The NY Times has an interesting, if suspicious, Opinion piece titled Suffering, Evil and the Existence of God. The topic is the existence of suffering and evil in a world presided over by an all powerful and benevolent deity, and focuses on the intersection of a theist-turned-agnostic and a atheist-turned-theist relating to said topic. The latter is quoted as asking his former fellow atheists the following question:
What would have to occur or have occurred to constitute for you a reason to at least consider the existence of a superior Mind?
Probably about the same thing that would take to convince me that there really is a Santa Claus. Or, if you prefer, some inkling of data to suggest that a mind could exist non-corporeally. Both the question and any answer (given how it’s framed) involves a whole lot of superstition.
No thanks, I’ll pass on the superstition.
But the suffering, part of the human condition, is a very important question to ask. We all have our existential fears, either for ourselves, or for those people or perceptions that we hold dear. And nothing lasts forever – so how do we find meaning in the world? Or significance, purpose, or hope, as it has been mentioned to me.
My view is that if thinking critically about such tough questions is not high on your priority list, then sure, the superstitious route is all well and good. Attribute things to your god, or however you choose to describe it (See William James’ The Varieties of Religious Experience).
But if you’re interested in something that more accurately reflects reality as we can best perceive it, as I am, then you must seek a different answer. Take biology for example. Frankly, most of us will bite the dust, and our descendants will fail to succeed indefinitely (the alternative is exponential reproduction, which is infeasible). Life is competition. I don’t know why life is here, or even if “why” is a valid question; a question without an answer is a waste of time to dwell on, if one is to get anywhere philosophically. But life is here, and the three components that defined how it progresses are, as Darwin enumerated:
- Differential success
What follows is necessarily that our fates depends on the success of our progeny. Our task, therefore, is to equip our relations and communities with the best tools to prosper as possible in a competitive world. This is humanism/species-ism. In today’s world, this means avoiding superstitious and blind attribution of our problems to perceived higher powers or agency, and addressing the issues that threaten us even in the face of political opposition.