I don't feel like I'm any sort of expert about Christianity, since I've never been very interested in this religion. No religion appeals to me now, but in the past I've been drawn more to Eastern mystical varieties than Western theistic types.
Still, reading evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne's new book, "Faith Versus Fact," today, I was surprised by how ignorant I've been of a basic Christian fact:
Without the Adam and Eve myth, there's no basis for believing in Jesus
Since the whole notion of Adam and Eve is impossible to accept, this means the same is true of the core theological foundation of Christianity -- that Jesus died for our sins.
The central lesson of Christianity is that sin was brought into the world by the transgression of Adam and Eve, the primal couple, and expiated by the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ, whose acceptance as savior removes the taint of sin. You can hardly call yourself a Christian without accepting these claims.
Which means, Christianity is at odds with some central truths of modern science.
Our genome testifies to literally hundreds of "Adams and Eves" who lived at different times -- a result of the fact that different parts of our DNA were inherited differently based on the vagaries of reproduction and the random division of genes when sperm and eggs are formed.
The observations that different parts of our genomes have different ages, some going back millions of years, and that they come from different ancestors, completely dispel the biblical date of human origins and the idea that all of our DNA was bequeathed by a Primal Couple.
This, Coyne says, puts Christians in a tight spot.
If there were no Adam and Eve, then whence the original sin? And if there was no original sin transmitted to Adam's descendants, then Jesus's Crucifixion and Resurrection expiated nothing: it was a solution without a problem. In other words, Jesus died for a metaphor.
...If "sin" is merely our evolved tendency to be greedy, aggressive, and xenophobic, then God, who either foresaw or directed evolution [according to many Christians] becomes responsible for sin. That's unpalatable to theists who believe that sin results from free choice.
Coyne sites several Christian theologians who say the same thing. Here's a quote from a conservative Southern Baptist, Albert Mohler.
The denial of an historical Adam and Eve as the first parents of all humanity and the solitary first human pair severs the link between Adam and Christ which is so crucial to the Gospel. If we do not know how the story of the Gospel begins, then we do not know what that story means. Make no mistake: a false start to the story produces a false grasp of the Gospel.
So I now have one more reason to not believe in Christianity.
But the notion of original sin isn't limited to this religion. The Eastern idea of karma isn't too far removed from it. For example, supposedly a guru can remove a disciple's karma.
Although it is said that the guru takes the karma of the disciple, this means that the guru takes it away by engaging the disciple in sadhana bhakti and blessing him or her. Hearing and chanting about Krishna under the guidance of sri guru combined with the guru’s grace destroys one’s karma.
Of the two, effort in sadhana and the grace of the guru, the latter is more important, linga bhuyastvat tad hi baliyah tad api (Vs. 3.3.45). Thus the guru must have the power to bless the student and engage him or her in sadhana bhakti. Such a qualified guru does not have to experience the karma of the students in a Christ-like fashion.
Well, the good news is that there is no such thing as sin, original or otherwise, and there is no such thing as supernatural-based karma that transfers from life to life. Cause and effect is real, but not this sort of karma.