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Something Meaningful
by Michael Armstrong

It isn't that they can't see the solution. It is that they can't see the problem.
− G.K. Chesterton

Many self-styled religious intellectuals love to get into arguments about creation and design, because they think that by proving these, they are proving the existence of god. Years ago a Christian Mensan and an atheist Mensan, trying to achieve some conceptual clarity with the issues, had such a conversation about creation versus evolution. In talking they posit that aliens find a rabbit, and an archaeologist working in the field finds a stone tool. Of course, the archaeologist concludes that the stone tool is an artifact, and of course this implies that the aliens should conclude that the rabbit had an intelligent designer. The Christian winds up saying, "It seems to me that the conclusion of this conversation is that a belief in chance evolution of life is based entirely on an assumption, and that assumption is not logical.  What do you think?"

I "think" so, too, assuming that I know what that particular assumption really is.  So what?  What if we all thought so, too?  Who cares?  I also agree with James C. Lee, editor of the Mensassippian, who puts it this way in his letter of response, "I see no way to logically determine whether natural design (a rabbit, an oxygen atom, etc.) is the result of a volitional act of an invisible supernatural mind or it is the inexorable result of the self-existing attributes of a self-existing reality." Again I say so what?

Every belief system of any kind must start with something, some "assumption" or beginning. You can't start with nothing, because there is no nothing.  As Heidegger put it, "Nothing nothing's!" Even the possibility of something is something—is not nothing—so the fact that we have something means we must start with something,.  Therefore some thinkers are comfortable saying that the universe "just is" and others that the creator "just is."

"But in back... whispers the voice of possible truth: that human life may not be more than a meaningless interlude in a vicious drama of flesh and bones that we call evolution; that the Creator may not care any more for the destiny of man or the self-perpetuation of individual man than He seems to have cared for the dinosaurs or the Tasmanians.  The whisper is the same one that slips incongruously out of the Bible in the voice of Ecclesiastes: that all is vanity, vanity of vanities." Becker, Ernest.  The Denial of Death.  New York, NY: The Free Press 1975, P. 187.

Again, so what? The POINT is that we need to make a meaningful distinction between a creator and a god, even when assuming that both would be a person or even the same person.  The term "creator" is a value-neutral term where you can/should be restricted to talking about objective design and engineering capability, level of technology and logic.  A creator can be either "good" or "bad" (subjective terms) or "just be," as in "Who cares?" On the other side of the issue, the term “god” can/should be a value-loaded term implying goodness and reasonableness to the user of the term.

The point is also that the concepts being promulgated of god are generally and sometimes thoroughly ignoble, i.e., mean, petty, alien, bizarre, outrageous, schizoid and inhumane (anti-humanistic).  I am unaware of any worse than those concepts generally held by Christendom, where, even though without asking or choosing, we are born in "sin" with a "fallen" nature matrix, where we must arduously "overcome" our state (even if it's with a pretentious bookkeeping entry) even though there is a superior devil with ranks of superior henchmen thrown in our way dedicated to impede, beguile, divert, deceive, assault, batter and defeat us, where we have a slim chance to win, where at best we must patiently endure the vicissitudes of "life" in a hostile environment and inexorably age and die, where if we lose, even if we have already experienced incredible suffering we must be resurrected to be burned in the fires of "hell" forever and ever. On the other hand, if we are somehow accounted worthy we wind up in a reality where our destiny is to be always inferior, and our fate is to serve and sing songs of praise to this "wonderful" superior god.  It is no wonder that so many Mensans look askance at or are outraged by “god talk.” As Nietzsche put it, "Is man only a blunder of God, or God only a blunder of man?"

But I digress with this diatribe.  We live as individuals akin to ants crawling on the jungle floor while the elephants are stampeding and the volcanoes are erupting with lava and ash.  The forces of history, politics, society, economics, biochemical factors and disease vectors are much larger than the individual.  Larger still are the geophysical forces of nature such as the weather, volcanoes, earthquakes and tsunamis.  Magnitudes greater would be solar system forces, and magnitudes beyond this would be galactic and inter-galactic astral forces. Consequently, as individuals we live at the bottom of this force column towering over us.

