Abandon Text!

W. H. Auden once said: "Poems are not finished; they are abandoned." I have been abandoning writing projects for many years, since only the pressure of deadline and high expectations ever got me to finish, or even start, anything of merit. This blog is an attempt to create a more consistent, self-directed writing habit. Hopefully a direction and voice will emerge.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Eternity vs. The Moment

I'm not sure why I'm getting into busting Rick Warren's chops over The Purpose-Driven Life. I think part of it is that he's carefully articulating the Christian vision that dominated my world-view when I was young, and I'm getting some psychological release from seeing my way through it. Part of it also is just having my arguments at the ready, the next time I have to deal with that perspective.

Warren talks about seeing one's life from the perspective of the eternal -- meaning, realizing that how you live your life is going to put you in Heaven or Hell. He maintains, in traditional Christian form, that if you believe in eternity, you must believe that your actions have eternal consequences, and therefore everything you do is that much more important. Supposedly, this gives the Christian a perspective that make moral righteousness self-evident -- why get hung up on fame and fortune, when they have nothing to do with eternity? And, conversely, the non-believer is released from all moral obligations: might as well sin now, since there are no long-term consequences.

This kind of thinking seems quite consistent and sensible from the Christian perspective, and absolutely silly once you step over the line to the other perspective. To someone who doesn't believe in an afterlife, the Christian who is doggedly pursuing virtue for his heavenly reward is not virtuous at all. He has merely transformed his greed for worldly fame and fortune into a greed for otherworldly fame and fortune. He is still primarily acting with his self in mind.

In contrast, someone who does not believe in an afterlife but still does the right thing -- is that not much more miraculous? They have surrendered to God's will, not because they think it's going to get them a bigger jacuzzi in Heaven, but because they love God, and only because they love God. Not believing in an afterlife doesn't make you weigh the merits of your actions any less. In fact, you value them that much more, because these are the only moments you get. The believers can be careless with their moments, because they think they have an eternity of moments to enjoy . . . but the true non-believer makes every moment count.

Again, none of this proves that there isn't an afterlife. It just seems to me that one does not need to posit an afterlife to believe in morality and virtue.

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

<< Home