This seems to be a reoccurring theme in many old testament stories see also: Tower of Babel.
- Said trees do not seem to have any reason for existing in the first place. Other than being a bad plot device, they do not seem to serve any purpose to either god, the garden at large, or the animals in it.
- The really cool way that Eve reacted to the talking snake. Your average person would have some problems with a talking snake but Eve - not only is unfazed but is actually convinced by it.
- After committing Original Sin Adam and Eve hid from the sight of the Lord. Apparently God can’t see everything. 
- Genesis 3:8
And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden.
- Genesis 3:8
- Original sin is directly contradicted by the Bible in the book of Ezekiel:
- Ezekiel 18:20
The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.
- Ezekiel 18:20
- An omnipotent, omniscient, perfectly loving deity cursed Eve by making her bear children with the taint of original sin. The same omnipotent, omniscient, perfectly loving deity could have made Eve childless and created new human beings without the curse of original sin. Humanity's curse of original sin was unnecessary.
 See also
- ↑ Why not "Fall of Man and Woman?" The patriarchalism is rather blatant here.
- The Curse EvoWiki article