The other day we bought a new digital camera. Walking into the SuperMegaElectronicsStore, you are confronted with just over seventy four thousand digital cameras in more colors than the human eye can register. They have varying degrees of attributes, varying "megapixels", differing "blur reduction" and "motion reduction" technologies. We found ourselves - although we had no idea that anything over 3 is complete overkill - cooing at the cameras with the whopping 10 megapixels and underwater focus technologies... how great it would be to be able to make three story tall prints of stunning clarity to capture our scuba adventures!! This is advertising. It not only convinces us that the product is better, but sometimes has to convince that we need something we never actually wanted in the first place.
I remember being on my 'path' rather well - sometimes I'm fond of the adventures, other times I'm resentful of the false ideologies that led me down certain roads. I remember attending a lecture where one of the most intelligent men I've ever had the pleasure to hear in a live lecture said, essentially, that he went to Harvard Divinity and heard all these atheist and agnostic professors rallying against religion and made the conscious decision to still be a Christian, no matter how much they had evidence and philosophical persuasions to the opposite. He made the decision based on purpose - that a Christian life, even if on the surface holding a certain fallacy that could only be explained by faith, held purpose; a religion free life could hold no such claim.
Two of the major tenets that held me in a religious ideology were the argument that only in a "God" universe could we have a reasonable moral system, and secondly, only in a religious universe could we have some sort of purpose. I was even cocky as I attacked my friend's moralistic codes, things founded on Judeo-Christian ethic. I spouted off about the necessity of a Hedonistic lifestyle in an agnostic weltanschuung. I was convinced.
There are problems with this line of thought. The first is the assumption, which is popular in theological thinking, that a moral system is only applicable to a population if it comes from without the population. Of course, democratic governments (and to an extent, Communist and socialist ideologies) would say this is not true - they have generated a government - a legal moral code - of the people, not from some divine right. A moral code, when thought of in the monarchist view, is handed down and theologians hold on to the idea that morals, to be absolute must in fact come from the absolute. It also helps that it comes from a father figure to deal with whatever parental issues are running around inside each of us, I suppose. But in truth a moral code is not necessarily something handed down from the absolute - indeed, a moral code need be flexible and not absolute, so as to change with the tides of the times - morals need to be applied not blindly followed.
The second is the idea of purpose. Of course, the religious person's purpose is not that enviable to begin with - it is Pinocchio serving Gheppetto. A subservient ideology of endlessly sing a creator's praise, or an issuing in of their kingdom - a creator by the way, that cruelly sets down a moral code, a systematic free will, and a punishment system for using the second of the three systems that involves eternal damnation (or even worse under a Calvinistic ideology - the exclusion of the second system - you simply burn or glorify based on God's will without any regard to choice or merit)... wow, what a great purpose.
But if we posit a non-religious worldview, setting up a basic ideology of existence without father-Gods or angels or miracles, they will complain that we are - like the Calvinists - merely along for the ride, without free will, and at the mercy not of a God who at least embodies justice (though a rather contradictory one) - we are worse, simply evolved apes who are doing the bidding of an evolutionary DNA - simply spreading our seed so a chain of protiens can flourish! How is that greater of purpose?!
Well, truly, in a purely reductionist world, that is a view. Of course, you could also say you are confusing the mechanism by which we came to be with an eternal and external purpose model. We could, instead, much as we have done in a moralistic ideology, decide to generate a purpose either individually or as a group. But that's thinking on the eighty year plan rather than the eternity plan you say? Well... I suppose it depends, but humor me that we can, suspend your disbelief and lean in as a pastor once asked. Let's return the favor to logic, science and great thought since we did it for people living in fishbellies, resurrections, floating axe heads and such. Over the next few weeks, we'll flush this idea out - establishing a base line of purpose before we even look at some of the more metaphysical ideas - which may or may not move our end product.
Find your purpose,