Thursday, May 10, 2007

Ultimate Purpose

Many religious people say that a life without God is meaningless. They seem to think that life is pointless if we don’t have some higher purpose. Apparently the only way for us to have value is to serve God. Of course, a lot of their concern over this seems to be due to the impermanence of life. It dismays them to think that it all comes to an end. And they think that without the continuation of life that God promises, there is nothing worth living for.

This seems to me like a particularly morbid and depressing outlook. Even when I was a Christian, I never felt that life was meaningless without God. I have always thought that life is special in and of itself. For life to be meaningless without God there would have to be nothing but God in life. But there is so much more to life. The purpose of life is to live it and enjoy it. That would be true even if God did exist.

Life doesn't have to have some special ultimate purpose. Life is precious. It is full of emotions, challenges and experiences. Personally I love life. It’s certainly better than the alternative. My relationships with my family and friends are priceless. And learning new things is exhilarating. The joy of life is not in some ultimate goal but in the experience of it. To use a cliché, Life is a journey, not a destination. There are so many things to do and see. And we can build or create things that have the potential to go on after us. If we want immortality we should seek it by trying to make the world a better place and improve the human condition instead of tearing it apart with religious strife. I’m not anxious to die, but the fact that I will not exist after I die doesn’t bother me in the least. As Mark Twain said, “I was dead for millions of years before I was born and it never inconvenienced me a bit.”

If life is nothing more than serving God, it brings to mind the Euthypro Dilemma. What can we possibly do for a perfect being? If God lacks nothing and needs nothing he does not need us. To imply that our actions, no matter how pious or holy, can benefit God is nothing more than hubris. If God doesn’t need us and the only purpose in life is serving him - that would be a meaningless life. And in my opinion, a God that keeps people around solely for the purpose of praising him would be a petty being unworthy of that praise.

On the flip side theists say we need God to help us behave properly so we don’t run amok and allow the world to fall into chaos and sin. But is that really true? Why would we want to do that? What would it benefit us? Humans have the intelligence to see that working together cooperatively is better than the alternative. Why would we create a world of suffering for ourselves and our posterity? We have built societies where we can all live together in peace - but only when religion is taken out of the equation. One of the major impediments to world peace is religion. Religions can't cooperate because their dogma is unchangeable. Religion could easily be the downfall of the human race. For me, life seems to be more meaningful without God.