Genesis 2:16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the  
               garden thou mayest freely eat: 17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, 
               thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.
               Genesis 3:2 And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees 
               of the garden: 3 But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath 
               said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. 4 And the serpent said 
               unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: 5 For God doth know that in the day ye eat 
               thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and 
               Genesis 3:22 And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to 
               know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of     
               life, and eat, and live forever: 23 Therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden 
               of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. 24 So he drove out the man; and 
               he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which 
               turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.

Who is the liar: God or the serpent? God lied to Adam and Eve, saying that the fruit of the tree of knowledge would poison them, but later He Himself admitted that He was afraid that they would become godlike. The serpent told the truth: that the fruit was not poison, but that God was afraid of the godlike potentialities of man.

Theologians who thought they were smarter than God have said that the real meaning is that the "sin of disobedience" brought death into the world. This implies that before the "sin" Adam and Eve were immortal. This is contradicted by the text itself. Adam and Eve were not expelled from the Garden of Eden because they disobeyed God, as many people mistakenly believe. God Himself said that they were expelled to make sure that they did not "take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever". Furthermore, God did not say that they would eventually die of old age, but that "in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die."

This myth has triggered endless hairsplitting discussions about free will, but actually it is a bad example. The myth tells us that Adam and Eve were created with free will, but the first time they exercised it, God was so angry that he punished not only them, but the whole human race. The moral of the story, apparently, is that God (or, in practice, God's self-appointed representatives on earth) allow you the freedom to choose between alternatives, as long as you freely make the choice that they dictate.

Similarly, this myth cannot be the basis for a doctrine of original sin. The disobedience of Adam and Eve was not a "sin", not an evil deed. First of all, they disobeyed before they had tasted the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; therefore, at that point, they were still ignorant of the difference between right and wrong. Omniscient God should have known this. Furthermore, their deed was the realization of their potential, which is part of their nature with which they were created. They saw through the petty jealousy of God, who apparently was afraid that He had gone too far in creating them.

                         John Milton: Paradise Lost IV,514-519:
               One fatal tree there stands, of Knowledge called,
               Forbidden them to taste. Knowledge forbidden?
               Suspicious, reasonless. Why should their Lord
               Envy them that? can it be sin to know,
               Can it be death? and do they only stand
               By ignorance, is that their happy state?

The fact that Adam and Eve were the losers, not powerful enough to resist the vindictiveness of God, does not reflect on their moral virtue. On the contrary: the real criminals here are those who use this myth to afflict us with unjustified guilt feelings, and to teach us to regret the loss of an imaginary paradise, instead of instilling in us a thirst for knowledge that will allow us to make our own judgments, and free us from the malign influence of organized religion.