prisonchaplain

The meaning of life. No...really!

Recommended Posts

A few centuries ago we thought we had found the meaning of life. Modernism says that we do not need God, because reason and science can tell us what we need to know. They can solve all of our problems. Along came the 1960s. The young adults of that decade believed that humanity was doomed. Environmental disaster, over-population and nuclear war all threatened to wipe us out, well before the millennium ended. Thus, modernism crumbled. In its place postmodernism arose. It is basically anti-modernism—saying that God, science and reason have all failed. Thus, there is no grand meaning in life.

 

Isn’t something is missing from both of these philosophies? If modernism is too proud, postmodernism is too depressing.

 

Perhaps, instead of looking to recent philosophy, we would do better to look back to the wisdom of ancients. Over 3,000 years ago the book of Ecclesiastes records that King Solomon, one of the richest, wisest, most powerful men to ever live, pursued the meaning of life. He examined wisdom—the academe—rigorous study. The book tells us he studied all that was done under the heavens (history and sociology). He considered that which was crooked (engineering), and what was lacking (accounting). He said he knew more than those who ruled before him (politics). He even sought to understand understanding itself (philosophy). Finally he pondered madness and folly (psychiatry and psychology). It was all, according to Solomon, “a chasing after the wind.”

 

Ironically, it was the pursuit of knowledge that got Adam and Eve in trouble. The serpent tempted them by saying that by eating the forbidden fruit they would gain the knowledge of good and evil—thus becoming like God. Is this not post-modernism? It says there is no ultimate truth, so good and evil must be determined individually.

 

Since knowledge failed, Solomon tried diligent labor. He found that hard work produced competition and strife. Similarly, the pursuit of power disappointed because the old king, no matter how wise and noble, would eventually be replaced by a younger one—even though the new one might be foolish and corrupt.

King Solomon also went after money. He found that no matter how much people acquired they always wanted more. Then, when death comes, families are left to fight over the spoils. Meaningless! Similarly, pleasure proved folly. Comedy, games, alcohol--even experiencing multiple casual sexual escapades—they offered a season of enjoyment, but ultimately became boring.

 

Knowledge, labor, power, money and pleasure—none of these offer true meaning. So, what is there? Solomon got it right: fear and obey God. Christians explain that “fear” is best understood as sincere love. Further, they say that the love of God is seen in how we treat our neighbors.

 

Some may protest that there are good, generous, loving people who do not believe in God. Irrelevant. If there is a Creator then creation can only find meaning through Him. The meaning of life is found in the Author of our lives.

 

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/meaning-lifenoreally-tommy-ellis?trk=hp-feed-article-title-publish

Edited by prisonchaplain

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If there is a Creator then creation can only find meaning through Him. The meaning of life is found in the Author of our lives.

 

 

I wonder though where God finds the meaning for His life. If He was never Himself created (and thus has no "author" of His own life to turn to) is He not in exactly the same position as an atheist?

 

God an atheist. Now that would be an irony!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I wonder though where God finds the meaning for His life. If He was never Himself created (and thus has no "author" of His own life to turn to) is He not in exactly the same position as an atheist?

 

God an atheist. Now that would be an irony!

According to LDS theology Gods glory is through all his creation, especially his children. (not limited by, but through) The father looks down towards the child in loving care and guidance, the child looks up at the father for loving nurture.

(I'm sure there is a more poetic, beautiful way of saying that)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A few centuries ago we thought we had found the meaning of life. Modernism says that we do not need God, because reason and science can tell us what we need to know. They can solve all of our problems. Along came the 1960s. The young adults of that decade believed that humanity was doomed. Environmental disaster, over-population and nuclear war all threatened to wipe us out, well before the millennium ended. Thus, modernism crumbled. In its place postmodernism arose. It is basically anti-modernism—saying that God, science and reason have all failed. Thus, there is no grand meaning in life.

Rather than a post modern nihilism, or even an existential-nihilism, this is why I like pragmatism as a response philosophically. Pragmatism can be quite compatible to religion.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest

I wonder though where God finds the meaning for His life.

 

LDS scriptures say:

 

"This is my work and my glory: to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man."  

 

Therein he has his purpose and meaning.  It is really no different for Him than us.  We find meaning in the serving of others (both mortal and immortal).  But notice what that service is.  It is to bring about eternal and spiritual goals.  This is where the atheist will always fail.  He may do a thing here or there that will be of true worth.  But none of his work is for spiritual or eternal ends.

