Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Materialism and meaning

One of my friends and I have been talking about the comfort religion is thought to bring, compared to a materialistic metaphysics, if one thirsts for meaning and solace. A materialistic universe can be a scary place: in such a world, the universe does not care about you or about anything else. In such a world, it is possible for random events to screw up your life completely and irredeemably, or for you to do so yourself. Decay and death are all but certain; unless you and those you love have the good fortune all to die together in the same instant, you face the torturous prospect either of your having to watch them deteriorate into nothingness, or of their having to watch this happen to you. Although life in such a world can—if one is fortunate, and has the right attitude—contain much happiness, such a world is not the kind of world anyone should be happy about.

Now, here come the preachers, telling you that the world is not like this, that you actually have a chance at a blissful eternity. The only price that comes with this world is that some people will end up in infinite torture for all eternity. This is a trade that selfish billions are all too happy to make; they even happily grab the preacher's ludicrous rationalization that people "choose" Hell, or "send themselves" to Hell. I say, however, that such a world is not just worse than the materialistic one, but infinitely worse. A world in which even one being must suffer for all eternity is an infinitely bad world; even a world in which the only beings who go to Hell are those people (and gods) who would send others to Hell, is infinitely bad—such people (and gods) simply should be shot, not inflicted with the same torture they would visit upon others.

The materialistic universe is a bad universe—it is a dangerous universe in which we must, with no assurance of success, scrounge for enough temporary happiness to make our brief lives worthwhile—but it is not nearly the worst of all universes. In the end, that is something to be extremely thankful for.

1 comment:

Becky said...

Uplifting and yet depressing at the same time. Skill!