Heaven and hell; salvation and damnation are the most misleading at best and at worst just plain wrong concepts spread by religion-especially Christianity. Scripture is full of references that perhaps well meaning but spiritually bereft individuals have used to frighten and coerce people to “do good” rather than to “be good”. I will explore the difference a little later. But first let’s take a closer look at salvation and damnation.
Christianity, rooted in Judaism is dominated by the theological concept that human beings are born “sinners”, which is a bad thing, and must be “saved” from this state of being. The evidence for this is supposedly the the bad things that human nature is subject to, such as the so-called seven deadly sins. However, whether it is murder, gluttony, pride, or greed these things are simply manifestations of the nature of man attempting to live in duality, that is separate from one’s origins and true image, which is God. Whether you commit one of the seven deadly sins or not is irrelevant. It is desiring to remain separated from God that is the real sin.
The duality of one’s existence is a matter of choice and free will. Through the desires of your heart you can either choose to live separate and apart from God, or you can earnestly desire to be one with God. Being saved from sin, or obtaining what Christian theologians call salvation is not a matter of blind belief in something you know isn’t so as Mark Twain accurately observed most people do, rather it is obtained by knowing or being aware that you are separated from God, which is the nature of faith.
Jesus, throughout scripture, is characterized as the “savior”. Most people interpret savior to be synonymous with rescuer. The story of Peter being “rescued” by Jesus from the raging sea just as he was about to drown is often used to justify this concept of Jesus as the rescuer or savior. However, that interpretation misses the entire point represented in that incident. Jesus was standing in the midst of the sea during a storm. Peter asked Jesus to call him and he would come to him, walking on the water during the storm. Jesus called him and Peter walked out to Jesus on the water. But suddenly he took his eyes off of Jesus and lost his connection(ONENESS) to God and began to sink. Jesus asked him why did he doubt(stop maintaining his connection to God) and lifted him out of the water.
Most theologians-not all-focus on Jesus as the rescuer and “savior” of Peter in this situation. They point out that without Jesus as the “savior” Peter would have been lost and that like Peter, we who are sinners are lost without Jesus. This interpretation is not entirely wrong but it is misleading and misses a more important point, which is that it is not the “saving” that is the message here, it is the faith. And the faith was Peter’s knowing that he had to be connected, or One with God. It was the desire of his heart. Jesus is less the savior and more the Way, Truth and Life, which is how he referred to himself. We characterize Jesus as the savior because of our doubt and failure. However if by faith our heart’s desire is to be One with God there is no doubt or failure; and what we call salvation becomes divine unity with God.
Now what about damnation. Traditional theology teaches that damnation is a kind of punishment. Nowhere is this more prevalent than in Catholic theology first popularized by Dante’s Divine Comedy(The Inferno) and is now being re-popularized by the author Dan Brown in his novel, The Inferno. The hellfire and brimstone protestant preachers have done a good job convincing the world that agonizing punishment awaits all who do not “accept” Jesus as their savior. Neither of these theologies carries a message of love and peace. It certainly isn’t good news as the Gospels would indicate. So why this apparent discrepancy in modern theology of God is love but if you don’t do as he says you’re getting sent straight to hell.
Once again the problem is a lack of spiritual discernment and understanding. The Catholic theologians and hellfire and brimstone preachers are fond of pointing to certain scriptures, such as the wages of sin is death; or to the words of Jesus that say evil doers will be cast into outer darkness or into a lake of fire where there will be eternal suffering. They also point to scriptural references to judgement and the proverbial separation of wheat from the chaff. While all of these references are not wrong in that they do speak to a kind of punishment, it is a consequential punishment brought on by behavior. In other words the so-called judgement and punishment are a natural consequence of the free will choices that each of us makes as human beings. You reap what you sow.
Salvation and damnation are theological constructs that seek to explain the spiritual. They fall woefully short. Jesus is the physical and spiritual embodiment of the Way, Truth and Life. It is how he referred to himself; not as the savior or the judge and executioner of sinners, rather as the one sent from the God the Father to show us the Way to Eternal Life.
It is asserted by many that salvation will lead to heaven and damnation will lead to hell. If you are saved from sin you will go to heaven and if you remain a sinner you are damned by God’s judgement to go to hell. Every religion has its construct of heaven. The Muslims have there seven virgins concept; the Christians the streets paved with gold construct; then there are the states of bliss and nirvana. It would be comical if it were not so sad, because I believe that Oneness with God is heaven. It’s consequences are infinite and unknown to us in our current state of imperfection. As we become more and more connected to God and as the bond of unity is strengthened, a veil begins to lift; and we begin to get a glimpse of the true nature of heaven. By contrast, to the degree we remain separate from God and the desires of our heart are for things that we use to replace God, we create an unbearable hell for ourselves manifested in life devoid of spirit, purpose and meaning.
In the first paragraph of this essay I mentioned those religious leaders who misinterpret scripture to frighten or coerce their followers into doing good. It is no different from those parents who attempt to frighten their children into being good with tales of the “boogyman”. The truth is exactly the opposite. The only way to goodness is through God, for God is Love. It is Love, not fear, that leads to goodness. There is no fear in love. And for that,
To God Be The Glory Forever and Ever,