Yet,

"Man has a symbolic identity that brings him sharply out of nature.  He is a symbolic self, a creature with a name, a life history.  He is a creator with a mind that soars out to speculate about atoms and infinity, who can place himself imaginatively at a point in space and contemplate bemusedly his own planet.  This immense expansion, this dexterity, this ethereality, this self-consciousness give to man literally the status of a small God in nature, as the Renaissance thinkers knew.  Yet at the same time, as the Eastern thinkers also knew, man is a worm and food for worms.  This is the paradox: he is out of nature and hopelessly in it; he is dual, up in the stars, and yet housed in a heart-pumping, breath-gasping body.” Becker, The Denial of Death.  New York, NY: The Free Press 1975, p. 26.

And,

"What are we to make of a creation in which the routine activity is for organisms to be tearing others apart with teeth of all types—biting, grinding flesh, plant stalks, bones between molars, pushing the pulp greedily down the gullet with delight, incorporating its essence into one's own organization, and then excreting with foul stench and gasses the residue.  Everyone reaching out to incorporate others who are edible to him.  The mosquitoes bloating themselves on blood, the maggots, the killer-bees attacking with a fury and a demonism, sharks continuing to tear and swallow while their own innards are being tom out−not to mention the daily dismemberment and slaughter in ‘natural' accidents of all types: an earthquake buries alive a thousand bodies in Peru, automobiles make a pyramid heap of over 50 thousand a year in the US. alone, a tidal wave washes over a quarter of a million in the Indian Ocean.  Creation is a nightmare spectacular taking place on a planet that has been soaked for hundreds of millions of years in the blood of all its creatures.  The soberest conclusion that we could make about what has actually been taking place on the planet for about three billion years is that it is being turned into a vast pit of fertilizer.  But the sun distracts our attention, always baking the blood dry, making things grow over it, and with its warmth giving the hope that comes with the organism's comfort and expansiveness." Becker, The Denial of Death.  New York, NY: The Free Press 1975, p. 282-283.

"If we had to offer the briefest explanation of all the evil that men have wreaked upon themselves, and upon their world since the beginnings of time right up until tomorrow, it would be not in terms of man's animal heredity, his instincts, and his evolution: it would be simply in the toll that his pretense of sanity takes as he tries to deny his true condition." Becker, The Denial of Death.  New York, NY: The Free Press 1975, p. 30.

"..All through history it is the “normal average men” who, like locusts, have laid waste to the world in order to forget themselves." Becker, The Denial of Death.  New York, NY: The Free Press 1975, p. 187.

Nietzsche again, "If there were gods, how could I stand to not be a god?  Therefore there are no gods." The corollary to this is, "If there were gods, how could I stand to not be a god?  Therefore I am a god."  Any person worthy of the term god must be ideal for us and offer us godhood, including everything that we need and want.  For me this would encompass an easy way to the following five aspects of real living:

1.   Imminent fulfillment in this life, not in some later life.

2.   Immortality now in this life, not in some later life.

3.   Total safety and empowerment, which means mastery over the physical universe, instead of its mastery over me.

4.   Supremacy through equality, which means that I am equal in value, respect and rights to the highest person, including the creator.

5.   Unity of purpose, values and paradigm of reality.

6.   Being in love with myself, God, and others so that I can live in a society where I and the others are inspired to right or loving actions rather than, against our will or given nature, we would be enjoined, obligated, forced by dint of threat, or manipulated by guilt, trickery or superior psychology.

Why even search for the “truth” about a creator/god if it isn't going to be good enough when you find it?

A couple of technical points. A theist is one who believes in a god who cares to reveal himself in a special revelation outside the human heart, and other than nature.  A deist is one who believes in a creator who does not care to reveal himself.  An atheist is technically a person who is against believing in a special revelation, and for good reason considering the perspectives given above.  Therefore an atheist can still be a deist or an agnostic.  An intellectually honest atheist does not have to "leave atheism when evidence of a creator is sufficient."  And concluding that there is a creator person has not much to do with the really meaningful issues. Unless of course, you are afraid of your creator!

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