[This text is also available
About the Meaning of Life
The short story The Story of the Universe
covers the same ideas as this text, it just presents them as a tale. If you consider reading that story or listening to its audio version, then I recommend you to do it before diving into this article. Otherwise you will spoil your literary aha moment. But, of course, you can just continue reading this text anyway – the decision is yours.
In this document, I contemplate the meaning of life and the questions whether there is a God and – if there were one – what would be his nature. These topics are, of course, very philosophical. If you are dealing with such questions as well and are currently seeking an inspiration for formulating your own answers, then this text will be of interest for you.
I write my considerations in a structured form. However, please do not let this form trick you. The only think I can offer you here are wild speculations
– no proofs or theories in a scientific sense. Even if I do not use the word “possibly” in every other sentence, please still keep in mind that the whole text is based on speculations and avoid too dogmatic interpretations of it.
Although my considerations are worthless from the scientific point of view, it is still fun going into them. Once you have started developing such ideas, it may even become hard to stop. ;-)
You will certainly come up with some points, which you see differently – and that is great! I do not want to missionize you for
point of view. If this text inspires you to
considerations and theses, then I have already reached my goal.
1. What is the meaning of life? [▼]
2. How will the intelligent life in the universe develop further and what is a possible final stage of a highly developed civilization? [▼]
3. Is there a God? [▼]
4. How could an atheist and a religious person be right at the same time? [▼]
5. If there is a God, how shall I imagine him? [▼]
6. Do we have a free will? [▼]
7. Did God create man in his own image or was it the other way around? [▼]
8. If there is a God, why does he allow the evil? [▼]
9. Do we have an immortal soul and will we experience an eternal afterlife? [▼]
10. If there is a God, does he judge our actions and will he reward us with heaven or punish us with hell? [▼]
11. What are the ethical consequences of these theses? How should one live in accordance with such a world view? [▼]
12. Which errors do we frequently make, when we think about God and religions? [▼]
1. What is the meaning of life?
It is our fulfillment, our spiritual development and personal growth. These are achieved by living and enjoying our life, as well as by continuously overcoming its challenges.
Through all that, the meaning of life may eventually also be a creation or an improvement of a “God”.
(More details in the following text.)
2. How will the intelligent life in the universe develop further and what is a possible final stage of a highly developed civilization?
From a caveman’s perspective, our current knowledge and abilities can already be described as godlike. At the same time, we still have countless flaws and issues, both as individuals, as well as a civilization. From the perspective of a highly developed intelligent life form from a far future, we must still look as primitive as cavemen, or even ants.
If you extrapolate our past and current development into a very distant future, then the intelligent life in the universe will eventually develop to a God. Not figuratively speaking, but literally.
Consider how strong our abilities have developed just in the recent 100 years and then imagine what can happen over further millions or even billions of years. Also consider that the universe is most probably inhabited by many civilizations. Hence, the failures or stagnations of single civilizations cannot stop the overall progress.
I believe that the future intelligence form, which evolves from this process, will have a practically limitless power over all matter and energy in the universe. It will possibly also not be limited by time. Its consciousness will probably unite all beings and will not be bound to an ephemeral body. Consequently, it will be immortal. Furthermore, it will have an effectively limitless knowledge, at least when judged from our today’s point of view. Such an intelligent entity is nothing else as what we call “God” today.
Hand in hand with all these raising abilities and powers, an important drawback will unfold as well. Because of its omnipotence, further enjoyment of its existence as well as further personal growth by new challenges will become less and less possible for that intelligent entity. Consequently, its life will slowly but surely loose its purpose. (See #1.)
The future intelligent entity – in our vocabulary “the God” – will necessarily search for a possibility of further joy, challenges and further personal development. To accomplish this, it will possibly start some kind of a “simulation”, a “project”, or a “game”. This “game” is of course not comparable to today’s primitive computer games. Just have a look at our universe and you may get a better idea about its possible sophistication and complexity. If you find the term “game” too depreciative or not sufficiently reflecting the importance of the endeavor, then you can equally well use the term “project”. This “project” is certainly not a mere game. It is existentially important. After all, it enables the intelligent entity to sustain the purpose of its life and existence (#1).
3. Is there a God?
My short and honest answer to this question is: I do not know.
As an agnostic, I am not as strongly convinced of my own “knowledge” as the atheists or theists. They claim to know the true answer to this question, or they simply commit themselves to their preferred answer. I honestly admit that I simply do not know the answer.
