The metaphor used to be used to evoke the loss of virginity.  Today many of us wonder whether the heavenly reward expected by Islamic terrorists is not doubly incredible : can an imagined God find as many as 72 post-puberty virgins for even one mass-murderer ?  (We have already noted that some say “virgins” is a mistranslation for . . . “raisins” !).

This said (and you are entitled to wonder why I bothered), the damaged goods I have in mind are – us !  Ever since Adam and Eve ate that damned forbidden fruit, their progeny have been condemned for ever to be born with the stain, the damage, of their Original Sin.  That in itself is pretty hard to swallow as punishment of totally innocent tiny tots.  “The fathers have eaten sour grapes and their children’s teeth are set on edge” – not their own !  We rightly are scandalized that the sins of our ancestors are visited upon us.  Some still practise vendettas on their enemies’ children, not because they are considered as sharing guilt but as a particularly cruel, vicious form of vengeance.  Even outside Mafia circles and other criminal environments, some suffer all their lives from the reputation and even the name of their parents.  I recently saw an interview on TV of a certain German, eminently respectable, gentleman, Herr Goering . . .

We can thank St Augustine of Hippo, the “Doctor of Doctors”, the great theologian who inspired Albert, Aquinas and Bonaventure in the Golden Age of Theology in the 13th century, for inventing, a thousand years earlier, the doctrine of Original Sin.  The water of Baptism is symbolic of new life, but more basically of washing away the sin we didn’t commit.  We didn’t even blink when told this in religious instruction classes and in sermons.  Like the rest of Church doctrine, we  swallowed it all.  Or, shall we say, we pretended to.  Given the fact that as Thom, in a comment, has just reminded us, the Church has decided that Limbo – an imagined halfway home between Heaven and Hell for unbaptized babies – never existed, though for all those previous centuries, right up to our own time, it had taught that it did, Baptism as cleansing from Original Sin  is hardly credible anymore.

All this leads to the inevitable question : the Church, having finally admitted that it was dead wrong about geocentrism, definitively demonstrated as false by Galileo, and having now pushed the Delete button on the Limbo it had invented, what’s next ?  Hell would be a helluva good candidate for the next doctrine to be ditched, before the ovine, credulous flock itself decides to toss out the baby with the bathwater, and admit that God Himself is a pipe-dream.

RIDENDA      RELIGIO