Original sin is a concept that manifests itself in a feeling of guilt and remorse and the need to seek atonement (forgiveness). Mankind is "broken" in one form or another and needs to be repaired.
The concept of humans being "tainted" is exploited by institutionalized religion to attract and control people. It's also used to rationalize real world events that are not fully-consistent with religious doctrine (i.e. Why are so many innocent people killed by acts of God? They may not be so innocent - they all have original sin.)
The notion of guilt and subsequent atonement is a key aspect of most religious philosophies. On one hand you have constructs that represent it in a more benign form such as the Buddhist understanding that mankind's inherent desire is a force that must be dealt with as it is the source of all suffering, to more specific claims in the Judeo-Christian doctrine which claims all of mankind is "cursed" with "original sin"
Evangelical Christians tend to apply a literal interpretation of the Bible, which suggests that mankind inherited the curse of original sin due to Eve disobeying God's orders in the Garden of Eden (Bible, Book of Genesis) and eating fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. This set in motion, the curse of original sin, which has been passed down to all humans thereafter, and dooms mankind to eternal suffering in the afterlife if they do not accept God/Jesus as their savior.
Catholics tend to interpret the concept of original sin in a more moderate metaphorical manner.
Last updated by Nelson Mar 5, 2009.