The Goodness of Knowing Our Badness

From Rousseau to the Tom and Jerry Cartoons, Wheaton English Professor, Alan Jacobs, traces a “cultural history” of Original Sin, the name of his recent 304 page book. The most auspicious and provocative lines in Matt Jenson’s review in Books and Culture are these:

Original sin’s deniers like to claim that the doctrine does bad things, or at least discourages us from doing good things. It deals death. So they tell us. But over and over in Jacobs’ account, we meet well-intentioned characters, only to find their happier, gentler anthropologies turning sour, leading to (or at least abetting) anarchy, eugenics, despair. Perhaps the greatest irony in this history is the discovery that knowledge of original sin gives life—by revealing us to ourselves, yes, but also by grounding a sense of universal human kinship.... Truly a revolutionary thought—that the roots of our common humanity might be found, not in our dignity or even our potential, but in our depravity.