Wednesday, 13 November 2013

It seems that all actual religions are honest about what they themselves offer (but wrong about other religions)

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I find it very striking - although I don't know of anybody else who does - that actually existing religions seem to be honest about what they offer their adherents.

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One might have supposed that the easiest thing would be to offer adherents 'the moon', or 'pie in the sky' - wondrous, extravagant rewards in return for their adherence; and yet this seems very seldom to have been the case.

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For instance, life for a Roman Stoic seems to have held nothing to look-forward-to.

The Norse pagans depicted life as a grim and hope-less struggle against impossible odds; victory was temporarily glorious and admirable, and defeat could be delayed - but defeat was inevitable and the all men and the gods too would die - and the world destroyed and ruled by 'giants'.

The Eastern religions offer their adherents very little, except avoidance of something even worse. Hinduism offers escape from the horror of perpetual reincarnation; Buddhism offers escape from suffering but at the cost of annihilation of the self (i.e. death of the individual).

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In general, Christianity seems to offer more, far more, than any other religion - greatly more than the ancient Judaism it displaced; we must die but after this there is resurrection in a perfected body, forgiveness of all sins, and eternal life in communinion with God and in His presence.

And the most recent Christianity, Mormonism, offers even more than mainstream Christianity: not only eternal resurrected life with God, but to live this life in a marriage of total spousal love and with a perfected family community; also the possibility of eternal spiritual progression after death, perhaps including full divinization.

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It is striking that even secular atheists are honest about what they offer: i.e. nothing at all in objective terms and in the long run; only short-term and subjective feelings, enhanced pleasure and diminished suffering (which indeed they do offer).

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If the human grasp of truth is always, to some extent, partial - then maybe our rewards will be commensurately partial.

Thus: if you are a good pagan, your destiny and reward will be pagan. And the closer you are to the truth, the greater will be your destiny and reward.

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Why this should be, I do not know - unless it be that God constrains things thus: that He will not let any actually-existing religion claim more than it offers...

At most it seems a religion can falsely claim that the offers of other religions are false, and that its own meagre offerings are all that could be expected or wanted - or even that its promised horrors are in fact delights!

But the bare factual basis of religious claims seem always honest - so far as I can tell.

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The error of most actual religions is not, therefore, in what they promise, but what they threaten. The error is to deny the validity of what others say, and to assert that others are damned to hell.

The reality is, perhaps, that the other are damned just as they are rewarded, according to their own criteria of what constitutes their destiny and reward - therefore, the best hope of a pagan is not very far from a Christian's idea of hell. An atheist's best hope is annihilation of the self, much like a Hindu...

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But there is no reason for a Christian to assert anything more horrible as the destiny of non-Christians than other religions already describe as 'what happens'.

And, maybe, the best religion (among actual religions) - the true-est religion, is that which offers the most...

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