I notice that my announced plan to write a regularly appearing From My Corner commentary is not working out. The reason is simple. The daily news from the American political scene is so outlandish, so absurd, so infantile, what can I possibly say beyond observing how outlandish, absurd, and infantile it is?
Trump and his jokester antics are beyond commenting on. I personally think he needs placing in a padded cell where he won’t hurt himself, or anyone else; and that trained psychiatrists should study him for a long time to determine the extent of his internal mental damage.
So, I want today to write about a new book by a man named Martin Hagglund called: “This Life: Secular Faith and Religious Freedom.” That’s a mouthful, I know. But its premise is quite simple, although not simplistic.
As reported May 20, 2019 in The New Yorker, Hagglund makes the very clear argument that, “we” (humans) “should trust in ourselves rather than put our faith in some kind of transcendent rescue from the joy and pain of life.”
I’ve believed this for most of my life. And tried to live by it. I have noted that many of the most distinguished people (Einstein for instance) who ever lived have put their faith in humans to live their lives and be ethical and moral just because it is within the human brain to know that these traits make common sense. They are quite clearly just right.
The whole idea of doing what Hagglund proposes is that we pay attention all of our life to the life we are living, not upon how we may theoretically get to live again after death in some mystically imagined new place of life eternal.
The famous French writer, Camus, believed the same. So did the philosopher Spinoza, and the ancient philosopher Pliny the Elder Here is what the first two both had to say about taking our one single life in its concrete reality and assuming it is all the life we get, and we’d better live it to our best while we are here.
Camus expressed his devotion to living right now by stating that he was so sensitive to life that he could, “almost . . . faint when a woman’s hand lingered a moment on his in the crowd of a trolley – the longing, yes, to live still more, to immerse himself in the greatest warmth this earth could give him.”
Now that is clearly almost sexual, but that makes sense since our sexuality is the single tangible concrete fact of our very existence. It is what makes our human race go on century after century. And most people probably engage in it to avoid the painful reality of daily existence rather than reveling in it, rather than fully embracing it as the most beautiful thing we ever do, because it is us every time potentially creating a new life by living ours in the immense pleasure of human intimacy.
Now, Spinoza saw things quite differently. He approached his view of life from a more mental perspective. He felt that “pure contemplation” was “the highest good.” He believed that human contemplation, our concentration on our earthly reality, is “essentially religious.”
Living our real lives right now is also a Buddhist view of life here on earth.
A fellow named Ludwig Feuerbach suggests that our allegedly worshiping a “God” is actually us just placing upon an imagined perfect spirit the traits and values we wish we could have for ourselves, but are unable to accomplish because we are human and make mistakes.
Ludwig essentially believes Christians are saying about our own death that, “If there is no” (human) “immortality, there is no God . . . if I am not immortal, there is no God.” In other words, we make God dependent on us. A pretty egotistical and very human contention. And a pretty fake idea.
The trouble with religion in my view is that we get to blame our failures as humans on the fact that we seem unable to attain the perfection of our imagined God, so he forgives us and lets us get away with our failure. And what we should be doing is blaming a full 100% of our failings on ourselves, because we don’t’ use our minds well enough to be as good as we can be. In other words, we cop out on our own responsibility for ourselves.
And that’s pure human mental laziness, I say. Who really thinks about whether the idea of gods or God makes any sense? Very few. And the argument that we simply accept it on faith makes no sense whatsoever. Whatever else do we accept simply on faith? Nothing.
All our amazing telescopes searching out into space literally light years away have yet to see either a heaven or a god. How far, we might ask, are we expected to look to find them? Billions of light years? Tens of billions. Millions of billions?