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Adam, Eve and You

I'm currently working my way through the fascinating 'Escape From Freedom' by Erich Fromm. One passage struck me, concerning the Adam & Eve myth and how it relates to freedom, and organized religion's insidious use of it (from chapter II:The Emergence of the Individual):
The myth identifies the beginning of human history with an act of choice, but it puts all emphasis on the sinfulness of this first act of freedom and the suffering resulting from it. Man and woman live in the garden of eden in complete harmony with each other and with nature. there is peace and no necessity to work; there is no choice; no freedom; no thinking either. Man is forbidden to each from the tree of knowledge between good and evil. He acts against God's command, he breaks through the state of harmony with nature of which he is a part without transcending it. From the standpoint of the church which represented authority, this is essentially sin. From the standpoint on man, however, this is the beginning of human freedom. Acting against God's orders means freeing himself from coercion, emerging from the unconscious existence of prehuman life to the level of man. Acting against the command of authority, committing a sin, is in it's positive human aspect the first act of freedom, that is, the first human act.In the myth the sin in it's formal spect is the eating from the tree of knowledge. The act of disobedience as an act of freedom is the beginning of reason.

The myth speaks of other consequences of this first act of freedom.The original harmony between man and nature is destroyed. God proclaims war on man and woman, and war between nature and man. Man has become separate from nature, he has taken the first step toward becoming human by becoming an "individual". He has committed the first act of freedom.

The myth emphasizes the suffering resulting from this act. To transcend nature, to be alienated from nature and another human being, finds man naked, ashamed. He is alone and free, yet powerless and afraid. The newly won freedom appears as a curse; he is free from the sweet bondage of paradise, but he is not free to govern himself, to realize his individuality.

What an incredibly powerful tool to indoctrinate children. The message is clear; do as god says, as translated through the church, or suffer terribly. At the time of life when a child typically hears this, young enough that they're still part of the magical existence of the universe and just beginning to form an identity of their own identifying themselves as separate from it, this myth would have incredible potency.

But lessons on capitulating to authority aren't limited to religion. Our public education system is built on it. From the beginning of a child's tortuous trip through K-12, he is hammered with lessons in arbitrarily submitting to an omnipotent authority, wherein any deviation is punished and we're told will haunt us the rest of our lives. How can children develop a true identity in this environment? Where do they learn to think for themselves, to think freely and critically?

There was a recent study linking children 4 and under who are obese and diminished intelligence. According to research, approximately 15% of all children in the US are obese. When you start to think about these kids' identities getting ground up into hamburger while they go to church and/or school, and how many there are, and how many more there were and are likely to be, you start to understand why it was so easy for the global war of terrorism lie to work, and why Americans believe they live in a democratic garden of eden.

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