On the Nature of Salvation for Pagans

The conversation born out of my last post has been, by far, one of the most stimulating dialogues to take place on Bishop In The Grove. My mind is a flurry with thoughts of Gods and Goddesses, mysticism, my own need for a deeper and more engaging practice, and — for the first time in several years — Jesus.

The “J” word may freak out some Pagans. In fact, I know it does. Jesus is a trigger. He brings up a lot of old hurt for many in our community. I wish it wasn’t so, but it is. I relate to those feelings, for I’ve experienced a great deal of alienation and discrimination in the name of Jesus. Often it’s his followers that make him so unsavory to Pagans.

So, it seems amazing to me that our dialogue about conversion from Christianity to Paganism would lead me to feel more at ease in talking about Jesus. I’m not rushing back to the Church — don’t get me wrong. But, I am willing to talk about theological subjects that were the mainstay of my previous religious life without feeling like they’re infringing on my identity as a Pagan. It’s liberating, really.

In the midst of this dialogue, I read a post on the Patheos Pagan Portal called “Is There Salvation in Paganism?,” which was timely, considering our conversation. In the post, Star Foster writes:

Religion provides the solution to something. It identifies a problem, prescribes a method by which to resolve that problem. That resolution in religious terms is known as salvation. While the concept of salvation is almost exclusively identified with the Christian religion in our culture, it actually predates it. Savior is an epithet given to many old Gods, such as Hecate. Salvation from death was the main purpose behind rites such as the Eleusinian Mysteries.

As I’m trying to absorb Gregory Shaw’s Theurgy and the Soul into my incredibly dense brain, I’m finding this ancient Pagan preoccupation with the salvation of the soul troubling. I think what it is I find troubling about it explains the clearest and most obvious difference between ancient and modern Paganism.

When I read the post, I paused at the line, “I’m finding this ancient Pagan preoccupation with the salvation of the soul troubling.” Something about it struck me as curious, and somehow connected to our dialogue about conversion. I found myself asking, why would this be troubling and not inspiring?

Many modern Pagans shout “Syncretism!” whenever Christians talk about Christmas (which is actually Yule), the concept of a Jesus as savior (who is, himself, actually just one of many sun/son gods to have been sacrificed) or any number of modern Christian practices and beliefs which are actually something other than what they’re portrayed to be.

But in this instance, when salvation may actually be a Christian tenet with Pagan origins, the response is discomfort. I can only deduce that this discomfort comes from our own inability to disassociate salvation from its Christian definition. The connection between the word “salvation” and the belief in “original sin” is so deeply engrained in our individual and collective psyche that we can’t conceive of the former existing apart from the latter, even if our Pagan ancestors could.

Now, I’m not a reconstructionist, but I do find myself wanting to explore what salvation may have meant before and outside of the Jesus paradigm. I want to know how we can conceive of salvation, as Pagans, and not feel as though we’re participating in a religion to which we do not belong.

But more than that, I want to know what this revelation says about the possibility that salvation may be more of a universally human experience. If the idea of “salvation of the soul” pre-dates Christianity, and it shows up in multiple cultures and time periods, we Neo-Pagans may want to explore what our ancestral Paleo-Pagans thought on the matter, and to reflect for a moment on what it might already mean to us.

So I turn to you, my insightful and very bright readership. I want to know what you think.

What does the word “salvation” bring up for you? Is there a way to conceive it as a return to wholeness instead of a solution to the problem of sin?

For example, do you think you could describe your affinity for the natural world, and your movement toward it, as a kind of salvation? For many people who commented on my last post, it was through nature that the Gods spoke, so if that is how you feel could you also say that it is through a return to nature that you experience salvation? Perhaps salvation, in this context, is something that has to do with this world, and this life.

The forum is open, friends. Please share your thoughts and ideas, and be kind enough to share the post on Facebook, Twitter or your social network of choice.



