Saturday, June 20, 2009

On The Meaning Of Things

If you believe something like forgiveness is meaningful, why? Because God says it is or because it is meaningful in itself?

If forgiveness is meaningful in itself, a reflection of mine confounds the question of meaning for both the theist and atheist alike. For the theist, do you believe something like forgiveness is only meaningful if God exists and declares it so? In other words, if you abandon belief in God, would you continue to exercise forgiveness assuming, of course, you did before? If not, you are implying, however unconsciously, that forgiveness has no value apart from God (and of course His endorsement of it) meaning it is not meaningful in itself. This disturbs me greatly.

On the other hand, an atheist that believes forgiveness is meaningful in itself must address the question of how something like forgiveness can be intrinsically such? If the universe and life evolved, how could something like forgiveness be intrinsic to reality and hence have meaning in itself? This bewilders me.

I suggest an alternative to these 2 views. It seems the only way to be certain one can experience intrinsic meaning in things like forgiveness is to neither believe nor disbelieve in God. HUH? What does this mean? I have no earthly idea! Perhaps it just means to be unsure? Maybe God does not want us to know? I can think of at least one very pleasant corollary to this: not knowing should compel us to be humble and understanding of others we do not see eye to eye with.

Might not knowing simply advocate agnosticism? Whatever the case, bear with me. By being unsure, one is forgiving not because he believes God would want him to be, rather he is forgiving because he perceives it as meaningful in itself. Or perhaps it is simply in his nature to be forgiving? Could his nature originate with God? Perhaps. But then why is it everybody does not have this “Godly” nature? Does God overlook these “others”? If so, how would this reflect on Him?

In any case, by being unsure, one is forgiving not because he is acquiescing to God's “demands” but rather he sees meaning in forgiveness itself and/or is just naturally so. But he cannot rule out the possibility that God exists because if he does, how would intrinsic meaning in forgiveness (among many other things) exist without God or some such eternal force having attributed meaning to these things apart from all else? Keep in mind this admission that God might exist does not suggest anything beyond this. In other words, it does not attempt to define in any specific way Who or What God might be if He actually exists. Therefore, this type of view acknowledges the possibility that God exists but remains very skeptical and open-minded.

On the other hand, could forgiveness simply be a respected adaptation of human beings for the purpose of cooperating and harmonizing more effectively with our fellow brethren? In this case, it would not seem to have meaning in itself. It would simply be arbitrary to how we evolved and adapted as a means to optimize social interaction.

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