Is the concept of Salvation compatible with Morality

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RichardGarfinkle

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Atheists/humanists such as myself are often confronted with the thesis that morality can only exist by an act of divine fiat, that without commandment a person is simply making up their own moral code and therefore will simply be doing what they feel like and perhaps justifying it with argument.

There are numerous threads touching on this subject in this and in the atheism subforum. Here are a couple:

https://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?168290-Where-Non-theists-get-Their-Morality

https://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?210771-Morality-Without-Religion-is-it-Possible


I was brought up Jewish. Morality in Judaism is a matter of contract. God made a covenant with the Jewish people. They're supposed to follow the Law and God will be their god. It's pretty straightforward and leads to a lot of argument about what following the Law entails.

The ethical complications arise in whether or not the decision of my ancestors is binding on me. Modern Jews come to their own conclusions on this matter with a distribution of outcomes stretching from Ultraorthodoxy to complete atheism.

Jewish folklore has a concept of place in the afterlife with a sense of better places for the more observant, but it isn't strictly a tenet of the religion.

Others, e.g. Christopher Hitchens, have argued that a religion with salvation is like an authoritarian regime. Hitchens was fond of saying that at least in North Korea you can die to escape the authoritarianism.

I don't think it's necessary to go that far to find a problematic element in the concept of salvation.

That element is that salvation is, for all practical purposes, unimaginable.

Many religions have had afterlives that were imaginable. They were better than this life quantitatively, but not qualitatively. The ancient Egyptians imagined an afterlife where the people were still growing crops to eat but the crops never failed, no bugs, no diseases, no famine. It was this life but better.

But salvation as currently conceived is a state that human minds can hope for without being able to conceive of.

On the other hand, the opposite of salvation, damnation, is easy to conceive of.

Damnation as a matter of writing is simple to depict. Human life has a lot of misery in it. All one needs to do is escalate aspects of that misery (whether it is torture, boredom, the company of jerks, etc.) to create an easily identified hell.

Dante had no trouble depicting a panoply of suffering, but struggled mightily and admitted his failure at creating an image of heavenly bliss.

In practical terms religions focusing on salvation inspire images of damnation. They create a focus on failure to live up to the tenets of the religion and a fetish for the suffering that will befall those who do not do so.

This creates a bias towards viewpoints that are both judgementalist and triumphalist.

In this state of mind people are more likely to be self-righteous and hypocritical. The more certain they are of salvation and the more afraid they are of damnation, the less likely they are to try to act morally.

This is problematic since it's clear that at least one purpose of the ideas of salvation and damnation is to create the kind of introspection and careful action that leads to humans acting morally toward each other.

Some would dismiss this argument by saying that no true insert-religion-name-here would misuse these concepts like that, that a seeker after salvation will work to do good for other humans.

I don't think that's relevant. The question is not whether there is a right way to do this. The question is, does teaching these ideas generate a greater likelihood of human morality or human immorality?

I would argue that because salvation is nebulous and damnation visceral, that the teaching of salvation as a concept does more actual teaching of damnation.

Damnation thinking does not get people to behave themselves. It creates judgment, one-upmanship, and suffering among people who are told that their human thoughts and actions are damnable.

Damnation-based religions are clearly not generators of human morality. History shows they are are continuous generators of human suffering.

The question becomes, is there a way that a salvation-based religion can be stabilized so that it won't mutate into a damnation-based religion?
 

Siri Kirpal

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Sat Nam! (Literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

I've been staying out of here because I've come to the conclusion that religious dissection kills the butterfly. But I do want to throw this tidbit from the Siri Guru Granth Sahib (the Sikh Guru) into the arena:

What is Heaven and what is Hell?
The Saints reject both.
----by Kabir
IIRC

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal
 

RichardGarfinkle

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Sat Nam! (Literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

I've been staying out of here because I've come to the conclusion that religious dissection kills the butterfly. But I do want to throw this tidbit from the Siri Guru Granth Sahib (the Sikh Guru) into the arena:

What is Heaven and what is Hell?
The Saints reject both.
----by Kabir
IIRC

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal

A worthwhile quote, but one that elucidates the problem I was pointing out. If it takes a Saint or a Sage or a Bodhisattva to understand the inutility of these concepts, would it not be better to not have them at all?

