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Since there's been a request for the post about salvation, I thought I'd begin by quoting what I posted about this topic a month ago on the Brunching Board. There will hopefully be elaboration on this later, once I get my thoughts in order. For context, this was in response to an atheist who was demanding to know why he needed to be saved.

First, three basic concepts:

1. Love. The goal of religion is to bring a person into a right relationship with God. This means that the person's actions will be motivated by universal love, which is the principle that God embodies. The more we love, the closer we are to God.

2. The hereafter. My theology has little to say about the hereafter. The expectation of a reward or punishment after we die is not a good basis for morality. So the afterlife component of salvation is not relevant here.

3. Human nature. A perfectly right relationship with God is impossible, because humans are imperfect creatures.

Now, there are a variety of things that can be obstacles in our struggle for a right relationship with God. One of these obstacles is a fixation on the falliability of human nature. This can manifest in several ways. A person can become discouraged, believing that they aren't worthy of any relationship with God if they aren't perfect. Alternately, a person can become uptight about regulating every little thought and deed in order to be perfect, which distracts the person from actually loving (essentially they're "trying too hard").

Salvation is the answer to these obstacles. Salvation is the recognition that our imperfection doesn't separate us from God's love, and that perfection is a direction for us to head in, rather than an all or nothing goal.

Salvation is a solution to a particular religious problem. Salvation is a way of overcoming a particular religious fallacy. Trying to peddle salvation to people who don't feel inadequate because of their imperfection (and there are secular forms of this feeling, just as there are secular ways to be motivated by universal love) is like selling refrigerators to Inuit -- you get so distracted trying to give them something they don't need that you never notice whether they might need an oven or a dishwasher.

The process of salvation is impossible without God-belief, as it's premised on a particular type of mistaken God-belief. But the state that a person is in after going through salvation is accessible through other roads. Being "saved" just means that you have encountered a particular obstacle in your quest to being a "loving, kind, and giving" person.

I imagine that the idea that salvation is universally needed comes from thinking that theism is universally needed -- which may be partially an effect of the fact that, in the time and place that the Bible was written, it was reasonable to assume that most people you'd meet would be theists already, and most theists would need salvation. But more and more I'm coming to the conclusion that this kind of thinking is one of the more common barriers to love for today's theists. Maybe we need a new explicit "fix" for this problem, paralleling the way salvation was a "fix" for perfectionism. We could call salvation as I've outlined so far Salvatio e perfectione (or Salvatio christiana, since salvation from this particular fallacy was Christianity's big innovation) and the new thing Salvatio e universa.

Because making up Latin terms for things always makes them more profound.


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