Monday, June 15, 2015

Punishment, Forgiveness, and Salvation

The belief that there is a Heaven and a Hell and that we are judged, and then sent to Heaven if we are good and Hell if we are bad is a childish belief. We are not punished for our "sins," but by them. There are natural consequences. This does not mean we don't need rules, courts, police, and jails. People need to be held accountable, and there needs to be a measure of social justice for those who are hurt by others.

Psychological studies show that punishment is not an effective way to shape positive behavior. For example, the USA leads the world in the number of people incarcerated, and most prisoners, when they are freed, soon return to prison. The idea that "God" would threaten us with eternal punishment when He/She knows darn well it doesn't work, makes no sense.

We ultimately punish ourselves with guilt. The lesson of great teachers like Jesus, is forgiveness. Forgiveness is a grown-up thing. It is the ability to let go as if the hurt never happened. Forgiveness is a process leading to a decision. It may begin with anger and hurt, feeling victimized, but it ends with letting go. It may begin with defeat, but it ends with victory.

Our need to see others punished says something about our own inability to forgive ourselves. Heaven and Hell are choices we make. Life is Hell--or it's Heaven. Forgiveness is Heaven. Remembering Dante's allegory, in order to get to Heaven we need to walk through Hell. Rigorous self-reflection is Hell. It is the hero's journey where we slay our personal dragons and find the treasure (Heaven) within. No one takes this journey for us, but many have taken it before us.

Jesus didn't die for your sins. He died to teach you about forgiveness--that people can do the absolute worst to you, and yet you forgive--you see that it means nothing. There is no original sin, only original blessing which we are in the process of reclaiming by waking up. Allegorically speaking, God didn't kick Adam and Eve out of the garden. They fell asleep and dreamed they could make it on their own.
Jesus woke up, and saw that it was just a dream.

No one will save you, but you can look to the example of those who have saved themselves. You can boldly step forward in your own journey, surrendering to your Higher Power, knowing that you will receive what you need to complete your journey. Salvation is remembering who you are.

William Frank Diedrich,
Author of Human Adulthood: A Spiritual Romance

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