I do not see even a single
undisputed proof of existence of any god. Hence, if there is a God, then he has at least very well obscured his existence.
All the argumentation of the believers, such as: “Just watch how perfect our universe is, what a miracle our life presents – all this cannot be a coincidence!” does not really convince me. Our life can of course be a result of a coincidence. Random processes + Evolution + Ultra long time frame inevitably lead to extremely “wondrous” results.
„Yes, but if just the Planck constant were a tiny bit different, then…” Well, then there might be a completely different universe with a completely different set of physics laws, in which the life might function completely differently. In any case, if we as intelligent beings, who emerged from millions of years of evolution, are wondering about our universe being so “perfect” that is enables our existence, then we simply forget one thing. If there were a universe, in which no intelligent life would be possible, then there would also be no one, who could wonder about it. Consequently, every
universe, in which someone wonders, is inevitably “perfect”.
Either way, such discussions between the religious and non-religious individuals are as old as the humanity itself. And I will stick with my opinion that I do not see even a single undeniable proof of God’s existence.
At the same time I see that the majority of humans desire the existence of a god. We are continuously creating and defining him. Even I am doing it in this text, in spite of not being religious. In our mental world God exists already – in countless variations. When I combine this desire with the abilities of an intelligence form from a distant future, then I conclude that a real God will arise with no small probability (see #2.2).
I observe that our form of existence is strongly restricted by space and time. We are able to actively move in space, but this moving freedom is extremely limited when seen in the cosmic scale. Furthermore, we can only be present at a single point of space at any time. Our moving freedom in time is even more limited. We are unable to actively move in time at all, let alone exist in multiple time points simultaneously.
I can easily imagine a God not being limited by space and time. I.e. in contrast to us, he could be present at all space and time coordinates simultaneously. This assumption is only my speculation. But if it were true, then it would have very special consequences. The future tense formulations, which I am using above for the sake of clarity (such as “God will
arise” or “God
start a project” etc.), are only needed due to our linear notion of time. For an entity, which is not bound by such time limitations and can be present at all time points simultaneously, a formulation like “God
arise” is equal to “God
arise” and “God
arising”. Even if this may sound contra-intuitive in our understanding of time, please try to go along with this speculation here anyway.
I conclude from #2.2
(In the future, there will probably be a God.) and
(A God is probably not limited by space and time.) that a God may already exists now with some probability.
4. How could an atheist and a religious person be right at the same time?
Our form of existence is significantly restrained. We are not only limited by space and time (#3.4), but also by our anatomy, our limited perceptions, intelligence and knowledge. And also by our cultural imprint. We are, for instance, unable to see X-rays or perceive a magnetic field. We do not know what the “black matter” is or if there really was a big bang. We cannot intuitively predict the trajectory of a falling feather. We may get scared by snakes or – those of us, who have grown-up in the US – even by “the socialism”. Due to all these limitations, our everyday understanding of “true” and “false” is also limited and strongly adjusted to our form of existence. We may, for instance, describe a room as “dark”, just because the radiation intensity within the perceivable part of the wavelength spectrum lies below the sensitivity threshold of our eyes. For a different being, however, the same room might be “damn bright”.
Even outside of such physical and cultural considerations, „true” and “false” are frequently principally unclear. Quantum physicists or computer scientists, who have worked with the fuzzy logic, know that the objective reality cannot always be described by a clear “yes” or “no”. This realization may not be satisfying, or can even be frustrating for us, common people. Nevertheless, it is still valid. Consequently, also the question “Is there a God?” possibly cannot be answered by a clear yes or no from our limited logic.
When I look at our universe as a possible “project of God” (#2.4) and observe that he has obscured its existence in it by the very least (#3.2), then I conclude that this “project” has some very strong agnostic properties. Not only the future seems to be not predetermined, but even the existence of God seems to be not definite.
It could be the case that God has “dissolved” himself at the time point of the universe creation and has entrusted his “re-creation” and his further improvement to the universe. (What a marvelous godly challenge! See the meaning of life in #1.) If this „project” runs successfully, then there will be a God (and consequently, there already is one, see #3.6) and if it fails, then there will be no God (and consequently he also currently does not exist). That would be an agnostic “game” with an open end and a Schrödinger’s God (instead of a cat) if you wish.
