Salvation is selfish.

October 26, 2008

Today, I’ve been thinking about the whole idea of salvation, as it is understood in the Christian religion.  Salvation, of course, is only attainable by “accepting Jesus as your personal lord and savior” and living a life free of sin, according to the good Christians.

Living a life free of sin, according to the devout, is of the utmost virtue.  And sin, of course, is defined by a human interpretation of the bible, which is taken to be the “word of god”.  (I sense a little room here for fallability and subjectivity, don’t you?)  Christians want the rest of us to accept their way as THE way, because some book of dubious origin said so.  (Like the ignorant bumper sticker I saw once – “god said it, I believe it, that settles it.”  They just think they’re so fucking cute, don’t they?)  But it seems to me that to live one’s life in constant fear of a celestial surveillance in hopes to gain said surveillance’s favor in an afterlife is psychologically twisted to the point of morbidity.  It strikes me more as an “alien despotism”, to borrow a phrase from Bertrand Russell.  And for that same fear of banishment from some desirable “heaven” to be the sole motivation for one to do good in the world would reveal not a strong moral character, but a truly selfish and cunning one.  It would rather that living a good and decent life in pursuit of one’s own good and decent hopes and desires without intruding on the good and decent hopes and desires of others, I should hope, would be its own reward here in this life.  Frank Zappa sang it a little more plainly: “Do what you wanna, do what you will, just don’t mess up your neighbor’s thrill.”

Religion is a paradoxical duality of sorts – a wholly individual thing and yet at the same time a collective entity.  Each member of any religious sect partakes individually in its rites – usually by birth or marriage, but somewhat willfully.  In the Christian religion, each member seeks “salvation through Jesus Christ” and yet they are all swept up together in a collective fervor that knows no reason or logic; rather, they are blindly following some handful of teachings and rituals that are self-contradicting, divisive and exclusive at best.

Salvation just strikes as such a selfish enterprise.  All of this charity and good-will seems to be just for show – because, in the end, it is each individual Christian who is hoping and praying that all of this “good deeds” stuff will add up to the correct sum on some score card and allow them admittance into the most aristocratic, elitist club in the universe.  Too bad for them that all scientific evidence and logic point to the contrary – that god’s heaven is the stuff of myth and fable, and each us – devout or not – are headed straight for the collective compost pile.

6 Responses to “Salvation is selfish.”

  1. Druid Says:

    Ideally, of course, salvation should mean a life FREE of fear of sin and fear of damnation. That’s my understanding, anyway, of the Christian belief: because Jesus pays the price for sin, the Christian doesn’t have to. Being saved means escaping from the consequences of one’s actions. So the true Christian ought to be joyous, full of life and hope and good humor — these are the things that should mark the saved person. If salvation is supposed to be good news, we all should catch the joy and be inspired by the love and joy of Christians to want salvation ourselves. Why then are so many Christians full of anger and fear and condemnation? If these are the “fruits” or evidence of the power of Jesus, it’s not surprising that so many seekers of truth are turned off, not by the message, which has much to commend it, but by Christians themselves.

  2. mindserased Says:

    “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven.” Isn’t that another one of their stupid bumper stickers? It’s very true, that many “Christians” are full of spite, hatred and intolerance. It flies in the face of the high ideals they all are supposedly espousing.

    Saved from sin? Saved from freedom is more like it. The whole idea of sin is just a collective mind-fuck, if you ask me.

    And honestly, in my opinion, if “seekers of truth” are looking in the direction of religion, I think they’ve already made a serious error.

  3. seev78 Says:

    You’re not saying, are you Minds, that most “Christians” are full of spite, hatred, and intolerance, are you? Or maybe you are. Is it possible to be a Christian and do good in the world, be kind to people? Or, do you have to be an Atheist to do good in the world without being a hypocrite? Finally, in what direction should “seekers of truth” look? To logic and reason, I suppose. But there are some — probably idiots! — who recognize that there are limits to human reason. There are even those who reason their way to not being Atheists! How little we really know, they say. Idiots!

  4. mindserased Says:

    Well, I agree with Bertrand Russell, who said that a good life is one inspired by love and guided by knowledge. There are, of course, Christians who are living a truly good life, and there are, of course, atheists who are not. But most Christians would have you *believe* they are living a good life, when few of them truly are. Many god-fearing folks put on airs that they are pious and humble and love their neighbor, but it’s all rhetoric, and not guided by anything of real substance – of knowledge. Take, for example, back in the times when the plague was sweeping across Europe. The church leaders thought, of course, they were doing a good deed by gathering terrified people into the churches to pray for an end to the plague. People were understandably frightened and were in need of consolation during that time. For the churches to gather these folks together to console one another and to pray was an action inspired largely by love. It wasn’t guided by knowledge, however, because gathering everyone together in the churches did more to actually hasten the plague’s spread across Europe than probably anything else. Had the church leaders had the *knowledge* of how infectious disease is spread, they would have urged people to stay sequestered at home; thus, said knowledge would have guided the love that they felt for these people.

    And hey, seev, don’t mind my crassness – you know me by now, considering your faithfulness to this blog. Seekers of truth can seek anywhere they like. However, I think intellectual truth is objective, and emotional truth is subjective. So I would just suggest that anyone bear that in mind as they search for what’s “right” in their life.

  5. seev78 Says:

    OK Minds, you make very good points about those pathetic church leaders leading without knowledge. And Dr, Rioux in Camus’ The Plague was a scientist who never shirked from his duty to aid the plague victims as much as he could, at his own peril, while a priest (forget the name) pompously asked people to pray while he cursed the devil. So, yes, knowledge is vital if we are to survive. What made Dr. Rioux act this way is another question.

    Yes! I know you by now, Minds! On your last paragraph, all I can say is be careful about what really is intellectual truth versus emotional truth. The brain works in mysterious ways, and our very concept of what constitutes objectivity is unclear to many “objective” people. The world is far more complex than to be easily broken down into these categories, except perhaps in simple or “obvious” cases. Well, at least I think so.

  6. seev78 Says:

    I just came across an true atheist who likes Christians! How can this be? Well, if you have some time, Minds, scan this guy’s article, Why I am not a Christian. He likes Bertrand Russell’s essays in fact!

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