So, here’s a thought I had the other day about the nature of good and evil, which theologians and philosophers call theodicy; I’m pretty sure philosophers have a name for those little lint balls that you get in your navel. And theologians have some kind of explanation that they’re god’s plan – just not how or why.
Anyway, genesis tells us that everything was hunky-dory until adam & eve disobeyed and ate the fruit. We’ll ignore for the time being that god had to know this would happen, put the tree in the garden in the first place, created the serpent, and so on – while these are details with as much theodical import as everything else (which means they really should make sense to us,) they’re not central to my particular viewpoint here. After this little contretemps, typically called The Fall (or The Autumn if you’re classier,) eve & adam got kicked out of the garden, finding food became a necessary pursuit, some of the vegetarian animals became carnivores (yeah, that’s another question,) and sex was invented/discovered/whatever. Without this, the most intense pleasure that we can feel never would have existed, which is yet another question that I’m not addressing, which probably makes me a candidate for a honorary theology degree.
The concept of Original Sin, accepted by some sects, is based upon this event. Every last descendent of those two naughty Chosen People is stained by this one action in the garden, born without recourse under a Damoclean Sword (might as well mix it up a bit) from something they had no control over, which may have occurred millennia before they came along. But even if you don’t truck with the Original Sin idea, there’s still the whole ‘paradise denied’ idea that gives us the existence we now have.
Basically, this means humans were created in a default ‘good’ state, but screwed this up right out of the gate. Forever after, we must make specific efforts to re-attain this state if we want to receive our reward for going through life. Note that adam & eve didn’t actually do anything in the garden to earn their initial good status; they started that way.
Now, imagine if it had occurred the other way around. Suppose that god had decided they should start with a default ‘bad’ status, abused constantly by the viciousness within the garden, but by doing something that pleased the one who gave them their traits and knew everything that could happen (yeah, it really does look like a manipulative game, doesn’t it?), they could then be blessed with a ‘good’ status to pass along forever and ever to their offspring, or alternately just exit the garden of nastiness to live in a nice world without strife. Free food, no competition, no floods or volcanoes. What if we were born with Original Grace, and had to do something nasty to deserve eternal punishment?
Now try imagining what religion would be like, since it would be inverted in nature. Since we’d have a god that was actually pretty cool instead of spiteful, we’d almost certainly have priests and such who told us routinely that, despite how great the world was, god was the very personification of Hate. Sunny days and excellent crop yields would be evidence that we displeased him somehow, probably by being nice to one another, and deaths in unlucky or bizarre accidents would be trumpeted as proof of god’s inherently shitty nature.
Atheists would still be considered in league with satan, of course, but we’d probably be accused of not being shrill and strident enough…