July 8, 2010

Religion – Acts of Justification

In the last post, we saw that when we do something wrong, we feel guilt which drives us to seek some type of justification for our wrongs.  We can either choose the “Justification of God”, which begins with contrastive thinking and can lead to God’s righteousness, or we can choose the “Justification of Man” which begins with comparative thinking.  This week I want to begin examining another aspect of Justification of Man.

The last post also showed that Justification of Man consists primarily of denial or rationalizations; thing we say or think to justify ourselves.  This other aspect consists of things we do to justify ourselves.  I call them “Acts of Justification” – more commonly known as “Religion”.

I’m not religious.  I promise!

One of the most controversial pages on this blog seems to be the “About Me” page.  (I never thought my identity would stir up so much trouble).  I’ve received several public and private comments deriding my statement that I am not religious. Some people think I’m delusional (which is fine, I’ve been accused of worse).  Or they superimpose their own definition of religion (ignoring the one I give), and accuse me of heresy.  The truth is, the reason I am not religious is because I want to go to Heaven, and religion won’t get me there.  Hopefully this post will add some clarity to my position.

If you ask the average person how you get to heaven or earn God’s favor, they will probably tell you that have to be a “good person” (a good person being someone who behaves in a socially acceptable manner and performs some degree of charitable actions or “good works”).

Good isn’t good enough

There are a couple of huge problems with this idea.  The first problem is that “good”, in this case, is an extremely subjective measurement.  What one person considers good may not be good or even acceptable by the standards of another person or culture.  Furthermore, just how “good” do you have to be to please God?  Its not like we have a cosmic “goodness meter” we can check.

That’s where religion starts to come in.  Islam tells us that if our good works outnumber our bad works at the end of life, then we go to heaven (and if you martyr yourself while killing infidels you get to have sex with 70 virgins when you arrive (I’m not sure how appealing that prospect is to women…)).  Hinduism tells us that by doing enough good works and earning good Karma during our lives, we will be reincarnated as a higher being (and if we earn bad Karma we’ll come back as a dung beetle or a Kardashian).  Buddhists . . . well, they believe that the meaning of life is to achieve “nothingness” so their opinions are irrelevant.

Even some “Christian” organizations teach that we can only reach Heaven by being a part of their specific congregation, abiding by their definitions of good works, and performing their rituals in order to please God.  So there is not much of a consensus on how to be “good enough” to get to Heaven.

The other huge problem is that the Meaning of Life post showed that you only get to Heaven by being like God.  You don’t get there by racking up “goodness points”, you get there by being righteous, and being right begins with contrastive thinking.

Religion is not contrastive it is comparative.

The problem with religion

Remember, when we do wrong, we have a guilt-debt to pay.  We inherently know that we owe that debt because of the existence of Right and Just. Those of us who acknowledge God as the embodiment of righteousness and justice understand that the debt we owe is to God.  Performing good works in order to try to please God is the act of attempting to balance the scales of justice with our own efforts.

This is Religion.  The insidious thing about this kind of justification is that it seems like you’re being contrastive at first.  You do acknowledge your wrongs, but instead of turning to God for righteousness, you try to cover your bad actions with good actions. This is the opposite of Justification of God.  This is another form of Justification of Man.  Justification of Man is comparative thinking.  Comparative thinking is Pride.  Religion is an act of pride.  It is impossible to be like God when you act in pride.

So am I saying that it is wrong to do good works?  Or course not.  Being charitable, helping others, and being kind are all great things.  Even performing religious rituals is not bad in and of itself.  Its not so much what you do, it’s the motivation behind what you do.

If your good works are performed to justify your wrongs, appease God’s justice, or earn salvation, then it is Justification of Man.  Nothing we do, no effort we make on our own, can ever undo the wrong we committed.  Believing that it can, will lead you away from God because anything you do to justify yourself is pride.

The meaning of life is to be like God.  To be like God, you have to be righteous.  To be righteous, you have to be contrastive.  Religion twists contrastive thinking and increases comparative thinking.  Religion is Acts of Justification that lead away from God’s plan.

And that is why I am not religious.