For those, who find the statement “There is no clear yes/no answer.” philosophically evasive and unsatisfying, I can also express it in a simplifying and punchy language: „Whether there is a God is not yet finally decided. The tendency looks good. Nevertheless, it also depends on your behavior in this ‘game’, whether the God really arises and how he will be exactly. Hence, if you wish a God, then give your best.” (Unfortunately, this kind of language sounds somewhat churchy and preaching, doesn’t it? ;-) )
5. If there is a God, how shall I imagine him?
I have already described some of „God’s” properties in #2.2
• Practically limitless power over all matter and energy in the universe
• Not limited by space and time
• Almost limitless knowledge by our standards
• Consciousness, which unites all beings in the universe
• Not bound by a perishable body and therefore immortal.
Needless to say that with all these properties God has no gender, i.e. is neither “he” nor “she”. (Nevertheless, for simplicity I will continue using the male form in this text, because it is established and is hopefully least distracting. I would like you to focus on the ideas discussed here, not on some gender equality topics, however interesting these may be.)
I assume that the “God” will eventually come into existence by a further development and a “mental fusion” of the beings in the universe. And because I also assume that he is not restricted by time, he can equally well be a mental merge of the beings from all times, including us.
If this were true, then we all were a sort of “mental building stones” of the God and there would be no principal
difference between the human spirit and the God. Of course, a human being is restricted in many aspects. But in its principal nature our spirit does not differ from the godly one. Hence, we could say in a punchy language: “Separate a tiny piece of God’s spirit, then bind it by various physical and intellectual restrictions as well as by a limited knowledge – and you will obtain a human soul.”
If you assume that there is no principal difference between the human spirit and the godly spirit and you further assume that the God is a mental union of all beings from all times, then there is no strict separation between “my spirit” and “the spirit of God”. There is no principal distinction between the entity “me” and the entity “God”. I am
(a part of) God. Although an unknowing part in a temporarily limited form of existence, which I have possibly chosen within the scope of a “game”, but still a full-fledged part.
Just like me, all other beings are also parts of God’s being. If there is no principal difference between the entity “God” and the entity “me”, then there is equally no difference between the entity “me” and the entity “you”. We are not just alike, we are really the same. This realization may not to be obvious to us in our current form of existence with our limited knowledge, but it can still be true.
6. Do we have a free will?
Yes. If the above considerations hold true, then we all are full-fledged parts of the same “God” with a free will. Our future is not predetermined; we are forming and affecting it every day. Although we are subjects to various (physical, intellectual and other) limitations, we can still act freely within the scope of these limitations.
We do not have any clear evidence that there exists any god (#3.2). In fact, one can perfectly convincingly argument that there is no god (#4.2). In my eyes, this is an important prerequisite for our free will. If there were a proof of God’s existence, then we could simply “retreat” at any time and by any problem. We could simply appeal to the higher authority: “Dear God, I have no idea what to do next. Actually, I do not even know what this is all about. Please take over and proceed. After all, you have created all this mess. Consequently, it is your guilt and your problem.”
If we knew for sure that our existence is kept under a surveillance of an external, superior authority, and we could assume that the said authority follows its own goals, then our will would not be really free. Eventually, we would strive to find out, what that authority aspires to, and then try to accomplish exactly that.
7. Did God create man in his own image or was it the other way around?
Both! We could reformulate the theses #2.4
(God started a universe project.) and
(There is no substantial difference between a human soul and the God’s spirit.) as: “God created man in his own image.”
On the other hand, from the theses
(An essential part of the meaning of life is the personal development and spiritual growth.),
(In our minds, we create and define God all the time.) and
(God entrusted his re-creation and improvement to the universe.) follows that all beings work towards the creation of a new and possibly better God during the whole runtime of the universe.
And finally, from
(We are small unknowing parts of God.) follows that there is no real difference between these two statements.
8. If there is a God, why does he allow the evil?
In a truly philosophical manner, one could say that „the evil” can only exist as contrast to “the good”. Without “the evil”, there would be no “good” and vice versa. If we were an almighty God and we took a scale from -10 (very, very bad) to +10 (very, very good) and we decided to “scratch” the points from -10 to -7, then the events rated by -6 would become the new maximum of the evil. The scale would be modified and the good-bad-dynamics of our universe would decrease somewhat. The beings in our universe would not know that there potentially might exist even much worse events than those, with which they are confronted. They would still be very afraid of the -6 events, because these would be the worst thinkable evil for them.
In our godly kindness, we could subsequently extend the scale towards the positive range. Instead of +10 (e.g. “great like an orgasm”), we would let it end only at +13 (“ecstatic like a heroin shot”). Would we then be really surprised if the beings in our universe would not show any gratitude, but would rather start complaining about the “dull” orgasms?
