The Meaning of Life: Who Does the Culture Say We Are? — Part II

We are investigating the meaning of life. Today’s question: Who does the culture say we are?  Last time we said we are the products of evolution; we worship the earth, not God; that God seems to be irrelevant; and truth is what we, ourselves, make of it. We continue with the second of a two-part post.

6. Personal self-fulfillment is the highest goal; life’s meaning is what we make of it.

Nothing can stand in the way of our personal fulfillment, for that is how we make meaning of our lives. I-love-meSome of us put career as the final, ultimate goal—climbing higher, being successful, gaining status and maybe wealth. Our companies, ruled by men and women of like mind, encourage—nay, they force us toward—this goal. And if we do not comply, then we are fodder for unemployment, loss of income. Modern corporations are usually soulless, amoral entities that bend with the moral winds of popular whim.

We have an inalienable right to do what we want with our bodies, even if it means destroying ourselves. Especially if it means killing an inconvenient life in the womb. So let us rename killing the unborn and call it “choice” because personal choice is the highest goal, the greatest good. We will also call it “women’s health” because to call it by its real name—infanticide, or baby murder—makes us uncomfortable.

7 Life itself is meaningless.

Some of us have simply lost hope. Given all of the above, is there any reason we are even here? If we are the products of chance, simply accidents of nature, there really is no purpose is there? If there is no God, or at least no God that anybody cares to talk about, then what comes after but—nonexistence and the abyss? If truth is what we make of it, then we are in a heap of trouble, because most of the time our truths don’t seem to be very true. Nihilism and meaninglessness is the order of the day. If personal fulfillment is our goal, if that’s what gives life its meaning, then what a mess we’ve made of it. So we aren’t making very good existentialists of ourselves, either. There must be something more. Life seems chaotic, disastrous, full of bad choices, disorder, and disharmony.

8. We just don’t care.

What does it matter, anyway? Why think about such heavy issues at all? What comes will come and who can do anything about it? We’ll find out about God after we die, won’t we? So just sit back and take what comes and don’t think about it. We are making “apathy” our credo to live by.

As I review my list, I believe I’ve made myself depressed. But is this not what the culture tells us, repeated so often, in so many ways?

Next we’ll look at a poem that neatly summarizes the last two posts.

The Meaning of Life: Who Does the Culture Say We Are? — Part I

We’ve been investigating the meaning of life and the question: Who are we? Today we look at who our culture says we are. To spare you a long post, I’ve divided this into two parts.

The messages about God from modern society seem to coalesce around a few themes, a mixture of ism’s: nihilism, existentialism, post-modernism, and apathy (Okay, that’s not an “ism”). Let’s summarize its message:

descent_of_man1. We are the end-product of evolution.

We are here because of randomness and chance, not because any God created us. We exist because of the random collision of atoms, leading to a mutation of genes that created man from monkeys. So there’s nothing special about man. We are just another species wandering about the earth without purpose, plan, or meaning.

2. We worship the Earth, not God.

Saving the planet is the highest good. earth-dayWe must reduce our lifestyles, impoverish the poor, impoverish our nations, and avoid using our most abundant resources—all because we have a theory of what might happen in the far distant future. Never mind the chaos, poverty, economic destruction, and lifestyle reduction this creates today. What’s important is the distant future—and the planet. Since no God is in charge of the world, we must be in charge. Since we don’t understand or believe in any plan of God, we must have our own. And if ours destroys our economy, our wealth, our incomes, and society, then so be it. It’s the earth that’s important. And we’ll do what is necessary to save it. In fact we’ll eagerly change our lifestyles for the earth. But for God?—well, maybe not. Do we worship the earth? Maybe we do.

3. If God exists at all, he is irrelevant.

We live as though God does not exist. Our decisions never go before God, especially in public life. Most of us rarely ask God’s help in what we do. We are independent entities, stumbling through life on our own, making it up as we go, pulling this belief from here, another belief from there. Does it all make sense? Maybe not. Many say they believe in God. But mention his name or appeal to him in public? Never. What is never acceptable in polite society is to utter the name of Jesus.

4. If heaven exists, there are many ways to reach it.

Inclusiveness is the word. Whatever our beliefs, they must not exclude anyone. We cannot mention Christ as the only way to heaven—especially if it condemns people to Hell—because that is a narrow, arrogant, exclusive viewpoint. What about the Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, spiritists, and Satanists? Don’t they have a right to their worldview? Truth is up to the individual. We can’t dictate our truths to others.

