From the beginning, humans have attempted to figure out the meaning and purpose of our existence. Those who use logic and empirical evidence to do this use a form of discipline called ?philosophy.? Pure logic is an important part of philosophy, which is why all serious philosophers have failed to explain much, if anything, about life?s meaning. Emmanual Kant gave perhaps the most valiant attempt at this endeavor. Yet, he also failed. All honest philosophers naively expect there must be some rational, logical explanation for human existence and the human experience.
There isn?t any. On the other hand, there are those who scoff at logic, reason and facts. Remarkably, these people have EVERYTHING figured out! These people are called ?true believers.? Rather than use facts and reason to explain the human condition, they make up reasons to it explain it. They then tell us our circumstances and condition is the direct result of the reasons for it they?ve made up. This approach is called ?religion.? Upon examining the mind-bending that must be navigated in order to understand the often arbitrary and contradictory reasons given by religionists for existence, one inevitably ends up at a cross road. One who rejects their mind-bending rationale is called an ?atheist? or a ?skeptic.? One who accepts it is either called a ?true believer,? or in the opinion of some, ?really retarded.? One who not only accepts this rationale but also tries to force others to accept it, is either called an ?evangelist,? or a ?jerk,? depending upon their ?zeal.? The more the zeal, the more ?jerk? there is in the description. There are those whose zeal extends to the extreme of waking up strangers with hangovers in their own homes on weekends. These people receive another description appended to ?true believer jerk.? That term, rather gently said, is ?true believer horse?s patooty jerk.? Those in this last group who actually believe God will kill them if they do not wake up strangers-with-hangovers in their own homes on weekends are called simply, ?dubs.? Dubs who get a perverted thrill out of waking up these strangers-with-hangovers on weekends are called ?spiritually strong true-believing horse?s patooties jerks.? All true believers have a number of things in common:
- God is by nature ?good.? Everything God does is ?good? and God can never do ?bad.?
- Man is by nature ?bad? and doing anything ?good? takes much effort on man?s part and is against his nature.
- Satan is by nature ?bad.? Even when Satan does something that appears to be ?good?, it turns out to be actually ?bad? after all.
- When God does something that appears to all sane people to be ?bad?, it is in fact, actually ?good?, since God can only do ?good.? If man did exactly the same thing God did that appeared to be ?bad? (but was really ?good?), it would NOT be ?good? at all because it was man (not God) who did it.
- God makes up all the rules. No rule can be questioned, not matter how ridiculous it seems to be.
- Only the leaders of ?true believers? can properly explain the rules that they made up and that they tell us God made up.
- Those who challenge the explanations of the rules given by the leaders of ?true believers? are ?bad.?
- God kills (or tortures for eternity) all ?bad? people, especially those who challenge those men who made up the rules and then made up the explanation for those rules allegedly made by God. Such killing by God is ?good? because God can do no ?bad.? If God kills, it is ?good.? If man, not in possession of a ticket-to-kill issued by God kills, it is ?bad.? However, man killing while having possession of a ticket-to-kill from God is ?good.?
- God loves you.
- We are not supposed to be capable of figuring out why all of this is the way it is. (DOH!)
- All of the above is based upon what is known as ?faith.?
- ?Faith? is good. Lack of ?faith? is bad, and we know what happens to people who are ?bad.?
So let?s examine faith then, since all of this stuff above hinges upon it.
The Bible book of Hebrews in chapter 11 offers perhaps the best explanation to be found in the Bible of what faith is and how it ?benefits? you. I only have a copy of the King James Version at hand, but it should suffice, so don?t fret about my use of it. The KJV is no more or less loony than any other version of the Bible I?ve read.
In verse 1 of chapter 11 faith is defined:
?Now faith is the substance of things hoped for??
Would someone kindly explain how any sort of ?hope? has any sort of ?substance?? ?Hope? is a thought. No thought by itself has any ?substance.? Peanut butter sandwiches have substance. Anything that has genuine substance requires no faith whatsoever. Even electricity (which is invisible) has substance. Don?t believe me? Plug in a radio, turn it on and toss it into a full bathtub with you in it, and you?ll discover ?substance? instantly!
Nothing and I do mean nothing that is a ?thing hoped for? in and of itself has any substance. Hebrews 11:1 finishes its definition of ?faith?:
??the evidence of things not seen.?
