Everything can be made better. We can all shoot for zero fault in something or other. Faith is not an exception to that rule.
In structured religions, for any “believer” in God, there are four stations, status, steps to or levels of perfection. i. Beginning, Elementary or Nominal: Involves simply acknowledging and following the primary tenets or biddings of the faith. Even though it occupies the lowest level, nevertheless it is critical for it is the doorway through which everyone must first pass. The transition from incredulous to faithfulness and requisite commensurate behavior starts here. ii. Believer: Actually seeing the merits of the biddings, and more importantly consciously, intellectually and emotionally relating to, owning and being vested in the Divine Existence and Unseen Axioms of the Faith. iii. Righteous: Assiduously doing what is generally acknowledged to be religiously – morally and ethically right and avoiding what is viewed as wrong. iv. Organic or Spontaneous: Being or doing good without prompting, fearing punishment or desiring reward while still attentive to the structures of the faith.
About stations I and II, the following analogy can be drawn. Suppose, somebody enters a country on an immigration visa and eventually becomes a naturalized citizen. He promises to do or follow a set of rules. He may not completely understand or accept all or some of the rules even though he signs up for it. This is the Nominal Station or Status Level I. However, after a while he sees the merits and the benefits of following the prescribed rulebook. Now, he begins to value and protect them, and prescribe the same rules to others. The person has now elevated himself to the Station of a Believer or risen to Status Level II.
Now, the Station of Righteousness [more in the next write-up] is superseded by only one other station: that of Spontaneous Goodness. Very few people are cultured or socialized, ethically sensitized and skilled, to be spontaneously good on all matters or at all levels of challenge. Such a second nature comes with practice. In other words, a conscious pursuit of righteousness eventually morphs into error-free spontaneous goodness. In this state of being, a person knows and loves God and relates to Him, doing things that He would approve and avoiding things He would disapprove organically, naturally, and not out of fear of His Ultimate Judgeship. The latter aspect translates to a desire to avoid Hellfire and to find a space in Heaven, which is tantamount to Righteousness. So, reward and punishment are not the main motivators of living an untainted, good and decent life. The main motivators are to do what is inherently good and avoid what is inherently bad and to love and respect God for His sake alone. No wonder the status of spontaneous goodness is the highest level a person can attain in life. It is very difficult to achieve and usually is a culmination of lifetime of desire and effort. While it is a factor, but just being a decent human being does not make one belong to this station. As a starter, without accepting religious spiritualism, not merely adhering to conjectured philosophy, this spot will continue to post “No Vacancy”. One has to first know Who God is, understand Him as best as possible, accept and respect Him for Who He is, acknowledge His vision for man, and follow the course laid down by Him [all stuff of Station I] way before graduation into this level becomes possible. This type of goodness is facilitated by cultivating a sense that notices God’s presence at every turn or, failing that, being conscious at every turn that God is watching. It is like a desire to please one’s watchful parents, teacher, friend, or boss.