Edited by Guest

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Regardless of what one thinks they know or understand the consideration of life (that which is between birth and death) there is no resolution or possible meaning.  It does not matter what you consider or look to – if your measurement is exclusively the space time existence between birth and death there is no consistent, empirical or rational purpose.  Even the argument by my friend PC has no empirical or rhetorical backing.  Even a hope or belief in G-d is no more profitable than a pursuit of wealth, power, fame or passions.  Regardless of what you pursue – you are a fallen creature that will die.  Indeed the grandest illusion of them all are those that pursue “salvation” (G-d) thinking they are saved.  I say illusion because they change nothing and will die just like everybody else.

What is missing so far from this discussion is the understanding that the purpose of this mortal life is death.  It is the reason we are born and it is the empirical evidence of the only possibility and the only rhetorical conclusion.   Whatever other purpose one pretends to attach to life they must deceive themselves, ignore obvious truths and even lie to themselves to believe anything else.  Whatever purpose we attach to creation and to G-d as the creator we can only conclude that the intent of this life that we and every other creature experience is the inevitable result of death.

 

If we are to conclude that we are any other creature has any greater purpose other than to die then we must hope for or believe that not only is there something beyond death but that there is also something that precedes birth.  That life is one of a sequence of possibilities that we must realize before any greater purpose can be justified.  If we fail to consider something before birth and after death as a possibility then the only possible conclusion we can obtain is that there is no just G-d or in other words – The creator (or creation) is not just.

 

Many religious thinkers see to have no problem considering an existence after death and they sharply criticize those that, for whatever reason, do not believe but for all the justifications of believing in an existence after death there are just as compelling reasons to believe in an existence before birth.    Without a complete picture any rational of a just G-d is incomplete and rhetorically unsound.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

LDS scriptures say:

 

"This is my work and my glory: to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man."  

 

Therein he has his purpose and meaning.  It is really no different for Him than us.  We find meaning in the serving of others (both mortal and immortal).  But notice what that service is.  It is to bring about eternal and spiritual goals.  This is where the atheist will always fail.  He may do a thing here or there that will be of true worth.  But none of his work is for spiritual or eternal ends.

 

So you are telling me that an atheist who acts in such a manner as to create happiness and to prevent unhappiness in others, simply because he believes that happiness is good and unhappiness is bad, can never thereby find true meaning in his existence because his goals lack the quality of being (what you call) "spiritual" or "eternal".

 

Just as a matter of interest, how would you define these terms "spiritual" and "eternal"?

 

(I'm not picking fault, and I don't necessarily disagree with you. I'm genuinely interested in what you're saying.)

 

(P.S. Having thought about it for a few more moments, I wonder if I should first be asking myself what I mean by "happiness" and "unhappiness" and why one should be good and the other bad. I think we learn the meanings of concepts like "happiness" from experiencing examples of them - same as we learn what is meant by things like "warmth" and "pain". Maybe "spiritual" and "eternal" are similar...)

Edited by Jamie123

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest

So you are telling me that an atheist ...

 

Just as a matter of interest, how would you define these terms "spiritual" and "eternal"?

 

In this context:

 

"Spiritual" is defined as "of of pertaining to how we relate to God or the things of God".  "Eternal" is defined as "After the manner of God, or as God is or does".  Obviously, the two are related.

 

Let us for the purposes of this discussion also postulate that "physical" is the converse (not necessarily opposite) of "spiritual" and that "Temporal" is the converse of "Eternal".

 

And to be fair to the atheists, it's not just them.  As Christians, we also tend to seek after temporal happiness.  While it is not wrong to spend some energy seeking these things, it just isn't going to be lasting.  As the OP described, Solomon sought temporal wisdom and understanding.  He sought temporal happiness.  But he eventually found it was worthless in the eternal perspective.  The only thing that lasts from this world are our relationships (especially with God) and our knowledge and understanding.  

 

When this life is over and the course of this world's temporal existence is exhausted, how much good are our business or political relationships and our temporal knowledge going to do us?  It will be as sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal compared to our relationship with the Lord and the things he can teach us after this life.

 

That's not to say that we need to completely ignore them.  I like to relate it to playing Monopoly.  (There is nothing wrong with playing a game like Monopoly.)  There is money in the game.  While in the game, it is extremely important to have money.  Often, if you have none you're out of the game.  But when the game is over, what value does it have?  It is worthless.