It is fair to say we do have evidence of some things not seen. Gravity, for example. Or the evidence about-to-be-delivered from a wife who says ?nothing? when she is asked what is wrong with her, to name another. In these two examples at least we can have assured confidence that if we jump off a cliff we will be squashed like a bug; if we actually assume nothing is wrong when our wife says nothing is wrong, we can have assured confidence that the only fun we will have for a long time will be of the menage a? uno variety. THAT is substance! No faith needed!
So Hebrews 11:1 doesn?t help us to understand much about faith definition-wise, except in some murky evanescent way. Verse 3 of the same chapter tells us that through faith we know God made the universe and all that we can see. But we can?t see or prove the existence of God. Then how can we know this claim is true? By ?faith? of course! Why is faith such a valuable thing to have? Because circular reasoning is bullet-proof to argue against, that?s why! You cannot defeat any circular argument whose premise and conclusion are offered as proof for each other! ?By faith we know God made us. God made us because our faith tells us so.? Defeat THAT argument!
The rest of Hebrews 11 gives examples of Bible characters and their faith. Because of their faith, good things happened to some of them and some really crappy things happened to others:
?They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented??
Well? Any good news for those poor souls after all of the grief they received? Nope. The verse continues:
??and these all, having a good report through faith, received not the promise.? (Uh,oh. This is not good.)
These folks are among the best of examples of what faith gets you the Bible has to offer. What did all that faith get them? Squat. Zero. Nada. Zilch. It?s been thousands and thousands of years since they died and they?ve still received squat reward for their faith.
?But wait!?, you say. ?They WILL eventually get their reward!?
?When??, I ask.
?Don?t know,? you reply.
?How do you know they?ll get their reward?,? I query.
?Because I have FAITH they will!?
More circular reasoning.
It takes one hell of a lot of faith to explain why their own faith got people who lived thousands and thousands of years ago, nowhere.
People who have invested a major part of their lives in faith claim it?s a lot harder to have faith than not. Not only is it harder to have faith, their lives are harder to live because of it. So, not only is an already difficult life made more difficult because of faith, the Bible tells us the ancients received no reward (as of yet) on account of it. No WONDER faith is so darn hard to have! It?s like trading a job that promises nothing and pays nothing for another much more difficult job which promises everything and pays nothing and then BRAGGING how hard that second job is as if you are somehow special for taking it!
Let?s recap: there are two main approaches to explain the meaning of our life: philosophers (or scientists) who use logic and observation and religionists who just make up shit as they go. When honest philosophers fail, they admit it. When religionists fail, they just make up some new shit. Actually, there are three approaches, not two. The third approach consists of people who throw up their arms in the air and say, ?Screw it. What?s the use??
This third group suffers from far fewer disappointments in life than the other two. ?True believers? kill more innocent people and suffer from more cases of mental instability and even insanity than the other two groups combined. By far. Perhaps it?s because their own lives are built upon one huge irrationality; some nebulous ?hope? fueled by some equally nebulous ?faith?, culminating in some nebulous ?reward? for all the effort.
I would opine that some faith is ok, if used in moderation. I see nothing particularly wrong with having some hope of a more pleasant after life which is freely given by a kind God. It would ease the experience of dying, provided such faith did not also interfere with one?s normal-day-to-day life before death became near. But too many people use faith as a crutch in making and explaining important life decisions. If these people screw up in life, they claim their lack of faith was responsible for their screw ups, when alternatively, they could just admit they screwed up and go on. Beating up oneself by blaming one?s screw up on a lack of faith is unhealthy. Likewise, congratulating one?s own faith upon making what turns out to be a positive and rewarding life decision is arrogant. Either way, it?s unhealthy.
Certain kinds of faith cause more human misery and destruction than can be imagined. Consider the Crusades and Inquisition. Consider Islamic jihad. Consider dubs and blood transfusions. All needless murder of innocent victims; all the result of religious leaders making up shit that surely is repulsive and abhorrent to any respectable God.
So if you must use faith in your life, use it in moderation. And don?t let others make up their own shit and hold you to it. Make up your OWN shit. They don?t have any exclusive franchise on making up shit, you know.
Since this piece is also supposed to be about the meaning of life, I guess it is incumbent upon me to explain to you exactly what is the meaning of life. When I figure it out, I?ll let you know. In the meantime, I suggest you ?let the good times roll!? (You don?t have that much time left to live on earth to do that, you know. Life is painfully short.) Maybe the cards won?t be so stacked against all of us in the eternity of afterlife. At the very least, in that realm we won?t have a bunch of human idiots making up shit and telling us what and what not to do.
As I suggested, ?let the good times roll!?