The Importance of Sin

by Hans Jansen


Christianity is an odd religion. Nevertheless some of its tenets have equally influenced the thinking of both Christians and modern Western unbelievers. A prime example is the doctrine of Original Sin: all humans are sinners, no exceptions allowed. Even newborn babies commit a sin: infants are guilty of gluttony, as St. Augustine pointed out.

The doctrine is loosely connected to the story about the fall of Adam and Eve in Paradise (Old Testament, Genesis 3) and the use St. Paul makes of this story in the New Testament, in his letter to Romans, Chapter 5: All people are sinners as the result of the disobedience of one manAdam, in whom all have sinned.

To be streetwise in the modern world inevitably means to foresee the wickedness of others. Good intentions ought to be met with cynicism. Only in a world of fantasy are we allowed to believe in the good intentions of our superiors, competitors and, well, in general, fellow human beings.

The Christian tenet of Original Sin is at odds with a fundamental principle of Islamic theology. Few will disagree that Muslims are as streetwise as othersthis is not where the difficulty lies. After all, true Muslims either live in, or are surrounded by, the House of War. This must have taught them something about the ways of the world.

However, the theology of Islam, and this contradicts both Christian and secular doctrine, teaches that Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam, has been without sin. Muhammad, Peace Be Upon Him, was ma’soum, as Muslim theologians say, ‘protected’ from committing sin or mistakes. In the Islamic way of thinking, it is necessary to believe this, because if it were otherwise, how could we believe his claims to have received revelations from God? Muhammad is without sin, so he did not lie. Consequently, when he tells us that his Koran comes from God, this is true.

Christian theologians are, perhaps, even more streetwise than Islam, and they do not accept that the Prophet of Islam has been without sin. In their footsteps, Westerners feel no qualms about criticizing Muhammad, who is assumed to have lived from 570 till 632. However, such criticism is seen as a grave offense in official Islamic theology, as indeed it should. If Muhammad was not perfect and without sin, the Koran could, in whole or in part, not be the word of God, and man’s eternal life could be at serious risk. No final judgment, no heaven, no hell.

It is surprising how quickly Western politicians, academics, journalists and judges have understood the cosmic danger of expressing criticism of Muhammad. Such criticism appears to them to be perhaps even more dangerous than global warming as far as the future well-being of humanity is concerned. Just one example: President Obama stated, on September 25, 2012, to the United Nations: ‘The future must not belong to those who slander the Prophet of Islam’. How could a President of the United States be wrong on such an important topic.

Such success with the secular part of the Western world certainly must be encouraging to Muslim missionaries. God blesses their work in multiple ways! Will the Christians, still an important minority in Europe, be equally easy to convince? That remains to be seen, but from the perspective of Islam the prospects are good. Christian theologians, of whom only a minority is blessed with perspicacity, appear to be hesitant. What harm would it do to refrain from criticism of Muhammad? Perhaps, in exchange, Islam would forego criticism of Christianity?

Just to make sure that God’s will is done, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the league of Islamic States, works through the diplomats of its member states to convince the rest of the world that Islamophobia and criticism of Muhammad ought to be criminalized all over the world. And, lo and behold, Western governments are eager to concede on this flimsy technicality, since they see it as an unimportant point. We, to the contrary, better stick to the belief in good old original sin.

December 2012

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