Indeed, there could be much worse universes than the ours. Just consider the seldom neutrino particles, which in our universe fly through virtually any matter without interaction. As opposed to that, one could also imagine a universe, in which an extremely seldom particle – a mortalino – would trigger a destructive chain reaction within the human body. This reaction could run over multiple hours and lead to a complete decomposition of all body cells.
In such universe, a random mortalino hit could rip a person out of her life “out of the blue sky”. The affected person would then squirm and squeak in pain until death, without any hope for help from the surrounding crowd. If the mortalinos were very seldom, such a modification of the laws of nature would not stop the evolution. Nevertheless, it would massively impact the culture of the universe inhabitants and their perception of the good-bad scale.
Fortunately, there are no such mortalinos in our universe. Instead, we enjoy colors, fragrances, delicious food with thousands of fantastic tastes, sex, dreams, humor, love, sense of fulfilling after we mastered a challenge, and countless further joys of life. Please remind yourself of all that, before you start complaining about „too much evil” next time.
And then there are also slavery, torture and holocaust – phenomena, which are obviously and doubtlessly evil. All these phenomena are human-made. They can happen, because we have a free will (#6). A God could only prevent them by revoking the free will from us. The resulting puppet universe without the free will would be certainly thinkable, but it would possibly loose its meaning (see #1, #2.4
A certain good-bad-dynamics is needed to accomplish the purpose of life. Otherwise, the challenges found in the universe might become too small (see #1, #2.4
#4.2). Of course, a universe with a good-bad-scale from -3 to +3 could also exist; it would just be less challenging and consequently less meaningful. A “+/-10 universe” is possibly more suitable than a “+/-3 universe”.
On the other hand, a “+/-100 universe” might be too hectic and instable. Consequently, the original purpose might again not be meaningfully reachable there. Summed up, the good-evil-dynamics of our universe possibly lies within a reasonable range. We simply do not know it.
It follows from #2.1
that the good-evil dynamics decreases over time. Of course, local increases of the dynamics can occur in some space or time areas. But overall, over long time spans, this dynamics reduces continuously. Just compare the medieval age with the present: „What? They could punish you by skinning for a mere theft or burn you alive for requesting a free speech?” And equally compare the present with a far future: “What? You were unable to use antigravity for flying and you had to die painfully because of a small DNA damage (i.e. cancer)?” Or even: “What do you mean by ‘die’? Are you kidding me? Wasn’t it too cruel? How could you even enjoy your life, knowing that you have to DIE in a few decades?”
As the quantity of “evil” decreases, our expectations and our perception of the good-evil-scale adapt. Relatively seen, the “good” reduces and deteriorates to “normal” (having a full fridge) or even to “dull” (being allowed to elect our own government). The life in the “current game level” (i.e. universe) may even fully lose its meaning at the end of this very long process (#2.3).
All this long way, described above, with its continuous fight between the “good” and the “evil”, is not meaningless. When we go through it and complete it, we will reach a higher level of self-knowledge. And even if the process slowly loses its dynamics over time, we can later undertake the next principal step to restore the meaning of life and possibly organize a “next level of the game” (#2.4).
It is worth repeating at this place that this process possibly only appears sequential to us, due to our restricted perception of time. The same steps may run parallel from the point of view of a godly being (#3.5).
Various multiverse theories describe such a process through parallel universes. In those, all possible story alternatives happen simultaneously as well. The various theories may differ in their specific points, but they all encourage us to expand our limited understanding of time.
Except for a few individuals, the desire for the good seems to be anchored very deeply in all of us. Frequently, we do not act in a consistent accordance with it, but we principally could. It follows from #5.2
(You are a small part of God.),
(You have a free will.) and
(The worst manifestations of evil are man-made.) that it would not be very helpful and even quite alibistic, if you complained that “God allows the evil.” One could also express it in a churchy-preaching language as follows: “Stop shifting the responsibility to your virtual God. You yourself are a small God. So give your best and help reducing the number of events at the evil end of the scale. That is the purpose of your free will! Sure, your influence is limited. But admit that you are not yet fully utilizing it by far. Do you think that the billions of hens (Beings with sensations!) would have to vegetate so miserably in their tiny cages if you wouldn’t buy the cheapest eggs in the supermarket? Do you think that the Johnny from the third grade would not have been happier, if you just had protected him from the bullies in the schoolyard? Thus the question is not: ‘Why does God allow the evil?’, but rather: ‘Why do you
allow the evil?’”
