The purpose of most religion is to make us "better" than we currently are. The Biblical premise is that all human beings are fatally flawed, not good enough and in need of vast improvements and control of their "human nature." Without this ongoing overcoming of the evil self, growing towards a better kind of person and change, one runs the risk of being so not good enough that they will spend eternity, for their inability to change over a rather short lifetime, in a punishing hell. Scripture goes out of its way to remind us all that our fundamental human qualities are deceit, wickedness, jealousy, anger, lust and greed. I find that personally to be one of the most unhelpful and controlling lies ever foisted upon human beings by religion. Of course that is how we can act, but that is not who we are by any real means when given the freedom to be authentic and feel safe in being so.
We are called "worms" and less than nothing in this great book of encouragement. Even the early leaders, prophets and apostle types knew that they had to degrade themselves as less than human in order to show they understood they were not worth anything as an unregenerate human being. Only when one realized they were a pile of manure, could they lead the people who were really composed of the same.
If you could not utter the words, "I am not worthy," you would never be a Bible CEO. The Apostle Paul noted that he was "the least of the Apostles" (but later said he was their equal) and that "the things that I don't want to do, I do and the things I should, I don't." He made his problems everyone's. He concluded he was simply a wretched human being, and so should everyone else. He reminded others that they were blind, miserable, poor and naked of heart and spirit. He even said he had to beat himself into submission, lest after preaching to others, he should flub up himself and be a castaway. Seems he didn't have the confidence "in the blood," to make up the differences in what he was and what he felt he needed to be.
Jesus is also said to have said that humans are to become "perfect, even (in the same way) as your Father in heaven is perfect." No challenge there to be better than one is at any one moment! Of course this is not possible and it is not possible or plausible in any "now I'm converted and full of the Holy Spirit" way. You have never met any Christian who has reached this goal in life. I have met some who act like they have and I have met some who agonize of not being able, but I have never met one that did in fact, whatever that means. Actually they would be one freaky human being I would think.
How did we get this way? Well, of course it was due to the "fall" where Adam and Eve, our really true and actual first human parents, created by God out of mud and ribs, flubbed up and ate the forbidden fruit. We have all been blamed for this event and must spend our lives coming under a blood sacrifice of a more perfect human/god being and then continuing the struggle to be "better" until we die. Its then we find out we understood being bad enough to be good enough to live forever.
Redemption of humans by blood sacrifice and execution have always been the preferred solution to the depravity of man. Membership in the club usually cost ten or more percent of your material income and membership in the one true of many churches. I am not being disrespectful to the life and teachings of Jesus but few understand how that has been woven into a tale that Jesus himself would have cringed at.
I remember as a teen when it was "time you were baptized" being told I was all these miserable things and in need of deep and heartfelt repentance and, of course, a savior. The minister took me through all the Ten Commandments and asked me if I understood that I had broken EVERY ONE of them all my short life and thus, was condemned to death. I was a mere 18 year old, nice kid, good home, pretty compliant, a bit guilt and shame ridden by upbringing, but not a really big nasty sinner on drugs with three illegitimate kids. And yet, here I sat being convinced I worshipped other gods, (money, success, human hopes and dreams), somehow always took God's name in vain, (mom and dad would have washed my mouth out with soap...I only learned to cuss and such after being in the ministry) and worshipped on the wrong day of the week along with having to repent of keeping the wrong Holy Days all my short life.
I was in some deep evil way a killer, adulterer, thief, liar and coveter of all men's goods and women. When I said I hadn't really killed anyone, I was told that I hated and that's the same thing. I didn't recall hating anyone either but if you say so. I admitted I had not had sex with anyone to that point, but my lust covered that one too. I wanted to say, "well no, I really hadn't done that either", but that would have been ill advised if I ever wanted to get baptized and have a future with the group. He told me to come back another day and more deeply repent of my nasty, evil and wicked 18 year old self. I did admit to having a girlfriend from 14 to 17 who I kissed a lot and one at 18 who I kissed a lot but no babies or potential for one in either. At AC I "dated widely" as in "do you want to come to bible study with me? How about you? And you're next..." but I blame that approach with not getting to know or really spend time with one you really wish to in a quality way with consequences to follow. I did lust after Miss __________ however.
