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The Full Secularization of the Doctrine of Original Sin


When the concept of original sin is mentioned today, it is done, more often than not in the somewhat arcane realms of theological disputes and theological history. And given the now largely secular nature of most western societies, this is understandable, and probably fitting. 

However, this highly delimited contemporary treatment of the concept—one by the way that I find very interesting and fruitful to contemplate on the personal level—can also blind us to its enormous and highly consequential social role as an enabler of hierarchical and largely authoritarian organizational apractices during the course of many centuries. 

To be born “fallen,” as the saying goes, is to be marked by an irremediable fragility which, in turn, impels one inexorably toward the arms of others in search of the succor we both need and want. It may even impel us, in time, to create fairly complex organizations devoted to safeguarding the common good of those who voluntarily subscribe to them. 

So far, so good. 

What history shows us is not so good, however, is when a group of elites establishes itself the prime if not sole arbiter of the processes in which the individual must participate if he or she is to have any hope of transcending their allegedly fallen state. In this context, original sin, which is to say the belief in the core insufficiency of the individual before god and others, becomes little more than an open justification for a never-ending series of rituals designed to reinforce the supplicatory posture of the many before power and prerogatives of those few making and reinforcing the rules.

This, in grossly simplified terms, is what the Church of the Rome did, or at least sought to do, for roughly 1500 years, before secular modernity, building upon the incremental critiques of Church-managed schemes of redemption implicit in the Renaissance, and the Reformation, convinced many, if not most of their inherent worthiness and resilience before the world. 

It is, I think, never a waste of time to try and put ourselves in the place of others and to imagine how they see the world. If for example, I were part of a small group of people made fabulously wealthy and powerful by the existing social order, and I saw clear signs of that order’s demise on the horizon—a demise seemingly caused by a rapidly growing skepticism in many quarters regarding the guiding mythologies of its operations—how might I respond? 

It is nice to think that I would look inward and ask myself what I and my fellow oligarchs had done to lose the trust of the people, to make them so increasingly boisterous and irreverent in the face of what were once our largely unquestioned mandates on their behavior?

History, however, shows us the powerful seldom react in this manner. Most, such as, for example, the Count-Duke Olivares in mid 17th century Spain and Anthony Blinken today, simply, and ultimately  quite futilely, double down on the methods they have used until that point. 

However, others of a more cerebral cast blessed with an understanding of Havel’s maxim  that “consciousness precedes being” might set out to radically re-engineer the cognitive parameters of—to use Benedict Anderson’s felicitous phrase—the “Imagined Community they and their fellow elites had done so much to create and maintain. 

How to do so? How to re-engineer what the cultural theorist Even-Zohar calls “proneness” in populations that have become increasingly alienated from the key philosophical precepts and reward systems over which you and your powerful friends preside? 

The obvious answer, it would seem, is to engineer a new and acute sense of fragility within people who until very recently, had more or less viewed themselves in terms of modernity’s paradigms of individual liberty, autonomy, will-driven behavior…and then to use your effective control of society’s key media centers to subtly re-define longstanding practices in a way that puts the individual in defensive and ultimately supplicatory postures before the centers of power you and you small group of allies control. 

For example, during the last 21 months we have all become habituated to talking about Covid “cases,” and seeing them as indicators per se of considerable individual and/or group threats to well-being. 

Left largely unexamined in all this is the fact that most of the “cases” we are referring to are not cases at all according to the long-standing canons of modern medicine wherein such determinations have always been driven by disease symptomology as confirmed by a licensed practitioner.

After misleadingly promoting the experimental PCR test as a competent stand-alone diagnostic tool for several months while case counts mounted and social panic increased,  the WHO and the CDC both stealthily corrected the this errant impression in late 2020, long after the concept of the positive RT-PCR test as a clear indicator of a community threat had been cemented in the minds of the public. 