Anything that requires that level of insight to see clearly and which misleads those who don't see it clearly is clearly a bad idea to leave lying around.

Given the harm done to human lives would it not be wiser to simply not employ these concepts.

There are ways of expressing the need for mindfulness, care, and compassion that don't so easily turn toxic.

Also as regards your conclusion, again my background is Jewish. In Judaism religious discussion is one of the things that brings the religion to life.
 

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Okay, I'm doing bible study with the Jehovah's Witnesses.
Their take is: Yes to Salvation: Jehovah sent his son, Jesus, to live as a human and die to save us, by balancing out original sin. No to Damnation. A loving god does not sentence his creations to an eternity of punishment. (Come Judgement time, we will be given knowledge and time to change our ways, if needed, and consider whether we want to live under God's rule or not. If not, we will merely be snuffed out like a candle.)
Keeping in mind that I have only started my studies and this should not be taken as the correct 'official teachings'.
 

ColoradoGuy

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Richard -- the question of whether humans are innately good and, instinctively, act cooperatively to do good has of course interested psychologists, both evolutionary ones and others, for a long time. There is a nice review in Scientific American about the issue here. The tentative conclusion is that yes, humans innately wish to do good. This may be for evolutionary reasons or, formulated as George Fox did in the 17th century, humans are born with an Inner Light.
 

RichardGarfinkle

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Richard -- the question of whether humans are innately good and, instinctively, act cooperatively to do good has of course interested psychologists, both evolutionary ones and others, for a long time. There is a nice review in Scientific American about the issue here. The tentative conclusion is that yes, humans innately wish to do good. This may be for evolutionary reasons or, formulated as George Fox did in the 17th century, humans are born with an Inner Light.

Innate Goodness is a concept related to but different from Salvation. But it is equally problematic. Many people who believe in their own innate goodness form the following flawed syllogism.

I am innately good therefore everything I do is good.

People who think this way are often careless and abusive. They treat any objection to their actions as an imputation against their innately good character.

As a doctor, you know very well that good intentions are no substitute for mindful care. And that mindful care is learned over a lifetime of mistake making and error corrections.

Good as a way to work toward, is in my experience, a more useful concept to teach and work for than good as an innate property.
 

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Raised Lutheran. Currently claim membership with the Church of the Nazarene, of which my wife is a pastor. I've been in a "Thomas season" or even "faith crisis" for years now.

Penn Jillette voiced a great view on religion vs morality a while back. It's on video, one of his private moment kind of things (I think), and I can't find it right now. But he said he was having a discussion with a Christian over morality and they said something to the effect of "What's stopping you from murdering and robbing and raping all you want?" His response was that he already does murder and rape and rob all he wants, because the amount he wants is zero. (He's also got a very moving video about someone witnessing to him that I really like.)

I think this idea that we Christians have that one can only have morals if we believe in God is non-biblical. The Bible says we are all created in the image of God, and it says that before there's any talk about commandments or beliefs or anything of that sort. If that's true, then at the moment of creation, we all have the same capacity for morals as any other human, believer or non-believer.

Christians don't have the market cornered on morality. If we did, there wouldn't be any need for the #ChurchToo or #EmptyThePews movements. We wouldn't see pastors resigning or being fired over sexual assault or harassment. Yes, I know many believers will throw out the "No True Scotsman" Christian fallacy, but every one of those pastors believed they were Christian, and in the end, that's all that matters.
 
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frimble3

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But he said he was having a discussion with a Christian over morality and they said something to the effect of "What's stopping you from murdering and robbing and raping all you want?" His response was that he already does murder and rape and rob all he wants, because the amount he wants is zero.
This is brilliant. It's not that, left to our own devices, we would all become slavering, rampaging animals. Even animals aren't constantly slavering and rampaging.
His questioner sounds like he's trying to justify his own evil impulses, by assuming that everyone has them, too.
 

