Pt.6 – Six Answers For Everyone [Anyone] … You Pick
To re-cap from part 1:
I’ve been meaning to do one of these questions ‘things’ for some time. Having just posted the What Now part 2 post, I think it might be time for one of these.
It’s just six questions from Dive In Scripture so don’t get too excited, right. I don’ t have a plan here. I’m just going to answer them as they show up on the page.
Gah!! That took some effort to answer just “question #1″ so it looks like this is going to be a ‘six’ part series. All this pretending that there were only six questions is making me feel math challenged.
Finally, the conclusion with part 6. This turned out to be a lot more effort than I thought it would be. Who knew?
6. If there is no God, we don’t make sense, so how do we explain human longings and desire for the transcendent? How do we even explain human questions for meaning and purpose, or inner thoughts like, why do I feel unfulfilled or empty? Why do we hunger for the spiritual, and how do we explain these longings if nothing can exist beyond the material world?
The first sentence starts out badly. <– I can reuse that sentence in all 6 parts, I think. Ha! Incredible!
Who the hell said we made sense with or without a god? What does that even mean? Does clover weed make sense? Does wheat make sense? I have to tell you that this questioner needs some classes in communication skills. There is little reference here to even begin understanding what ‘humans making sense’ should or could mean or by what standard such a judgement should be made. I’ll assume that it is a Christian fundamentalist standard, and even that is not much help. To such people, what makes sense is humanity being enslaved to a deity that, for all intents and purposes, is absent, invisible, and uncaring. Lets see what that word transcendent actually means:
1 a : exceeding usual limits : surpassingb : extending or lying beyond the limits of ordinary experiencec in Kantian philosophy : being beyond the limits of all possible experience and knowledge
2 : being beyond comprehension3 :transcending the universe or material existence4 : universally applicable or significant
Why would a human desire any of the above? Lets put that another way, why wouldn’t you desire the above? You are pretty much not living if you desire the opposites of the above for the most part – A desire to stay inside the usual limits or within the limits of the ordinary or basically just ordinary. Humans don’t climb mountains to be ordinary; we don’t set records to be ordinary; we don’t compete in sports to be ordinary. Asking the question of why we seek to be beyond the ordinary is silly and has nothing to do with gods. We seek it because it feels good. We are driven to seek what feels good because evolution made us that way. The desire to win and excel is much of what drives us to be more than our competition. We do it for love. We do it for bragging rights. We do it because it makes us feel ‘better’ than feeling normal. We do it for the sense of accomplishment. We do it to release tiny amounts of powerful drugs to special receptors in our brains that make the world seem like a better place for a little while; so that we feel incredibly good for a little while; we do it for the high of it.
This next part is a bit difficult of figure out and I hope this is not what the questioner uses to woo the unbeliever to their religion.
How do we even explain human questions for meaning and purpose, or inner thoughts like, why do I feel unfulfilled or empty?
The human brain evolved to see patterns, to recognize them easily and quickly. Being able to see patterns with great skill means we see a lion before gazelles do. We see danger before other prey. It kept us from being lunch more often than those that predate us would like. It’s a winning evolutionary strategy. It also lead to us looking for causes where there are no generally good explanations. This is why we came up with a man in the sky to explain lightning and storms and gods to explain volcanoes and earthquakes and so on. There is a cause for most things so when we could not find the causes we made stuff up. This is exactly why we came up with gods … to explain what did not otherwise lend itself to explanation.
We also feel that there must be an explanation for why we don’t feel good about ourselves or life. When bad stuff happens to us we ask ‘why me?’ or ‘what did I do?’ because the world does not make sense to our pattern seeking brains unless we have an understanding of the cause and effect elements of our experience. We can see or imagine a purpose for the other animals as part of the food chain or to entertain us and make us feel good but what then is our purpose?