, ,



42 responses to “On the Nature of Salvation for Pagans”

  1. Barrera248 Avatar

    We talk about Buddah, and all manner of other religeous figures- how is it Jesus is a bad word. Separate the figure and intent from the present -day political follower.

  2. […] present in my life. They were Christian, so I didn’t want to think about them.We’ve touched on salvation as a concept that can exist outside of the Christian paradigm, and I believe there’s still […]

  3. […] Grove Creating A Space For Dialogue Beneath The Sacred Oaks Skip to contentHomeAboutContact Teo← On the Nature of Salvation for PagansA Pagan’s Christmas Message →Please Don’t Cut My Heart Out on Thanksgiving Posted […]

  4. Sisterlisa Avatar

    The concept of salvation in the Christians realm has always been a debatable concept. Who is saved, how do you get saved, can you lose your salvation and on and on it goes. From the perspective I have, salvation can be viewed as being saved from depression..or saved TO Deity..as in reconciliation. Wholeness. Knowing your spiritual identity is secure in love. Humans measure themselves up against one another and even up against deities, but grace teaches us that we’re already loved and accepted. No religious hoops to jump through. We might have to wait longer for a salvation from an awful job and into a new one with better hours, wages, and benefits. Sometimes salvation comes in a spoken kind word from a loved one who says “It’s ok I still love you”. Each new birth experience in life is yet another salvation experience. Anyway, that’s how I view it 🙂

    1. Teo Bishop Avatar

      I love this idea of there being the possibility of re-birth throughout your life, Lisa. Thank you for sharing your perspective! I’m always happy to hear from you!

  5. Kilmrnock Avatar

    To my way of thinking salvation isn’t neccesary. As pagans we don’t need saving . The whole idea of sin , inculding the origonal one is irrevelant to us . We don’t need to be saved or reborn , our gods got us right the first time . As a Celtic Druid/Sinnsreachd I/We live by  a strict code of honor/conduct given to us by our gods , as the best way to live .If one lives in this way , you are good in our gods eyes . Salvation isn’t required or even wanted by our gods or ancestors. These ideals are prevalant within most pagan polythiestic religions and Wicca. Atleast as far as the concept of salvation goes.      Kilm

  6. Jim Lockhart Avatar

    Let’s define two things:

    1) what is ‘salvation’ and

    2) what is ‘sin’


    Every group has a different concept of what they
    think salvation is and that’s why there is more than one definition in the
    dictionary. I’ll attempt to define it in a more modern light in a moment.

    Every group has they own idea of what ‘sin’ is as
    well. If you look at the original Judeo-Christian concept prior to it being
    mistranslated (on purpose no doubt) it is simply defined as ‘making a mistake’.
    We’ll leave it at that for now.

    Now moving back to the definition of ‘salvation’.
    Again, looking at it in light of the Judeo-Christian concept of the word, our
    early ancestors really screwed up by eating a mythical apple from a mythical
    tree. Part of the concept behind that story is a fear-based teaching is
    “your ancient ancestors really screwed up (sinned) and now you’re doomed
    forever (no salvation). Lucky for you some kid is born and saves the world –
    but only if you’re a Christian.


    Keep in mind that the Judeo-Christian holy books
    are basically 4000 year old science explaining everything from how the Earth
    came to be to how we’re all going to some mythical place that doesn’t exist for
    horrible everlasting punishment. Is 4000 year old science relevant today? Only
    in a symbolic or allegorical sense.


    Now let’s move to a more modern view and see
    where that takes us. The Adam and Eve story is basically a story of the
    evolution of human consciousness as it has evolved to the present day. Our
    pre-homo-sapiens sapiens ancestors (that’s not a typo) originally had a very
    small brain which is now located at the center of our modern much larger brain.
    That near-reptilian brain knew of nothing but fight or flight, survive, eat and
    procreate and, um other bodily functions. Hey, it worked – we’re here right?
    Unfortunately, that oldest part of our brain still has some affect on our
    behavior and this effect is becoming more and more dysfunctional.