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This is brilliant. It's not that, left to our own devices, we would all become slavering, rampaging animals. Even animals aren't constantly slavering and rampaging.
His questioner sounds like he's trying to justify his own evil impulses, by assuming that everyone has them, too.

I think I was misremembering the situation. Looked for it, found several memes, then found this interview. But his point still stands.

Edit: Here's the video I mentioned. It's from 2008 or so, and about five minutes long. The "money quote" if you will starts at about the 3-minute mark.
 
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RichardGarfinkle

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This is brilliant. It's not that, left to our own devices, we would all become slavering, rampaging animals. Even animals aren't constantly slavering and rampaging.
His questioner sounds like he's trying to justify his own evil impulses, by assuming that everyone has them, too.

It is good, but it lacks something.
At times many people have wanted to kill someone else.
As a person susceptible to anger I'm aware of the irrelevance of that want to how I should live my life as a human among humans.
People are often overly impressed by their own impulses or their own ideas. Whether that is an help or harm doesn't matter much. Impulses themselves are too short term to form a basis for human action.

Father's day example: One cannot parent on impulses. It does not matter what one feels like doing, ones children need one, so one should do what they need.
 

Taylor Harbin

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I'd like to weigh in on the subject of Paradise, since the OP mentioned it.

I was raised/am still non-denominational Christian (a mere Christian, as C.S. Lewis might say). I'll be referencing some specific passages, but I'm not trying to violate forum rules or derail the point of the thread. Just presenting what I understand as best I understand it.

I don't think Paradise is unimaginable, but it is difficult to imagine since we live in a world of temporary things. Seasons change. People grow old and die. Eden, the original paradise that man was meant to inhabit from the beginning, is described as a lush garden with all kinds of edible plants that required little work to cultivate. Genesis goes on to say that Adam and Eve were unashamed of their nakedness, reflecting a lack of psychological burdens. They were also formed as adults, enabling them to enjoy the peak of human physical prowess. Yet, the both violated God's commandment not to eat of the forbidden tree, hence Paradise was taken from them. The central point of the rest of the Bible is God working with man to regain Paradise, to reforge the relationship they once shared.

Throughout the Old Testament, God speaks of a better land where He will lead his faithful, the most notable being Canaan, a land flowing with milk and honey. But even the New Testament paints a picture (even if not as detailed as the Egyptian religion) of what Heaven will offer. Jesus said He was going to prepare a place for his disciples, that "in My Father's house are many mansions" (Jn 14:1-3) Paul referred to such places as "a house not made with hands" (1 Corth. 5:1) When confronted with a scenario about a woman who married seven husbands and each of them died, He said that she would be no one's husband in the resurrection, so traditional human relationships will be altered (Mark 12:19-26). Revelations 21 describes the city of New Jerusalem as a place made with every conceivable precious metal and gem, a place where there will be no more suffering.

I think part of the problem is that modern views of Heaven are based on comments by the likes of Mark Twain, who said you go to Heaven for the climate and Hell for the company. Freddy Mercury allegedly said, "I'd rather go to Hell. Think of all the interesting people you'd meet there!" Gary Larson had a hilarious panel in The Far Side of a man sitting on a cloud in Heaven thinking, "I wish I'd brought a magazine." Funny, but I'd think God didn't use all of His creative powers on the natural world alone.

Your Egyptian reference made me think of Narnia. At the end of the last book, most of the characters are granted entrance into Azlan's Country, which turns out to be exactly like the familiar world, except better in every way, and eternal.

So, while Heaven in Christianity might not be spelled out in as much detail as others, I think enough is mentioned that a decent picture emerges.

Thanks for indulging me. I'll collect my thoughts before addressing your central question.
 

RichardGarfinkle

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I'd like to weigh in on the subject of Paradise, since the OP mentioned it.

I was raised/am still non-denominational Christian (a mere Christian, as C.S. Lewis might say). I'll be referencing some specific passages, but I'm not trying to violate forum rules or derail the point of the thread. Just presenting what I understand as best I understand it.

