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Entry 10 – It’s a wonderful life! Yes, even without [insert deity]!

October 25, 2009

Ah, the age old question, ‘What is the meaning of life?’ Most have pat answers, and those answers can vary quite dramatically from person to person, culture to culture, religion to religion, and philosophy to philosophy. I think more importantly than answering the ‘What is the meaning of life?’question though is figuring out what is a meaningful life. And I think figuring this meaningful-ness thing, if you will, out is intricately tied to the discussion in previous entries about being “good” (see Entries 5, 6, 8, and 9). If you are doing good things for others, your family, your friends, your community (see Entry 6), then I think you are well on your way to living a meaningful life.

But let’s take a stab at the meaning of life question, TRC style. Life and the meaning of it are actually quite simple as I see it; they involve no supernatural beings or supernatural explanations for things, and they allow you to be a free thinking, fully ethical individual. Now,  before I continue, let me just say, I’m not trying to be flippant with the following simplistic 8 step program for a better life, nor am I trying to be disrespectful to people of certain faiths in the supernatural. The following is simply something that I’ve come up with that makes to sense to me and gives me the freedom to think about the world in a much less rigid way:

A. We are born
B. We have physical and emotional needs
C. Hopefully those needs are met by the people responsible for us when we are born.
D. We grow stronger and larger literally until we can take care of ourselves.
E. We strike out on our own.
F. We try to make a positive contribution to the society in which we live through our work, and our time away from work.
G. We try to repeat A through F by starting a family of our own, whatever that family may be, biological or simply a chosen, close association of people that we care about, or both.
H. We die, and our bodies become a part of the soil with its amazing cycle of elements continually used and reused to support life on this planet so that A. can happen for someone else.

Quick caveat – Part F can take a while for most folks to get to, myself included. I think we in large regard as adults focus in on F as we get our basic needs met, and can move past just the daily struggle to put food on the table.

Now certainly you can insert a supernatural being or beings into the 8 step program ‘mix’, so to speak. And I begrudge noone that option. I simply offer up that it isn’t necessary. I can still live out the remainder of my days as a recovering Christian, purposely not ascribing to any Godly/Supernatural influence in my daily walk, and come out at the end of a, hopefully long, life having helped others and made the world a better place. Why would I do that you may ask? Why would I want to do good without some kind of Godly/Supernatural influence guiding my affairs? Well, I throw the question back at you in a different way.  Why wouldn’t I?  Why wouldn’t I want to help others and make the world a better place? Why wouldn’t I want to live a life where I actively tried to better my community? Living a life full of evil deeds, hurting others in my path would actually be a much harder road to navigate in my opinion. It’s actually quite ‘easier’ to be a help than a hinderance.

For next time, I’d like to get into the “doing evil deeds” theme a bit further.  Explore what is the relation between evil and religion or the lack thereof.

Until next time, thanks for stopping by!


2 Comments leave one →
  1. Steve permalink
    December 1, 2009 10:10 pm

    When asked why I, as a non-believer, I would be motivated to be good in the absence of god (without fear of hell and the goal of reaching heaven) I answer because I have morals. My morals come not from religion, but from evolving as a person.

    A psychologist by the name of Lawrence Kohlberg articulated stages of moral development. The first stage involves the assumption that powerful authorities hand down a fixed set of rules which he or she must unquestioningly obey. Children think of what is right as that which authority says is right. When asked, for example, why stealing is wrong a child at this first stage answers because “It’s against the law,” or “It’s bad to steal,” as if this were all there were to it. The child’s emphasis is on obeying authority and avoiding punishment. This, as I see it, is where religion serves a purpose. Children are told, “be good or you’ll go to hell instead of heaven”. As one preceeds through the stages, however, they understand relative points of view (Stage 2), focus on living up to the expectations of the family and community in which good behavior means having good motives and interpersonal feelings such as love, empathy, trust, and concern for others (Stage 3), become more broadly concerned with society as a whole and performing one’s duties so that the social order is maintained (Stage 4), work toward a conception of the good society by focusing on “morality” and “rights” that take some priority over particular laws (Stage 5), and eventually become great moral leaders whereby one respects the basic dignity of all people.

    These latter stages (Stages 3+), I tell them, are where I like to think I have advanced to. I am not yet a great moral leader and probably never will be, but I am certainly no child that has to be motivated to be good for fear of the devil. I do not act righteously so that I may go to heaven, I do so because I know it is the right thing to do. And for that, religion tells me, I’m going to hell.

    • Anonymous permalink*
      December 2, 2009 1:05 pm

      Steve, thanks so much for your comment, and bringing to light these Kohlberg stages of moral development. Well said. I definitely learn something new everyday. Would really like to explore these stages in a future entry. Again, many thanks for posting!


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