[The documents from the WHO and the CDC clearing practitioners to break with standard medical practice and use a stand-alone positive RT-PCR result, presumptively, as “proof” of illness and/or the possibility to transmit disease are found here and here

The conveniently  late WHO  “never mind” document released in mid-December 2020 and updated again in January 2021 is found here. The CDC document “Overview of Testing for SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19)” which was published  on 21 October 2020,  which reversed the sui generis standard articulated earlier in the year and reaffirmed the  traditional need to let  symptomology drive the diagnostic process has seen its once clear language against the stand-alone use of the PCR overwritten by much more nebulous verbiage.]

Now, all of a sudden the results from a notoriously flawed and experimental RT-PCR test (remember it is being deployed on an Experimental Use Authorization) which almost across the board is run at Ct levels known by all the authorities in positions of policy-making power, including Fauci himself, to produce abundant false positives, were being treated by our media, and in time, sadly, by most of us, as confirmed health problems, subject to draconian restrictions on personal liberties. 

That no symptomology was present in the vast majority of the cases and the fact that no doctor had ever confirmed the existence of sickness all of a sudden did not matter.

[Here is the FDA brief specifying (p.38) that all relevant genetic that manifests itself below at a cycle threshold (Ct) of 40 or below is to be considered a positive result. And here is the video where Fauci (at the 4:22 mark) says, however, that nothing found at above 34 Ct should be considered a reliable positive result. 

Numerous other studies, such as this one, suggest that  there should be a similar ceiling for reliable results. Another study, however, suggests that the cutoff should be even lower given that at 25 Ct the rate of infections verifiable by “in culture” testing was only 70% and that it fell to 20% at 30 Ct.

It is interesting to note that as so-called breakthrough cases—infections that occur after the receipt of vaccines—have begun to a appear, the same government that instructed practitioners to view relevant genetic material that appeared at 40 Ct or under as a “positive” that could, in turn, be used by authorities to justify the curtailment of basic personal liberties, now says it will only investigate “breakthrough positives” generated at level 28 Ct or lower.]

These perfectly healthy people were now considered “fallen” in the health sense, and basically told the only way they could be redeemed, that is, permitted to recover their full constitutional rights, was to follow a course of “rehabilitation” capriciously determined by the authorities and enforced by legal sanction. 

Could the desire to invert the core premises of modern democracy—that people are delivered to the world in a more or less existentially sufficient state and that freedom is an inherent right and not a privilege—through the strategic issuance of stigmas, be made any clearer?

Fundamental to further facilitating this civic backfooting of large swathes of the population was the fiction of widespread asymptomatic transmission of SARS-type viruses. As both Anthony Fauci and Maria Van Kerkhove of the WHO sustained in no uncertain terms before someone apparently convinced them to change their stories, asymptomatic transmission of viruses like SARS-CV2 is exceedingly rare. 

But why publicize this largely incontrovertible scientific fact—one clearly borne out in, among other studies, the massive Chinese investigation on the matter published in November, 2020, —when you can have the specter of ever-present infection, that is, the specter of personal fallenness hanging over much of the society? 

This fable of massive asymptomatic transmission was, and is, especially useful in ensuring that the young be brought into the emergent paradigm of civic freedom not as an inalienable right but as a privilege bestowed conditionally by technocratic elites. 

Though the media sought from the first moment to falsely portray COVID as an age-indifferent threat, even the most obtuse believer in mainstream media fallacies could not help but notice that its toll of severe illness and death was overwhelmingly tilted toward the elderly. 

The answer to this “problem,” one eerily mapped out in the so-called “Panic paper” leaked from secret German government deliberations at the outset of the epidemic, was to instill in children the idea that, owing to the alleged phenomenon of asymptomatic transmission, their continued embrace of normal freedoms unconditioned by outside regimes of control could lead to the deaths of those people they most love and need. 

This same emotional blackmail rooted in a scientific fiction—and moreover one known to the highest authorities from the outset as such—was the driver behind the absurd school closure policies pursued in this country and abroad during the last year. This, despite the fact that studies on in school transmission from several European countries had debunked it as early as May 2020.

