“Belief is very personal and developed by each individual through many different avenues of education, experience and reflection. A Sufi master once commented to me that there are as many religions as there are people in the world.”
Joy disapproves of religious faith if it unquestioningly accepts doctrine or dogma. Orthodoxy, she wrote,
“discourages independent thinking and often leads to extremes. There is fear of any outside influence or exposure to differing views. I believe all orthodoxy, and to a lesser degree, all specific religious faith, is harmful.
“I loved an article by Karen Anderson wherein she promoted the Golden Rule as the only spiritual guideline needed in the world....just think how different the world could be if all the "scripture studies" might be how to apply the Golden Rule in every situation in life rather than memorizing verses and words that often have little meaning to many (especially children) and are often interpreted and used to rationalize all kinds of harmful behavior.
“Could we learn to truly understand and respect one another? Could we learn how to resolve personal, individual differences? Could we eliminate war? I don't know, but I do believe that religion is not needed to resolve the problems of our world and oftentimes gets in the way. I also believe in the inherent goodness of humanity.”
“What do you mean by ‘Jesus’ suffering and death contributed to universal salvation’? Salvation from what? Will that ever be universal?”
And Laura asked, “What the heck is salvation anyway?”
Great questions! The word "salvation" and the concept of hell come from pagan religions, but I don’t accept the belief that Jesus’ death saves us from going to hell. Often hell is experienced in this life. It can be an inner journey and we need salvation from personal demons.
I believe everything in the universe is so interconnected that every individual act has an effect on the whole. We can easily see the beneficial effects of heroic acts on society, but I take it further. When Socrates remained true to his beliefs by drinking the cup of poison hemlock, he advanced the whole evolution of human consciousness in an indefinable way. So it was a salvific death. In the same way, I believe, our individual acts of goodness promote the goodness and welfare—the salvation—of all.
But Jesus’ suffering and death attained mythic proportion in Western consciousness. The myth of Jesus Christ adds significance to his actions, a good example of the power of myth that Joseph Campbell was teaching us. As I explain in God Is Not Three Guys in the Sky, religious myths have real effects. I think they are mostly beneficial, but I know many would disagree.
A quotation Laura saw in a nursing home provides a thought-provoking conclusion to this discussion:
"Religion is for those who are afraid to go to hell.
Spirituality is for those who have been there."