Saturday, July 25, 2009

A Purpose to Life: Wishing for a Divine Purpose

This is the second in a series of posts covering the meaning of life and the answer to 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?

In my previous post I answered that what matters is the quality of a purpose, not its source. Imagine a God that enjoys that creates people and sets them at war against each other because he is entertained by conflict and drama. Our divine purpose would be to fight each other for this God’s amusement. The criteria of having a divine purpose would have been met, but this is certainly not something a good person would prefer.

I cannot say that everybody, or even most people, will agree with that assessment.

In fact, we can see around us a great many people eager to adopt the purposes of a God that is mean, hateful, vindictive, jealous, egomaniacal, blood-thirsty, petty Gods. They are people who appear to care nothing about the quality of a purpose – only in its source. Where they think that it pleases God for them to torture and kill others, even their own children, they still hold that these acts have value.

If such a person were to discover that their divine purpose was to create conflict and drama for the entertainment of a divine being, they would resolve to become the best conflict-and-drama creator that they could possibly be. Nothing else, no personal preference or the well-being of any other person, could have value to him except insofar as they are useful tools in creating conflict and drama for God’s entertainment.

Of course, these Gods do not exist. Mean, hateful, vindictive, jealous, egomaniacal, blood-thirsty, petty Gods are the creations of mean, hateful, vindictive, jealous, egomaniacal, blood-thirsty, petty human beings that create God in their own image. They assign their worse traits to God and, in doing so, claim that those qualities are holy and that they, themselves, are necessarily good.

It is a convenient philosophy to say the least - at last for mean, hateful, and vindictive people.

This is not to say that everybody assigns hatred and jealousy to a God. Hateful and jealous people create hateful and jealous Gods (or stress interpretations of scripture that promote hatred and jealousy), while kind and compassionate people create kind and compassionate Gods (or stress interpretations of scripture that promote kindness and compassion).

But it is the hateful and jealous people making hateful and jealous Gods who are a source of a great deal of strive in the world, and who are those who impose great burdens and risks on the rest of us.

And, honestly, I hold that the Religious Right in America can be described precisely in these terms. It is a community of hateful, selfish, self-centered, petty individuals who have created a hateful, selfish, self-centered, petty God.

Of course, once a group of people have assigned their hatred, vindictiveness, and pettiness to some God they then have an incentive to promote the ida that there is something special in having a ‘divine purpose’. Which, in this case, it means saying that hateful, vindictive, and petty actions have some sort of divine favor. This "divine purpose", it is argued, trumps any and all personal preferences, thus giving an illusion of legitimacy to the acts of hatred and jealousy that the individual enjoys.

All things considered, the desire that it be the case that one has a divine purpose is not a worthy desire at all. It is a desire that people generally have many and strong reasons to discourage, and that no good person would adopt.

Wishing it to be the case that one had a divine purpose where no divine purpose exists is an invitation for mean, selfish, jealous, blood-thirsty, petty individuals to invent mean, selfish, jealous, blood-thirsty, petty gods. Then, in assigning these traits to God, they then assert that their own mean, selfish, jealous, blood-thirst, petty interests have a divine favor, giving them authority to make us suffer from their mean, selfish, jealous, blood-thirsty, petty actions.

The world would be a better place if people did not have such a desire.

1 comment:

Sabio Lantz said...

Superb ! I sympathize with your cautions. This "Sanctification Ploy" is how the divine purpose desire can be misused. But wait, can't we differentiate the desire so as to separate out the abusers? Sure we can say that a desire having an evil divine purpose is evil but what about those desiring to have a good divine purpose?

Ah, but I think I see, by being divine (sanctified), that puts the desire and future reasoning beyond doubt and beyond dialogue with others with conflicting desires. It gives the believer self-justification to no longer question their actions? Right?
You can tell I am not a well-read DU ethicist yet.

- Thanx, a member of the studio audience.