Since the dawn of mankind, two questions have stirred within the heart of every human being. The disciplines of theology, philosophy, history, sociology, psychology, and science are fueled, at least in some measure, by the human desire to know the answer to these two basic questions.
What fascinates me the most about these two questions is that no asks them of us. Rather, they rise naturally, even forcefully, from within us. The desire to know the answers is as natural to us as the desire for air and water — it is that strong, that necessary, and that persistent. What are these two questions?
Who am I?
Why am I here?
The first question we discussed in two previous articles. Who are you? You are the one God loves. If that answer is not enough for you, then I believe you are looking past the obvious — and frankly, once you look past the obvious, everything gets complicated and confusing. If you want to read those articles, just visit webbweekly.com and click on my picture.
This article is about that second question. It is specifically about the question of purpose.
But before I go further, there are a few things I need to say. I’m not sure where this will lead, but sometimes you just feel the need to say something. So here goes.
I enjoy reading atheist and agnostic viewpoints — and I very much enjoy conversing with people who don’t believe as I do. Because I am a communicator, I find it essential to discover what others are thinking and how they came to their conclusions. It’s really hard to have a serious and respectful conversation if you haven’t taken the time to understand the other person’s point of view. And because I am a learner, I enjoy having my own beliefs and assumptions sharpened by worthy challenges. Life presents all of us with a vast amount of complexity. There are so many possibilities, mysteries, and conundrums. I guess I am comfortable looking at other viewpoints because I am so convinced of my own. I am not threatened by those who believe differently than me. I know who I am and what I believe. Life isn’t complex for me anymore — and that is very freeing.
Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, “I wouldn’t give a fig for simplicity on this side of complexity, but I would give my life for simplicity on the other side of complexity.” I wholeheartedly agree. Simplicity is freeing, but unless you have wrestled with complexity, your simplicity is too vulnerable — too susceptible to attack. And frankly, you know it. Your doubt and confusion make you timid and cautious. You are at a perpetual fork-in-the-road. So instead of moving forward with boldness and freedom to accomplish your purpose, you are constantly weighing the options. You are paralyzed by analysis. And while you stand there, your potential is squandered.
This is why I value simplicity. I came to the conclusion a long time ago that life is too short to waste it in constant self-analysis and paralyzing debate. There are things to be done, good things, and if I waste my life staring at my own belly button or arguing with others — well, those good things will not get done. Genuine atheists, agnostics, and believers are people who have made up their minds. They once stood at the fork in the road, weighed the options, and made their choice. With those decisions behind them, they have now embarked on the journey that they believe will fulfill their life’s purpose. While I may disagree with their conclusions, I respect their freedom — and often the great work that they do. They have come to their own determination and are now investing their lives in the purposes that they believe are important. People like that often make the world a better place.
Christians, does the thought that genuine atheists and agnostics have made the world a better place confuse you? Does it upset you? Does it bother you? It shouldn’t. There are atheists and agnostics scattered throughout history and around the world that have greatly advanced science and medicine, discovery and invention. Were it not for their incessant curiosity driven by an unwillingness to accept a “God did it” or “God will fix it” answer, the world would be a more difficult and dark place in which to live.
And for my atheist and agnostic friends — I acknowledge that power-mongers will often pose as religious believers to gain control over others. True religion is sometimes hijacked by manipulators who suppress exploration, invention, and education to gain and keep control of the masses. Ignorance is the dictator’s favorite tool. While they may claim to be believers, their works expose them as hypocrites. Jesus had strong words for those who love power. They can be found in Matthew 23.
Jesus didn’t call us to love power; He called us to love people. See? That’s simple. God loves me (that is who I am), and He has called me to love others (that is why I’m here).
Simplicity is freeing. Once I know that God loves me and has designed me to love others, I am free to love everybody — and friends, that is my purpose. God hasn’t called me to fight with people who have come to different conclusions about life and beliefs — He has called me to love them. God, please help me to get that right.
We’ll continue the discussion about purpose in our next faith conversation. Until then, enjoy what’s left of summer in the beautiful Susquehanna Valley!