 

Anyone (for example, an atheist) who only sees what benefits are received in this life, cannot find lasting happiness.  Because it is all dependent on physical/temporal things.  We also need to lay up in store those spiritual things that are of Eternal worth.  Atheists decidedly don't do this.

Edited by Guest

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

Anyone (for example, an atheist) who only sees what benefits are received in this life, cannot find lasting happiness.  Because it is all dependent on physical/temporal things.  We also need to lay up in store those spiritual things that are of Eternal worth.  Atheists decidedly don't do this.

 

You're partially correct. Obviously, atheists see no value in anything that could have "eternal worth" because we generally believe that nothing in this world is eternal. For the most part, atheists are materialists, believing that nothing outside of observed matter and laws of physics (ie, immaterial entities like gods and souls) exists. This leaves us with only the temporal world from which to draw happiness and purpose.

 

The important thing to note is that "lasting happiness" is defined very differently for us: lasting happiness in the mortal life (atheist) vs. eternal happiness (theist). With that in mind, there are plenty of opportunities to build a lifetime of happiness and meaning without a belief in eternal existence. My family and work bring me a happiness that no amount of money could (I'm fortunate in that I have a job that I would gladly do for free if money were no issue). They define who I am and direct the choices I make in life. In that sense, my life is abundant with meaning, purpose, and happiness within the confines of my mortal shell. I don't accept for a second that my lack of belief in anything eternal or immortal puts a limit on my ability to achieve happiness and meaning in this life. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest

P.S. Having thought about it for a few more moments, I wonder if I should first be asking myself what I mean by "happiness" and "unhappiness" and why one should be good and the other bad...

Happiness/Unhappiness.

Good/Bad.

 

These are indeed esoteric words that need solid, objective definitions to have a meaningful discussion.  I offer none as facts.  I do offer a perspective that may or may not be accurate.  But may be useful for discussion.

 

In both music and religion we deal with concepts such as being "in tune" and "harmony".  In physics we have the principle of resonance.  Is it possible that there is an Eternal, objective yardstick by which to measure which is characterized as some sort of "energy" (for lack of a better word) that defines Good or Happiness?  Is it also possible that when we do certain things we will be "in tune" with those energies?  Could we find the strength from "resonating" with these energies?

 

Could it be that the very being of God is always in perfect harmony with these energies?  Could it be that He is the source or personification of these energies?  Could it be that He is just so perfectly aware and knowledgeable that by his very nature, He is always in tune with these energies?

 

Happiness or good may then be defined as "Being in tune with God."  

 

(I'll have to spend some time on the term "Lasting" so I can address Godless' comments.)

Edited by Guest

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

People do find meaning in money, work, play, learning--even food. Solomon's  advantage was that he had the resources to pursue all avenues to the nth degree.  Most of us will never know what it is to be rich, to reach the highest level of acclaim in our work places, to garner the respect of all Ph.Ds in our field. We can imagine that such things would bring ultimate fulfillment. Further, there are many that pursue material goals who, nevertheless, present as kind and well-behaved. Likewise with atheists/agnostics. Still, Solomon was right. Reconciling with our Creator is what will give us ultimate meaning.

 

As for pre/post mortal existence--understanding those realities will add to our sense of fulfillment. However, knowing the author of time and eternity should suffice for now.  :cool:

Edited by prisonchaplain

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

People do find meaning in money, work, play, learning--even food. Solomon's  advantage was that he had the resources to pursue all avenues to the nth degree.  Most of us will never know what it is to be rich, to reach the highest level of acclaim in our work places, to garner the respect of all Ph.Ds in our field. We can imagine that such things would bring ultimate fulfillment. Further, there are many that pursue material goals who, nevertheless, present as kind and well-behaved. Likewise with atheists/agnostics. Still, Solomon was right. Reconciling with our Creator is what will give us ultimate meaning.

 

Given that wording, I would submit that "ultimate meaning" is one of the immaterial things that I don't believe in since it is a clear reference to existence outside of my current mortal state. So it's not so much that I can't achieve it, more that I see no need to make it a goal. Just like I don't have a goal to get into heaven. It's a meaningless endeavor in light of my worldview.

 

Or perhaps my "ultimate meaning" is confined to this existence, since that is my only reality. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Godless, we say the same things from opposite vantage points. If there is no Creator, no heaven/hell, then people of faith find their meaning in myth. On the other hand, there is always a measure of meaning in the material. So, yes, you do well by doing good with what you have before you. Further, I do not see a way to prove or disprove the existence of the spirit realm. However, scripture would say it is more real than this world. So, if we theists are right, then it is atheism/agnosticism that relies on myth. In the mean time, we all believe in being good neighbors.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Further, I do not see a way to prove or disprove the existence of the spirit realm.

