A big topic, but it’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot.
At first I didn’t realise that it’s what I was thinking about. I thought I was thinking about making the world better, about making myself and everyone else better human beings.
I was thinking, specifically, about developing a rationale for morality which didn’t involve any necessity for a personalised deity, an atheistic religious life if you will (Don’t worry we’ll get to that ;D). This was prompted by Karen Armstrong’s book, The Great Transformation. It’s subject is the development, at about the same time in our history and independently, of the moral and ethical frameworks of the world’s great religions. The point at which we moved from the supplication of nature spirits as a matter of survival, to wondering what our purpose was. That purpose, according to every world religion was, and is, to become better people. To become closer to “God”.
Better is such a subjective term though, and “God” has all sorts of issues, but any language we have can’t get across what we’re really aiming for. The idea of “God”, is just another term for something we can never comprehend or understand. Whatever picture we have in our minds of what “God” is, it can never be sufficient. It is not something we can truly comprehend, but all the major world religions agree, there exists something of it within us. We are part of the universe, and the universe is part of us. What we’re really talking about, some theologians came to think (mainly those in the eastern traditions of Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism), was The Ultimate Reality. The thing that allows everything that exists, to exist. From the tiniest subatomic particle, to the ideas that swim through our minds. It isn’t something that can be personalised, measured, described, and codified at all, let alone easily. And the misinterpretation of historical attempts to do so have caused us to traumatise ourselves.
This is how I have started healing my spiritual trauma. I gave up the apparently pointless rituals of church on Sunday morning as a teenager, but have not found a good enough rationale for morality in pure reason and objectivity. I abandoned the idea of a personalised deity because I couldn’t understand how a benevolent, omnipotent, and omniscient creature could allow us to keep on being so bad at being human. So I went looking for my own rationale, and my own idea of what we really might be talking about when we talk about “God”. This isn’t me finding my way back to anyone’s idea of “God”, this is me figuring out my own, subjective, rationale for an atheistic morality. I found something I think is interesting, but we’ll get to that. I still haven’t explained why the title of the post is “Happiness”, we’ll get to that as well. ;D
Seriously, read the book. There will be more along with more recommended reading as well.