“The worst regret we can have in life is not for the wrong things we did, but for the thousands of right things we did for the wrong people.” – Unknown
This quote might hit you right between the eyes because it is a universal truth. Most of us know this truth and believe it; however, few of us will admit it. Most people would rather justify their actions than take the blame and find a solution. But think of what we could achieve if we recognized this problem and sought a solution to it. Fortunately, the fact that you are still alive and reading this means that it’s not too late to redeem yourself and receive atonement for your wrongdoings.
Redemption and atonement in History
The concept of sacrifice for atonement and redemption is an old one, appearing in nearly every civilization and religious belief in history. From the historic sacrifices performed by the Jews for their sins to the modern day self-flagellation ceremonies in Islam and Catholicism, man has constantly been searching for ways to atone for his mistakes – against God and against other men.
In ancient Judaism, atonement was achieved by sacrificing animals. Essentially, they believed it was through the sacrifice of life-giving blood that their sins be wiped out.
Other types of sacrifices included grain – or meal – and wine. There were two types of “Korban”, or sacrifice, in ancient Hebrew culture: the Zevah, or animal sacrifice, and the Olah, or burnt offering. The Jews believed that by making these offerings or sacrifices, they could atone for their sins and essentially turn over a new leaf.
Although Orthodox Judaism still believes that in the Messianic Era, the Korbanot will be reinstated, Conservative and Reform Judaism state that animal sacrifices – such as of bulls and rams – will no longer be made.
Having evolved from Judaism, Christians hold the belief that the ultimate blood sacrifice was made by God himself, when he gave up His Son Jesus Christ as the sacrificial lamb to atone for the sins of the whole world. Therefore, Christians are not required to make any such sacrifice, but merely believe that Jesus is their personal “savior” and their only path to the Heavenly Kingdom. Despite Christianity having so many denominations, this common belief runs like a thread through all of them. It is the atonement of The Christ, therefore, that redeems all human beings to their former sinless self, just as Adam and Eve were before The Original Sin in the Garden of Eden.
In Hinduism, ultimate redemption, also called Moksha, can only be attained through constant evolution by several reincarnations, each of which needs to be lived in an exemplary manner before one is allowed to go to a higher state of being.
According to this belief, the Cosmic Law of Karma is the underlying phenomenon that guides this cycle of birth and rebirth. Karma is essentially an inherent law of the universe that forces people to pay for their sins – in this life or in subsequent ones. It is only when the chains of Karma have been broken, can a soul expect to pass on to ultimate Moksha, or salvation. Because of this belief, various ceremonial rites have evolved, which supposedly help people atone for their sins in this life and speed them on their way to final salvation.
In today’s world, religion often takes a back seat to modern science and its beliefs. Science itself has neither proven nor disproven the existence of a soul that is independent of the body. Although several studies have been conducted on near-death experiences and astral travel (out of body experiences), no conclusive evidence has been brought forth. Because of this uncertainty, most people today are confused about where they stand in the scheme of things, and whether or not they do have an eternal soul that lives on after the physical death of the body.
Again, most religions address this as the central theme of their books, but since today’s human being is guided more by science than by religion, most people prefer to take the view that salvation is a thing best reserved for religious books rather than their personal lives. However, it is evident from the number of spiritual books currently in print that man is still striving towards better spiritual understanding.
Unfortunately, no religion has been able to provide a suitable solution that works for everyone, which is probably why man is still searching for some common truth that will allow him to understand the mechanism of life and death, and how to be united with God in the end.
With the failure of major world religions to provide a satisfactory answer – let alone a viable solution – to the problem of redemption, a new wave of spirituality has evolved across the world. Some call it the “new age spirituality”, others call it “post-traditional spirituality”. No matter what name it goes by, it still espouses the best in human beings, and the development of these qualities for spiritual improvement.
Most of these modern spirituality beliefs stem from the ability of man to reach the very essence of his being. Many tools are used in this regard, including one of the most ancient practices in history – yoga and meditation. Taking various forms, these phenomena are “near-religions”, which means that they have so many proponents that they could be called religions in their own right if their followers were congregated under one banner.
Other offshoots of religion are esotericism, agnosticism, holism, syncretism etc. Without exception, all of these are geared towards an understanding of self and an attempt at connecting with “a higher intelligence”. Unfortunately, like all religions, none of these belief systems have been able to provide the answers that man has been incessantly seeking since ancient times.
While it is reasonable to assume that redemption and atonement are universal goals for the majority of human beings, it is equally reasonable to assume that no universal solution has yet been found – or accepted.
We still walk a lonely path when it comes to spiritual enlightenment, but one thing is certain: man will never give up his search for ultimate truth as long as there is life in his collective body.