“Occupational Illusion” – Outreach Media

Posted by on September 3, 2011 in Thoughts | 7 comments

It’s foolish to think of life as striving toward a goal. Life is less of a journey than simply a state of existence, and yet many would have us believe that the purpose of life (if there is a purpose) is to get a great job and retire at the age of 60 so we can live out our twilight years in a state of relative comfort. The way I see it, life is less about what success we have in our jobs and more about existing in harmony with others, to no end other than to enjoy our time here on earth peacefully together. But Christians would have us believe that life is a journey toward something else entirely. This month’s poster from Outreach Media reads:

Occupational Illusion – Jesus said: “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?”

This poster and the accompanying article would have us believe that our lives are designed as a way for us to become worthy enough to sit by God’s side in heaven after we die. It says that without God, our lives can never be fulfilled.

“Perhaps, in a moment of quiet reflection, we hope for a better existence in the future. Where we finally achieve our goals. When at last we have that job or get married or pay off the house, or build the extension, or go on that trip … and so we finally arrive at that wonderful and better state of life.”

Yeah sure, these are first world wishes, and I am under no illusion that we here in Australia aren’t among some of the wealthiest and most peaceful and livable countries in the world. We have it very good here, in that we can all work together, live together and play together in relative peace and harmony. And of course, everyone wishes they could have their house paid off etcetera. But is this a goal for life? Are there even goals in life?

“And as life quickly passes, we never do arrive at that wonderful state. You see when you finally get the promotion or the seat by the window in the office, or that raise in salary, then what? What’s next? There are always difficulties in life and another mountain to climb while the clock of life keeps counting down.”

These evocative words tell you that time is short, so short in fact that you can watch the days slip past you so quickly that in a blink of an eye you will be on your deathbed and will have not achieved your goals. But do people really see life as a means to an end? By the logic shown in  the Outreach article, not only is there a goal, but it doesn’t even exist in this lifetime.

What Outreach is attempting to do here is play on the one thing religion claims to have over all other sources of “knowledge”, and that is the answer to what happens after we die. Using fear of death, they are hoping to bring people into their flock, promising life after death and eternal peace. Their claim to this  knowledge is repeated again and again as nauseum in pulpits and churches worldwide by people who actually have as much or less knowledge of death than I do, but claim to have authority in this realm. According to them, the only way to live a fulfilling life is to become one of them, then you will be happy. And this is the goal of your life.

The problem is, there is no purpose to life. We are not here to fulfill some destiny, or to follow a path. This kind of determinism is a tool used by religious and new-age speakers as a way for them to not only hold authority over your thoughts, but to claim knowledge of something that no human will ever know. The preacher who speaks these words to you is as clueless about death as any of us, yet he has convinced himself that if he just believes, he will live forever.

Life, however is finite. There is no suggestion in any kind of scientific study that the soul exists, and there is most certainly no suggestion that god exists, and on top of that, many would claim that even Jesus never existed (Mohammed existed because there are independent records of his birth, death and progeny). And life is not a journey with a start and an end, rather, it is a state of existence, and as time passes we achieve certain goals, or we merely exist. There are no rules except those that we impose upon ourselves, and there is no purpose. The problem is, how do we deal with the challenges that life presents us if there is no endgame? If we see life as striving for an afterlife, then what importance can life on earth possibly have, and where is the incentive to make life better for those around us? Life is a one-shot ride. Make the most of it.

“When I hear somebody sigh, “Life is hard,” I am always tempted to ask, “Compared to what?”” – Sydney J. Harris

 

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0.0/10 (0 votes cast)

7 Comments

  1. well said Marty…. it is something that i think about a lot lately.. we only have this one life.. why be miserable and constrain ourselves to a life of what society considers the norm? for who’s benefit…? i am going through a major life upheaval .. and i suppose i do wonder at times.. if i were perhaps a christian, how would this have affected my life and the decisions i am making right now?

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
    • Exactly. Know that all my love is with you Kim, I hope these times can be looked back upon with less pain than they are causing you now.

      VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
      Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
  2. Sixty-two and counting down. The body is wearing out. Disease is descending. Thinking more about death and possible ways of committing suicide. Two failed marriages and kids who live way out of town. Is this what we work our whole life for? Spirituality was the love of nature, not some religious book. When they say life is wasted on youth we know what they’re talking about. All that wisdom nobody wants to hear about. Complaining of aches and pains and becoming cynical about the world. More meds to make you feel better. Oh, if only we could turn back the clock and bring the knowledge we’ve accumulated back with us. Just another day !

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
  3. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?

    As Virgil says in A Miracle of Science (link at signature), “well, he profits by by one entire world, for starters.”

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
  4. “Life is its own validation and reward and ultimate meaning to which neither God nor the future state can further validate.” Inquiring Lynn [ another of my monikers]
    This answers Craig and all those other who bewail existence. Albert Ellis in ” The Myth of Self-Esteem” calls their bluff!