    Having said all that, the Adam and Eve story
    encompasses a lot of history and is a 4000 year old explanation of how human
    consciousness evolved. The consciousness that evolved, however, is, in most
    people today, the egoic consciousness. This is not a “bad” thing, it
    simply is as it is and was intended to be. Our minds work so well that the mind
    created an illusory self in order to reconcile the functions of the higher
    brain with the demands of the ancient, reptilian brain we’re all stuck with.

    Egoic consciousness is the centerpiece and root of almost all human problems
    today such as war, greed, hate, aggression, territorialism, environmental
    irresponsibility and so on. Individual egoic consciousness has also multiplied
    out to become a collective egoic consciousness which makes matters even worse.


    This form of consciousness, however, has become
    increasingly detrimental to the survival of our species. Nature somehow ‘knows’
    this thus we now are beginning to experience the stronger and stronger urge to
    evolve to a higher, more functional level of consciousness.


    Now let’s digress back to the original questions
    of salvation and sin. Did our ancestors really screw up? Of course not. We
    evolved in exactly the way we were intended to evolve and all is as it was
    intended to be. Do we have a need to be ‘saved’ from something? In a very real
    way, we indeed do but NOT in the way the Judeo-Christians or anyone else entertaining
    an old definition of ‘salvation’ would ever have imagined because at the time,
    they did not have ‘the big picture’ of what’s actually happening like some of
    us do now.


    The bottom line then? We must evolve to a higher
    level of consciousness and live in a more loving, more responsible way
    otherwise we will not survive as a species. Let’s not kid ourselves – it WILL
    be very difficult work for some, easy work for others. I assure you we will not
    be without guidance during this change for those who choose to accept that
    guidance. Those who do not accept guidance will, well, what does nature do with
    that which is no longer functional? It turns to mulch.


    1. Teo Bishop Avatar

      Thanks for commenting, Jim.

      None of us is the sole authority on the subject of salvation. At least, that’s a belief that most of the Pagans I know would affirm. My intention with this post was to crack open the subject on a very personal level, and see if there’s a way to explore the concept of salvation outside of an exclusively Christian context.

      I’m open to dialogue — that’s what these conversations are about. Dialogue is, to me, less about the “this is what is,” or, “this is the truth of the matter,” and more of “this is what it is to me,” or “this is what I’m questioning,” or, “this is what I think.”

      I find that when we speak from a place of personal, subjective experience or insight we allow the conversation to be ongoing. We are less likely to put people on the defensive, and we allow others the space to express their perspective. When we make declarative statements, issuing “bottom lines,” we shut the conversation down.

      1. Sister Who Avatar
        Sister Who

        My apologies for coming in on this discussion a bit late, but I notice that while generally very good, the comments seem to be mostly intellectual and pragmatic rather than deeply experiential in nature.  For me, Paganism has always been about experience.  What I personally find within the essence of “salvation” is that moment of awe whenever I find myself in the presence of the Divine, in the presence of Goddess and God, in the presence of the Eternal Spirit that is the perfection of wisdom and love; it is a moment within which the finite encounters the Infinite and becomes aware of just how very finite, limited, and small the self of the finite is–and becomes equally aware that the Infinite has extended itself in love and in self-sacrifice in various ways for the welfare of the finite.  I find no room for arrogance, dogmatism, or spiritual snobbery within such an experience, but rather a deep yearning to increase my expression of transcendent love and beauty throughout the world.  If others’ expressions are more conditional, perhaps that is part of their current process of growth; perhaps they also serve as a reminder of how superficial I could become, were I to treat the interconnection of finite and infinite more casually–perhaps even carelessly.  I think salvation is what I feel when I remember what I am and I also remember what the Divine is to which I strive to relate within every faith-filled moment.  I remain extremely grateful for the guidance of the great Mother and the great Father, throughout every ongoing adventure of life.  May one and all and everything, blessed and loved ever be!  — Sister Who

  7. Áine Avatar

    Very interesting post, thank you.

