Friday, November 17, 2006

A response to an inquiry on the meaningfulness of life

Mark Plus said...
I'd like for an apologist to clarity this "meaning of life" business for me. Does the christian theory offer "meaning" to life because you can go to heaven? Or does it offer "meaning" because you have to go somewhere other than into Epicurean oblivion after you die?

If the latter, that seems to imply that if you wind up going to hell, why, that gives your "meaning" too.

VR: When Christians claim that Christianity provides meaning to their lives, I think it is best interpreted as saying that if Christianity is true there is such a thing as a person's achieved the goal that is intended for that person, and that in achieving that goal one also achieves a goal that is good from the point of view of the person himself. This would not be satisfied if, for example, humans were simply being raised for food by extraterrestrials. If we were eaten, we would fulfil the goals set for us by the extraterrestrials, but we would not fulfil anything that could be recognized as our own good.

What God created us for, and what will fulfil us for an eternity is, according to Christianity, eternal fellowship with Himself. If atheism is true, that kind of satisfaction isn't in the cards for anybody.

That said, I think Christians make a mistake in saying that life has no meaning if Christianity isn't true. Christianity offers a meaningful life in this particular sense, but atheists can have a meaningful life an many over sense, which should not be denied by theists.

21 comments:

B said...

I believe almost everyone can agree than meaning comes from living for something beyond one's self. An atheist can do that as well as a Christian. How well a Christian's and atheist's lives play out comparatively certainly is up for scrutiny and debate.

If Christianity is true it stands to reason that the Christian can live a more meaningful life than the atheists. Living for a omnipotent vastly powerful being that could create the universe and humanity is better than living only for humanity. A little too blunt? It's late.

Aquinas13 said...

Its also reflects on the idea that we were put here by an intelligent mind who some would also call a Designer. It is the intelligence of our deity that ultimately gives life most of its meaning in a teleological sense.

Aquinas13

Jason said...

{{I'd like for an apologist to clarity this "meaning of life" business for me.}}

(Bear with me. In order to give a deeper shading to what I'm going to say, I'm working my way to it by an unusual route.)

One of the protagonists in the series of novels I write, is about as close to an atheist as someone can be in a setting of this sort. (Atheist, not anti-theist. I have some more important protags who are anti-theistic, too, but that's a different kind of thing. The anti-theists have different levels of ethicality, btw.)

He's someone whose meaning-of-life was taken away when he was younger, and down inside he's bitter about that; but for the most part he's gotten past it, even though one conclusion he's drawn is that there is no justice. Otherwise he just stays away from contact with the situation, referring to it (and to his past) by means of wry colorful metaphors. (He calls himself a cowherd--that's literally the name he gives now: Gaekwar. The realworld word comes from India.)

So he's a person who believes the only meaning in anyone's life, is what that person actively does in life. (He cynically considers most people to just be cattle who spend their whole lives just reacting to whatever is happening around them. This is linked to his past tragedy, of course.) In his case, he has found a woman whom he chooses to serve devotedly, and that's how he gives meaning to his life.

Every once in a while, though, he despairs at the ultimate futility of it all: because if he tries to look beyond himself and what little he can accomplish by his actions, all he sees is nothing.

So, he spends his time focusing on what little he can accomplish by his actions; but being a soldier he can never escape the realization that everything could just all go to hell (more or less literally) at any given moment, and (so far as he can see) there is nothing to ultimately rely upon greater than himself to eventually make things right somehow.

This leads him to commit less of himself to certain situations than he might otherwise do; specifically, he can pretty easily tell that the woman he loves will only hurt him if he gives her any chance at all. So even though he chooses to devotedly serve her, he doesn't give _himself_ to her, personally--he's been hurt in the past, and no one made it right, and he doesn't want to be hurt again. The best he can bring himself to do, is try to help her be a better person than she is.