I don't think Paradise is unimaginable, but it is difficult to imagine since we live in a world of temporary things. Seasons change. People grow old and die. Eden, the original paradise that man was meant to inhabit from the beginning, is described as a lush garden with all kinds of edible plants that required little work to cultivate. Genesis goes on to say that Adam and Eve were unashamed of their nakedness, reflecting a lack of psychological burdens. They were also formed as adults, enabling them to enjoy the peak of human physical prowess. Yet, the both violated God's commandment not to eat of the forbidden tree, hence Paradise was taken from them. The central point of the rest of the Bible is God working with man to regain Paradise, to reforge the relationship they once shared.

Throughout the Old Testament, God speaks of a better land where He will lead his faithful, the most notable being Canaan, a land flowing with milk and honey. But even the New Testament paints a picture (even if not as detailed as the Egyptian religion) of what Heaven will offer. Jesus said He was going to prepare a place for his disciples, that "in My Father's house are many mansions" (Jn 14:1-3) Paul referred to such places as "a house not made with hands" (1 Corth. 5:1) When confronted with a scenario about a woman who married seven husbands and each of them died, He said that she would be no one's husband in the resurrection, so traditional human relationships will be altered (Mark 12:19-26). Revelations 21 describes the city of New Jerusalem as a place made with every conceivable precious metal and gem, a place where there will be no more suffering.

I think part of the problem is that modern views of Heaven are based on comments by the likes of Mark Twain, who said you go to Heaven for the climate and Hell for the company. Freddy Mercury allegedly said, "I'd rather go to Hell. Think of all the interesting people you'd meet there!" Gary Larson had a hilarious panel in The Far Side of a man sitting on a cloud in Heaven thinking, "I wish I'd brought a magazine." Funny, but I'd think God didn't use all of His creative powers on the natural world alone.

Your Egyptian reference made me think of Narnia. At the end of the last book, most of the characters are granted entrance into Azlan's Country, which turns out to be exactly like the familiar world, except better in every way, and eternal.

So, while Heaven in Christianity might not be spelled out in as much detail as others, I think enough is mentioned that a decent picture emerges.

Thanks for indulging me. I'll collect my thoughts before addressing your central question.

Those descriptions of Heaven are quite abstract. Whereas, again, Hell is easy to imagine because suffering that goes on and on is something that people can comprehend on a basic level.

And, no, Twain is not responsible for the Modern View of Heaven. He does an interesting job examining humanity from a jaundiced angelic perspective in Letters From The Earth, but the modern view of Heaven is not particularly different from many other views.

The abstraction of Heaven can be traced much earlier. Dante, as I mentioned, for example, but there is also this speech by Mephistopheles in Marlowe's Doctor Faustus :

Faust. How comes it then that thou art out of hell?

Meph. Why this is hell, nor am I out of it.
Think’st thou that I who saw the face of God,[SIZE=-2][/SIZE]
And tasted the eternal joys of Heaven,
Am not tormented with ten thousand hells,
In being depriv’d of everlasting bliss?

Herein is an abstract depiction of everlasting bliss contrasted with Earth is Hell. It's an impressive bit of writing, but everlasting bliss is not imaginable so all the audience is left with is the idea that life on Earth is really bad compared to what they might have otherwise.
 

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I totally agree with you that the "traditional" ideas of heaven and hell can be, and have been, manipulated by those in power. I think religious traditions have held on to the idea of damnation because it is extremely hard for humans to accept that "evil" is not punished. Even the Christian tradition (NT at least) teaches that God is ultimate grace and has unlimited mercy, yet hell still exists. Now this could go into a long discussion about free will, theodicy, etc. but I won't go there right now!

To try to answer your question, I think that salvation does not have to be a nebulous thing. In fact, many traditions, historically, have thought about salvation as a goal for the here and now. I would argue that most of the Gospel is Jesus teaching his followers to create a just world here on earth. Luke 17:21 "nor will people say, 'Here it is,' or 'There it is,' because the kingdom of God is in your midst." Buddhist and Hindu traditions also have a strong element of finding Nirvana, etc. while you are here on earth.

