Friday, June 6, 2014

Existence of God and the Meaning of Human Life.

Generally speaking the question would be whether God is real or is it some sort of projection of  the human mind. Did God make us or did we make God? . There are many  who negate  God’s existence and declare themselves to be atheists  and not only that  but they believe  that faith in God is simply a sort of mental  retardation,  a kind of a  belief  perhaps accepted in the past by many cultures through many centuries, but in itself  something   deep down irrational.  Within the context of our modern times  it may cause some sort of surprise why talk about such a question at all. Don’t we know it is all over, in other words, did not   science prove that God does not exist? . How about evolution  and so on. Is it really important to ask such a question?.  Of course, for other forms of life on this globe,  such a question does not even come into  existence , but with man it does. Man is blessed or cursed with the ability the inner desire to ask questions. It’s obvious for anyone who observes little children  to see that. A  child  three  or four years old  always asks  questions:  why ?, why this?, why that?, why should I?  and so on why, why….. why. This is the  awakening of the mind in the child. According to Aristotle, all man by  nature want to know. Human beings feel that   there is something lacking in them. They are reaching out towards understanding , explanation, knowledge . Every day we ask many questions which are  relatively unimportant. They are not  really touching very essential aspects of human existence. However when  things happen all of a sudden  such as for example  death of someone who is very close to you,  your parent, your husband, your lover, your friend,  you experience some sort of   emptiness. There was a presence, a warm human living meaningful presence ,  and now it’s   gone. Also other crisis happening in life  may cause this  jolt  to some sort of deeper search and asking.  Terminal sickness: when you get a verdict: “Well, after all tests done - the doctor will tell you - well, you have probably a month or  maximum three  months to live.”
       The famous  story  written by  Leo Tolstoy, The Death Of Ivan Ilyich,  portrays a man who is living a normal life,  whatever normal may mean and this normal naturally differs with different people in different times, different cultures and so on. But Ivan Ilyich is a  happy, important  judge, very satisfied     with himself and then  some strange thing happened to him, he gets sick and no one, not even doctors  know what is wrong with him. The great judge  is now left with his loneliness. He is rejected  and  barely tolerated even by his wife and daughter.  The first time in his life he asks  the question :
 What  is going on with me?
What will happen when I die?
 This is a moment of deep reflection. The fact  is that our lives  are  fragile. We are for a short time  on this globe. We are thrown into existence as  the existentialists  like to  say and before we know we get old and  face the same thing; the end of  life.  As we  already said one may  live some years and  never  honestly  face such   questions,  but somehow one is   interested  in the meaning of   existence.
Is  there  any meaning?
What is this meaning ?
How come I am here?
Where am I going?
Is life worth living at all?
So the meaning of life is the central question of any serious  search for truth and there can be many  answers. The meaning of life is some sort of puzzle. Life  is a maze: you are walking in different small corridors of time and space, but you really don’t know which corridor is leading somewhere, or are you simply walking around and moving nowhere.
Does life  lead anywhere?
          Another answer to the question is that  life is  a game. Being a game, life forces one to stick to some rules and simply enjoy the game for the sake of playing.
Some say   that life is an adventure,  full of surprises, some tragic and some not so tragic. It  is and should be treated as an adventure only. Others  would say that  life is learning experience, but life is short, my learning is interrupted to soon  by death.
For religious people life is a blessing , a  free gift   given by  the Creator, and therefore life must be lived in the presence of the Divine, a personal development towards God in love.
 There are also pessimistic answers. For Nietzsche, Camus, Sartre and  many others life is uninteresting adventure, a sort of accident  which somehow happens  to you, but  senseless and absurd. Albert Camus in " Myth of Sisyphus" presents life as a constant senseless repetitious effort leading ultimately nowhere at all.  Sisyphus was punished by the gods to push a rock to the top of a mountain, but when the rock was already  at the top it  was falling down again and again and Sisyphus  had to push it up again and again. His effort was completely  useless. According to Camus this is  the image of human life.
           Some philosophies of life  for example Buddhism  present   life as suffering and the purpose of life is  getting rid of this suffering. 
           Other answers are also very popular. Many  would say that the meaning of  life  are my children, my family, my career,  making money, getting rich or having as much pleasure as possible, being famous, having powers over  others… The majority live by such standards. Anyone who has even some knowledge of history, knows very well how powerful  is the desire for power. All  the great Caesars of Rome, the conquerors like  Alexander the Great , Napoleon,  Hitler,  Stalin and so many others hungry  for power gradually turned into tyrants  and  murdered millions upon millions of people.
           The search for meaning remains  a perennial concern  central to human existence.  Man lives a short time, his knowledge is extremely limited , his  time runs out  fast and he/she  disappears from the scene. Man is aware of his/her mortality and  the shortness of life  makes him/her ask the question about eternity.  Time carries man towards eternity waiting for everyone. Martin Heidegger defines man very simply: “…being unto to death.”          
In  Buddhist writings  human life is  compared to a candle. The flame symbolizes life, but if  it is blown  out,  the flame is gone, nothing remains. 
An atheist, or deterministic materialist, or universal evolutionist, a skeptic or a  pantheist must accept this  blowing out of the little flame of the human candle: nothingness  for all eternity.  There is no flicker of life anymore. 
The question of God’s existence appears here in all sharpness: on one hand  there must be some meaning in this life: God waiting for humans after physical death. On the other hand  death and complete nothingness.   In the context of God’s existence in theistic religions like Judaism, Christianity, Islam  God is the first source of all reality which is not Him.  God wanted humans to exist and He has an  eternal purpose towards which everyone should make his/her efforts. After death the body will be buried or burnet,  but  the spiritual element in man “ the inner me” shall enter  eternal life. This is the very  center of the teaching of Christ: that every man and every woman  once born is destined to eternal life. Therefore it is a message of absolute optimism because the gift of eternal life is freely given, nobody can deserve it. Every life has  some meaning for eternity. 
  The other belief   is negative. There is no God, there is no spirit, there is nothing but matter in movement . Whatever we value in this life, whatever we love here, whatever is important for us , whatever happens to us is some manifestation of matter only.  
            For materialists, nihilists and  atheists, all reality is nothing else but  movement of the subatomic particles of matter, gradually growing into complexity,   producing at a point some forms of life, then   producing more  complex organisms and in  the process of evolution somehow man appeared. In this  context a human being  is nothing  but somewhat  higher developed primate and shall  pass away. Why? because all things are matter in movement and this movement here means transition into nothingness. The highest raptures of love or pleasures, the highest joy of discovery of a scientists, all  prayers of believers, all the great monuments of  “the great  people”  are nothing  but matter in movement.  If this is true   what is the meaning of  being a bundle of   small parts of  matter in movement?.  According to atheism  those facts have to be accepted in the brief moments of life  here on earth persons  somehow have to cope and make the” best” of it. 
            Every day  thousands  of people around the globe die. Every second , every minute , every hour there is   constant dying all over. After Albert  Einstein, Max Planck, Erwin Schrodinger, Stephen Hawking and others,  we know that in modern physics the question what really is  matter is  by no means and easy question, because the subatomic particles behave in a very mysterious way sometimes as waves, sometimes as particles. That there was a beginning in physical terms of the world (big bang) is a fact known today.  So matter  is not eternal , and there is no eternal universe, but  all is in the process of transition. Today we are alive tomorrow we are gone and other generations after us shall be thrown into existence. They will go through the same  rigmarole and  disappear. Others will come  and so on   until there will be the end of the universe  in  thermal death final  entropy of all energies.
           Meantime we are living in an expanding universe.  
            Does God exist?, or  are we completely   alone moving into nothingness?

