The Serpent and the Source of Original Sin?

The concept of original sin is quite controversial in the modern world, and yet is a core part of the theological background that we have inherited.

The idea that people are inherently sinful, as a product of their birth, which when you see cute little babies, it’s hard to accept.

However, when you look at the state of the world it’s a lot easier to accept.

It is clear, that humanity has the capability to be noble, generous, kind, and altogether very positive. However, it does seem without a conscious decision towards “good behavior”, a number of negative behaviours do seem to creep in, and take over. Even St. Paul says “For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.”

Having had a conversation about the multiple layers “evolutionary” layers within our brains, it occurred to me that perhaps “original sin” is actually located within our “lizard brain” – the most primitive remnant of our brains – the “basal ganglia”, which is believed to be responsible for “species typical instinctual behaviours involved in aggression, dominance, territoriality and ritual display” (Wikipedia).

That would explain why Darwinian “survival” mechanisms seem to take over, if we either feel threatened, or abdicate our “higher” functions, such as in mob-mentality, or just when we choose to stop thinking for ourselves.

While this is wild conjecture, and I’m sure both theologians and neuroscientists would have lots to say that this is hugely oversimplifying and probably heretical, it strikes me as having a certain resonance with my own life and behaviour, and provides me a psychologically plausible explanation.

However, if this is the source of our sinful nature, then that goes to show how incredibly perceptive the writer of Genesis 3 was. Humankind is tempted into sin by the whispering of a serpent – maybe not an external serpent – but the “reptile brain” within humanity itself.

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