I think salvation based religions can avoid mutating into a damnation-based religion by focusing on the idea that salvation should be a goal for now, not for later. We should be using the tenants of religion to create a peaceful and just society here on earth. After all, since the beginning of time, religions have used the idea of heaven coming later to oppress people..."work now, your reward will be in heaven"

Interesting topic.... :)
 

RichardGarfinkle

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I totally agree with you that the "traditional" ideas of heaven and hell can be, and have been, manipulated by those in power. I think religious traditions have held on to the idea of damnation because it is extremely hard for humans to accept that "evil" is not punished. Even the Christian tradition (NT at least) teaches that God is ultimate grace and has unlimited mercy, yet hell still exists. Now this could go into a long discussion about free will, theodicy, etc. but I won't go there right now!

To try to answer your question, I think that salvation does not have to be a nebulous thing. In fact, many traditions, historically, have thought about salvation as a goal for the here and now. I would argue that most of the Gospel is Jesus teaching his followers to create a just world here on earth. Luke 17:21 "nor will people say, 'Here it is,' or 'There it is,' because the kingdom of God is in your midst." Buddhist and Hindu traditions also have a strong element of finding Nirvana, etc. while you are here on earth.

I think salvation based religions can avoid mutating into a damnation-based religion by focusing on the idea that salvation should be a goal for now, not for later. We should be using the tenants of religion to create a peaceful and just society here on earth. After all, since the beginning of time, religions have used the idea of heaven coming later to oppress people..."work now, your reward will be in heaven"

Interesting topic.... :)

The finding or making of Heaven on Earth is quite different from the more commonplace ideas of Heaven. Those who take up such an idea, unfortunately, have an even easier time creating Hell for others rather than Heaven. It's commonplace to imagine a perfect life and treat everyone who does not agree with the vision of Heaven on Earth as an agent of evil seeking to destroy the soon-to-be utopia.

Fundamentally, the concept of Heaven contains the abstract and largely meaningless concept of perfection. Setting a goal of perfection can and usually does interfere with the practical trial and error process of improving quality of life for people.

Bringing up Nirvana is a tricky business because it doesn't really equate with Heaven. As a Buddhist friend of mine succinctly put it, "Nirvana is Samsara" It's the same world, but without experiencing the suffering caused by wrong thought, action, etc. So Nirvana is reached by practice and care. That is a very different view than a Heaven or Hell that is granted by the decision of another being.
 

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The question becomes, is there a way that a salvation-based religion can be stabilized so that it won't mutate into a damnation-based religion?

As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of latter-day Saints I have an interesting view on Heaven/Salvation. It is a core belief that we are all Sons and Daughters of God, and as such we have the capacity to become as He is, Exaltation/Heaven. The opposite, Damnation, is when we don’t achieve our full potential. When we stop progressing and becoming as God is. The pain and suffering is that of regret, not a physical pain coming from real fires.

This in turn makes a view of salvation easier to comprehend. It is easy to see it a reward to become creators of worlds, and heavenly parents ourselves. It also pushes away from sermons on hellfire and damnation and focuses more on becoming good like God is instead of a fear-based motivation.

Now don’t get me wrong, people can still take this idea and point towards a fear-based preaching and away from morality, but it isn’t inevitable. Those are my personal thoughts.
 

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The finding or making of Heaven on Earth is quite different from the more commonplace ideas of Heaven.

Weirdly enough, I'm reading about the rough-and-tumble miracles of Kuan-Yin (the female Chinese version of Avalokitsvara) -- who offers a highly personalized sort of "salvation" or at least Salvivic goodness in return for pilgrimages and the recitation of esoteric sutras -- so that's some salvation and also a small dose of heaven on earth AND Lacan's VII's seminar (on Ethics) which offers a rather rough-and-tumble view of morality (its the result of the how various neurological projects come to a kind of compromise about what's what). At some level, Kuan-yin and Lacan offer a similar set of trade-offs for little bits of salvation: you do some set of somewhat open-ended behaviors (which as anyone who has been on pilgrimage and/or assisted by psychoanalytic techniques can attest can offer some surprises) and this induces some set of improved circumstances.
 

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As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of latter-day Saints I have an interesting view on Heaven/Salvation. It is a core belief that we are all Sons and Daughters of God, and as such we have the capacity to become as He is, Exaltation/Heaven. The opposite, Damnation, is when we don’t achieve our full potential. When we stop progressing and becoming as God is. The pain and suffering is that of regret, not a physical pain coming from real fires.

