Our Daily Bread: Zero-sum Salvation

Salvation, as religions generally have it, is a fundamentally selfish pursuit. One can make a strong case, though, that in Zoroastrianism, personal salvation ultimately depends on world renewal, that is, the salvation of the world. In the following slice, Bahá’u’lláh appears to promise a follower (of Zoroastrian origin, as it happens) that all he need do is abandon the people of the world to be exalted above all men:

Renounce and forsake the people of the world. O wise one! Shouldst thou heed the counsel of thy Lord, thou wouldst be released from the bondage of His servants and behold thyself exalted above all men. —Tabernacle of Unity, ¶5.6

It appears that it would not be enough to make salvation a mere selfish pursuit; it must be a competition. Hence, salvation in the Bahá’í religion is not purely solipsistic (as Christopher Hitchens would have it), because it appears that there can be no winners if there are no losers. Salvation is a zero-sum game. Someone has to be left behind.

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