Sunday, April 6, 2008

Needing God

One of the most puzzling arguments for the existence of God is that without God life has no meaning and no moral center.

First, I’m not sure that need is any kind of basis for supporting a claim of God’s existence. The world has many needs that are left unmet. My needing a kidney donor would do nothing to ensure that one exists.

Second, and more to the point, I don’t agree with the assumption that meaning and morality come exclusively … or even primarily … through religion. Lots of people are religious without any sort of meaning conferred to their existence—otherwise, why would they need books like A Purpose-Driven Life?

Religious morality, so called, inspires a cold sense of self-righteousness, risk aversion, and intolerant austerity that I can’t accurately call “morality” at all, especially since it too frequently manifests itself in hatred, arrogance, unexplored personal potential, thin-skinned vengefulness, and callous violence.

It seems to me that meaning in life comes from introspection and the courage to live up to reasonable standards one sets for oneself.

Morality derives from reason, from the need for community and interdependence—as many have pointed out, it boils down to Treat Others the Way You Would Want to Be Treated, so far the best guidance we have for getting along with other people without resorting to domination or capitulation.

The one moral precept that seems to matter, then, is Respect for Others, and I’m not convinced that Respect requires religion or that religion, judging its fruits rather than its stated intentions, is even conducive to the fostering of Respect.

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