Charlie Rose on TV last night was talking with Jim Holt who has written a book called “Why do We Exist?” Charlie quoted from the book: “Philosophy is a road to nowhere that leads to nothing.”
Jim Holt also says: “If God exists, then maybe God also asks himself the same question we ask ourselves: ‘Why do I exist?'”
Well, I must say all these questions about God and religion are truly fascinating. But Holt admits that this kind of thinking might lead some to insanity. And I must say Jim Holt himself looks rather sad and melancholy when all is said and done.
My definition of religion is: Meaning of human existence. It’s a rather broad definition. But why not? So, if the meaning of my life is making lots of money then that is my religion. When the stock market collapsed in 1929, some desperate people threw themselves out of tall buildings because they lost faith in the money god. Their god had failed them. They had lost their money and they had therefore lost their identity. Without an identity their life had no meaning.
I may make my work or my profession the meaning of my life and so my work becomes my religion and I become identified with my work.
For Don Juan and Casanova the meaning of human existence was the conquest of women, so the conquest of women was their religion. Tree-huggers and environmentalists worship nature, so nature-worship is their religion. Humanitarians love humanity so humanitarianism is their religion, never mind that humanity is an abstraction and doesn’t really exist.
Then there are all the addicts of one kind and another who make a religion out of cocaine, porn, marijuana, TV, sport (and football – some say football is the opium of the Costa Ricans). And so there are as many religions as there are people with different meanings to their lives.
Thus there are many more religions than just the evangelicals, the Lutherans, the Catholics, the Jews, the Buddhists, the Islamists and so on. But there is no denying that the history of the Old Testament is a history of wars. And if we look at the New Testament, from the time from Christ onwards, until the present day, so that too has been a history of wars without end.
It is all a question of identity. We identify with our religion, and when someone challenges our religion, we fight back tooth and nail. We fight back to defend our identity. Find out what a person’s real identity is and you will find his true religion, the true meaning of his life. Where a man’s heart is, there will his treasure be also – and his religion!
What if there is no God? Then man is god, because man is the next highest intelligence in the universe after God, so man is god or god-becoming – after he has conquered all the mysteries of the universe, conquered the last enemy death, conquered time and space, conquered the mystery of birth, the mystery of eternity, the mystery of life. After all, some do say that science will conquer all. What they are saying in fact is that the meaning of history is the attempt of man to see himself as god, after he has conquered all the mysteries of the universe. Well, isn’t that what modern man is attempting to do? Medical science, for example, is seeking to conquer all the diseases and eventually death itself. NASA is attempting to conquer space. All the other scientists are dedicated to penetrating all the mysteries of the universe. Is this not religion? The meaning of their lives is to penetrate all these mysteries.
Why does no one ever talk about this religion of the man-god that might also be behind so many insurrections, revolutions, and wars before we finally arrive at a New World Order, a Promised Land flowing with milk and honey, paradise, the kingdom of heaven on earth, Erewhon, Utopia or whatever? The world is full of messianic political leaders full of promises or a glorious future for mankind.
“Eat of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge,” says the serpent in Genesis, “and ye surely shall not die, but become as God.”
Could it be that modern, enlightened, 21st century man, is still being inspired by ancient Biblical myths? That the meaning of history is the attempt of man to see himself as god? Although Lord Byron had another idea: “Those who know the most, must mourn the deepest truth, Alas, the Tree of Knowledge is not the Tree of Life.” Yes, indeed, religion and death appear to be intertwined.
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