I wandered into this thread "accidently" (if I believed in accidents, that is!), and it makes my head swim. I think many of you/us are talking about different things using the same words, and talking about the same things using different words! No wonder we're confused! "Salvation," "God," "afterlife" ... for one thing, I think (I could be wrong) you're all talking about Judeo-Christian variations on a theme, which leaves out huge huge masses of people on this planet, of spiritual, religious, and combination spiritual/religious persuasions!
Being someone who feels enormously spiritual, but who has a strong bias against organized religion, particularly most sects of Christianity, my initial reaction to some of the posts has been negative. However, once I stop myself from jumping to conclusions and itching for an argument, I find these participants trying to be very respectful of one another, which I find quite refreshing and I very much appreciate. (Thanks!) Still, the assumption that your goals (back to "redemption/salvation" etc.) are the same as mine stilts the conversation.
Then, Chaka, just when I think you're phrasing what ^I^ believe as a spiritual person (I am spirit/all around me is spirit), then you jump to a conclusion that I can't follow: that life without deity is "better."
Please understand: I'm not saying that we all need to believe in some Higher Power that is greater than ourselves. Coming back around to the "all is spirit" concept, I believe that Jesus, for example, is no more God than I am. Granted, if we can believe the stories were actually about a single, real person, he was an amazingly enlightened guy. He had alot of things right, in my opinion.
But organized religion, particularly variations of Christianity, is man's (and I do use that in the masculine, as opposed to the generic, sense) way of keeping tabs on large populations of people. I think "church rules" fall into three categories: (a) certain practices, such as fasting, may assist meditation and therefore communication with Spirit, (b) rules against murder or stealing, or suggestions to help the poor, for example, are good general societal rules that allow people to live in community more easily, and (c) rules such as those preventing eating certain foods on certain days of the week were created more arbitrarily, maybe for reasons of commerce or other needs for control. In short, (c) is the input of Man that has nothing, really, to do with Spirit ... other than that Man can then judge and condemn people who do not practice (c) as a way of controlling masses of people.
I hope that made some sense.
Then, Chaka, I found your breadmaker analogy particularly interesting, but I don't follow your assumption that life without a deity is necessarily better. Different, sure, but why better? Are you saying that people who believe there is Nothing, no spirit, even, are better than those of us who believe ALL is spirit?
I mean, if you're truly operating under the principle that All is Spirit, within and without, above and below, then I am also the breadmaker, aren't I, and the wheat and yeast and water? As well as the electricity that runs it? And there's nobody but ME to blame if the bread is crappy! Whether I appreciate it or not has nothing to do with the breadmaker, or, for that matter, if its crappy. Appreciation, in your definition, is attachment to a judgment about "good" vs "crappy." A Buddhist, or at least someone who practices mindfulness, might suggest that nonattachment provides the opportunity to appreciate the bread, period, without judgment. It just Is.
Okay. Now I don't pretend to even BE a Buddhist, so I can't speak for that tradition, but I do try to practice mindfulness. That, to me, is a large part of my spiritual practice, which, in effect, is my "religion."
But I don't practice in any community, so am I really part of a religion? (I wish sometimes that I were in a community, since I grew up Catholic and I REALLY miss some of the positive aspects of ritual and community, but that's another post. Maybe.)
I'm talking in circles now, I need to go to sleep. But I wanted to step into this conversation today because ... well, my mindfulness tells me to pay attention to this thread and participate, and then see what I can learn!
Thanks for bringing up and participating in such a thought-provoking thread!