But because he isn't willing to risk being truly hurt by her--because he has no trust in an ultimate justice to pay for the pain he might have to suffer by doing that--eventually he loses her, to someone who _is_ willing to sacrifice himself to her.


One of the reasons I am a theist, is because I think it's fundamentally impossible for 'meaning' to arise out of 'non-meaning'. In fact I would classify the belief that this can happen, as a variant of what is called "the externalistic fallacy".

One of the reasons I am a Christian, is because I discover that for derivative reality to exist at all (us, the evident system of Nature, etc.), God must be sacrificing Himself for our sakes. And I find this matches up with the historical claims of Christianity, too. It would be extremely difficult for an evangelist from another belief system to compete with the notion (simply in a comparison of notions--metaphsyical logic is a different kind of competition) that _the_ Independent Fact of all reality loves all of reality enough to willingly submit Himself to death for our sakes--even when we insist on abusing something of what grace we can see.

On of the reasons I am a Christian universalist--_not_ aside from the strictly technical reason that this follows (I see) as a logical implication from orthodox trinitarianism--is because I see very well that this is what true love does: God may love Nature, and people who choose to rebel, enough to allow them to be real creations contributing real effects to His story, even when those are deeply painful and tragic; but true love does _NOT_ ever give up on trying to reconcile the beloved together. Paying for our sins, would necessarily have to be part of that.

And when I look around to see if He has paid where we can see it, which is what I would expect: there He is, on the cross, suffering betrayal and injustice, with us, for the sake of His enemies--and acting toward fulfilling all fair-togetherness, by doing so.

But it's important to emphasize that He pays this for the sake of injustice to people who die without ever hearing about Him, too; or without ever believing He really did this, even if they hear about it. He pays for everyone's sake. This is why we're supposed to encourage people to have hope, however bad things get, even to the bitter end of death. It isn't necessarily hope that we will be spared death--we have to be ready to die. And it usually hurts and it's usually horrible; and not infrequently there is intentional torture before we finish dying. But God Himself submits to this, too; and goes beyond the worst that can ever be done, all as a promise to us that there _is_ something beyond the injustice of our lives. It may take eons of the eons--

--but He _will_ faithfully act, to the furthest end and beyond, to bring us home. All of us.


{shrug} And that's the meaning "Christianity" offers, I believe--and profess, as an apologist (and as an evangelist.)

Jason Pratt

es said...

But what does god get out of it? Why go through all this rigamarole if the ultimate purpose is to be reunited with god? Especially if everyone (and not just the "saved" whatever your religion's criteria are) is reunited with god.

And what then, anyway? Eternity is an awfully long time. The first million years are the worst, they say. So after we all sit around worshipping god for a few billion years, will that be enough for his ego? And please explain how, exactly, the prospect of worshipping an invisible supernatural being for all of eternity gives THIS life meaning for you?

Really, although it might be nice to think there was some ultimate exterior purpose to life, this is pathetic self-delusion.

Meanwhile, to paraphrase Sagan, do something meaningful with your life.

Anonymous said...

Eternal life inevitably leads to frivolity.

B said...

Anonymous:
Eternal life inevitably leads to frivolity.

Sour grapes. :)

es:
Christians worship God in ways that are incredibly enjoyable. Why would that not continue into eternity? It doesn't usually involve sitting in a pew, though admittedly I'm not sure what kind of worship you're talking about. The kind of worship I have in mind is sharing a great meal with others, writing a song, disciplining a child, climbing Mount Everest, working in the soup kitchen, building a lunar module, or determinging pi to the trillionth to the trillionth place. This stuff of course isn't necessarily worship, and I'm no universalist like aquinas13. But any act done in fellowship with Jesus is an act of worship. I cannot imagine eternity getting boring if it means we get to be the humans we have always been intended as: creative, constructive, full of sensation and full of love.

Incidentally, I want to clarify my first post: Meaning comes from living for something greater than yourself.

Anonymous said...

es,

I agree completely. Humans are the only thing on the planet that can become more than just their species. They can also become much worse.

