Tuesday, September 01, 2015

The meaning of life is ...

Perhaps it is just me; I think this is truly an interesting time in human history when it comes to thinking about god, religion, and the meaning of life.  ISIS, Boko Haram, and the Taliban trigger questions about Islam.  The various fanatical Hindu groups in India raise questions about coexistence of different interpretations of life.  Buddhist monks are persecuting Muslims in Burma.  It is a global war on religions and gods, though not on any particular religion on god.

Of course, here within the United States, too.  Consider this:
A county clerk in Kentucky who objects to same-sex marriage on religious grounds denied licenses to gay couples on Tuesday, saying she was acting “under the authority of God,” just hours after the Supreme Court refused to support her position. ...
Ms. Davis stopped issuing all marriage licenses after the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in June.
And this is after:
After the state’s governor told county clerks to issue marriage licenses to all eligible couples, Ms. Davis filed suit in federal court, arguing that she should be excused from the obligation, given her religious beliefs. A District Court judge ruled against her, as did the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, and she appealed to the Supreme Court.
I am impressed with the fight that the county clerk is putting up, though I thoroughly disagree with her belief that she can bring her faith into political administration.  She is not merely talking her faith but is following through in her actions.

Meanwhile, Catholics, who were warned by their religious leaders that abortion is "such a grave sin that it warrants automatic excommunication" are now told this:
"I have decided, notwithstanding anything to the contrary, to allow all priests for the Jubilee Year to absolve of the sin of abortion those who procure it and who also seek forgiveness," Pope Francis said.
I find all these developments interesting because whether it is the county clerk, or Francis, or me, we are all sincerely interested in figuring out what this life is all about.  I am always amazed at how much the vast number of "religious," whatever their religion is, do not seem to inquire into the meaning of life.

This bottom-line of the meaning of life is why I don't care much for the militant intellectual atheism that portrays atheism as science triumphing over faith.  Yes, there is reason and science involved in the understanding, but those militant atheists forget that even many science-trained people follow their faiths because of the meaning it gives to their lives.  It is not "scientism":
In recent years we've come to think of atheism as an evangelical creed not unlike Christianity. An atheist, we tend to assume, is someone who thinks science should be the basis of our beliefs and tries to convert others to this view of things. In the type of atheism that's making the most noise today, religion is a primitive theory of how the world works - an intellectual error without human value, which we'd be better without.
But this isn't the only kind of atheism. History shows that atheism can have a complexity that reaches well beyond our currently dominant version. Though many today seem unaware of the fact, by no means all atheists have wanted to convert others to unbelief. Some have actually been friendly to religion. Nor have atheists in the past always turned to science for inspiration. There have been many varieties of atheism.
I got to read that essay thanks to this note at the Economist; it refers to Karen Armstrong, "a former nun and best-selling writer, who became badly disillusioned with Catholicism":
She insists that the word God refers not to a true-or-false proposition but to a human quest for meaning and transcendence. 
Exactly.  Debating with believers about whether or not god exists interested me only when I was younger and way more of an idiot than I am now.  As I have gotten older, I find myself engaging in discussions with believers, who talk with me, on how they deal with the contradictions within their faith.  And, above all, to engage with them to find out whether they think about the meaning of life even within their own faith.  I am always disappointed that most believers do not seem to care much about that existential question at all and, instead, merely mouth the words in very unthinking ways.

All these, and more, will make the rest of my life on this pale blue dot exciting.  I truly "believe" in that and have "faith" that it will be a fascinating time ;)


Anne in Salem said...

I know of no one, believer or not, who considers the meaning of life as much as you do.

Sriram Khé said...


Sriram Khé said...

Turns out that I took the Kentucky clerk on face value and gave her way too much credit ;)

"In 1984, Davis married store clerk Dwain Wallace, records show. More than a decade later, she divorced and married Joe Davis, her current husband. The couple’s relationship apparently fizzled out sometime around 2007, when Davis married Thomas McIntyre Jr, a construction worker. When she rejoined Joe Davis, 49, on 24 August 2009, it was her fourth marriage."


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