From the point of view of economic and government elites concerned about losing their entrenched prerogatives nothing is more threatening than the creation of voluntary webs of solidarity among the population. 

And historically, schools have played an absolutely crucial role in this process. Indeed, this is generally the first place where we discover ideas and concepts other than those we learned at the dinner table or in church, and learn to overcome the frictions this clash of ideas can create through measured dialogue. In short, schools are the place we take the first step toward becoming political beings. 

When viewed in this light, could there be anything better for these same elites than having children trapped at home in front of a screen plying them with well-engineered “behavioral nudges” instead on the playground discovering the different ways of thinking of their friends and acquaintances, and developing ways to form bonds of social solidarity that might eventually allow them to challenge entrenched centers of power? 

Could there be anything more beneficial in securing this necessary state of alienation than to train students to see their perfectly harmless fellow classmates as perpetually dangerous vectors of infection, so dangerous to others that their faces, whose expression we know to be absolutely essentially to the development of bonds of empathy and social intelligence in the young, must be covered up? 

All of which brings us finally to the matter of Covid and naturally acquired immunity

One of the basics of modern marketing, like those original-sin-rooted systems of social control in the past, is to constantly remind people of their core insufficiency before basic life challenges. Though  it takes numerous verbal and semiological forms, the mantra “You are broken, and we are here to fix you” lies at the core of many, if not most campaigns of consumer persuasion. 

Over the last several decades, drug companies, hungry for the creation of new profit centers in a largely saturated market (from the point of view of products necessary for the basic survival and the extension of life) have recurred assiduously to this basic trope. 

Indeed, they have used the advertising largesse afforded them by their enormous profit-levels to both directly convince the consumer of his or her real or imagined frailties. They also use it to silence corporate journalists from looking into the veracity of these claims of human insufficiency by threatening to deprive their parent companies of their massive ad-buys should the investigative scribes go too far. 

Over the 21 months, one of the most constant messages we have received in the press is the SARS-CV2 is a wholly “novel” virus about which very little is known, and therefore we have to proceed in the most cautious and risk-averse ways possible, starting, in effect, from ground zero in the matter of scientific assumptions, and hence, approaches to treatment. 

However, for numerous scientists of renowned solvency and/or prestige this is patently absurd. People have been studying Corona viruses for several decades now, and we know a good deal about them and the enormous similarities many, if not most of them share. This fact is eloquently borne out by the fact that Corman and Drosten, the German scientists whose hastily approved paper established the protocol for RT-PCR testing methods currently being used to detect SARS-CV 2 infections across the world relied, not on the existence of genetic material from that particular “novel” virus when plotting the test, but rather a 2003 SARS-CoV virus owing, as they candidly admit, to “the close genetic relatedness” of the two viruses. 

Scientists have also long-known about the human body’s extraordinary ability to develop robust and lasting cross-immunity through antibody and T-Cell responses to numerous variants of a given corona virus, an agility that very few if any of the newly developed experimental vaccines have, or seemingly expect to have. 

In fact, after managing to keep these basic facts out of the mainstream press through the  “we-just-don’t-know-enough-about-this-completely-new-virus” and/or “the-matter-of-reinfection-is-still-very-unclear” bluffs,  the proof of these long-understood immunological potencies are emerging in the scientific literature on SARS-CV-2. 

If authorities and their servants in the press were, in fact, interested in getting this country and others back on their feet as soon as possible, this news, or perhaps I should say this long-known reality, like the fact that for anyone under 65 the chances of dying from COVID are truly miniscule, and for children and young adults virtually nil, would be widely trumpeted. 

Instead those that bring forth these facts, as did the Brownstone’s Martin Kulldorff when he uttered the self-evident truth that “there is no need to vaccinate everyone” find themselves increasingly banned from expressing their views in social media. 

