Friday, March 17, 2006

Pay Off

Religion is the securing of rewards from a divine source. A modern mistake in comprehending religion lies in assuming that what we do in order to obtain divine favor is the essence of the relation between us and our deity. We tend to think, for instance, that loving one’s neighbor as oneself is the mark of a religious person. In the context of Christianity, however, one loves one’s neighbor for the sake of one’s own eternal salvation. Without the perceived reward there would be no religion. In many religions of the past, the actions were simple ritual performed according to strict formulae. It hardly even mattered what the actions were, because nobody was under the illusion that the goal was to be virtuous. It was a matter of open bribery, and the goal was to win the favors that the gods could choose to provide or not. We are still engaged in bribery today, except that we try to hide it, both from ourselves and from our god, by calling it “being good.”

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