    I think it is quite possible to take “salvation” to mean a “return to wholeness”, and for that “return” to be an entirely internal process wrought by the Seeker.

    A fire is your salvation from the cold, is it any less a salvation by virtue of your having wrought it with your own hands?  

    I may not believe that I was born broken or “in sin”… but I can look at my life and see plenty of wounds I carry from the life I’ve experienced… Perhaps “return to wholeness” is also too baggage-laden a phrase.  “Achieve enlightenment”?  “Find balance”?  “Reach perfection”?  I can see all of these phrases as analogous.

    1. Teo Bishop Avatar

      Thanks for the insight, Áine.

      It’s tricky, language. The need for wholeness implies that something is missing. Attempting balance begins with the acknowledgement of imbalance. Reaching perfection affirms imperfection.


      If we have baggage — which I know I do — that may be a good indication that there is something we need to explore deeper. Unpack the baggage, you know?

      1. Áine Avatar

        I completely agree, it’s something to explore deeper.  And yes, language is tricky, very much so.  Thank you for the interesting topic!  Definitely chewy.  🙂

        So, how do we unpack “salvation”, and the related terms we’ve come up with to effectively say the same thing whilst edging around the ego defense provoked by the notion of “salvation”?Is that something you’d want to engage here?

  8. Mam Adar Avatar

    I am by no means an expert on the mystery religions–unless you count Christianity as one of them, which I do *g*–but it seems to me that one thing they all had in common was a concern with what happens after death. The mysteries of Mithras and Eleusis, as well as the early Church’s celebrations of Lent and Easter, are significantly though not exclusively concerned with giving the participants a means of conscious transition into a post-death experience that is more than a shadowy, half-forgetful and half-forgotten existence in the underworld. The same concern, with extremely detailed teachings on dying and rebirth, is present in Tibetan Buddhism.

    Etymology, salvation does mean health and wholeness, a fuller experience of life (as Jesus says in the Gospel of John, “I came that they may have live and have it more abundantly” or “to the fullest”). I think that for the ancient pagans as well as Christians, that includes a fuller, richer experience of the afterlife and freedom from the fear of death here and now.

    1. Teo Bishop Avatar

      This is a great point. As confident as any of us might be with our own abilities, our own faculties, our own power to control and shape the direction of our lives, we all die. Perhaps the movement toward seeking salvation happens in the moment where we remember our own mortality. Or, salvation is an attempt at reckoning the inevitability of our own death.

      Interesting stuff to chew on over morning coffee. 🙂

  9. kenneth Avatar

    As a pagan I have no need whatsoever of salvation.  There’s nothing inherently wrong or lacking or broken in my spirit.

    1. Teo Bishop Avatar

      Thanks for the comment, Kenneth.

      Do you believe that you have no need for salvation because you are a Pagan, or because there is nothing inherently wrong or lacking or broken in your spirit? Or, do you believe that your spirit exists in such a state of perfection because you are a Pagan? Do you believe that all of our spirits exists as such, or just yours?

      I’m curious if you’re making a statement about you, individually, or humanity in a broader sense. I’d love it if you expanded on this idea a little further.

      1. kenneth Avatar

        I propose that there’s nothing inherently broken or fallen in the human spirit.  That’s not to say I or anyone else is everything we might be. We can, and hopefully will, grow in wisdom, compassion, knowledge etc.

        1. Teo Bishop Avatar

          And I like your proposition. 🙂

  10. Nancy Batty Avatar
    Nancy Batty

    What I want to ask is “salvation from what?” Christianity offered us salvation from the results of sin. I suppose for me paganism might offer salvation from feeling irrelevant – I’m a divine being, a spark in the great mandala, a cell in the body of Ma.  I have a role. It also saves me from taking myself too seriously – this divine being will one day be worm food. But I, too, have a challenging go of it trying to divorce the concept of  salvation from the concepts of sin and damnation and separation from the Divine. I want to protest “I don’t need saving! I’m perfect the way Ma made me!” But I suppose we all need rescuing from something, so I suppose what She rescues me from is loneliness, hunger, the void… Then again, She provides those things as well. So I suppose the most valuable thing she saves me from is… lack of context, I suppose? Good, chewy topic here.

