Exactly how foreign is this foreign country to which we are ambassadors? Is the world and culture around us foreign beyond our imagination or comprehension?
Yes, absolutely; so absolutely that we find ourselves either unable to communicate at all with the people around us or swept away in the powerful current of their passions and assumptions (thus religion in general, and popular Christianity in particular, are considered either archaic or irrelevant).
Instead of lamenting, can we try to understand this foreign land? The following is a modest attempt to do just that.
What if the atheists are right? What if there is only a material world in time that evolved over millions of years and there is no god? What if this makes the most sense of human experience and scientific experiments? Such a place seems utterly attractive to corrupt human nature because it suggests that we can do whatever we want. There is no absolute authority nor absolute standard by which we could be judged (or condemned). What if we can do whatever we want?
First of all, consider what it means to be a human in this world view. Who or what are we? A fantastic study of this can be seen in the old Disney movie, Pinocchio. Like Pinocchio, we are reduced to a one-dimensional existence: just a physical organism in time somewhere in the great sweep of evolutionary processes. I am an accident in a worldview where the survival of the fittest is the only means of having a future, though still only short and material. Thus we are all rightly selfish, competitive, greedy, but also proud and self-righteous.
Second, what do we want? The fast passing of our time in a material world of limited resources makes us desperate and frantic, like a drowning person looking for anything to climb upon. Yet no matter how much has been gathered or climbed upon, we are still frantic – for still there is this endless powerful sense of sinking, drowning, cold, dark, death. In this world we are driven by appetites but never satisfied. Notice the insatiable nature of materialism, addictions of all kinds, and now even our approach to food, sex, and entertainment. We need to be as happy as we can as much of the time as possible, which means getting what we want with no unwanted, unhappy consequences or responsibilities. Disneyland advertises itself as the happiest place on earth, and people sacrifice much to be there.
Third, who I am in such a place and what I want here (and NOW) is confronted with many serious challenges. Can we actually do whatever we want? No, but the invention of self-image by means of social media provides some anesthesia against reality. Does getting what we want nearly as fast and as often as we want it work? The absence of contentment, generosity, or consideration of others, in addition to the fast-growing numbers of people suffering depression and anxiety suggests not. For all our efforts to get what we want, what we can’t get is satisfaction. (Note Mick Jagger’s prophecy of this from 1965, interestingly the same year Time magazine’s cover noted the death of God.) Human nature in this world insists and boasts about a free will, but what good is it if all things so free-willed leave people alone, isolated, disappointed, overwhelmed, drowning in a sea of negative emotion, dying?
If my own, internal disappointments were not enough, there is the constant, relentless noise of the competition. Others are competing with me for what might be had to keep my ego afloat. Others are taking as much as they can as fast as they can to be as happy as they can as much of the time as they can—which includes taking what I wanted and even taking what I thought was mine. The sense of euphoria provided by online shopping, near instant delivery, and incessant postings of one’s own status is crushed by the fact that all such people are supplying the appetites of all those people with the genius and means to manipulate the masses (see Joran Lanier’s Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now). Worse still, there is no one and nothing to whom we can complain. There can be no problem of evil in this world because there is no god or standard or design by which to claim either problem or evil.
Finally, we are left to consider two serious, fundamental problems with this world view:
- Can anyone survive it?
- What to do with all the evidence to the contrary (evidence for God, creation, design, and the essential life of the soul)?
The model itself is unequivocal: NO! No one live longer or happier in a hostile environment, with the competition between disintegrating material organisms. There is no god or standard or other world to appeal to in this red (bloody) pyramid (competition for the material) world. However foreign this world may be to you, it is the world we are living in.
But if there is a god? What if we add god back into this model? That’s next.