9. Do we have an immortal soul and will we experience an eternal afterlife?
When people talk about the preservation of “their soul”, they mostly mean their current personality with their current beliefs and opinions. I do not think that this kind of soul is immortal.
When I speak about a merge of many small beings into one God (#5.1), then I always think of a liquid metaphor. With a liquid, you can fuse many small drops (or souls of beings) into a big ocean (God) so that the original entities cannot be separated anymore. The original personalities are still principally present, but at the same time they have “disappeared”, because they have commingled with each other and have distributed themselves over a vast area.
A small being with its strong ego and in its limited form of existence may dislike this idea. Nevertheless, it is no loss if this specific mental being will not exist in this form anymore. It will exist as a knowing integral part of the whole, not as an unknowing separated entity.
Hence, again, the answer is: “Yes and no”. Your specific “soul” will not disappear completely – in that sense it is immortal. However, it will become so different that you would probably not describe it as “your soul” anymore. And I assume that in its full consciousness, your soul will not even be sad for not being your current soul anymore. Hence, everything is going to be fine. ;-)
10. If there is a God, does he judge our actions and will he reward us with heaven or punish us with hell?
As you yourself are (a part of) God (#5.2), just ask yourself: Will you judge your actions? I think so. You have a conscience. You desire for the good. You have a principal feeling, which acts are moral and which are immoral. In your later form of consciousness, in which you will not be bound by a limited knowledge or a small human ego, you will certainly evaluate your actions somewhat differently. Some of them you will disapprove much stronger than today. Others you will see more generously. You will assess yourself and you will not be able to hide from your own judgement.
A punishment in its classic meaning does not make any sense when “the judge” and “the accused” are the same entity (#5.2). You will be sorry for your mistakes and you will feel a strong wish to make up for them. However, this may not be possible anymore, once the “game” is over. If this were true, then you would be unable to hide away from your own conscience in your “all-knowing” form of existence. Repressing it or drowning it in alcohol, which may work today, would not be possible anymore. That would certainly be a kind of a hell. If you have ever suffered from strong pangs of conscience, then you can very well imagine it.
On the other hand, you will be definitely happy about all your memories and acts, which you will evaluate as positive, or even be proud of. If this happiness will overweigh your pangs of consciousness in total, then you will certainly feel like in heaven.
11. What are the ethical consequences of these theses? How should one live in accordance with such a world view?
Embrace your life and enjoy it! That is, why you have chosen this “game” (#2.4).
Some theologians claim that the "earthly pleasures" are only distracting you from your actual purpose and that you absolutely need
suffering in order to achieve a real personal growth.
While I agree that the “fun” and the “joy” can only exist as a contrast to the “suffering” (#8.1), I do not agree with this generally negative formulation. Why would you, as the author of the "game" (#2.4), want to design it with such a masochistic attitude? No. You have chosen this form of existence in order have a lot of fun. You have enabled this wonderful planet and your human existence to give yourself a huge supply of "earthly pleasures". Fun and pleasure are important – and even necessary – prerequisites for your fulfillment. And your fulfilment is one of the core components of the meaning of life (#1).
It might be hard to believe, but you can actually have more "fun" as a small being, than as a "God" whose omnipotence and all-knowing spoil most of his "fun" opportunities (#2.3, #8.5). Therefore, enjoy your life!
I agree with the point that you cannot achieve a true and persistent fulfillment purely by the means of "fun". In order to make your fulfillment deep and sustainable, you also need challenges, which you can overcome and which can sometimes even lead to suffering. Meanwhile it should be obvious to most people that a continuous striving for pleasures and an increased consumerism do not lead to a sustainable luck. Nevertheless, this does not mean that you should condemn all pleasures and start actively seeking the suffering.
Enjoy all challenges in general. Their overcoming belongs to the meaning of your life. Through it you are attaining fulfillment and personal growth (#1, #8.6).
If your challenges lead to a physical suffering, try to ease it. There is no purpose or “merit” in accepting avoidable physical suffering, maybe with the exception of some sport training or medical procedures.
Emotional suffering, on the other hand, cannot be mitigated so easily. Some philosophers claim that it only arises if your reality negatively deviates from your expectations. When you embrace the challenges and you expect them as an integral part of your life, then your emotional suffering should also reduce. If you, on the contrary, raise your expectations too high, then you also increase your potential for emotional suffering.
Some blows of fate may be so heavy that you are unable to interpret them positively by any stretch of the imagination. The universe is full of random processes. You do not need to overdo your love for challenges by fantasizing something esoterically-positive (or a bad karma) into every single unfortunate coincidence.
