“Through Jesus, I am free from the burden of sin.”
– a Christian
Since we Atheists don’t believe that Jesus was a god nor that he “defeated death”, so we also obviously don’t believe that “Jesus saves us from sin.” But this concept is very important to Christians and for a very good reason. “Freedom from sin” is a powerful freedom and not to be scoffed at. But to understand how this Atheist could say such a thing, I need to do a little generous translation of the phrase “freedom from sin”.
At a very deep level, it is important to understand that we do not have to be a slave to our habits nor do we need to be crippled by the guilt of past poor actions. Instead, we can forgive ourselves and ready to break our habits with each moment. Such insight definitely offers a person a kind of joyful “freedom”. How does your worldview offer you that freedom?
I think that very different traditions, both religious and secular, have understood this insight and wrestled with various approaches to offer this freedom. A Christian believes the solution is ontological: “the person of Christ, who defeated sin and death, lives in a Christian through his Holy Spirit and thus offering freedom from the guilt of sin” — or some variant of that.
Some Buddhists, for example, believe that the enlightened mind is here with us now and need not be clamored after but only awakened to (or some variant of that). The enlightened mind offers us this freedom.
Are these extremely different traditions wrestling with shared psychological phenomena or do you think they are talking about different things? Sure, Christians and Buddhists may be unhappy with the way I am expressing their doctrines and that is partly because there are so many varieties of each religion and partly because I am writing poorly. But I think some of you will understand what I am driving at.
Some Christians, my favorite sort, are transformation pluralists: a person who believes transformation, redemption, forgiveness and much more is available even to those outside their religion. In this way, as an Atheist, I am also a transformation pluralists: I believe religions can capture valuable techniques to improve their followers even if I don’t agree with their explanations of how their religion actually works.
Questions to Readers: OK, go at it, correct my theology or tell me if you understand my point and help me come up with better examples.