A dog is always a dog. It can be a good dog or a bad dog, but it is still a dog.

A person who lives like a dog will be called a dog, and if one lives like a saint they will be called a good, truthful, beautiful and lovely.

We have to look outside of ourselves if we ever want to become more than just a person. The more one turns inward (like pop psychology says to do) the worse we become.

Jason said...

ES asks (and afterward likewise): {{But what does god get out of it?}}

He gets a real creation that isn't only Himself playacting the parts. (I recognize this to be the underlying point to the story of Pinnochio, too. {s} Some major theological sketchsheeting going on there...)

You aren't just some figment of God's imagination. Neither is the evident system of Nature in which we are born. The nominal deists carry this concept so far as to deny that God would or could act within creation at all (which is why that line of thought tends to trend into cosmological dualism, btw.) The Wiccans (or some of them anyway) and many other pagans are/were much closer to the truth: it's a marriage, and we're children of a beloved mother as well as of a Father Who loves our mother, and dies for her sake. (That's a poetic way of describing it; but in my case the metaphysics lead to the poetry. {s})


There are difficulties, even for God, in free creation--which again may be part of the point to why He would do it. For something to come into existence that is categorically different than Himself, He has to willingly submit and subsume His own action of self-existence in some way. But it's the only way for an actively self-existant entity to create a _portion_ in relation to a unified independently existant substance. He _creates_ an 'extent' thereby; but it can only be out of (or within--the physical metaphors aren't literally accurate) His own existence. There isn't, and cannot possibly be, some kind of void 'over there' for Him to 'bang' Nature into existence within; and the resultant Nature, by necessity of its creation and by the necessity of fundamental reality's own self-existence, cannot go on to exist independently of God. (I pause a moment to note that this would still have to be true in some way, if supernaturalistic atheism was true--as some speculative astrophysicists are now theorizing.)

This leaves Nature in a very specific kind of relationship with God. In one way, God is going to go very far in limiting just how much particular activity He Himself introduces into the system; but in another way His action _and_ the intentional submission of His action are what is keeping Nature in existence at all, at every point of space and time. (Note the interesting geometrical parallel here, too: points _naturalistically_ speaking cannot exist, yet we have to presume their existence as the first axiom in order to do any geometry. But no point can even exist without the sheer intentional grace of something far more qualitatively real than that point.)

So (if what I believe to be true is true) there's a very delicate balance happening all around us, everywhere; and within us, too. The result is that God can introduce _specially_ particular miracles at any given point of space-time. _But_ in order to love His creation, even into existence, He must withold from doing so in what we (from our perspective within space-time) would perceive to be a 'very large' degree.

Which means God is going to let a lot of things happen _naturally_; and is also going to let a lot of things happen by derivative intention--i.e. contributions from His children will be allowed to have real effects on the natural history being created. Even if suffering is a result. (And that's just the _basic_ set-up. The actual situation at any given time in that natural history might vary by a significant amount, depending on how God is trying to interact and relate to the history. That means He might in principle do _less_ than we might otherwise expect to observe any given time. Or more.)


{{So after we all sit around worshipping god for a few billion years, will that be enough for his ego?}}

It isn't about His ego; although considering the sloppy explanations frequently proffered by otherwise-well-meaning theologians, I can see how it might seem that way. (I'm on record here, and elsewhere, as complaining about that kind of theological explanation from my side of the aisle. I recall using "Darkseid the Destroyer" as a comparison along that line, more than once. Note, by the way, that I have enough common courtesy not to decap the name-usage of even a fictional entity.)


As to worshipping--I can, and do, do that wherever and _what_-ever else I am doing (so long as I am not sinning). It's simply sharing a love of something with God. I find something that God is loving, and then I work together with Him in loving it (or her. {s}) What greater way can I honor even a derivative creature than by joining with them in loving something they are loving? That's true for my relationship with God as well.