Nevertheless, as you know how precious the help of others can be after a stroke of fate, you may want to start selflessly helping others after their blows of fate.
#10.3, your actions are not irrelevant. Acting ethically is important. With regard to #5.3
you cannot really harm someone else – you are always harming yourself. Therefore, give your best and act morally. You will not manage it every single time, but that is OK. Do not give up. Do good if you can. Help others. By doing that you eventually help yourself (#5.3).
Just because we originate from the same substance (#5.3), it does not mean that we are all equal in our current form of existence. The enormous variability of individuals is an essential principle of the nature. Only this variability enables the evolution and the social progress. And it also gives the “game” its complexity and countless challenges – ergo its meaning (#1, #2.4, #8.4).
Therefore, please do not let the populists or utopists, who want to make us “all equal”, captivate you. Instead, enjoy the diversity and appreciate it.
This specifically includes the diversity of philosophies and world views. Similarly as the diversity of individuals is needed for the biological evolution, the philosophical diversity is needed for our spiritual growth and the re-creation of an improved “God” (#4.2).
Certainly, you do not have to accept all ideologies, especially not the aggressive and violent ones. But in general try to be as tolerant and open-minded towards alternative philosophical ideas of the other parts of yourself (#5.3) as it gets.
Be skeptical about all institutionalized churches and ideologies. Their initiators and officials are equally fallible as you. Critically question their activities and do not let them easily harness you for their goals. Always think by yourself, what you consider right.
Organizing a group of people with compatible world views is beneficial, as long as the members can freely discuss their beliefs and can inspire, question and challenge each other. Ideally, they should not encapsulate themselves in their own ideological echo chamber, but also welcome discussion with other philosophies.
If such a spiritual group grows beyond a certain level, it starts being affected by new logistical, economic and political driving forces. These may become a strong distraction or even a complete disabler of the original spiritually-inspirational purpose of the group. In the worst case, you end up with a large and rich religious organization, which however has completely lost its “soul” and its moral credibility. This danger is particularly big, if you define missionary work (i.e. continuous growth) as a part of your program.
Commercial, political or philanthropic institutions deal with comparable scaling challenges as well. However, they have a
for overcoming them. After all, certain global humanity problems can only be addressed by globally acting organizations.
But religious groups do not have such a good reason. If you accept the view that the spiritual diversity is essential for the meaning of life (#11.5), then you should not
strive for a world-wide growth of your spiritual organization. After all, you do
want to create any ideological monoculture, but rather preserve a healthy diversity. Other religions, as well as the atheism and the agnosticism, are an important part of it.
Therefore, do not start missionizing others and do not let others missionize you. Promoting tolerance and good deeds in general as well as sharing your spiritual ideas is, of course, fine.
Keep in mind that the universe experiment is agnostic (i.e. without a prescribed outcome) and that your knowledge and your skills are very limited.
Whenever you feel like prescribing others, what to do or what to think very specifically, you would have to know by yourself what is right or wrong in the first place. And if you are honest with yourself, then you frequently do not know it with certainty.
Your values and beliefs were – to a big part – formed by your cultural imprint and by your individual experiences. How do you want to know that these are “right” for all others as well? How do you want to know that you would stand up for these ideas and values even in an unlimited form of your consciousness?
We frequently think we knew what is right and what is wrong. On the simplest level, this may really be true. Some principal ethics seems to be anchored very deeply in us indeed. Most people, who listen to their own hearts, would say, for instance, that torturing animals is not right. However, as soon as we leave the simplest and most striking ethical concepts, “the truth” becomes more and more fuzzy and it even changes with time. Is sex before marriage good or bad? Death sentence? Abortion? Capitalism? Speed limit on highways? Cannabis? Cursing?
Just review the history of the human kind and consider, how many of the past values and convictions have long become obsolete. Beliefs, for which the former people were willing to wage wars and shed blood… Equally, some of your current values and convictions will only be transient. Therefore, please avoid fundamentalism and strong fixation on
I do not promote ethical relativism here, only the awareness of the own fallibility.
In our everyday life the laws give us a pretty good orientation about the “good” and the “evil”. As our ethics evolves, we can also adapt our laws by the means of democratic processes. If many of us stand up for a specific modification, then it will be implemented. Therefore, do not let the awareness of your own fallibility (#11.7) paralyze you. Advocate for the modifications you desire – do not stay passive! Active overcoming of challenges is, after all, an essential part of “the game”.
