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Born Bad

Original Sin and the Making of the Western World

List Price: $16.95

May 10, 2016 | Paperback | 5.9 x 8.9, 208 pages | ISBN 9781619027183
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“Original sin is the Western world’s creation story.”

According to the Christian doctrine of original sin, humans are born inherently bad, and only through God’s grace can they achieve salvation. In this captivating and controversial book, acclaimed historian James Boyce explores how this centuries-old concept has shaped the Western view of human nature right up to the present. Boyce traces a history of original sin from Adam and Eve, St. Augustine, and Martin Luther to Adam Smith, Sigmund Freud, and Richard Dawkins, and explores how each has contributed to shaping our conception of original sin.

Boyce argues that despite the marked decline in church attendance in recent years, religious ideas of morality still very much underpin our modern secular society, regardless of our often being unaware of their origins. If today the specific doctrine has all but disappeared (even from churches), what remains is the distinctive discontent of Western people–the feelings of guilt and inadequacy associated not with doing wrong, but with being wrong. In addition to offering an innovative history of Christianity, Boyce offers new insights in to the creation of the West.

Born Bad is the sweeping story of a controversial idea and the remarkable influence it still wields.

About James Boyce

James Boyce is the multiple award-winning author of 1835 and Van Diemen's Land. He has a PhD from the University of Tasmania, where he is an honorary research associate of the School of Geography and Environmental Studies.

"Boyce provides a solid, albeit complex, description of the presence of original sin concepts . . . the book has tremendous merit in its presentation of a nearly 2,000-year history of a major aspect of the Western intellectual tradition."--Choice

"Born Bad is one of the best books on the history of the evolution of Christianity and its ideology. It is beautifully written and very well argued. This book is a necessary read for all those who are interested in Christianity, its evolution, and its history."--Washington Book Review

"James Boyce has...written a brilliant and exhilarating work of popular scholarship." --The Washington Post

"[Born Bad] makes a compelling engrossing study...Boyce leads us into new understandings of some of the central figures in Western culture....This is an exceptional, highly recommended work, innovative and creative in surprising ways."--Publisher's Weekly Starred Review

"Boyce covers a lot of ground and explores a number of authors in this wide-ranging treatment, and the result is impressive. Readable and comprehensive, the book provides worthwhile food for thought. Boyce successfully illustrates the ability of original sin to dominate Western culture for nearly two millennia."--Kirkus

"Born Bad is one of the best books on the history of the evolution of Christianity and its ideology. It is beautifully written and very well argued. This book is a necessary read for all those who are interested in Christianity, its evolution, and its history." --The Washington Book Review

Praise for the Australian Edition

"This highly original, readable book shows how the Christian idea that we are all somehow fundamentally warped has helped to shape democratic politics, free markets, sexual anxieties and even debates about whether dead babies go to heaven." -- Marion Maddox, author of God Under Howard and Taking God to School

"An imaginative and utterly unpredictable book. Alleluia." - The Australian

"Boyce finds fascinating marks of the idea of original sin in the big liberal ideas of free-market economics, Darwinian evolution and psychological analysis, but no compensating marks equivalent to the Christian idea of sanctifying grace." - The Monthly

"James Boyce is the best kind of historian of ideas. He does not reduce the complexity of his subject to a few easy lessons. He opens up the history of the idea of original sin rather than narrowing it down...there is an unblinking regard for the efforts the human race has made to understand itself."- The Age

Praise for Van Diemen's Land

"The most significant colonial history since The Fatal Shore. In re-imagining Australia's past, it invents a new future." --Richard Flanagan

"Like the best history, Van Diemen's Land is not an artfully constructed narrative with the (inevitably inadequate) evidence banished to endnotes, but a dialogue between historian and reader as they explore the fragile sources, and the silences, together." --Inga Clendinnen

"The publication of Van Diemen's Land signals an entirely fresh approach to Australian history-writing . . . this is a brilliant publication." -- Alan Atkinson

Praise for 1835

"Anyone who calls Melbourne home - in fact anyone who calls Australia home - should read this book." --Peter Mares

"A first-class piece of historical writing. Boyce is a graceful and robust stylist and a fine storyteller." --Sunday Age

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