Perhaps one of the most profound reasons I believe in God is the general mystery of what it means to be human. Art, love, grief, longing for a better world, morality, heroism, hope and belief are but a few elements that refuse to “be modernized.” In other words, these elements fail to be quantified. Indeed, it’s peculiar that they lose value when quantification is attempted, for placing them under a microscope or scribbling them on a psychologist’s notepad only erodes their power; this is not because their value is in their mystery, but because human quantification methods fail to encompass their weight. Theists argue that their existence alludes to something greater than natural processes–transcendent, supernatural reality.
Let’s think about some of these elements…
Love and Grief
Some will say social evolution produces love and grief. What’s striking about this is the exaggerated need for relationships that go deeper than what’s necessary (look at all those love songs). Further, everyone knows embracing an intimate relationship is asking for pain; it would be easier to maintain superficial relationships and avoid getting to know each other at a significant depth (homeostasis, anyone?).
Yet humanity is driven to deep relationships because we believe working through the pain is worth it.
Grief only reminds us how much pain comes from love, so once again, why love to the extent that humans do? Why haven’t we learned to avoid grief?
I wonder if there is an evolutionary purpose behind grief. Maybe it’s a mechanism that motivates us towards progressing the species. Maybe it’s meant to push us towards the hope that one day our race will acheive immortality.
Wait a minute–we must backtrack.
The Core of the Matter: Purpose
In order to accept evolution, we must accept the reality of progress. The animal kingdom is working towards something. At its most basic level, its survival. The only way any of us exist at all is because we value survival. Values, though, imply purpose because something only has value when it serves a purpose. But if the material is all there is, then any “purpose” is only chemicals in the brain; it’s only subjective.
So survival is subjective, and the organisms alive today are alive because they happen to value it. Then what? The train of thought demands more. It expects an answer to “why survive?”
There can be no objective purpose if the material is all there is. An animal finds a “purpose” in killing and eating, but it only does this because it values life. It’s merely pragmatic–it behaves the way it does because “it works.”
So I ask again: why survive? Why is life so important?
Do we accept the notion that we’re surviving for nothing, or should we accept the reality that there’s a purpose that goes beyond survival?
Are humans striving towards immortality? If so, there’s still a purpose here. And is we attain it, we’re back to where we started, for we would then ask, “now that we’re immortal, what do we do?”
We can’t shake the need for purpose.
In the existential train of thought, any purpose I “create” for myself requires a suppression of the knowledge that life is objectively meaningless.
If we do admit that survival (and eventually immortality) is the objective purpose towards which we strive, then why not acknowledge the possibility that there are other objective purposes?
On the flip side, if it’s true that purpose is simply a figment in the brain, then we should acknowledge the objective nature of meaninglessness.
Why pretend? Why not embrace nihilism? It’s not logical to hold on to pretension if the universe (or multiverse, if you’re optimistic) will all die anyway. Survival is thus a chasing after the wind.
If the human machine has evolved to this point, where all we do is make life as bearable and safe as we can, make babies and “love” (whatever that means) them while we can, and then die. What purpose is there in this? Is the love of a parent for a child, the yearning for a better world or the enjoyment of nature all just decorative distractions?
To say that the wonders of human experience (purpose, meaning, value, love, hope, belief, etc) are nothing but a tonic for coping with our meaningless universe is to say that our species would’ve been better off going extinct millennia ago. If all intelligence brings to the human species is the knowledge that the universe is meaningless, then I see no reason (no pun intended) to sustain the species.
For materialists to claim Darwinian evolution as their ally is to accept the reality of purpose. To accept any objective purpose is to deny the reality that the material is all there is (for there must be at least some objective purpose). This, of course, welcomes the possibility of others.
The best materialists can do is maintain a “modified materialism” where the objective value of survival is the only true objective value. This is a hard claim to defend, for once this is accepted, how can one deny the possibility that there are other objective values besides survival? On what basis can we judge between them?
Belief and Art
The phenomenon of belief is what enables us to get out of bed and go to work. We believe life is worth living even when we’re not conscious of it. Humans all believe something. Scientists and pastors both believe something. Everyone is conscious of “a better world,” which is why we all work so hard at attaining it.
Further, we make art about life because there’s something about love, pain and the human machine that fascinates us. Are we to assume all art is simply a sketch of a window on the wall of a windowless prison?
Why do break-up songs market so well? Could it be that the itch for a deep love is more than a byproduct of social evolution?
Why do we spend millions on films about other worlds? Could it be that there truly is a better world?
Perhaps our need to make art points to the fact that we know, deep down, that life has gone awry, that love is real, but broken, and that there is hope for its redemption.
We believe in working for a better world, and the art we make tells us that the stirrings aren’t going away.
Conclusion: We Ain’t Nothin’ but Mammals
Of course, sometimes humans just want to be mammals. It’s just easier than being human, so we numb the itch with alcohol, hollow sex and superficial relationships. We don’t want to sacrifice; we want homeostasis. Although we know risk is the price for a better life, many are content accepting the lesser god of ease.
Whether humans follow the path of the animal or the one of angels, the results are always significant; maybe this is the most important fact we can all agree on.
Humanity always leaves a mark.
I understand that this survey is largely anecdotal, but why wouldn’t it be? What makes us human cannot be dissected or quantified. We may be animals biologically, but the majority of us believe there’s more to us than tissue and chemicals. Conscience, intelligence and longing are far too potent, complex and advanced to be evolved, and that’s why I’m inclined towards theism.