But even when you decided to stand up for your idea, do not stop listening to the others (parts of yourself) and try to comprehend their point of view and their values. Try to win the others (parts of yourself) by a good example, rather than to conquer them by imperatives.
Whenever you advocate for social changes or even come into a position of power, keep the mental model of the
veil of ignorance
in mind. Design the rules in a way, which does not only make them beneficial for your current “me”, but for all members of the society and for all beings. If you are, by chance, old, rich, black, intelligent, female, healthy or liberal, then do
optimize the rules for the beings with these attributes. Your other “me-s” are namely also young, poor, white, less intelligent, male, sick or conservative. Why would you want to discriminate them? By doing that, you would only shoot yourself in the foot (#5.3).
The members of the society should get approximately equal opportunities. But these opportunities will never be completely equal. A person, who was born blind, will hardly be able to become a pilot, even if it seems “unjust” to her. Similarly, someone of a below-average intellect or someone, who does not inspire trust by his prior acting, should not be nominated for an important office. The “opinion” of a conspiracy theorist should not get the same weight in a discussion as an expert view of a professor or an engineer. There is no natural equality in these areas and that is a good thing (#11.5).
At the same time there exist inequalities, which are not OK. The fact that the rich can buy political influence or ensure a better access to education for their children is no inherent inequality. It is human-made and we are not forced to accept it. We can get rid of it via democratic processes.
But who decides which kind of inequality is “all right” and which is “unfair”? Of course, it is only us. First, every individual for himself, and subsequently, we all as a society. There is no God, who would prescribe us a solution and later reward us by heaven for maintaining his preferred world order (#10). We are the “God” (#5.2) and therefore we have to bear this responsibility.
Say goodbye to the illusion of an extraordinary status of humans. Sure, we are currently the most successful species on our planet. However, we should derive more responsibility and less arrogance from this temporary position. Our current superiority does not entitle us to cruelties against other species. A different form of life might later consider us equally “primitive”, as we consider the animals today. We could be equally at its mercy as the animals are at our mercy today. Would we then wish the said form of life to treat us the same way?
There is no principal difference between the human and an animal. Homo sapiens is just a more intelligent further development of certain humanoid apes. In long term, further and higher-developed descendants of Homo sapiens will follow – either through the evolution, or through our own technological progress and genetic manipulations. If we do not want the future super-humans to treat us the same way we treat the animals or indigenous people, then we should promptly work on a new ethical framework, as long as we still are in the position of superiority.
The exact interpretation of „ethical” is on us. There is no superior authority, who would prescribe it to us (#6). However, we have to conduct the debate honestly, not with arrogance, greed for profit or repression of conscience (#10.2, #11.4).
For animals, which do not consciously reflect their existence and do not make plans for their future, a species-appropriate happy life with a quick and painless dead at the end may be “fair”. After all, animals also die in the wild nature as prey of others. However, our industrial mass livestock farming under atrocious conditions is by no means “fair” – not even by the broadest interpretation. Therefore, please advocate a reasonable ethical framework and do not close your eyes to our missteps.
According to the considerations from
#5.3, other beings are small parts of “God” equally as you are. You would never treat other parts of yourself with cruelty or ignorance in the state of your unlimited consciousness (#8.8).
The religions, which believe in reincarnations, make the moral idea from #11.9
very clear: “You do not know as which person or which animal you will be re-born later. Also, you do not know which of your deceased dear ones were already re-born as other beings. Therefore, be good to all beings and treat them well.”
Nevertheless, according to the considerations above, you do not need the idea of sequential reincarnations to act this way. After all, you live in all other beings simultaneously.
Do you find this perspective completely utopian, out of touch with reality and philosophically snobbish? Maybe. But were our life not better if the people could at least partially adopt this kind of view and act in accordance with it? Just think about it for a moment.
It is not my demand to fully comply with this philosophy at all times. No human being is capable of that. Nevertheless, you can keep the philosophy as a mental model in the back of your head. You can try to remember it and apply it, whenever you have to make tough decisions, which challenge your values. And you can remind yourself of the game metaphor, whenever you find yourself acting too doggedly.
Those who desire the existence of a God (#3.3) may want to draw some inspiration from this philosophy. Those who are able to act ethically without any religious world model may not need such a theory. As we do not know, if there is a God, the atheistic point of view is equally legitimate as the religious one (#3.2). What counts is our behavior, not our world view.
