(About a 3 minute read)
If I were a theist and believed in gods, I would be an insufferable theist.
Indeed, my opinions might be a tad insufferable already. At least, I think that could be a reasonable conclusion based on the number of encouraging emails I get from my loyal readers that include a pic of someone’s buttocks, along with the usually brief message, “Thinking of you, Paul!”.
On the other hand, I tell myself that the pics are just today’s fashionable manner in which one proposes a rendezvous for drinks — although the fact that more and more often my loyal readers are including their therapy bills with a demand that I pay them suggests to me that mere alcohol is no longer entirely effective in heading off the PTSD that has always plagued frequent readers of Café Philos.
But I have even stronger than usual reasons for suspecting I’d be especially insufferable as a theist. Much stronger reasons.
The chief of those reasons is that I suspect my ideas about the gods are admittedly a bit more annoying than most ideas about them. You see, I’ve not yet come across anyone who has put the pieces together in quite the same way as I do. I’ve seen plenty of people with the same pieces as me, but not anyone who adds them up to the same sum.
At least not in modern times, although the ancient Greeks seem close.
In the first place, I do not believe the gods put us here for the usual suspected reasons. For instance, the notion there is a heaven or afterlife of any sort strikes me as peculiar. If that were so, then why this life? Why this waiting for it to happen?
Are we in some cosmic waiting room? Are we unannounced auditioning for the part we’ll go on to play for all eternity when the final curtain goes up? If we have an eternal home, why don’t the gods just give us the keys and be done with it?
Of course, I’m aware that many folks believe this world is a test to see if we’re worthy of the best real estate in the next. But that doesn’t make sense to me either. Our time here is short and eternity is long. What possible test could decide our qualifications for it?
Are we being tested to see if we believe in the gods, have faith in them? That one seems quite problematic to me. No need to really discuss it.
But our being tested by whether we do good or evil isn’t much better, so far as I can see. Eternity would be so much greater than life, I think such a test would be the equivalent of asking whether you had ever shot off a bottle rocket as a child in order to decide whether you get to work on the design of NASA moon rockets.
The notion we might be headed for an afterlife just doesn’t work for me. But neither does the notion we’re headed off to eventually merge with the gods. Find union with them. And for the same reason as given before — why not just give us the keys today?
The transmigration of souls concept doesn’t work for me either. Endlessly jumping from one thing to another? Again, why?
I have heard some Hindus say we ourselves are the gods, and we’re just playing a game of hide and seek with ourselves to while away the boring hours of eternity. But are not the gods omniscient? Who plays out a game in which they know every move and every outcome in advance?
It seems to me there is but one plausible reason left for why the gods put us here. We’re here to flourish.
By “flourish”, I mean any number of things that could go into making the good life. Learning wisdom, gathering knowledge, loving, being true to ourselves, passing along some part of us in our children, or creating art — for starters.