When I was growing up in the late sixties my father bought us a book called, “The World’s Last Mysteries.” It was a hardbound, coffee table book that had a series of chapters on the different phenomena and structures that have eluded explanation. I remembered this because in my last post, the discussion of purpose and meaning came up.
In a previous post I said that atheism does not answer the deeper questions in life, like, “what is our purpose here?” The standard answer I get is, “our purpose here is how you live your life.” In the book that my father gave, I found two things that were intriguing, namely, the structure called Stonehenge and the seemingly designed land patterns in South America that are only visible from the air. In both cases, the authors of the book give theories as to who made them and why they were made. I remember, in the case of the land patterns, that the explanations given were that possibly aliens (SETI was really big then) or ancient people being capable of flight, made these for astronomical mapping. In the case of Stonehenge they said that an ancient pagan society/cult built it for nature worship. Let me point out that neither had any evidence for their theories.
My point is, not one of the articles in that book ever stops to theorize that the purpose for those structures/phenomena is merely how they are built, that they are “just there.” Not one! Yet possibly the greatest phenomenon in this known universe, the emergence of human life or life on earth, does not elicit any good response as to WHY it is here except to say that the reason is, “we are here by chance and the purpose is how we live our lives?” Our main purpose is just that; how we live, interact and die, really? Because that is essentially what atheists say. They also say that so long as we are here we might as well, “help our fellow men, alleviate suffering and illness, etc…”, but that answer stops at “how” one lives his life and not “why” we are here! Then again, how can atheists answer this question if their initial premise is that we are merely a product of a chance coming-together of molecules and atoms. Taking the “evolution by chance” argument further, it appears that the seeming “higher purpose” of alleviating suffering is only a result of a random and conditioned discharge of the human brain. Why then do we honor philanthropists and fault and condemn people like Hitler or Stalin or Mcveigh or behaviors like adultery, greed and arrogance? Why should we be upset that “their” “neuronal connections” are destructive and violent? Isn’t this what we should expect from “chance” anyway?
Atheists say that morality is brought about by social conditioning and this has allowed humans to lay down the pattern as to how one should behave. They say morality is a mere social construct. Well if that is the case, why should everyone be “required” to conform to this “social construct” and be punished for not doing so? The same way that many of them fault the Catholic Church for “dictating” moral norms, they can also be faulted for doing the same thing! Are there any good answers forthcoming?
As a believer, the only way one person can tell another to behave a certain way is if the moral precepts that they appeal to are objective and universal, otherwise, all one has to say is, “SO WHAT, why should you care” or “what makes your ‘morality’ more superior to my lack of it?”
In civil law, legal disputes may eventually have to be settled by appealing to the constitution as interpreted by a supreme court. An analogy can be made that the supreme court is akin to our conscience (as formed by the Catholic Church) and the constitution, to God’s moral laws. Only by this method can we avoid the atheistic self-contradiction of demanding certain behaviors from people without having an objective and universal benchmark from which to appeal to in order to fulfill this demand.
I have been accused that I only behave the way I do because of the notion of the after-life and its system of reward (heaven) and punishment (hell). This may be partly true but the other side of it is the teaching of Christ that we were created out of love and that we were given the capacity necessary to spread that to our fellowmen, in fact God obliges us to do so. The Baltimore Catechism’s answer as to why we were created is, “To know, love and serve God.” I am not sure what in this is repulsive to atheists but to me serving an all loving and good God means to serve all of whom He loves, His creatures, this way. That is the higher purpose!