12. Which errors do we frequently make, when we think about God and religions?
We allow our extremely limited knowledge to guide and to restrict us. Whenever we discuss about “God”, it is inevitably similar to a cavemen’s discussion about a jet fighter or about a base interest rate. Their imagination and their vocabulary encompassed only the objects and concepts from their world. They were simply unable to adequately describe a jet fighter. By a stretch of imagination they could come up with something like “a big loud bird made of stone”. That is not really differentiated.
Every caveman, who had never seen a jet fighter before and could therefore only trust his experience, would probably laugh at a jet fighter witness: “A flying bird made of stone? Everybody knows that there are no such birds! You must have eaten the wrong mushrooms.” And who would take it amiss? One indeed has to be quite open-minded and dispose of a good imagination in order to discuss such distant concepts. Keep this in mind whenever you discuss about the “God” with others.
If we are only able to discuss about „God” so imprecisely due to our limitations, does it mean that such discussions are useless? By no means! After all, they belong to the meaning of life, see #1
We take the spiritual descriptions and considerations of others too literally. Considering #12.1, it is clear that the descriptions of others addressing such abstract concepts inevitably have to be quite imprecise. Therefore, we must not take them literally, but rather grant them a significant room for interpretation.
Everybody who insists on a meticulous interpretation of the Bible or the Quran makes a big mistake. And everybody, who uses such old scripts to justify his right of disciplining others and forcing them to adhere to his interpretation, acts immorally without question.
We conclude on the convictions and motivations of a godly entity based on our current convictions and motivations. We frequently think that we know what is right and what is wrong. At this place, more humility and awareness of the own fallibility would be more appropriate (#11.7).
We think in our limited yes/no logic even about those questions, which possibly do not have any clear yes/no answers (#4.1). We think too little in the agnostic categories. (The outcome is open. The God exists and
does not exist at the same time. Our long way to the “God” is the actual goal.)
We separate ourselves from the „God“. Consequently, we think: “Here am I, there is the God - we are two distinct subjects.” And yet there is no principal difference between us and the “God”. We are
the “God” (#5.2).
We assume that an external and superior God sets the goals in the universe. And yet it is us, who set the goals. We have a free will and the related responsibility (#6.1, #10). We are the representation of God. The whole time we are reconstructing the God and working on his enhanced future version (#4.2).
We focus too strongly on the symbols and the rituals of religions rather than on their moral messages. The rites were made by humans and for humans. They are only a kind of a “marketing gimmick” and a recognition feature of the respective religion. If you put yourself in the position of your “godly self” (#2.2, #3.5, #5) then you certainly would not care about the majority of the rites. A few of them, which accentuate some specific moral message (such as offering free food to hungry), might still be appealing to you. But the remaining ones are at best unnecessary and, if followed too strictly, even harmful.
We sometimes understand the religion as a counterpole of the science. And yet the religions and the science can not only coexist without contradiction, but even wonderfully complement each other.
This is, however, only possible for those religions, which accept the importance of the science and are willing to continuously adapt to the state of our knowledge and our ethics. Dogmatic religions, which stress the authority of their clerics, insist on ancient scripts and interpret these too literally, inevitably loose the contact to the reality and make themselves obsolete and embarrassing sooner or later.
We consider the religions to be „God-given”. And yet they are obviously man-made. If the individual religions were really proclaimed by God, why would they contradict each other? And if only one of them was “the true one” and all others would be wrong, how would we want to recognize the right one? The Pastafarianism seems to be at least as legitimate and trustworthy as the Christianity, the Judaism or the Islam.
If we accept that the world views are made by humans, then we should consciously design
them (and also be allowed to do so) in the same way as we design our technologies or laws. A good world view must not be defined by a sworn elitist group of dogmatics and be used as an instrument of controlling the masses. It must also not be automatically assigned to a newborn. The membership decision must be made voluntarily and being of age. Each member must be allowed to participate at the design of the principles and their modifications shall be possible by consent.
As the people are fallible and manipulable, such democratic principles also bear some risks. They can lead to an avoidance of unpleasant decisions or degenerate into populism and demagogy. But in the long term, we would still be better off with such a democratic and designing approach to our world views, rather than with authoritatively-conservative ideologies.
Such a democratic and progressive world view, whose design would also accept alternative philosophies (#11.5), specifically including the atheism (#11.15), would truly embrace the meaning of life (see #1, #2.4, #4.2, #8.6
Thank you so much for taking your time for my contemplations. If you have made it this far, then the text was obviously not as philosophically dry, as I worried. Or your enthusiasm for this topic was so strong that the text length could not scare you. Be that as it may, I appreciate your interest and thank you for it.
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