We consider ourselves the smartest of all life on this planet and some of us even imagine we are the most intelligent life in the entirety of the universe. For the most part we drift through life absorbed in our own little world of experience, concerned with making life as comfortable as possible, sating all our own desires. Like a bunch of drunk monkeys on the beach we could care less about the rest of the world, let it burn – as long as we feel like we’re getting what we want. Evolution gave us the tools to do this. It gave us ‘desire’ itself. Our big bulbous mammalian brains bulging with folds and neurons is a pleasure seeking computer with all the support machinery needed to push it all the way to other planets and back just to get a bit of chemical reward. We’ll jump from outer space, kill, love, run, compete… we’ll do anything almost for that little bit of reward because it sends our experience machinery into a state of ‘beyond explanation’ and it feels so good we’ll train for months and years just to feel it; that’s right, years of hard training for 30 seconds of chemical derived pleasure. If it lasts longer that is even better. Some of us derive that chemical reward just by being out in the natural world, surrounded by the beauty of what we see. So we’ll walk miles and miles and climb high up mountains to see it. We’ll strap boards on our feel and go to the top of mountains only to try to get down the mountain again as fast as possible, ‘whooshing past tree and cliff’ with all speed and as dangerously close to peril as we feel we can afford to go — all for the chemical rush.
That rush makes us feel so good that we can become addicted to it or even anything that feels like it. We’ll seek that reward with greater and greater effort trying to make it last longer and longer at the expense of everything else we know, all that we have, and everyone else that we know. We will actually ruin our lives in the constant hunt for that chemical reward. We have drug addicts, adrenaline addicts, sex addicts, addicts of every sort of every action that leads to the chemical reward. We often enough call this the feeling of transcendence. Some can even derive this feeling from meditation – tricking the brain into giving us a reward without doing anything particularly dangerous or special. This chemical reward is the epitome of greatness, fulfillment, reward etc. For we humans it is the pinnacle of ‘good’ feelings. Anything that does not feel like this is some version of ordinary or bad.
That brain, the very one that seeks reward, is capable of grand schemes and tool use. We have created ever increasing complexity around us and for us. We don’t have to walk, we can drive faster and faster. We don’t have to hunt, we can pick and choose our food in restaurants. We don’t have to fear our predators, we have bigger and bigger guns and bombs. We have taken the special mechanisms that evolution gave us and pushed them higher, farther, faster, bigger, better, more until we scarcely can think of more. Even at that we think of more. We’ve built telecommunications systems, satellites that study the sun and that stars and the far ends of the universe and time. We seek ever larger and greater knowledge. We even get a chemical high from gathering knowledge. We’ve sent information gathering craft to other worlds to gain more knowledge of our own. We have discovered how to grow new body parts, manipulate single atoms, and ever more intricate technologies. Sometimes we do it for bragging rights. Some times we do it to feather our nests or feed our families. No matter why we do it, we are never satisfied as a species with the information or accomplishments that we have right now. We always want bigger, better, faster, more.
Why do we seek this pleasure of transcendent feeling? Because we are wired that way; it makes us feel good and occasionally when we are a bit confused, it makes us feel god when we presume that the answer to cause and effect presumes a god to explain origin. We don’t need god to explain origin any more.
And when you think you’ve seen and heard about all our accomplishments, all the ways that we could seek pleasure and transcendent feeling we’ll show you a new way. A way that will transmogrify you, stake you to the spot till we are done playing with our new toy and the show is over. Then you’ll want more. Not because it increases meaning in your life or gives you purpose but because it pushes a few drops of chemical love to the right spot in your brain and you suddenly want to play too.
We seek the transcendent, that which we confuse as the spiritual, because it is the highest pleasure that we can afford. It is the one thing that makes all else seem trivial and of no real concern. When those among us learn to foster the feeling in us while telling us their particular god is the source of that feeling we are often left wanting for protection and are poor at protecting ourselves from this scam. Many of us fall prey to these con artists who will trade on our desire for that chemical high to make themselves rich and powerful.
Then again, some of us confuse this feeling with purpose and meaning. We conflate the explanation for the chemical reward with some superstitious ritual and confusedly assume this is why we are here, that it is our purpose, that it is the reason that we exist. The simple truth of the matter is that we do exist and have no reason or purpose for it. None has yet been found beyond what we ourselves assign to life; to our own lives. There is no secret, no prophecy. It’s just us in a mostly harsh, cruel, and indifferent universe that does not care one iota whether we live or die. We create meaning and purpose by living and sharing. Some of us get confused and assume that there must be more, that there must be a cause for all of this. The truth is that we do not have any credible evidence for that belief. We have no credible evidence that there is any meaning in life beyond what we assign to our own lives. We have thousands of stories of those that were willing to trade their own life if it made meaningful the life of others or even just life in general. We value meaning and purpose because it too makes us feel good – to know the cause of the effects that we see, to complete the pattern we are looking at. In the end, life is what you make it. Meaning is where you find it. Purpose is what you design it to be.
So…. tell me, what gives your life meaning?