Ultimate Aims


“Salvation”:  The essential aim of religion


A.   Deliverance or redemption.  Being delivered or liberated from an enemy, danger, ignorance, sin, pollution, finitude – whatever is considered evil or threatening.

B.   Wholeness, completion, perfection, health, strength, well-being, bliss (van der Leeuw, “power experienced as good”)

C.    Can refer to both personal and collective

a.    Establishment of cosmos – sacred order

D.   Can refer to something “this-worldly” and/or something other-worldly, transcendent

All definitions entail deliverance from the disorder, evil, meaninglessness of the profane world.



This-worldly perspetives:


1.    Personal: Humanistic conceptions

a.    Non-theistic, focused on powers and capacities that reside within us – rationality, creativity, capacity for moral thought and action.

b.    Tend to view the cosmos as in and of itself meaningless – we need to shape our own lives, establish our own meaning

c.     Psychotherapies –  “cure of souls,” transferred from priest to therapist.  The therapeutic movement.

                                     i.     A means of liberation in scientific age: heightened consciousness, ability to tolerate frustration and delay gratification, skills for establishing and maintaining close relations with others

1.    Eric Fromm – becoming able to see the truth, establish personal agency, take responsibility, become more fully aware and appreciative of the richness of life and one’s own existence.

2.    Self-realization

d.    Spiritual psychotherapies: Yoga, Taoism, Zen

                                     i.     Maslow and peak experiences – extend beyond realm of religious

2.    Judaism – Kingdom of God

a.    This-worldly, oriented to future, collective

b.    No emphasis on individual life after death

c.     Messianic hopes: in exile, under persecution (Egypt, Babylon)





1.    Christianity

a.    Resurrection of the body, heaven and hell, Eternal life

                                     i.     An earthly body and a spiritual body

                                   ii.     Final judgement

2.    Pure Land Buddhism – Western paradise





1.    Hindu Moksha

a.    Liberation from rebirth and suffering

b.    Re-immersion into divine; realization of one’s divine identity

2.    Buddhist Nirvana

a.    “Blowing out” of desire and craving for permanence

b.    Total awareness in moment; mindfulness