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
  5. What Outreach is attempting to do here is play on the one thing religion claims to have over all other sources of “knowledge”, and that is the answer to what happens after we die.

    Aren’t you making exactly the same claim to knowledge? You claim to know man’s purpose in life (“there is no purpose to life”), and seem to be pretty sure about your stance on the lack of an afterlife. You disapprove of religion’s claim to knowledge, but claim such knowledge yourself.

    To be honest, I haven’t read any of your other stuff yet, so I may be missing something that’s already well known to some of your other readers. Is your stance on this matter that religion’s claim to knowledge is false because we can’t know such things, or because scientific study is the only proper source of such knowledge? I assume it must be the latter, or else your own claim to knowledge would be self-inconsistent, but what is your basis for this position? What grounds do we have to believe that scientific enquiry produces reliable conclusions (relative to religion) regarding man’s purpose, or the afterlife?

    If we see life as striving for an afterlife, then what importance can life on earth possibly have, and where is the incentive to make life better for those around us?

    A strange question to ask, rhetorically. Most religions suggest that the quality of one’s afterlife is influenced by one’s actions in life, whether by “karma” or “God’s judgement” or whatever. Kindness towards others is also considered a fairly universal “plus” towards a good afterlife, and cruelty is generally a “minus”. Could the connection be any more obvious?

    If, on the other hand, we see life as a temporary state of existence between indefinite states of non-existence, then where is the incentive to make life better for those around us, except to the extent that it might please you to do so? And where is the harm in making life worse for others if it pleases you to do so, and you figure you can get away with it?

    It seems to me that you were pointing that rhetorical question in the wrong direction, or that it was the wrong rhetorical question to ask. Your assessment of the Naturalist view (“Life is a one-shot ride. Make the most of it.”) seems fair, but is ultimately devoid of any reason to make life better for those around us, except to the extent that it coincides with making life better for ourselves. Why do you even mention improving the lot of others as though it were an intrinsic good? Where, in your philosophy, does that idea come from?

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
  6. “Aren’t you making exactly the same claim to knowledge? You claim to know man’s purpose in life (“there is no purpose to life”), and seem to be pretty sure about your stance on the lack of an afterlife. You disapprove of religion’s claim to knowledge, but claim such knowledge yourself.”

    When there is no evidence of a divine creator, no evidence of a “plan” for our existence, the only logical conclusion is that there is no grand purpose to our lives, other than to procreate, live and die. What we choose to do with our time is entirely ours. Until somebody comes up with any actual evidence of a divine creator/plan, then the idea that there is no purpose is indeed the ONLY logical conclusion.

    Is your stance on this matter that religion’s claim to knowledge is false because we can’t know such things, or because scientific study is the only proper source of such knowledge?

    I can’t speak for Martin, but I can assure you that since the creation of the worlds holy books, science has been the ONLY tool reliable enough to garner an understanding of the universe we are part of. You would look a bit silly if in one hundred years, mankind had mapped the entire universe, only to find that there is indeed NO god/s, the space encapsulated by the universe being filled with giant gas clouds, stars and planets.

    A strange question to ask, rhetorically. Most religions suggest that the quality of one’s afterlife is influenced by one’s actions in life, whether by “karma” or “God’s judgement” or whatever. Kindness towards others is also considered a fairly universal “plus” towards a good afterlife, and cruelty is generally a “minus”. Could the connection be any more obvious?

    Not a strange question at all. Whilst it behooves one to be kind to their neighbour, to their loved ones, this in no way implies that this is acceptance into any afterlife. If anything, this is more telling of a successful trait of evolution. Altruism benefits survival. After all, there is no evidence of an afterlife, Only fairy tales originally written by sheep herders in the Middle East thousands of years ago.

    If, on the other hand, we see life as a temporary state of existence between indefinite states of non-existence, then where is the incentive to make life better for those around us, except to the extent that it might please you to do so? And where is the harm in making life worse for others if it pleases you to do so, and you figure you can get away with it?

    Again, this is where evolutionary altruism comes into play. Just as the big cats of Africa form communities, their acts of altruism ensure that each individual in the pride has a greater chance at surviving. The same is even more apparent with humanity.

    It seems to me that you were pointing that rhetorical question in the wrong direction, or that it was the wrong rhetorical question to ask. Your assessment of the Naturalist view (“Life is a one-shot ride. Make the most of it.”) seems fair, but is ultimately devoid of any reason to make life better for those around us, except to the extent that it coincides with making life better for ourselves. Why do you even mention improving the lot of others as though it were an intrinsic good? Where, in your philosophy, does that idea come from?

    Again, all you have to do is look up the definition of altruism. It is part of our makeup to help those in need, to ensure that we are kind to our neighbours. Of course, this isn’t always the case with every single individual, as in any species, there are those that distance themselves from the norm.

    Finally, you have no case until you provide clear, undisputable evidence of gods existence. Until then… your argument is null and void.

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)

Have your say

%d bloggers like this: