Original Sin of the Fortunate


I am an atheist and I do not regularly practice any particular religion. Nevertheless, I feel that I have my own small form of spirituality that I have organically pieced together over the years.  Central to my personal spirituality are determinism, utilitarianism, and an alternative imagining of the notion of original sin.

I choose to consider original sin, rather than as any supernatural mark inherited from one’s ancient ancestors, as the obligation of the middle and upper class to somehow justify their easier path through life. Unlike the supernatural form of original sin, merely ascribing properly to a set of rituals is not sufficient to right this imbalance. The general idea is that one must contribute equal or greater good to the world than one removes or receives.

Unfortunately, I haven’t figured out how to bring about or even measure this balance, except that I suspect it’s beyond the capacity of most fortunate people to repay the world for what they’ve received. I’m still working on figuring out how best to pay my debt. To start with, I may start by beginning future meals with a humanist grace, something in which I thank the order of the universe that I happened to receive all that I have and express humble hope that the lives of those less fortunate than myself will improve. This is of course not any sort of practical action that will go towards balancing my debt, but it is one that will keep me focused and remind me what I have and what I owe.


5 thoughts on “Original Sin of the Fortunate”

  1. This isn’t really clear to me. I’m trying to stitch together the idea of original sin — taking from the tree of knowledge against the will of god — with the (deterministic?) path of those with an easier life than the poor.

    1. This original sin bears no relation to the Christian notion of original sin except the notion of an imbalance or “sin” that one has from the start of life as opposed to conventional sins that all are associated with personal actions. So, the original sin of privilege, as it just occurs to me is a better name for it, belongs to those who benefit from the sins of their ancestors.

  2. As we’ve discussed, this is one of my favorite kernels of Sam-style philosophy. The Christian conception of sin, as I understand it, translates more closely to “missing the mark” than “imbalance,” but the idea of a debt to be repaid, a redemptive quest, is a vital and valuable one. I wish all people had the spirit of humility and compassion that you’ve described here. It’s great that you’re working to realize this goal in your own life.

  3. Great ideas ,Sam. Our love and appreciation for you and Alice tutoring Kamyia. I think it will change her life. Love, Grandma

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