Of course I did take the plunge in time and joined the "you still aren't good enough" club for the next three decades as a pastor who then passed the good news of human depravity on to thousands and reminding them that while they might think they are nice people, they are under the eternal death penalty those stinkers Adam and Eve brought upon us all no matter. Be as nice as you want but you are a miserable human being especially if you don't tithe or show up when expected.
However, I did a bit of growing myself and concluded the story of my guilt by association to Adam and Eve wasn't literally true. Human beings have evolved for the most part as good science has noted. I've had my own genome mapped back 60,000 years to all our African origins. I don't believe that it would be a very fair thing for humans to pay a literal and eternal death penalty based on a mythical and not literally true story.
Have you ever considered the fact that you and I may have been born right the first time? What if the most simple and spiritual goal a human being has is to become your own genuine, authentic and self? What if our purpose in life is neither to jump through the hoops set out by others, who think they know, nor to struggle and strive to improve yourself dramatically over what you are? People don't change much over a life time no matter what their religious affiliations, and while it's an improvement to stop killing one's self with sugar, caffeine, alcohol and nicotine along with other assorted body killing habits, it's OK to just be yourself?
That's a far cry from humans being merely wretched, miserable, poor blind and naked worms that need major rehab at the hands of prophets, priests and pastors. Saying we are born right the first time and not in need of being born again or reborn goes against the meme, which is the mind virus we all got taught as kids. Our parents had it taught to them and their parents before that. It is the idea that we are all flawed a birth by a non-event in the lives of our first not literally so parents Adam and Eve. It's the idea that even if you are a pretty OK person, you are filled with vanity, jealousy, lust and greed that unless paid for by a perfect blood sacrifice, demands you spend eternity in hell burning forever, cut off from God, or permanently dead. It's also not true and is not what a genuine human being, in reality needs to become the monkey on their back over.
How much misery and struggle to be all that one can never really be religion has heaped upon the faithful. Not many will leave the warmth and comfort of the boxes they were born in by happenstance and explore ideas that are not acceptable to the tribe or the church. But some will. They might be labeled "heretics" or perhaps more benevolently, "ahead of their times." In the past, those ahead of their times tended to be burned at the stake. Leaving the box of religious dogma is difficult and often one leaves it alone and on their own. You get called a lot of names and labels are applied aplenty.
Don't expect those in the last box you were in to follow you into the next one your grow into. You generally and mostly go alone.
Politics, fear, guilt and shame are some of the reasons human beings behave badly. Feeling unsafe can do a lot of damage. When people feel safe, appreciated, respected and listened to, you'd be surprised how much good can be accomplished and how well behaved they can be.
What is the most simple spiritual truth a human can come to recognize? While there may be many, how about the simple recognition that we all do the best we can, warts and all and that being the lifelong monkey on our own backs as "not good enough" is a complete waste of time and unnecessary? I have done the funerals for those few who felt they were so unable to measure up, they took their own lives in despair. None of them were necessary. That was a long term solution to a very short term problem of thinking badly.
After my first sermon being transferred to Kentucky a woman came up to me to introduce herself to me. She said, "Really nice to meet you Mr. Diehl. I'm the woman who committed adultery..." That was her evermore label someone put in her mind and she adopted. I took her aside and said "I don't ever wish to hear that label you have given yourself again. What is your name?" She looked at me quietly as tears filled her eyes and seemed not to know what to say or do. She said her name, I said "Nice to meet YOU." We hugged and she was free. She said she felt born again and I said she was probably born right the first time. Based on her knowing smile, I believe she knew exactly what I meant.