This in turn makes a view of salvation easier to comprehend. It is easy to see it a reward to become creators of worlds, and heavenly parents ourselves. It also pushes away from sermons on hellfire and damnation and focuses more on becoming good like God is instead of a fear-based motivation.

Now don’t get me wrong, people can still take this idea and point towards a fear-based preaching and away from morality, but it isn’t inevitable. Those are my personal thoughts.

Interesting. I don't know much about LDS theology. Can you explain what happens to those who do not make the grade as it were? What is their afterlife condition?
 

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Weirdly enough, I'm reading about the rough-and-tumble miracles of Kuan-Yin (the female Chinese version of Avalokitsvara) -- who offers a highly personalized sort of "salvation" or at least Salvivic goodness in return for pilgrimages and the recitation of esoteric sutras -- so that's some salvation and also a small dose of heaven on earth AND Lacan's VII's seminar (on Ethics) which offers a rather rough-and-tumble view of morality (its the result of the how various neurological projects come to a kind of compromise about what's what). At some level, Kuan-yin and Lacan offer a similar set of trade-offs for little bits of salvation: you do some set of somewhat open-ended behaviors (which as anyone who has been on pilgrimage and/or assisted by psychoanalytic techniques can attest can offer some surprises) and this induces some set of improved circumstances.

Kuan-yin and Lucan. Maxx, you never fail to come up with interesting syncretism.
It seems to me that the Dharmic religions don't have a concept of salvation and damnation per se. I would argue that Salvation religions equate ones condition in the next life with liberation (or imprisonment) whereas the Dharmic religions generally equate liberation with not having a next life at all.

It is true that there are Dharmic religion variants (such as Pure Land Buddhism) that look a lot more like salvation religions (i.e. having a cool next life), but in general, next life isn't what one is trying for, rather what one is trying to avoid.

The crucial distinction is that in Salvation religions the next life is the final life. Whereas in Dharmic religions the next life is as bound to the wheel of transmigration as this life is. One might be reborn as a god and have a really cool existences spanning thousands or millions of years, but one is still amassing karmic effect and one can easily go from god to slime mold in a single lifetime.

There is also the distinction in what the intervening spiritual being is doing. Kuan-yin (or any other Bodhisattva is essentially aiding someone in their practice, but the person's spiritual development is independent of that action). The intervener is a teacher. What happens to the person depends on the nature of the universe (dharma, karma, liberation etc).

In salvation based religions, the intervening being is determining the afterlife fate. The being may encourage and teach right action, but they are also the judge of that action. The fate of the soul is determined personally not impersonally.

The contrast here is a strong one. If the fate is personally decided than it depends most on the attitudes of the judge. If impersonally decided it depends on the nature of the universe and how things work. Salvation and damnation are matters of divine favor; karma and liberation are matters of practice.

Returning to the thesis of this thread, however, Dharmic religions also create a contrast between an easy to understand bad fate (continued reincarnation) and a difficult to comprehend good fate (liberation from rebirth).

Indeed, it is easy to look at rebirth religions and ask the question, How can I game the system to insure that I have fun lives from now on? This is certainly missing the point (certainly missing the point of the Four Noble Truths), but it is easily graspable where Nirvana or Moksha aren't.
 
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Maxx

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It seems to me that the Dharmic religions don't have a concept of salvation and damnation per se.

Sure, but it seems to me that smaller bits of salvation (which can include specifying that you be reborn as a different kind of person) and/or morality (which for Lacan can mean Courtly Love) suggest more of a dynamic give-and-take between salvation (in the case of Courtly Love giving up all salvation for your current form and your current morality, though of course in Medieval Christianity you could sort of be reborn in this earthly life as a monk or a knight or pilgrim) and morality. I guess in the case of Courtly Love, you can see how tightly bound up the law(morality) of not pestering your betters is with foregoing salvation ( a real relationship and/or an afterlife), sublimation and desire and how penance or rebirth might be the only ways out of that framework.
 

