“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


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