    1. Teo Bishop Avatar

      And a good, chewy response, Nancy.

      Lack of context. That’s brilliant. I’d love for you to unpack that a little more.  If Ma provides all things – the hunger and the sustenance, the loneliness and the companionship – could salvation simply be the remembrance of Life in Ma? Does that make sense?

  11. Dscarron Avatar

    The concept of “Salvation” makes a few assumptions: That the current world/situation is crap and that some external divinity will come along and fix that for you by bringing you somewhere else. 

    I think that Pagans should not rest on their laurels and accept those assumptions.  I became Pagan -because- I expected that I would have more control over my spirituality and the world around me.  As a result of those expectations/beliefs there are responsibilities and obligations that go along with.  Since we are connected with the world around us that we have a part in fixing it.  This is especially important as these days the “natural world” has become more threatened and a much rarer resource. 

    1. Teo Bishop Avatar

      Great comment, Dscarron. Thank you for contributing to the dialogue.

      You’ve brought something up that my husband and I talk about frequently, which is the idea that people believe that the world, and their life, is something worth escaping; that humanity is something worth ascending from. I reject this idea. I think the world is inherently beautiful, and that life is a mystical, brilliant experience.

      I respect the idea of having more “control” over your spirituality, and yet I wonder if any of us have “control” of the world around us. There’s a level of surrender that has to happen, no?, even if we seek to bring our will into being in the world.

      You are spot on about accountability to the “natural world.” I couldn’t be more with you there.

  12. Wes Isley Avatar
    Wes Isley

    I can understand how ancient peoples might have wanted salvation from all number of things: hungry beasts, sickness, death, etc. Which is essentially what Christian salvation is, too: salvation from sin, ie death and eternal separation from God. As a modern pagan, I take exception with all this salvation talk, since I think that whatever happens after death, it isn’t anything to fear. And no matter what we do in this life, all of us will die, whether we consider ourselves “saved” or not. Existence after death and what happens (if anything) is mere speculation. I don’t feel that I need to be saved from anything. Rather, I do believe that I need to embrace life and, at the same time, my eventual death. In some sense, maybe that acceptance of death is itself a form of “salvation”–in other words, salvation from wondering whether or not I’m worthy of it in the first place, salvation from obsessing over what happens after death, freeing me to simply live. Yes, I think having thoughts of salvation from one thing or another is a common human experience, and I believe therein lie the roots of all religion. But the fact that we have those thoughts don’t necessarily mean there is anything to be saved from, except, perhaps, from fear. So maybe, for me, being a modern pagan is ultimately salvation from fear.

    1. Teo Bishop Avatar

      You bring up some great points here. One could think of salvation in a very practical manner, i.e. salvation from death, sickness, etc., and that our ancestors may have understood it as such. The word certainly is connected to mortality.

      I love the way you worked through these ideas, Wes. Following your train of thought from the start of the comment to the end, your conclusion – that being a Pagan can be understood as a kind of “salvation from fear” – is very interesting, very engaging. Thank you for sharing these ideas here.

  13. Fred Bower Avatar

    I think my initial issue with the word ‘salvation’ is because I link it to the idea of a “savior”, an idea I reject.  After I take a step back and let go of the reaction then I can see a possibility,  I might call it liberation or awakening maybe?  Not sure.  

    I am not one to pretend that humans live in some type of perfection, at least not in everyday awareness,  remove the idea of a savior and I can see the paradigm of a pagan salvation emerge.  As a Pagan I would see this as our own personal work that leads to this, ‘salvation’ and not on the shoulders of another.  If our spiritual practice leads us out of the delusion of materialism, consumerism, violence and our general separation from nature and the gods then I guess that could be seen as a salvation.