There is an important technical claim being made in worship, too; but even that is simply an acknowledgement of God being Who He is and having the place in reality that He does.

{{And please explain how, exactly, the prospect of worshipping an invisible supernatural being for all of eternity gives THIS life meaning for you?}}

Nothing I wrote in my original comment, had anything to do with the kind of ego-feed "worship" you're talking about here, much less how an expectation of that kind of worship gives my life "meaning".


{{Really, although it might be nice to think there was some ultimate exterior purpose to life, this is pathetic self-delusion. }}

Is it pathetic self-delusion on my part, then, to consider _you_ to have any value other than whatever I personally choose to assign to you?

{{Meanwhile, to paraphrase Sagan, do something meaningful with your life.}}

The only 'meaning' that can be had in such a life is what a person sheerly chooses to assert; and that assertion ends with the non-existence of the person. Any historical effects that continue afterward only have meaning insofar as other people exist, and sooner or later _all_ persons will cease to exist.

Ignoring these necessary implications is the very example of the sort of self-delusion you just called "pathetic".


Anon adds: {{Eternal life inevitably leads to frivolity.}}

Only if you insist on being frivolous with it. To paraphrase Sagan: do something meaningful with your eternal life. {s}

Whereas the finite life of everything certainly leads inevitably to that which is even less than frivolous: nothing.

(I don't say this as an exhortation to believe one or another thing to be true; I am only pointing out the actual logical implications.)


To B: I have no idea whether Aquinas13 is a Christian universalist or not--maybe he has given indication of this elsewhere, though given his choice of nickname I would be surprised if he did--but to help head off potential confusion, I was the one making Christian universalism claims in this set of comments. {g}

Anyway, yes, I agree, that's the kind of worship I would have been talking about (had I been talking some kind of expectation of worship that would make life meaningful now.)


{{Incidentally, I want to clarify my first post: Meaning comes from living for something greater than yourself.}}

I would go somewhat further than that. After all, some atheists live for something greater than (or at least other than) themselves which can have (as ES himself has said) no ultimate meaning. Charitably they give what meaning they can to it--until they and any of their intellectual heirs die off anyway, at which point all their own meaning must necessarily cease to exist.

Still, I agree that it is (at least) potentially better to live for something other than one's self than to only live for one's self. Well, it's potentially better so long as everything isn't ultimately futile (for instance if atheism isn't true.) {s}


Jason Pratt

Anonymous said...

"Eternal life inevitably leads to frivolity.

Sour grapes. :)"



I'm not saying there is no meaning to be found in life so not sure why you think me a killjoy. Rather I'm concerned with trying to understand where the real source of meaning comes from.
I think it more reasonable to find meaning within a finite life. It is knowing we will die that gives us the psychological motivation to find meaning.
Perhaps meaning can only ultimately be found if there is a real chance of failure. An eternal life would make failure an illusion. That is why it would negate meaning and lead to frivolity. A nice example of this can be found in the Homeric portrayal of the Greek Gods.
I suspect that deep down Christians realize this too. That is perhaps the main reason why the doctrine of universal salvation has never been very popular: Hell provides the possibility of real failure.

Joe Markus said...

Maybe Christians are committed to believing that atheists can live happy, content, fulfilling, meaningful lives without God.

Free will is an important aspect of the Christian story of creation. Also, it seems that a person doesn't have a genuine choice unless a choice and its negation are both good.

So if God is perfectly good it seems he must allow the atheist to live a happy, fulfilling, meaningful life without him.

What kind of choice would we be given if God said "either choose me or not. If you don't, you'll be miserable"?

Mike D said...

This thread suffers from a vague question. The "meaning of life" can be
1) The ultimate purpose of mankind
2) That which significance to a human physical life span.
3) The purpose of a limited physical existence in light of an eternal spiritual existance.
4) The variable degree to which a person lives their life for a purpose other than their own pleasure or survival.
5) The extent to which a person accomplishes acts for the benefit of a cause greater than himself.
6) ...