Making this blatant suppression of the good news of natural immunity even more irritating and frankly alarming, is the parallel campaign to suggest that the vaccines themselves confer precisely the breadth and duration of  immunity, as well as protection against transmission that natural immunity is known to provide. 

As the applications for Emergency Use Authorizations for these vaccines make quite clear, and subsequent data has confirmed in spades, none of the manufacturers claim in any forthright way that these vaccines will either protect those that take them from getting infected, or passing the virus on to others. The only claims they make are in the realm of lessening the severity of effects of those who do become infected. 

Finally, there is the matter of the unknown effects of not fully tested, and experimental vaccines. Strong warnings about the possible very negative health effects of vaccinating those who have had COVID with MRNA vaccines have been issued by among many others,  Drs.Peter McCullough, Hooman Norchashm, and Patrick Whelan

Thinking about it, one cannot help but note the absurd double standard at play when it comes to the application of the precautionary principle on Covid. 

In our present reality, the precautionary principle can always be invoked to curtail human freedoms even though the threat is, as we have seen, demonstrably small and the techniques that are said to be serving in the cause of prevention (masks and lockdowns) have absolutely no robust science backing their efficacy. 

But to invoke the precautionary principle in the face of not fully tested vaccines, injections manifestly not needed by the vast majority of the population, and produced by profit-driven companies who have arranged for complete  immunity from damages produced by their products, is a sign of craziness in people who are clearly  “anti-science”.  

When we look dispassionately at the way the COVID phenomenon has been handled, is it clear we are not so much up against a massive biological threat to human survival, but rather a concerted culture-planning effort on the part of monied and governmental elites across the Euro-American world, and quite possibly beyond, to dispense with the core premise of democratic governance in the contemporary era—that governments work for the people and not vice-versa—and replace it with a relationship of dependence in which technocratic elites, like the priests and archbishops of the medieval church who worked in concert with the lords of the manor, to exercise effective control over most, if not all aspects of the life of the individual. 

And if all this sounds like tinfoil talk, then I would point you to what very serious students of the role of propaganda in culture, like Jacques Ellul, have said about the depth of its reach in our lives, and would remind you of the response that the great scholar of “Deep Politics” Michael Parenti customarily gives when people accuse him of being a so-called “conspiracy theorist”: 

“The alternative is to believe that the powerful and the privileged are somnambulists, who move about oblivious to questions of power and privilege; that they always tell us the truth and have nothing to hide even when they hide so much; that although most of us ordinary people might consciously try to pursue our own interests, wealthy elites do not; that when those at the top employ force and violence around the world it is only for the laudable reasons they profess; that when they arm, train, and finance covert actions in numerous countries, and then fail to acknowledge their role in such deeds, it is because of oversight or forgetfulness or perhaps modesty; and that it is merely a coincidence how the policies of the national security state so consistently serve the interests of the transnational corporations and the capital-accumulation system throughout the world”. 

I understand the psychological reflex that leads many, if not most people, to ascribe essentially benign motives to those to whom we have bequeathed disproportionately large parcels of financial and political power and the implicit right to frame transversally accepted notions of social “truth.” It is, the same reflex that impedes most of us from entertaining the fact that our parents might be vicious and amoral businesspeople, or worse yet, pedophiles and murderers. 

But the fact is that there are a small number of parents who act precisely in these ways, and pretending that this is not or cannot be so, will do nothing to stop them from hurting other people. Life is intrinsically beautiful. But if we really want to safeguard that beauty and pass it on to our children and grandchildren, we must be prepared, as mature adults, to see and confront authoritarian campaigns of coercion and social control when they stare us in the face. 

Published under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
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  • Thomas Harrington

    Thomas Harrington, Senior Brownstone Scholar and Brownstone Fellow, is Professor Emeritus of Hispanic Studies at Trinity College in Hartford, CT, where he taught for 24 years. His research is on Iberian movements of national identity and contemporary Catalan culture. His essays are published at Words in The Pursuit of Light.

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