The concept that human nature is depraved and that it is something must be conquered. It stands in stark opposition to the admonition to ‘be yourself’. The recognition of sin compels the individual to struggle against their own desires rather than embrace them.


“We’ve abandoned the concept of sin, first, because we’ve left behind the depraved view of human nature. In the eighteenth and even the ninteenth century, many people really did embrace the dark self-estimation expressed in the old Puritan prayer  ‘Yet I Sin’: ‘Eternal Father, Thou art good beyond all thought, but I am vile, wretched, miserable, blind…’ That’s simply too much darkness for the modern mentality” (53, The Road to Character)

“Sin is a necessary piece of our mental furniture because it reminds us that life is a moral affair. No matter how hard we try to reduce everything to deterministic brain chemistry, no matter how hard we try to reduce behavior to the sort of herd instinct that is captured in big data, no matter how hard we strive to replace sin with nonmoral words, like ‘mistake’ or ‘error’ or ‘weakness,’ the most essential parts of life are matters of individual responsibility and moral choice: whether to be brave or cowardly, honest or deceitful, compassionate or callous, faithful or disloyal. When a modern culture tries to replace sin with ideas like error or insensitivity, or tries to banish words like ‘virtue’, ‘character’, ‘evil’, and ‘vice’ altogether, that doesn’t make life any less moral; it just means we have obscured the inescapable moral core of life with shallow language. It just means we think and talk about these choices less clearly, and thus become increasingly blind to the moral stakes of everyday life” (54, The Road to Character)


The Road to Character by David Brooks

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *