"[Which] Man is the measure of all things" -Protagoras, modified =)
Religion. Theology. God. What's the point right? Does metaphysics or the supernatural or the divine need be studied? Obviously I am going to shout, "Absolutely!" because I have never had a discussion that didn't come back to theological concepts (and by theology I do not mean the modern term it's come mean; the study of religion [which, like a Democrat or Republican, is really just a label for a group of people's attempt to find the Truth through explaining the human problems of existence]. Instead I mean the more classical Grecian intent of the word meaning discourse of God). From abstract concepts being applied to social problems to the Theory of Evolution; there are certain foundations that I feel must be answered for a discussion to hold water.
Most important of these questions, I feel, is to answer the question, "Why?" Without answering this question first you will find all your dialogues to be mere excursions into the world of elitism, bickering back and fourth about peripheral issues gathering whatever information you can do disprove another idea (which in my experience you're able to find conflicting reports and resources on just about anything).
Now, I'm a Christian and some people think that means I instantly have a problem with science. I don't. Only when it is being used to further ones own interests do I take up arms because you are at that point not being scientific. Science seeks the Truth. Most of the time I believe people think of science in terms of Naturalism and the closed system that it demands, but really the goal of any branch of science is to find the Truth. Most of the sciences in the framework of Naturalism tend to find lots and lots of answers to, "How?" and that's fine, but it has no place in trying to find the answer to, "Why?" I can't help but conclude that the misidentification of the two questions is why Naturalism and Theology are often such combustible subjects; Truth is unavoidably exclusive and if not thought about with proper regard people get insulted, passions flare and miscommunication seems to reach unimaginable heights.
So, why are we alive? Why is the universe spinning about? Before diving into my own reasonings I think there's a discussion to be had on its' significance. A lot of people I've talked to over the years are under the impression that there doesn't have to be a purpose or meaning behind the existence of the universe and that life exists at all is merely happenstance and blind chance. The idea is that the very concept of meaning is a human one and therefore we are set to task at identifying meaning in our own individual lives. If that were true then history tells us we're all screwed. Read this quote by English journalist Steve Turner from "Creed."
"If chance be the father of all flesh, disaster is his rainbow in the sky. And when you hear "state of emergency," "sniper kills ten," "troops on rampage," "bomb blasts school," it is but the sound of man worshipping his maker."
You see? If life had no meaning and I come to your house, point a gun to your head, and tie you up while I chop off your arms and legs you're suddenly going to have a change of heart and the first thing out of you're mouth is going to be, "*WHY* are you doing this to me?" If I take you to a hospital so that you do not die you may come to any one of a myriad different explanations, however, if life is meaningless then so is any attempt to rationalize human behavior beyond, "[He/I] wanted to."** One isn't even allowed to conclude that life isn't fair because even that is a contradiction; fairness by definition means one "thing" is right and another is wrong. Right and wrong do not belong in a meaningless world of chaos and chance where "things" happen and humanity decides wether to call it good or bad; and again we are left asking…which human; for surely there can be only one ruleset, one dictionary to define these terms if the goal is perfection and Truth. You cannot have differing definitions of what is good without an impenetrable isolation of cultures.
An interesting idea that. Separate cultures into isolation zones each with it's own moral code. You could essentially congregate an infinite number of moral petri dishes…but even then if the codices of "Zone 24" end up with their population extinct because of disease and "Zone 25" produces people that are never ill, one must conclude which is more preferable and in so doing you're back at the beginning. It's endless. For there to be any real order there must be some absolute ruleset that exists which results in perfection. It must be eternal and it must be as True as 1+1=2.
**Maybe there is another rationalization here but I do not see it. This "[He/I] wanted to" explanation is in itself faulty from where I sit because there are many instinctual habits and desires that are truly Good and, in my opinion, a reflection of the nature of God. One of these is compassion. What purpose does it serve in a world where evolution demands only the strong survive? Why do I feel so strongly that I *am* my brothers keeper? In the confines of evolution I might see logic in the argument that compassion arises from our realization some millennia ago that I am stronger in a group, a community. This comes close I think but doesn't fit well because if I realize my need for "strength in numbers" as it were I would be angry, not compassionate, at the shortcomings of those I have selected to join my organization.
So meaningless from where I sit is an excuse to justify that pipe dream humanity holds of complete autonomy. It doesn't fit into reality but we want it to oh so badly.
This leads me to my second point on why I don't think you can rationally believe that the Universe has no meaning; environmental suffering. From killer bacteria and viruses that kill and maim, to hurricanes and tsunami's; global warming and the human races impact on it's environment might be increasing the frequency and magnitude of these events but they've been around for all of recorded history and before. These events shape the very earth that gives us life. So here we humans are, the only species to be given (or if you prefer for the time being, evolved) cognitive function and self-realization living in a world where quite literally EVERYTHING causes us suffering.
Why? Is the price of our cognition the understanding and torment of suffering? Its' opposite is pleasure, so maybe we evolved our sentience in pursuit of pleasure and ended up with a bag full of suffering to deal with whenever pleasure wasn't around. That seems like a big mistake to me. If our lives are meaningless then nature made a wrong turn in allowing us the cognitive abilities we have because throughout human history we are taught over and over again that when humans reach out to grab hold of pleasure they leave a wake of suffering behind them.
So what's the purpose of understanding purpose? Naturalistically speaking. As a Christian my purpose is given by God; in His workings in my heart, my perception of the universe, my dealings with other people, and serving Him. However I fail to see one in the realm of naturalism. Imagine you were given the choice between suffering and pleasure; even the masochist who may chose suffering does so because it is PLEASURABLE to them! If purpose and meaning is merely a balm to ease our suffering, a mentally evolved soma, then humanity is about as important as a blade of grass. A particle of dust floating in space however does *not* explain why we have the faculties we do. At best it sets up a partial framework for the intrinsic worth of life by way of, "you are important to me, only in so far as you are able to help me" which falls short of reality.
My conclusion? I am not the end of the equation. We can and do ask, "why" because God wants us to answer that question with His name. His son. He has given us the ability to chose right from wrong; has put causality in our minds and suffering in our lives because He, the author of life, understands that chosen love for our creator is more powerful than anything else we can experience. I do not believe that there is sufficient explanation available in a closed system without God to explain why I want so badly to be loved. Why the weak and broken in this world tug at my heart. Why I am surprised by the passing of time. Why I feel such revulsion towards chaos and destruction. Why I get such pleasure at watching others succeed.
It is how we are MADE. Of all I've ever learned these traits do not come about in an evolutionary life-system. Survival of the fittest has no room for compassion.
"If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?" - John 3:12
I know I'm only 27 years old. The last 3 years of my life have been lived in extreme isolation because of my "medicine" -.0 I have read the Bible many times over and I've studied the philosophies of Buddhism and some of the Islamic faith. I've some understanding of faiths outside of my own, enough to know that they are indeed NOT as similar as everyone who doesn't want to believe in one says they are. But in every instance of learning about another person or groups attempt at explaining these questions of existence and humanity I do not see the completeness that I do in Christian faith. No other explanations come so close to the human heart, our suffering (in which God Himself took on completely), our moral dilemmas and temptations as we find in the Word of God. We find purpose, explanation, hope, and comfort that is attainable and applicable in the reality that we are currently living in.
Thoughts and musings others.
-"You don't have a soul. You are a soul.You have a body." - C.S.Lewis
-"He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end." -Ecclesiates 3:11
-“But I don't want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin.” - Aldous Huxley
-"In speaking of this desire for our own far-off country, which we find in ourselves even now, I feel a certain shyness. I am almost committing an indecency. I am trying to rip open the inconsolable secret in each one of you—the secret which hurts so much that you take your revenge on it by calling it names like Nostalgia and Romanticism and Adolescence; the secret also which pierces with such sweetness that when, in very intimate conversation, the mention of it becomes imminent, we grow awkward and affect to laugh at ourselves; the secret we cannot hide and cannot tell, though we desire to do both. We cannot tell it because it is a desire for something that has never actually appeared in our experience. We cannot hide it because our experience is constantly suggesting it, and we betray ourselves like lovers at the mention of a name. Our commonest expedient is to call it beauty and behave as if that had settled the matter. Wordsworth’s expedient was to identify it with certain moments in his own past. But all this is a cheat. If Wordsworth had gone back to those moments in the past, he would not have found the thing itself, but only the reminder of it; what he remembered would turn out to be itself a remembering. The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited. " -C.S. Lewis
That's all for now. I do wish for input and maybe urge you to post up if you have problems with my logic or if i'm unclear (as unfortunately happens a lot these days ^o^)