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Does the Existence of a Personal God (Who Has a Master Plan) Make Life Meaningless?

I played the first “Fable” game on the Xbox 360 a couple of years ago. In that game you had the ability to be “good” or “evil”, depending on your actions. One time I got bored and decided to kill every single person in every single village I came across. Every merchant, every civilian, every guard, every wife. Everyone.

It was kinda ridiculous, but I was at an insanely huge level so I didn’t need any potions or anything else.

In this game, the main purpose was to defeat Jack of Blades. That was the grand, overreaching “master plan” so to say of the game designers. No matter how moral or immoral you were in the game, the game would end the same way – Jack of Blades’ defeat.

Now imagine that a god with a grand, master plan exists. Life would be a lot like Fable, where you could dedicate your life to altruism and helping the poor, or spend your free time on cross country killing sprees. If god has some master plan, nothing you do can change his plan. In other words in the grand scheme of things, going into a maternity ward and slaughtering every newborn there has absolutely no effect on god’s plan. Equally so, dedicating your life to the improvement of humanity has no effect on god’s plan. It’s going to come to fruition either way.

If this is the case, then what’s the point? It seems like veiled nihilism to me. No matter what we do, it doesn’t matter to god. His plan is going to be executed no matter what. The fact that we don’t even know what this master plan is supposed to be is what makes it veiled. So “god works in mysterious ways” equals veiled nihilism.

And what if this god is actually malevolent instead of benevolent like in the more popular theisms? We are screwed. And there’s no way to tell, either way. But it does look like any god who created the world did so because he/she/it wanted to see maximal suffering.

On the flip side…

If there’s no god with a master plan then everything you do has meaning; and potentially huge implications to the course of humanity. Like the Butterfly Effect. Take for example the thing in Philly that was going on last year (that I was involved in) called “Free Hugs” at Rittenhouse Square.

What if, simply giving a hug to a stranger made them not commit suicide that day, and then they decide to live and eventually become the next Martin Luther King, Jr., or Jesus, or Einstein? Even the most seemingly insignificant acts to your fellow human being could completely alter the course of human history. Or what if you’re a decorated British soldier in World War I named Henry Tandey who had been killing Germans all day, and notice one German obviously wounded after a long battle walk into your sights. You decide not to pull the trigger and let him live. He nods at you thankfully knowing that you spared him and hobbles off and disappears into the smoke. Then 20 years later you find out that the German you let live was a young Adolf Hitler?

So without a personal god with a master plan, life actually has meaning. Purpose. Things that you do might actually matter in the grand scheme of things. If there’s no predetermined end-game, then who knows how things might turn out. Some people are absolutely horrified of uncertainty, but I always see it as a blessing. Uncertainty means that there are still things to find out, and that there’s always room to grow. It’s like Einstein’s pantheism, where he’s struck by awe at the universe. That natural curiosity. Like a movie where you don’t know how it’s going to end.

So if there’s a god with a master plan, everything you do is pointless. But if no god exists, then everything you do has potentially huge ramifications. If there’s a god with a master plan, then your only true responsibility (if any responsibility at all) is to your self. If there’s no god, then your responsibility necessarily includes more people than yourself, since your actions have an impact on your environment.

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Posted by on December 15, 2009 in atheism, einstein, nihilism, pantheism, personal god


Einstein and Religion

Einstein distinguished three styles which are usually intermixed in actual religion. The first is motivated by fear and poor understanding of causality, and hence invents supernatural beings. The second is social and moral, motivated by desire for love and support. Einstein noted that both have an anthropomorphic concept of God.

The third style, which Einstein deemed most mature, is motivated by a deep sense of awe and mystery. He said, “The individual feels […] the sublimity and marvelous order which reveal themselves in nature […] and he wants to experience the universe as a single significant whole.” Einstein saw science as an antagonist of the first two styles of religion, but as a partner of the third style.

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Posted by on January 23, 2009 in einstein, naturalistic pantheism, spinoza

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