Discussion by: QuestioningKat
Why is the idea of perfection and the achievement of some sort of idealistic "heaven" so prevalent and motivating for many? Why do religions exalt Perfection? Perfection is preached as possible, usually as the experience of a blissful ego-less state, Nirvana, the union with Divine Love, or some sort of ultimate state of being that is untouched or currently unexperienced – generally possible in another life, another reality, after one has reached Enlightenment, or died. Heaven, a place seen as perfection, is viewed as a reward for being good- free from trouble, evil, disease – an eternal "easy street" of Love, compassion, and endless provisions. In many religions, those who possess more "good" qualities are considered as being "favored" or perhaps possess "Higher Consciousness", an older soul, and closer to God or Perfection. The idea of Ego-lessness or sinlessness is considered a worthy pursuit by all those religious or spiritual. Yet, frequently, ultimate perfection is reserve for God or those supposedly achieve a godlike state.
You could say that the idea of attaining perfection has strings attached and is conditional. If we have hardships, we are reminded that "we are not God" or somehow our thoughts are not aligned with Divine Mind. Only God is considered to be perfect enough to handle situations that perplex the mere human, yet we are "expected" to achieve a certain level of "goodness" (which is usually self-sacrificing, conforming to the expectations of the group, or for the benefit of the group or God.) Despite this expectation, a glass ceiling is set so that you are not allowed to get too "high and mighty" lest you make the mediocre people feel bad or something. "With GOD all things are possible." (But only with God.) People who achieve a certain level of mastery are likely to be "blessed" instead of recognized fully for their efforts, intelligence, talent, upbringing, socioeconomic factors, or ability to nagivate through societal "infrastructures." There is something about obvious superiority or extreme ability that upsets many people. Be good, but not great. Religions seems to reinforce this idea. (Yet, people at times are quick to claim mastery when ability or intelligence may be limited.)
In my former religion of New Thought, traditional views of Christian sacrifice were not valued. You were expected to achieve greatness as a way towards service. (Service that generally did not involve any hardships on your part.) ANYTHING was possible. The bar was set at an unrealistically high level – so high that no one could ever achieve the ability to do "these things and more" as the Bible states. Minimally, achieving mastery translated into YOU aligning yourself with the Divine. This means achieving the highest possibilities in your life through effort to improve your relationships and interpersonal skills with others, being psychologically healed and balanced, forgiving yourself and others, healing your body, taking care of yourself, viewing others in a positive regard, pursuing your ideal vocation, living in an organized and ideal environment, having peace of mind, releasing expectations, and lot other stuff that makes you wonder "Where's God in all this?" (It's you. You just forgotten who you are.) To achieve an ultimate level of perfection was to achieve Christhood or Buddhahood essentially becoming "God"/remembering that you are a Divine being. A few Gurus have claimed this ability. I have seen some everyday individuals do great things, but never on a consistent basis or genuinely supernatural means. Most people still acted out of habit or became regular workshop attendees in hopes of fixing themselves without making any change or effort, or hoped to manifest results through wishful thinking. (Of course, no one ever seemed to fully remember "who" they are and stumbled humanly while stiving for an unattainable level of perfection.)
We usually agree that attractiveness, prosperity, health, etc are "good." Disease, extreme poverty, and unattractiveness is undesirable. We may have some standards for a high level of good or perfection such as symmetry, exhibiting superior technical skill, demonstrating superior/above average abilities, but even this can be subjective or at least swayed by opinion. If you were to choose between money, power, attractiveness, intelligence, and respect, your answer would likely be different from your neighbor. Being assimilated into a realm of endless unconditional love, compassion, and acceptance may be someone's cup of tea, while others might prefer sitting alone on a rock. One person's view of heaven or perfection can be another's idea of hell. No wonder certain religions and spiritual views offer up the idea of heaven being a separate planet of one's own. (Thought —- Is a high level of "good" or mastery subjective? Is a high level of intelligence subjective?….Where do we draw the line between opinion and clear demonstration of mastery?)
Did the religious piggy-backing the pursuit of perfection with our natural inclination towards striving for betterment? Has religion now created a society in which we exclude that which does not fit standards of what is considered highly desirable while striving for self improvement- even though that aspect of society is nonreligious? (Perhaps secular society has not fully shaken it religious roots.) We naturally select out desirable mates. We exclude people who do not fit our definition of an ideal "good" life. Many view gays as imperfect, and flawed in the "eyes of God" or even otherwise. We even listen secular motivators who encourage us to "be our best", "go for it!" "Shoot for your dreams." There are a multitude of nonreligious "businessmen" who have profited selling us on ways to live while they themselves are similar to ministers without any skill other than salesmanship. All of these acts and many more are done in our best interests of achieving what we consider to be "good", right, worthy…while quashing what is disliked and deamed wrong or evil.
We as a society seem preoccupied with "goodness" "badness" right vs. wrong with lots of fixing others to meet certain standards. Perhaps this is some sort of Evolutionary drive for survival and attainment of security, food, sex, power and prestige while avoiding pain and discomfort that has gone amuck. Maybe a dash of OCD added to the mix too. Even the idea of perfection, heaven, and goodness that the religious regard so highly, seems to be unaware, covert cover-ups for their own agenda of being on the winning side of "survival of the fittest" and aligning themselves with personal or group success. I wish they would recognize this. On a positive note, I am thankful for those who have strived to achieve a high level of aesthetics, mastery of skill, developing technical breakthoughs and advancing human achievement through their commitment to excellence for whatever reason – whether it is for personal challenge, worship of God, expression of the human spirit… I think most all of us can agree that this type of pursuit is part of what is best about our humanity. I think, I can continue on with this topic endlessly, but enough of my ramblings. thoughts? opinions?