 

To be more specific, a spirit realm, like God himself, is provable but not falsifiable. Thus, by definition it is not amenable to the scientific method.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Could it be that the very being of God is always in perfect harmony with these energies?  Could it be that He is the source or personification of these energies?  Could it be that He is just so perfectly aware and knowledgeable that by his very nature, He is always in tune with these energies?

...

Happiness or good may then be defined as "Being in tune with God."  

 

That sounds very much like St. Augustine: “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.”

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

God is self-sufficient. As pure goodness, He could reflect upon himself for all eternity and find meaning and satisfaction. He made us because He wanted to.  :cool:

But if he's self-sufficient, why would he want to?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Unfortunately, that doesn't wash because if he is self-sufficient, he has no needs, no wants. There is nothing that could make him better off than he ever was.

Edited by etz

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

That's what God's being self-sufficient means, under the terms of discussion. God's being self-sufficient means he cannot be improved, at all, by anything whatsoever. Therefore, he has no needs and no wants. Therefore, he literally has no reason to do anything - at all.

Ergo, we don't exist.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

That's what God's being self-sufficient means, under the terms of discussion. God's being self-sufficient means he cannot be improved, at all, by anything whatsoever. Therefore, he has no needs and no wants. Therefore, he literally has no reason to do anything - at all.

Ergo, we don't exist.

 

One of the things that I find disconcerting about many religious thinkers is that they are stuck with old ideas and unable to learn line upon line upon line and concept upon concept upon concept.

 

As an expert in manufacturing robotics and artificial intelligence - it has been known and proven that distributed intelligence is superior to the concept of a centralized super intelligence.  Most recently this has developed in what is called the hive mind intelligence.  If we advance this concept to religion and theological doctrine - we could discover that G-d work is not to gather super intelligence and power exclusively for him but rather to distribute intelligence and power.

 

or as given by revelation -> "This is my work and my glory to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man".  Meaning to distribute all his power, glory and intelligence to man.  He has begun by teaching man to be disciplined.  That is why he has given mankind commandments.  He wants and needs us to be disciplined and obedient - it is the single most important "thing" to him.

Edited by Traveler

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

That's what God's being self-sufficient means, under the terms of discussion. God's being self-sufficient means he cannot be improved, at all, by anything whatsoever. Therefore, he has no needs and no wants. Therefore, he literally has no reason to do anything - at all.

Ergo, we don't exist.

 

You appear to be saying that God can be improved, and that He creates children to improve himself.  If that's not what you're saying, disregard the below and please clarify.  If that is what you're saying, read on...

 

If you believe what The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches, then you believe that God is omniscient and omnipotent.  He cannot be improved because He is already perfect.  He is not learning, He is not getting better.  (If you really need it, I'll dig out the Neal A. Maxwell quote where he puts this in no uncertain terms.  You could also read the Lectures on Faith.)

 

Essentially you're saying that self-sufficiency equates to "lack of needs or wants" (not accurate by definition - see below), and that this means the self-sufficient person has "no reason to do anything - at all".  That doesn't follow.  Indeed, a person who is able to satisfy their own needs and wants is in a better position than anyone else to do as they choose, and intelligent people are highly motivated to be productive when they have the freedom to do as they choose.

 

Dictionary:

"adjective: self-sufficient

    needing no outside help in satisfying one's basic needs, especially with regard to the production of food.

        emotionally and intellectually independent."

 

(Note that desires (aka "wants") are not mentioned in that definition.)

 

Clearly God is able to satisfy His own needs.  Clearly he is emotionally and intellectually independent.  There is no reason a self-sufficient God wouldn't want to create children.  There's also no reason He would want to.  Self-sufficiency and desire for children aren't necessarily linked.

 

If they were linked, I'd say the relation would be reversed - a God who was not self-sufficient would not want children (if you can't take care of yourself, why would you want more people to take care of), unless, somehow, the children could take care of God - a backwards idea since we are dependent entirely on Him.  On the other hand, a self-sufficient God has the wherewithal to take care of children, so He may desire to create some.

 

That God chooses to use his perfection to help others obtain perfection themselves does not mean that He needs to do this, nor does it imply He lacks something and is doing it to improve himself.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now