            The awareness of  eternity, the necessity of dying are meaningful if God exists. For a believer  this meaning will never pass away because  life is meaningful for eternity. The only nly thing for the   theist or a believer is to know  more and more about the Source of all reality, the Divine .   On the other hand, for the atheist  the question is  also   urgent . Since for him/her  there is no God he/she must somehow fabricate  manmade meaning . Next in the context of morality , in the dimension of good and evil and moral responsibility  again the problem of God’s existence becomes of central importance.

We cannot impose our beliefs  on others, but we are obligated to  analyze and to see what  evidence there may be  one  side or  the other.
   We must have the courage to  objectively analyze the problem, and accept only strict evidence.  We must be  logical  and follow wherever  the argument leads. Therefore this kind of thinking and analysis requires in anyone who tries it to have  the courage to think for him/herself.  Courage , why?.  Does thinking require courage? Yes it does  if you really follow  honestly and seriously the question.  The answer to the question does God exist or not is  the most important  for human life. And that is why it requires  courage. It may lead to  a conclusion which will be very unpleasant and even  terrifying , to a conclusion, which one never expected  to be so decisive  molding the whole person and  existence , the  whole life. There is no other way. There is one life only and therefore each person must do the search alone or it will never be done.  
     Leszek Figurski                                                              
                                                                                                           Suggested Readings
Choron, Jacques,  DEATH OF MODERN MAN,  (A brilliant investigation of man's fear of death and his search for purpose and meaning in life) Collier Books, New York:1964
F.C. Copleston,  AQUINAS, Penguin Books, London, England: 1955
Collins, Francis, THE LANGUAGE OF GOD, ( Scientist presents evidence for belief) Free Press,, A Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc. ,New York:10020