RichardGarfinkle

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Courtly Love is a whole other complication since it seems to be an import into Christianity of some aspects of Sufism.

It is true that what you're calling the smaller aspects of salvation (and which I tend to think of as the practices) do allow for a more dynamic give and take (and that is a good thing). But my initial thesis was that the concept of Salvation itself was difficult for people to comprehend, but that damnation was easier for them. And fear of damnation will not get one too far along practices (like Courtly Love).
 

Larry M

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... I think this idea that we Christians have that one can only have morals if we believe in God is non-biblical...

That is a fascinating statement.

I had a college professor decades ago who believed exactly that, as did my late brother. Both of them knew me well and knew that I am at least agnostic, if not an atheist. On different occasions, I asked both of them if they thought I was a moral person. Both said yes. I asked them to explain how that could be, considering their belief that one must believe in God in order to be moral.

The professor started to speak, got flustered, and quickly became so upset that he turned, walked out of the room, and actually slammed the door. He would not speak to me for years after that (he and my Dad were colleagues, and lived right down the street from each other, so I saw him many times while visiting my parents.)

When I asked my brother the same question (years later) he just shook his head and said, quietly, "I don't know. I can't answer that."

The answer seemed obvious to me, but clearly was not so for either of them.
 

Maxx

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Courtly Love is a whole other complication since it seems to be an import into Christianity of some aspects of Sufism.

Sure, but I think opposing a monolithic, abstract ideal of Salvation to a monolithic, abstract ideal of morality misses a lot of what people really do with themselves in the area of salvation (which in Courtly love is foregone along with sex) or morality (which in Courtly love is strict if limited). Robert Graves notes in Good-bye to all that, that what the proper French girls said to importunate men gave him a clue as what to say to the monks when he almost converted himself to a monk in a monastery: "Maybe after the war." So in some sense, the war (WWI in Northern France in this case) suspended Salvation (and real relationships) and Morality. If monolithic things can go into suspension, then there are clearly other forms of adjusting the relationships between the two, such as penance, purgatory, pilgrimages and prostitutes.
 

yesandno

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The question becomes, is there a way that a salvation-based religion can be stabilized so that it won't mutate into a damnation-based religion?

I was not raised in a church, but was raised in an extended family who are Protestant Christians. I also have absorbed Protestants beliefs due to our society being Protestant dominated. So, I speak from that perspective. What I have observed is that in order to prevent fear-based religiosity, the acts that one commits are the focus rather than reward or punishment. Do not expect either, but do what is recommended anyway. Love thy neighbor, do unto others as you would have them do to you, you will know them by their fruits, do not attempt to gain favor in this world for your good in order to remain humble, etc. In this practice, the focus is not on damnation, although it may be present. The intention is not to avoid damnation, but to perform these actions with love rather than fear, as to do otherwise changes their nature. I believe this is the only way to avoid focusing on damnation while still believing in a potential salvation. What some people call cherry-picking leads to a better practice, in other words, and it is built into the teachings. My grandfather was one of the best kinds of Christian, IMO. I learned a lot of this from observing him. After he retired securely, he began to give the majority of his income to his church for their charity and a homeless shelter, which was his choice of charities. He never spoke of this to me, I learned it from my mother who was told only because he wanted to explain how he was choosing to spend what might have become a small inheritance for his children. He was a good man, and this is how he practiced. He also never threatened anyone with fear, only taught by example how to live in the path that Jesus recommended.

This is a style of practice that is recommended by all religions, to my understanding. It does mutate, but this is the attempted stabilization. One cannot always control the interpretation and practice of a religion, due to the variety in those who practice them. It is, by nature, imperfect. So I guess that I am agreeing that religion does contain within it the seeds of fear, which produce more fear.

Because I have been unable to argue myself out of a belief in reincarnation/rebirth I believe that the path of the Bodhisattva is an example of taking this belief to its highest expression. To return again and again until all suffering has ceased is an amazing commitment to the acts themselves.
 
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ColoradoGuy

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This reminds me of the description of the Virtuous Pagans in Dante's Inferno -- a mildly satisfying intellectual solution to the problem. Of course they were still at the gates of Hell in spite of their high morals.
 
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