Rewarded according to our works – well, aren’t we?

All religions, except Christianity, are based on the idea that the afterlife is within the grasp of human effort. We can do this afterlife stuff ourselves. How? By rewarding ourselves according to our works.

Religions have this down to an art. They all have a system of rules, rituals and religious duties that, they claim, not only carry the power of eternity in them, they also determine how big our reward in the afterlife will be – even though each religion has a different set of rules, a different version of the afterlife and a different set of rewards!

That’s religion though, and without the gospel of Christ, that’s all humanity has got. But religions of our own creation have always appealed to us, and to vast masses of us too, because it puts our destiny in our hands. Just obey the rules, do the rituals and perform one’s religious duties and our future is assured, along with a chunky reward if we do a good job of them, too. It makes the drudgery of doing them bearable!

But what if you only manage an 80% success rate, where instead of praying five times every day, you only manage five times a day 80% of the time? Or instead of obeying every Old Testament law perfectly you only keep 61% of the laws 78% of the time? Or instead of spending the required two hours every day chanting mantras, you keep falling asleep in your yogi position at the one hour mark, or you only manage five spiritual disciplines every day instead of your religion’s mandated thirteen?

It means your reward will be less, right? You might make it through into another life but only as a dung beetle, or you only get four cities to rule over instead of ten, or you’re only given 53 virgins in Paradise instead of 72.

But that’s not fair, because religion favours those who are naturally tougher and more strict on themselves. Some people are really good rule keepers. They love discipline and structure. Maybe they’ve grown up on a freezing, treeless, wind-battered wasteland in Scotland, where they’ve had to survive by sheer guts alone, or they have a natural bent for being a monk or a nun and denying themselves worldly pleasures, or they’ve grown up in a military family where strict discipline was expected. If the afterlife depends on human effort and strength, they’ve got a huge headstart. It’s not fair.

It’s not surprising, then, that some people love religion, because they’re good at it. It comes easily, which human pride just feeds on, of course. But isn’t it true, though, that we’re rewarded according to our works?…(continued in Part 2)

 

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