The following is from a longer article1 by Frank Schaeffer:
We humans have a problem: We are apes with a glimmer of conscience…As a species we’ve evolved just enough over the last one hundred thousand years or so to worry about the fact we’re just animals who behave like… animals.
So we do several things to assuage our young still-developing consciences. We look away from the truth of who we really are. We invent political or religious theologies to explain our barbarity and justify it. We let politics guide us away from admitting the truth about our conflicted semi-evolved selves...That truth is that we are animals who look at the world through spiritual eyes. That means that we are conflicted about ourselves.
We are semi-evolved primates who have just enough conscience to know we are lacking in selfless empathy...So we inhabit the worst of all worlds. We are animals who judge ourselves. This conflicting paradox is paralleled by the basic human dilemma: We are conscious enough to fear death but not spiritual enough to accept our mortality. So we live in tension. The truth is that there is no easy fast fix to your and my hardened hearts. This is not because of sin but because of the war between our killer ruthless primate selves and the higher consciousness we are on the cusp of embracing. (That’s what “original sin” is if it is anything.) The problem is we’re not there yet.
Mr. Schaeffer's premise--that we are "apes with a glimmer of conscience"--recalls a phrase from Leonard Cohen: "apes with angel glands". It also recalls the more extensively worked-out claims of Arthur Koestler (most famously, in THE GHOST IN THE MACHINE). It was Mr. Koestler's thesis that the human brain had evolved in such a way as to make it inevitably susceptible to its own atavistic origins and instincts. Frank Schaeffer, atheist that he claims to be2, recommends following Jesus in order to overcome our worst impulses; Mr. Koestler, if I recall correctly, recommended pharmaceuticals in the water supply.
2 Mr. Schaeffer's latest book is WHY I AM AN ATHEIST WHO BELIEVES IN GOD.