Every time I pass a Christian Fundamentalist church here in Manila, I often notice that they were given a 40 day seminar on Rick Warren’s book The Purpose Driven Life – What on Earth Am I here for?.
Well, curiosity kills the cat they say so I took a little probe on what this book is all about. As I have noticed, Warren’s book really is 334 pages of endless echo of his set of guidelines which seems that his readers is too stupid to figure it out and get the point in the first 20 pages. But why am I complaining, Christians really have a habit of not getting the message anyway. On what I saw, he even quoted something Bertrand Russell says in the first chapter (Oh for crying out loud, Russell is an agnostic, not an atheist.) According to Warren in an interview with The O’Reilly Factor in Fox News ("The O'Reilly Factor," Dec. 17, 2004) “Well, you have to be a seeker to read the book. That's the truth. I start with a quote from an atheist, a famous atheist, Bertrand Russell who said, "Unless you assume the existence of God, the question of purpose is meaningless." I happen to agree with that.”
I really don’t see the reason why the author of this Christian literature began his propaganda by quoting Russell. Maybe he wants his readers to see that even an “atheist” agrees with his thesis. Before I begin, here is the said quote, “Unless you assume a God, the question of life's purpose is meaningless.” -- Bertrand Russell, atheist
Contrary to what Christians want this quote to say; what Russell meant was that “the meaning to life" is a meaningless question if you don't believe in a god. – So you see a believer always assume that life has a meaning because he believes that a certain God created him, commands him, and owns his very existence, so he believes he has a so-called purpose. That’s it.
The Meaning of Life
I’m not going to talk about the Monty Python’s show with the same title. I’m going to talk about a more hilarious idea from Christians – especially at Rick Warren’s book. So what’s the meaning of life? As the humble Bernie Russell have said the question is meaningless if you don’t believe that some dope up there have create you to worship him (Which is quite odd. Why will a perfect being needed to be worshipped?) According to Warren, our earthly values- whether in our career, family, friends, or any other are in themselves meaningless. Meaningless? That’s where Ol’ Bernie Russell sets in. According to Mr. Russell, to think that life has a meaning, you ought to be a believer. But does a person need a god to make his life meaningful? Well, according to Warren, NO.
For Warren, the human’s purpose is to please God. Now this is a bit odd. How can you give pleasure to a perfect being? Anyway, Warren thinks that God created you to have a specific mission. That you exist because God created you with a specific purpose. This is based on Jeremiah 1:5. Now this statement made me think, what’s the specific mission of Ted Bundy, Boston Strangler, Son of Sam or Charles Manson AKA Jesus Christ on planet Earth?
According to Warren, long before you were conceived by your parents, you were conceived in the mind of God. Now OK so Ted Bundy was already conceived of God, so God knows that Bundy will kill all those teenage girls before he was even born. Now, I’m just curious. If God knows that Ted Bundy will be a killer why did he let him live. There are a lot of cases where babies die prematurely in the mother’s womb. But here, he let Ted reach the age where he can perform those horrid acts.
You were alive because God wanted to create you. Is that so? Did God want Adolf Hitler to exist? Did He also allow Tojo, Stalin, Idi Amin, Pol-Pot to exist as well? If Warren is right then evil in this world that was initiated by these people was really God’s fault. We can safely say that God is an accomplished by these criminals. Let’s put it in a simple manner. If my daughter was raped and murdered, the rapist exists because God allows him to exist and as Warren said, God knows that this rapist will rape and kill my daughter, therefore God is an accomplished. Now back to the Bible, as Warren quote it on Psalm 138:8a The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me – then these Bible thumpers is just saying that evil in the human mind is also His purpose.
Now how about those babies that have died prematurely in their mother’s womb? Do they have no purpose at all? Some children also die at a very young age. Some die without even reaching 24 hours after birth due to malnourished parents or tetanus. Do they don’t have any purpose in the eyes of Warren’s god? Also, how about those born mentally retarded? Did God have a plan for them to be born retarded? Now biologically speaking, when a human egg is to be fertilized there are a million sperms rushing to reach the ovum but only one sperm is needed to fertilize it. Such activity is considered a waste if we believe Warren about his god’s purpose.
Warren also suggested that all the ills of this world are God’s purpose. So we might say that what happened in Southern Leyte was God’s design. Oh good grief! Don’t blame the illegal loggers because God planned that landslide anyway. So it was God’s intention to bury those school children in forty feet of mud and rocks. Why? Because God wants people to develop his character. Yeah, right!
With this kind of thinking, one is diminishing the drive to fight the ills of this world. So let us rot because this is God’s plan.
Ethics and God
According to Warren since there is a purpose in life there is right and wrong. Does Warren mean to say that right or wrong exist because God made a purpose? Does reward constitute ethics? If we use Warren’s explanation about ethics, then ethics become a selfish motivation of one’s self. It becomes self centered. If a person does well and refuses evil because he believes that it is God’s plan to reward him or damn him to hell then it is a selfish motivation to be ethical. Also ethics can be very complicated. Can Warren’s good purpose explain why a Nazi officer in WWII can easily dispose the bodies of Jews in the crematorium after being gassed that morning and then becomes a caring father to his daughter in the evening? I think Warren needs more than the reward system to carefully explore the complexity of ethics.
Divine Purpose vs. Free choice.
Most Christians believe that God gave us free choice. Well, naturally, by using the free choice argument they escape the issue concerning evil. According to another Christian author Norman Giesler, God has created us as free creature. That God gave us the ability to decide between alternatives. (See When Skeptic Ask pp 59-74) This belief seems to tell us that God created humans as free agents. As free agents, it requires autonomy. Now this idea seems to be a complete incoherent with Warren’s divine purpose.
If God knows and created you with a so-called mission, you are not a free agent. If God already predestined your life, then you don’t have free will. Get it?
For example: God planned me to be an evangelical pastor before birth so he already designed my parents to met so they become acquainted to each other. But since my so to be parents were free agents, they decided to not to marry or to have kids. But if Christians will retort by saying that God has a free knowledge, then freewill is just an illusion. If there is no freewill, then God is the one to be blame with all the evil in this world.
So do we need a God to have a purpose in life as Warren have suggested? Well for me, when I have released myself in the chains of institutionalized religion that gave me a meaning in my life. You see, we don’t need a group to tell you the meaning of life. In my case the freedom to think and rationalized my world is enough to be my sense of meaning. The freedom to act my own actions and take responsibility on its consequences is my purpose. To love and be loved by my family and friends, that is the greatest purpose and meaning I have in my life. And I don’t need to attend any Christian seminar to know that.