5. Truth is what we ourselves make.

Truth is personal choice. There is no absolute truth. (Except for the truth that: “There is no absolute truth.”) What we desire and feel is most important. It’s arrogant to presume the Bible has the same truths for all. How do we know what it means, anyways? Therefore, we follow our desires and engage in lifestyles that, for millennia, all successful societies have considered destructive or abhorrent. And let no one say our desires and practices are illegitimate or “sinful”. Because there is no absolute God, no right religion, we can live the way we want. Relax, because there will be no consequences—in this life or the next.

We’ll continue this post next time with Part II, ending with a poem that neatly summarizes it all.

The Meaning of Life: Who Does Islam Say We Are? — Part II

In our investigation of the meaning of life, we ask: Who does Islam say we are? It’s the second biggest religion in the world, so the question is important.

So who does Muhammad say we should be? First, as followers of Muhammad, we are to revere and follow him. Muhammad is Allah’s greatest prophet. He is the example by which we are to lead our lives. Yet this same Muhammad said this in the Qur’an:

  • Sura 9:73: “O Prophet! Struggle against the unbelievers and hypocrites and be harsh with them. Then, when the sacred months have passed, slay the idolaters wherever ye find them, and take them [captive], and besiege them, and prepare for them each ambush. But if they repent and establish worship and pay the poor-due, then leave their way free.”
  • Sura 5:51: “Believers, take neither the Jews nor the Christians for your friends.”
  • Sura 5:17: “Infidels are those who declare: ‘God is the Christ, the son of Mary’.”
  • Sura 5:73: “Infidels are those that say ‘God is one of three in a Trinity’.”
  • Sura 9:123: “Make war on the infidels who dwell around you.”
  • Sura 2:216: “Fighting is obligatory for you, as much as you dislike it.”
  • Sura 8:65: “O Prophet! Urge the believers to war.”
  • Sura 2:191: “Kill the disbelievers wherever we find them.”
  • Sura 9:123: “Fight those of the unbelievers who are near to you and let them find in you hardness.”
  • Sura 5:33: “The only reward of those who make war upon Allah and His messenger will be that they will be killed or crucified, or have their hands and feet on alternate sides cut off, or will be expelled out of the land.”

Remember from last time that the strong, Medina verses always supersede the weak, Meccan verses. MuhammadRidingMedinaThe Qur’an itself is arranged by length of verse with strong and weak verses intermixed. (Note also that the Qur’ans published for western eyes have been sanitized. You will not find an accurate translation in an American book store. All the verses shown here are taken from a translation using the original Arabic and published in What Every American Needs to Know about the Qur’an, by William J. Federer) The strong verses preach war, robbery, murder. The weak verses preach peace and mercy. Thus, Islamic doctrine affirms evil over good.

What else are we to learn from Muhammad’s example? The Hadith Bukhari (Vol 5, Bk 58, N234; Vol 8 Bk 73, N151) tells us he married a six-year old, consummated the marriage when she was nine. Later, he took at least ten more wives, so many the other tribes censured him for it.

Muhammad also:

  • Taught that it’s okay to lie and deceive unbelievers in Islam’s cause (Sura 3:28)
  • Said to beat a rebellious wife (Sura 4:34) and flog a woman who is raped (Sura 24:2)
  • Said the majority of inhabitants of Hell were women (Hadith Vol. 7, N. 125)
  • Said “whoever changes his Islamic religion, kill him.” (Hadith. Vol. 9, Bk 84)
  • Permitted followers to rape infidel women captives and to rob caravans.
  • Avenged insults, ordering Ibn Khatal and his slave girls to be killed for making fun of his poems.
  • Had the chief of Khaybar tortured to get him to reveal the location of the tribe’s treasure.

 

Besides being a follower of Muhammad, what else are we if we are Muslim? We are god’s slaves. We cannot know Allah personally because Allah is aloof and distant. Allah bestows mercy only as he chooses, at his whim, so grace is a foreign concept. So we pray for mercy, but never know if we’ll get it. Our entry to heaven is based solely on our good deeds and the whim of Allah.

All Muslims must also ascribe to the five (or six) pillars of Islam:

  1. We affirm Allah as God and Muhammad as his messenger
  2. We pray five times a day
  3. We give 2.5% to the poor
  4. We fast during Ramadan
  5. We make a one-time pilgrimage to Mecca
  6. And we participate in jihad against the infidel

According to Islam, that is who we must be.

Now we are compelled to ask: Where is the man made in God’s image? Where in all this are the fruits of the Holy Spirit? Where are mercy, peace, love, justice, kindness, gentleness—even joy? Where in Islamic teaching is honor, purity, truth, and love for our fellow men? Indeed, where is God himself?

Next time we’ll look at who we are according to today’s society and the world around us.