In the last post I mentioned that religion has the most damaging effects of any form of justification.  I’ll explain why next week.

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One thought on “Religion – Acts of Justification
  1. Michael Gormley

    (EM Note: The “comment” below appears to be some text was pasted in from another source. I assume it is meant to be a rebuttal to what I wrote on justification, although since it was obviously not written with my post specifically in mind, there is content that is not relevant. I will address the parts that have some relevance.)


    Best of all, the promise of eternal life is a gift, freely offered to us by God (CCC 1727).

    The Catholic Church teaches what the apostles taught and what the Bible teaches: We are saved by grace alone, but not by faith alone (which is what “Bible Christians” teach; see James. 2:24).
    (EM Note: Actually “the Apostles” and the Bible clearly state that salvation is by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). It is not one or the other. Both are required)

    When we come to God and are justified (that is, enter a right relationship with God), nothing preceding justification, whether faith or good works, earns grace.
    (EM Note: So grace has to be earned? Please explain)

    But then God plants his love in our hearts, and we should live out our faith by doing acts of love (Galatians 6:2).

    Even though only God’s grace enables us to love others, these acts of love please him, and he promises to reward them with eternal life (Romans 2:6–7, Galatians 6:6–10).

    Thus good works are meritorious. When we first come to God in faith, we have nothing in our hands to offer him.

    Then he gives us grace to obey his commandments in love, and he rewards us with salvation when we offer these acts of love back to him (Romans 2:6–11, Galatians 6:6–10, Matthew 25:34–40).
    (EM Note: So you are saying that eternal life and salvation is a reward for acts of love?)

    15 Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house.

    16 Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father. (Matthew 5: 15-16)

    Jesus said it is not enough to have faith in him; we also must obey his commandments. “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ but do not do the things I command?” (Luke 6:46, Matthew 7:21–23, 19:16–21).
    (EM Note: What are the things the He commands?)

    We do not “earn” our salvation through good works (Ephesians 2:8–9, Romans 9:16), but our faith in Christ puts us in a special grace-filled relationship with God so that our obedience and love, combined with our faith, will be rewarded with eternal life (Romans 2:7, Galatians 6:8–9).

    Paul said, “God is the one who, for his good purpose, works in you both to desire and to work” (Philippians 2:13).

    John explained that “the way we may be sure that we know him is to keep his commandments. Whoever says, ‘I know him,’ but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (1 John 2:3–4, 3:19–24, 5:3–4).

    (EM Note: What are His commandments?)

    Since no gift can be forced on the recipient—gifts always can be rejected—even after we become justified, we can throw away the gift of salvation.
    (EM Note: I’m confused, you said before that salvation was a reward, now you say it is a gift. Which is it?)

    We throw it away through grave (mortal) sin (John 15:5–6, Romans 11:22–23, 1 Corinthians 15:1–2; CCC 1854–1863). Paul tells us, “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).

    Read his letters and see how often Paul warned Christians against sin! He would not have felt compelled to do so if their sins could not exclude them from heaven (see, for example, 1 Corinthians 6:9–10, Galatians 5:19–21).

    Paul reminded the Christians in Rome that God “will repay everyone according to his works: eternal life for those who seek glory, honour, and immortality through perseverance in good works, but wrath and fury to those who selfishly disobey the truth and obey wickedness” (Romans 2:6–8).

    Sins are nothing but evil works (CCC 1849–1850). We can avoid sins by habitually performing good works.
    (EM Note: What is evil? I plan to answer that question in an upcoming post btw)

    Every saint has known that the best way to keep free from sins is to embrace regular prayer, the sacraments (the Eucharist first of all), and charitable acts.
    (EM Note: that is a logical fallacy because there is no way to prove what “all saints” know. And even if there was, I’m not interested in what men (saints or not) believe. I’m only interested in what God says. Acts that were created and signified by men (like “sacraments” meet the definition of religion that I’ve been giving)

    (Again, while I appreciate and welcome comments to this blog, in the future I would greatly prefer that your comments be original and specifically focused on the content I presented, not something pasted in from elsewhere)


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