    So not a word that I would personally start using but I can see some value in exploring the idea, outside of reaction, as the community enters more deeply into interfaith dialog.  

    1. Teo Bishop Avatar

      You touch on several valuable ideas here, Fred.

      First is that we’re trying to hold the tension between accepting a human being’s imperfection while resisting the concept of sin or the perceived need of a savior. I also like what you’re doing in exploring the contours of “salvation without savior.” That does seem more in line with the modern Pagan ethos.Second is this idea of exploring these theological concepts “outside of reaction.” This is exactly what I’m trying to do. When we react, when we resist an idea for emotional reasons, that is cause for closer examination. Why do we resist this so? Even if we examine the idea and discover that we have legitimate reasons for resisting it, we’re better served to do the hard introspective work.Great comment.

  14. DeAnna Avatar

    Hi Teo,

    I think the idea of “salvation” is so tinged with the victim mentality — someone out there must come and rescue me/bail me out  ‘cuz I’m too weak/poor/insufficient/fill-in-the-blank to do it myself — that it’s hard for people who are taking responsibility for their own spiritual growth and healing to buy-in to it.  There’s a great quote attributed to the Buddha that sums it up: “No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.”

    1. Teo Bishop Avatar

      Hi DeAnna – thank you for the comment.

      I see what you’re saying, and I’m all about the idea of self-empowerment. But even in the quote you listed (which I’m glad you shared – thank you), there is the idea that salvation is necessary. Perhaps it doesn’t come from an outside source, but it reads to me that the Buddha is recognizing a state of being from which an individual must be saved. Again, it’s very hard to even used that word (saved) without certain other ideas springing up.

      How do you read the words of the Buddha?

      1. DeAnna Avatar

        I see what you’re saying, and I’m agreeing with your phrase “state of being”.  Are you familiar with any of the works on cultural mythology by Joseph Campbell or with the concept of the Shadow and Collective Unconscious by Carl Jung? 

        Buddha recognized the illusion of separation and the trap of suffering that we so dearly cling to — I mean, some people are so identified with their Stories that they practically define themselves by how much they’ve suffered.  But getting free from that requires a great deal of letting go of the ego’s identity and not only is that scary, but it’s a lot of work, too.  Who wouldn’t want a Knight in Shining Armor to come and rescue them?  “Poof!” the magic prayer, the magic wand, the magic savior — and no need to change required on their parts.  It’s that kind of magical thinking that pagans reject.

        My take on “personal salvation” is that of becoming the Heros of our own Stories; but in this case, the monsters the heros must face are the aspects of our disowned Shadows, and we come not to vanquish them, but to embrace and reintegrate them.  Here’s another great quote for you: “Enlightenment comes not by imagining figures of light but by making the darkness conscious.” 
        Carl Jung

  15.  Avatar

    My immediate response to your question is, “Salvation from what?”

    1. Rob Henderson Avatar

      Mine as well, with an addendum that I just can’t see “salvation” and “becoming whole” as having anything to do with each other.  Oh, and now that I’ve typed that in, I have to follow that up with, “Becoming a whole what?”  I want my religion to help me become a better version of me, but that doesn’t necessarily mean become a whole anything, nor that I’m not a whole something already.

      1. Teo Bishop Avatar

        Hi Rob – thanks for contributing to the conversation. And, happy belated birthday. 🙂

        The salvation/becoming whole idea came to me first from a response written to Star’s post by P. Sufenas Virius Lupus. The full quote goes into the etymology of the word “salvation,” and it reads:

        “I’ve written on this topic several times on my own blog, because it comes up in relation to Antinous (though not as heavily as some have suggested it does).The fact is, there were many humans who were given the title Soter in the ancient world, from Ptolemy Soter to Hadrian to many others besides; it wasn’t just something for the gods.  And, what did it mean?  All of those roots, including “salvation” and its Greek equivalents, come from words meaning “health, wholeness,” etc.  The human rulers, and the gods, who were called Soter/Soteira were deities who made people’s lives better and more whole and health in this life now as we know it, not in an afterlife.  A ruler or government official could do this by building an aqueduct so that the local community could have a regular supply of clean water.So, the “this-worldliness” of paganism, ancient and modern, doesn’t at all have to be compromised or questioned by the existence of concepts like “salvation” in our religions–they do not remotely mean what Christians, Buddhists, and other “religions of salvation” have claimed they mean exclusively with respect to the afterlives.” (emphasis added)

