I am writing a series of posts on meaning and purpose in life, specifically addressing the question:
Would you rather it were true that you were created with a divine purpose in life or that you are just a product of random chance?
I the first post I answered “no” to this question on the grounds that it depends on what the purpose is. For example, I would prefer that it were not the case that I was created as a toy to crate conflict and drama for a God who was otherwise bored.
In the second post, I argued that this desire to have been created for a purpose by a God is a dangerous desire to have. People invent Gods. The purposes they like to think of themselves of having been created for are not God’s but their own. Hateful and vindictive people invent hateful and vindictive gods. They then pretend that thir own hateful and vindictive interests have divine approval, which maks them more dangerous.
Another problem with this question is an assumption that it carries with it. It is asking me whether I would prefer to have been created for a divine purpose. This is as if to say that if I prefer something, then not only fails to prove that it is true. It also fails to prove that the thing is something that a good person would prefer.
For example, you can ask people, “Would you prefer to be a dictator with a loyal army willing and eager to impose your will on others and to force them to fulfill whatever wish or desire that might strike you at a particular momnt?”
Some would answer, “Sure!”, and mean it.
However, this not only fails to prove that he is such a dictator in fact, it dos not prove that being such a dictator has merit.
It is a mistake to argue that, just because a person prefers something that it has moral value. We also have to look at the nature of that preference and determine whether it is a preference that there is reason to want people to have. Is there good reason to praise those who prefer to have been created to serve some purpose over those who have no such purpose?
There is a way to measure the quality of a desire to determine whether it is a desire that has merit. This is by determining whether people generally have reason to promote such a desire, or to inhibit it.
There is good reason for a subsection of the community to praise the desire to have a divine purpose. Thos people are the people who get to pretend to be God – the church leaders who pretend that they have a personal pipeline to God. If they can convince you that it is good to serve a divine purpose, and that they have the ability to determine what that divine purpose is, they have everything they need to turn you into a willing sacrifice for their own interests.
They have no capacity to determine what God’s purpose is because there is no God with a purpose for them to determine. They can, however, determine what their own purposes are. When they tell you that you are serving some divine purpose this is not true at all. You are serving the purpose of the church and its leaders.
However, this is a far cry from saying that people generally have reason to promote such a desire – a reason for action whereby they spend their lives being unwitting servants and sacrifices to the interests of others.
A desire is an interest in making or keeping a particular proposition true. A desire that one’s child is healthy and happy is an interest in making or keeping the proposition, “My child is healthy or happy” true. There is no way to make or keep the proposition, “I am serving a divine purpose” true, so this is a desire or an interest that can never be fulfilled.
What ends up being made or kept true is the proposition, “I am serving the purpose of another person who is falsely claiming that I am serving a divine purpose instead of his own.”
People, for example, have an unfounded hatred of homosexuals may have reason to try to convince us that joining them in pursuing this interest is serving a “divine purpose”. However, it is not. It is joining them in helping them to successfully act out on their own hatred and prejudice.
A person who would like to have a secure job as a church leader spending the followers’ money has reason to convince us that our donations serve a divine purpose. Yet, again, that money instead goes to serving the purposes of the people the money is given to, and not actually (truthfully) serving the interests of those who are doing the giving. Again, this is true because the proposition, “I am serving a divine interest” can never be made or kept true.
So, the desire to serve a divine purpose does those who acquire this desire little good. It causes them to sacrifice their own interests to the interests of those who falsely claim to know what this divine purpose is. The purposes they speak of are not those of a divine entity. They are the purposes of those who falsely claim to speak for that divine entity.
And many of those purposes do not have much merit.
So, while it may be the case that many people might actually prefer to have been created to serve a divine purpose, and would answer “yes” to this question, it is wrong to assume that this is a good thing. The person who is truly better off is the person who answers “no” to this question. Such a person is less likely to waste his life serving the interests of those who pretend to know what this divine interest is, and less likely to be fooled into serving human purposes (purposes of those falsely claiming to speak for God) that no good person would serve.