I was mentally going back to my post about hell, recently. If you haven’t read it, I basically don’t believe in a literal hell anymore. Since I’ve already done a full post on it, I’ll not go back to all the details here. You can go to that post here: https://shiftingbeliefsblog.wordpress.com/2019/01/04/hell/. But it got me thinking about how ingrained reward and punishment are in religion. But without reward and punishment, religion kind of falls apart. Of course, reward and punishment are ingrained in our culture, so it does make sense that it would be in our religion. Especially if religions are all man made. Just sayin’.
I can only speak from my experience, but I got “saved”, became a Christian, when I was 12 years old around the camp fire at a summer camp. Of course, the reason I did this is because a man told the group of us that if we don’t pray and believe what Christianity teaches, we will spend eternity in hell. He did talk about God’s love for us and some of that, but the main clincher for me was the whole hell thing. Being “saved” meant that you are saved from the punishment of sin, which is hell. The Bible teaches that Jesus basically took the punishment for us. But he didn’t have to spend eternity in hell, just a few days. Then he got paroled and he’s up in heaven now with God. Anyway, I got saved because I was afraid of the punishment if I didn’t. The reward side is pretty cool, you get to go to heaven for all eternity. And heaven is supposed to be a great place. So I’ve heard.
In the flavor of Christianity that I came out of, the hell punishment and heaven reward was the biggie. But, there are other rewards and punishments as well. If you believe certain scriptures that seem to promise health and happiness and prosperity and all the great things we want out of life, I mean, really, really believe them… that belief will draw those things into your life. And you have to be thankful for them, before you see them. And don’t sin too much, because that kind of fucks up the pipeline between you and the good stuff. Sounds a lot like The Secret… hmmmm…. So those are some cool rewards you get for having great faith and gratitude and being nice to people. Supposedly.
But, if you sin too much, like I said, it will fuck things up. Even though Jesus paid for our sins by becoming sin for us and dying and going to hell for a few days, sin still fucks things up while you are on the earth. Sin being some thought or behavior that God doesn’t like. We won’t go into all that. And besides, the list varies depending on preference, in many cases. Oh, and if you don’t tithe, that’s giving 10% of your income to the church, you bring the punishment of the devil coming and stealing that 10% in some form or fashion. Is that before, or after taxes, you might ask? Well, if you are a super faith person, it’s before taxes, of course. Put God first! And, if you give a little on top of that, even more blessings! But if you don’t, watch out… your car could break down, your fish die, etc. Sounds like the mafia! “Listen. This is a bad neighborhood. Bad things happen to good people. But you know what? For a weekly payment, I can make sure that none of the bad things happen to you.” Holy shit! And if you have premarital sex, God will punish you with an STD or something. There’s a lot more, but you get the idea.
I’m not saying that punishments and rewards should be done away with in society. You could not have a stable, functioning society without them. They are basically for behavior modification. Some people don’t do bad things just because they don’t want the punishment that goes along with it. A normal, sane human (whatever that is?) would probably never kill another human, unprovoked. So most people don’t go around seriously wanting to kill someone but they don’t because of the punishment. But, not all people are normal and sane. But, would I drive faster than 45 mph in the morning on the way to work if I knew for sure I would not get a speeding ticket? You bet cha! And what parent hasn’t taught their children what they believe is right and wrong behavior without punishments and rewards? But is it really the best way to have a relationship with someone?
So now, back to my thinking about my post on hell. What if you take the punishment, the biggie, hell out of the equation? Well shit. That fucks up everything! What is there to be “saved” from? And if we get really creative, and take the reward, the biggie, heaven out of the mix… what is there to be “saved” to? And if we take out the little punishments and rewards on top of the biggies, again, what would that look like? A relationship between two adults based on rewards and punishments would be pretty weird. Don’t you think? If there is a God that we can have some kind of relationship with, it seems to me that, without the punishment and reward thing, we can just be real with each other. And maybe having a free, real relationship, with no hooks in it or strings attached, might be pretty cool.