        I by no means wish to suggest that you aren’t whole. But, if the idea of “salvation of the soul” is old — older than Christianity — perhaps there is something about the human condition that the ancients were speaking to that we’re missing here. Perhaps they recognized the need for “becoming whole” in a way that we aren’t conceiving.

        1. Rob Henderson Avatar

          That I can believe – but I don’t know that it’s anything I could or would apply to my modern lie or anyone else’s.  The ancient Greeks believed that someone who had come near to a dead body couldn’t engage in religious ritual for a week after, and I accept that as part of their worldview, but I’m never going to make that a part of my religious practice either.  >8)

          1. Teo Bishop Avatar

            Understood. 🙂

    2. Teo Bishop Avatar

      Could you expand on that, Eran?

      1.  Avatar

        I’ll do what I can 😉

        My question was, ‘Salvation from what?’  Your post made the assumption that A. We need or have something to be ‘saved’ from, and B. that some agency was capable and willing to do rescue you (the generic you) from something, whatever that happens to be.

        My position is that I don’t see anything that I need to be saved from, so I’d need more specifics from you about what you thought we needed saving from before I could give you a more in-depth response.

        Additionally, there is the idea of ‘salvation’ itself.  ‘Salvation’ assumes that one is a passive, powerless observer to events, and that only some external agency can ‘rescue’ us from it – I reject that assumption as baseless.

        1. Teo Bishop Avatar

          Thanks for continuing the conversation, Eran.

          I don’t think I made those assumptions. I think that those assumptions are common in a discussion about salvation, but I was seeking to explore what salvation might mean outside of our common preconceptions.

          I suppose I’m interested in what salvation could mean if we allowed ourselves to look at it outside of a Christian, or savior-centric  paradigm. Perhaps what you’re saying is that there is no way for you to conceive of salvation without a savior, or “external agency,” as you’ve put it. Would that be fair to say?

          1.  Avatar

            Teo – 

            I don’t think you consciously made those assumptions, but they are there in the very word you chose:

            from Mirriam-Webster:

            a : deliverance from the power and effects of sin
            b : the agent or means that effects salvation
            c Christian Science : the realization of the supremacy of infinite Mind over all bringing with it the destruction of the illusion of sin, sickness, and death
            2: liberation from ignorance or illusion
            3a : preservation from destruction or failure
            b : deliverance from danger or difficulty

          2. Teo Bishop Avatar

            I can see what you mean, but I’m trying to be a little more meta about it.

            Take definition #2, for example. If you use this definition of salvation, would still say that there is nothing you need to be saved from? Is there nothing of which you are ignorant, or are you under no illusions? Could you imagine liberating yourself from such illusions or states of ignorance?

            There is another comment in the thread which talks about the Buddha’s words on liberation, and this may be a good way to approach the word “salvation” without bringing up the sinner/savior model.

          3.  Avatar

            Even that language though, of ‘liberation’,  of ‘deliverance’, makes assumptions of passivity – I tend not to see that as ‘salvation’, but more as ‘striving’ – it is a far more active word, and requires one to be engaged, rather than letting someone else do the work.  

          4. Sarenth Avatar

            I wouldn’t say liberation or deliverance necessarily implies  passivity.  Look, for instance at liberation movements for slaves, or deliverance from a bad situation.  

          5.  Avatar

            It does: the liberation movements were about imploring governments (i.e. others) to set free slaves – the slaves themselves were powerless to affect the changes they desired.  Deliverance isn’t about saving oneself, its about being saved (by someone or something, e.g. an external agency).