salvation belongs to … the philosophers

The maverik philosopher has a post on salvation, which itself referred me to this other post at philosoblog.

First off, i want to say that i heartily welcome philosophers delving into the murky waters of ‘religious’ concepts of salvation. Actually, i hope that the concept will soon be lifted from religion and, via philosophy, be given a much more thorough and rigorous treatment. Religions are fond of saying: “This is what salvation is, listen and learn – or be dammed.” without backing up their claims with more than a mystic experience or two.

It is high time that the idea of salvation be saved from irrelevance at the hands of preachers and be redeemed by critical thinkers. We need an open and reasoned study of salvation that doesn’t take any answers or framings of the question for granted, but, in good philosophical manner, keeps on asking Why? until we hit some solid ground (which is when the scientists usually show up).

So now to contribute my own salvific musings to the conversation. Here is the philosoblog again, to get me started:

There are various sorts of sublime transformations of one’s psychology, I suppose. The sort I have in mind involves three things:

1. The redirection of one’s attention from the flow of thoughts (reasoning, desires and emotions) that usually fill the mind as it occupies itself with its countless concerns.

2. The resulting recognition that until now one has been inadvertently subject to that flow of thoughts such that the perspective of complete immersion in it has kept one from noticing that this world and one’s existence in it are vastly better than nothingness.

3. The resulting beginning of deep and genuine patience: the recognition that upon re-immersion of the mind into the flow of mundane thoughts, one need not be subject to the frustration, resentment and anger that they so often inflict but may instead rest assured by one’s allegiance to the values one cherishes.

I’d like to develop the idea that these together describe salvation. […] This is not a merely cognitive change. It is a psychological reorganization in which the disposition to react to adversity with resentment is all but eradicated.

This is obviously a buddhist/hindu concept of salvation. The monotheist resurrection into a new body is left out, but the author is aware of this fact and will probably deal with this in his next installment.

What i like about the philosoblog’s approach is that this is a worldly salvation that is not materialistic. We don’t have any heaven, valhalla, etc. nor any escape from reincarnations, rebirths, etc. What we do have, however, is a transformation. After salvation, people are not the same as before. This is obviously a very important aspect of any salvation.

However, i am not so sure that this “psychological reorganization” is the only type of salvation we want. One of the primary faults of (almost) all previous religion’s concepts of salvation is that salvation is always a personal, individual matter: i can save myself – and let my parents, my friends and the world perish! This is not healthy.

The jewish religion is the only one i know of that didn’t (at first, at least) have this individualistic component to it. It was the whole of Israel that was to be saved. Upgrading this to the 21st century, i think that an important aspect of any salvation will have to lie in its communal being: for starters, saving the planet needs obviously to figure prominently in any ‘philosophical’ account of salvation.


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