It would be helpful to know which we are talking about.

Jason said...

Anon continues: {{An eternal life would make failure an illusion. [...] That is perhaps the main reason why the doctrine of universal salvation has never been very popular: Hell provides the possibility of real failure.}}

Speaking as the resident universalist, as well as someone who has failed more than once, I think I can testify with some authority that I don't consider my failures to be an illusion at all; especially when other persons have suffered as a result. And I recognize that anyone could continue to _choose_ to fail, into forever.

Christian universalism is supposed to be about God's character and intentions; at least if it's orthodox. It's also technically a heresy to deny human intention as a factor, though, which is what a doctrine of definite eventual salvation from sin would involve.

(This is aside from observations I could make about why the doctrine of permanent hope and offer of salvation has never been very popular.)


There is also the point, that mere extension of life in itself is no basis at all for supposing that success in anything (other than sheerly living) will ever be made. A man entombed in a black hole yet still alive, is in no position to do anything other than merely live; and should the universe somehow adjust eventually to such a state as to allow the gravity to be neutralized, he still would find himself in a totally hostile natural environment, still unable to even move. (One could hardly call this frivolity, either.)

{{A nice example of this can be found in the Homeric portrayal of the Greek Gods.}}

They had no choice about being frivolous and capricious, given (per story characteristics) their inherent nature as the children of Chaos to begin with. A better example might be the elves (not strictly called elves as I recall) in Moorcock's Elric saga.

But then, they didn't _have to be_ that way. They could have chosen to do better; except they had no 'better' to ever aspire to or relate to, above whatever whims of their own came to their attention.


Joe Markus writes: {{Maybe Christians are committed to believing that atheists can live happy, content, fulfilling, meaningful lives without God.}}

I would amend that to "living happy, content, fulfilling, meaningful lives without _necessarily knowing_ God." It still couldn't be done without God and God's active help; but God's grace is greater than human ignorance.

That being said, very many (perhaps most) Christians wouldn't agree to my amendment, either. I think that's mostly a reflection of rampant Christianity-ism, though. (Christianity is the Way the Truth and the Life!--um... I think there's a technical heresy in there somewhere... {g})


{{Also, it seems that a person doesn't have a genuine choice unless a choice and its negation are both good.}}

{shrug} I have regular choices whether or not to abuse someone, to various extents. They certainly seem like genuine choices to _me_; and it is on this basis that my repentence largely depends. (There is another element, too, which involves intentionally resolving to act in cooperation toward the curing of however much of my nature has been corrupted. I may not have a choice about inheriting a corrupted nature, but I have a choice about whether or not to stand against it insofar as I can.)


{{So if God is perfectly good it seems he must allow the atheist to live a happy, fulfilling, meaningful life without him.}}

Actually, this is what the Roman Catholic semi-doctrine of Limbo has traditionally been about. (I wonder how the recent papal deliberation on this has gone...)


There are, however, some other considerations that have to be brought into the account. For instance, most people would rather know the truth about something sooner or later than choose to live in a delusion; especially if the truth is nominally recognized to be something good and worth knowing. (Whereas, on the other hand, people who choose to live in self-delusion have something seriously wrong with their character somewhere. Which is precisely why ES is overtly contemptuous about my "pathetic self-delusion". {s})

There is also the fulfillment to be had in the reconcilement of claims of justice between persons. If God is committed to bringing this about, sooner or later, then it might be rather difficult for even God to mediate this between persons without one or both of the persons having _some_ kind of relevant knowledge about Him, at the very least as a result of the arbitration.


But: the question must eventually be asked, what are you actually talking about here? As a matter of obvious and regular human history, God has apparently allowed people to go on their way as much 'without' Him as they can be (and still be in existence). In the speech of Paul of Taursus before the Mars Hill forum, he rather daringly (all things considered!) declares that God winks at this. (And makes a very nifty use of the founding legend of their forum along this line, too--though that's something no one would ever guess just from reading the synopsis of his presentation in Acts.)

