Friday, June 13, 2008

Why indeed

Jonathan responded to my preceding post, and this is the reply.

He writes:

Natural laws are not an answer to "why?" but rather "how?". God is the
Christian's answer to "why?". Your answer would be "no reason", which
attempts the make "why" = "how".


Jonathan is completely correct when he supposes that my answer to 'why' would be 'no reason.' To have a reason implies that there is purpose. A ball rolls down hill for no purpose whatsoever, just as a clock minds the time for no purpose. We, as humans, have studied and observed and understood the properties of mechanics and electronics so that we can assemble naturally occuring events to do work for us - we see a watch as having the purpose of telling time, but really a spring unwinds just because that was its nature to do so.

Jonathan is incorrect, however, when he says that my answer makes 'why' = 'how.' 'Why' is an irrelevant question. Science is concerned with how. Nature does things because of the laws that govern it. And the so-called 'laws of nature' are not really laws anyway, because nature is not obligated to follow them. The 'laws' are described for our benefit, to help us understand what we are seeing. I think that this 'how' vs. 'why' may be a central element of our disagreement.

Because then Jonathan writes that Christians make the jump because of the Bible. That will require some further spelling out, my friend. Also requiring further attention is a good reason for why I should give the Bible more credit than I currently do.

And finally, I have to apologize for assuming that Jonathan was using an emotional argument. I apparently misunderstood his question about what would satisfy me. I confess that I am still confused and am not sure what is being asked or implied. But if it is about 'why,' then I can't think of any possible answer.

There is no 'why.' There just is. And that is what makes life so profoundly different for an atheist. There is no meaning in life. Perhaps I can apply a meaning to it, but that is more like a mission or a goal than an actual meaning. I see no meaning in life - I am alive, and I will die, and whether or not I improve the world or make it worse, whether or not I suffer or cause suffering makes no difference. That may seem, to the religious, to be utterly depressing and pointless. And, as I have heard argued, I had may as well put a gun to my head now. In a strange way, they are right, because there is no particular difference. In the end, the result will be the same. Either I die now or in fifty years, and the second after I die will be the second I will cease to exist and have any capacity to regret the lost time. But I love life. I want to live and enjoy food and grass and sex, I want to see art and hear music and play with my dogs. All of my 'whys' are short-term. But because this is all that life is, it frees me up to enjoy it more fully. If I were expecting an eternity of heaven, then this life would become kind of pale and shallow. Because this is my moment, I am free to enjoy every second of it and not waste a single penny or second worrying about what god might think of me.

I realize that this may not answer Jonathan's actual question. I have to ask him to rephrase it yet again.

2 comments:

jljarvis said...

Nathaniel writes:

I confess that I am still confused and am not sure what is being asked or implied.

Let's see if I can clear it up a little better. When I asked the question, I was contemplating the intricacies of the relationship between love, faith, and belief. Since a word is defined by how it is used, these words have come to be rather vague, so I will clarify what I mean them to mean.

First, neither faith nor belief is defined by an irrational acceptance. I know a lot of people tend to think that faith is belief without reason, but that’s not true. It may be belief without reason to someone else, but the person with the belief has reason even if they can’t articulate it or even understand it. If a person truly believes that there is no reason for his faith, then his faith is actually just wishful thinking.

Second, you are on the track I wanted when you express the desire to enjoy life to the fullest. I think that to be human is to desire such. Even the dullest, hell-bound, legalistic, pharisees are attempting to enjoy their eternal life to the fullest.

I know I defined faith already, but I will attempt to re-express it with more common language. Faith is truly believing that something will help you ultimately enjoy life. And when faith is defined as such, love is the outworking of faith.

For the true Christian, this faith (and therefore love) is applied to God, obviously. However, given that to be human is to desire to enjoy life, everyone puts this faith in something based on what they believe. I guess this is where my question really comes in, and another way to ask it is… How exactly do you attempt to enjoy life to the fullest? From what you expressed, my guess is that you put this faith in yourself. You ultimately define for yourself what is the most enjoyable way to live.

jljarvis said...

Nathaniel writes:
… Jonathan writes that Christians make the jump because of the Bible. That will require some further spelling out, my friend.

I believe you would agree that with people’s actions there is always a “why” (i.e. an intent), even if the answer is just “I felt like it”. If the Bible is true, then there is a person behind everything and therefore a “why”.

Nathaniel also write:
Also requiring further attention is a good reason for why I should give the Bible more credit than I currently do.

I admit that what I’m about to say is speculation and I apologize in advance if I’m wrong. Feel free to correct me.
It sounds to me like you’re asking me for evidence that the Bible is not some practical joke. I don’t believe that you have converted to atheism without looking at the evidence for Christianity. There is legitimate evidence and I believe you know it. My guess is that you want me to give some examples so that you can provide alternate explanations for the evidence. As if another explanation disproves that the Bible is true. It’s merely another hypothesis. And in your mind the possibility of God is so small that any other explanation for the evidence supporting the Bible (or anything that supports the existence of God) is the obvious answer.
Maybe I’m wrong and you did blindly leave Christianity. If so, I can provide you with some evidences. Otherwise, I am more interested in discussing why you believe that the God of the Bible is evil.