So, you're _already_ allowed to live as fulfilling a life as you can find to live, without believing in His existence, or even without knowing about Him (as the case may be).

If you mean instead that a perfectly good God must allow the atheist to live such a life (insofar as it can be lived) _in direct revolt_ against God ever deciding to upscale that relationship eventually; well, that's another thing. That's a resolution in advance to reject the truth should it ever become more obviously true.


{{What kind of choice would we be given if God said "either choose me or not. If you don't, you'll be miserable"?}}

Depends on why we would be miserable without choosing Him. It's still pretty blatantly a choice either way. People have plenty of evidence that drinking too much alcohol or doing any of a number of other entirely mundane things will make them miserable if they choose it--and yet they still do.

A little girl throwing a tantrum against her parents can choose to hold her breath, in order to make her parents suffer along with her. But holding her breath isn't healthy for her, and the increasing pain and pressure on her to breathe is not some kind of unfair oppression against her. The wise parent knows she'll eventually pass out and start to breathe again before any permanent damage is done. But the parent will still hurt inside with the pain his child is inflicting on herself--which is exactly why (in this case) the child is doing it.

That's her choice, too.


Jason Pratt

Edward T. Babinski said...

So many words.

It seems like what most people are saying is that they are happier believing that their lives will not end, but go on, and in a state of less pain, doubt, and fear than they presently do.

As for what a tri-omni Being "gets out of" setting things up (in a way that Christians believe such a Being has done, reading God's mind as it were, or interpreting "Scriptures" in such and such a way), one can only guess.

We all live and die, and we're all part of the walking wounded, and we each tend to grow a bit more war weary as we grow older. (Old age is not for sissies as they say. Or as Philo of Alexandria said, "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.")

Victor Reppert said...

Edward T. Babinski said...
So many words.

The irony, the irony.

Jason said...

{{So many words.}}

At least they're consistently on topic and addressing what various people are actually talking about.

{{It seems like what most people are saying is that they are happier believing that their lives will not end, but go on, and in a state of less pain, doubt, and fear than they presently do. }}

That probably is true for most people; but I don't think this is the special contribution of Christian theology to the topic of 'meaning' in life. (Otherwise, that's what I would have said the first time, instead of what I _did_ say.)

Also, I think I stated somewhere back up there (unless I edited it out in trimming down the post size) that I arrive at what I _did_ mention by metaphysical analysis. I know you don't have much appreication for that in principle (when you aren't using it in your own favor), but it isn't the same as "reading God's mind as it were", nor interpreting Scriptures in such and such a way. (Though I can do the second, too, fwiw. {s}) I did _not_, however, present the analysis, since that would take hundreds of pages of careful thought and qualification (including in favor of the opposition, where appropriate.)


{{We all live and die, and we're all part of the walking wounded [etc.]}}

For what it's worth, I have nothing but agreement (and admiration) for that paragraph. {s} (I do try to look for such things where I can.)

Edward T. Babinski said...

Vic,
What I meant was implied, i.e., "so many words" speaking about things that very few (to none of us) knows about or has ever seen, yet Christian philosophers and theologians speak about endlessly as if they knew "God's plans" or as if the employment of Bible-based or dogma-based language concering such questions proved something.

Our lifetimes, time for study, and direct knowledge of such matters are all limited to say the least in comparison with questions of eternal life and eternal meaning.

But if you want to delve into the matter further you can check out my full reply that examines your "eternal fellowship" response to the question of the "meaning of life": On The Meaning of Life, Heaven & Hell: Victor Reppert & Edward T. Babinski

b said...

Babinski:

I know that's from the post on your blog but I thought I'd put it here too.

If I may comment on Vic's statement (and those of others who responded at his blog)...

...I take the view that though Vic wrote "eternal fellowship with God" was "the meaning of life," what he was probably more concerned with was the question of the "duration of life," rather than its "meaning." In fact I'd even say that when Vic wrote, "eternal fellowship," he was more concerned with the "eternal" part rather than the "fellowship" part.

Why do I say this?

No matter how you dress up the idea of the "meaning of life" the desire for a longer healthier life is one that we all share, sans all the poetry and heavenly vision talk. Such a simple basic desire is even reflected in the question that Jesus was asked a number of times according to the earliest written Gospels, namely, "How may I inherit eternal life?"


I don't follow, the move from meaning to health seems to be a non sequiter. I think that most people want a long and healthy life. I could see how someone could wishfully talk about wanting to have that always, and legitimzing the possibility by invoking Christianity, but dag yo! I'm certainly not doing that. Nothing in Reppert's post seemed to indicate that but you know him I guess. Even so, long healthy life or lack thereof doesn't impart or remove meaning. So back to the nonsequiter.


NOTE ON "ETERNAL FELLOWSHIP"

If Christianity is true then isn't THIS life here on earth the most exciting point in all of eternity for each human being because only here is where the Christian experiences the excitment of "escaping damnation" and "finding salvation?" It's relatively clear sailing after that according to Christian theology (barring "Purgatorio" that is, which is only finite). Or to use an analogy, if Christianity is true then even an "eternity" in heaven seems like an eternal drag on a cigarette after all the "action in bed" is over.


Fellowship broadly defined can include love, creation, participation, and appreciation. As such I don't see why we couldn't be doing very exciting things for all time. Jesus lives a very exciting life, and he has lived eternally. We certainly will not become god but I can imagine making and participating in a million could be worlds. Sounds at least as dramatic and exciting as life now.

b said...

Jason:

Yeah you're right, I meant you not aquinas13 regarding being a universalist. 12 inch screen just doesn't give me enough real estate to easily scroll through comments.

Anonymous said...

Jason wrote:
"{{A nice example of this can be found in the Homeric portrayal of the Greek Gods.}}

They had no choice about being frivolous and capricious, given (per story characteristics) their inherent nature as the children of Chaos to begin with. "

You are simply mistaken here. Humans are as much an offspring of Chaos as the Olympian deities. That is not what differentiates the Olympians from humans.

Will have to try and find time to respond to your other points later.

By the way, a good site for info on the Greek Gods can be found here: http://www.theoi.com/

Jason said...

{{You are simply mistaken here. Humans are as much an offspring of Chaos as the Olympian deities. That is not what differentiates the Olympians from humans.}}

{shrug} I'm not entirely sure there _is_ much of anything in the Greek pantheon stories to differentiate the Olympians from humans, aside from power level (and story sequence). This appears to have been the point to the Euthyphro dilemma in its original context, too.

Maybe one difference in story contexts would be that humans (being mortal) are subjected to the Fates--but then, even if it isn't spelled out (and even if it doesn't involve mortality), that would seem to hold true for what happens at the god-level stories, too. Why does this god get in trouble with that one? Because it was his or her nature (whimsical chaos) and apparently fate (deterministic law) to do so.

Athena seems to have been one of the few deities to regularly avoid this whimsical-fate trap: by and large she was one of the more sensible deities. {g} (If I was a Greek pagan, I'd definitely be one of her followers. Though Hephaestus has a lot going for him, too. I combine a nod to him with a nod to Chesterton in my second book. {s!})

Anonymous said...

You know, all your talking is so amazingly complex and clever - reading the different comments is like playing philosophical sudoku - sort of trying to 'make sense' of the world we live in. Is that not beautiful. Yes, life is tough but the fact that we can have such fun in such debates tells me that a great deal of humility is required when we approach one another in debate, given that we have such amazing capacities to project ourselves beyond our daily realities into realms of time dimensions such as eternity and to catapult our thoughts into the great questions of who we are, where we come from and where we are going. I personally find the Bible to be the only book to provide an answer to all these great questions.