David Madore's WebLog: Gratuitous Literary Fragment #102 (Manifesto)

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(Saturday)

Gratuitous Literary Fragment #102 (Manifesto)

Belief in the existence of God is hardly the issue: for that creed alone, if we perceive Him in the form of a non-anthropomorphic deity not caring about our destinies, would be irrelevant and inessential. Indeed, the Universe fits a broad enough definition of God and, as such, this notion is not worthy of further debate. But religion is not truly about the existence of God.

The question that matters is whether, in fact, our system of values is somehow enshrined in Creation—whether the meaning of our lives is dictated by some Higher principle—whether we are accountable in it to anybody but ourselves—and whether we have a special place in some greater Scheme of things.

To answer yes is tempting, for the opposite makes life seem desolate and meaningless. It would be so much simpler for me to tell you: be fortified, for you are part of His grand plan, and He will not abandon His children. How much easier to believe that all that happens was meant to happen, than to admit the blind drive of chance and necessity. But recourse to such comforting lies does not become us. So I speak to you as adults, willing to face reality rather than seek refuge in convenient fables.

The barren truth is that the Universe is ten billion years old and at least a hundred sextillion miles across: it does not—it cannot—feel anything for us who evolved by chance on an insignificant speck of dust. Nobody is gazing at us from beyond the cosmic shores; in a few centuries our species might be gone from the planet and nobody will mourn for us: our existence matters to no one but ourselves. We have not the power to destroy the Earth, but we have that to destroy ourselves, which is more than enough. On the individual level, very few here will be remembered past a century, and we shall not care if we are because we shall be dead. Our mind, our precious consciousness with it, the intelligence we boast, is a clumsy chemical hack that randomly appeared and was preserved simply because it turned out to be somewhat expeditious to the task of replicating our genes; there is no ghost in the machine. Such is the barren truth.

Into this Universe, and Why not knowing
Nor Whence, like Water willy-nilly flowing;
 And out of it, as Wind along the Waste,
I know not Whither, willy-nilly blowing.

But how should this imply that our lives are devoid of meaning?

Quite the contrary, the non-existence of God is Man's vantage, because it portends our freedom. The notion of Justice, that of Good and Evil, are not engraved in the fabric of the world, they are not a boon bestowed upon us by the hand of Heaven: this is not to say that Justice is impossible, merely that the task of securing it and defending it rests squarely upon our shoulders—with no other arbiter as to our success or failure than our fellow men. The concepts of Goodness and Beauty are human inventions: but do not cry over the loss of their supposedly divine essence being replaced by a loose consensus on what is deemed right and pleasant; rather, rejoice that you have taken part in this accomplishment. Take pride in the achievements of science and art. For only Man can be the measure of Man's greatness, and rightfully confer upon himself the meritorious titles of Homo sapiens and Homo faber. There is no one to save us but ourselves.

Insofar as you have no control over it, be aware that your destiny is governed mostly by chance: such is the tide in the affairs of men which takes some to fortune and others to misery. You may laugh or cry at the cruelness of fate, but do not fool yourself in seeking purpose where purpose there is none. Chance does not hand out punishment nor reward. Inevitably you will die, though it will not seem to make any sense; after that there will be no salvation and no damnation, because there will be no after that: find solace and humility in this thought, not dread, and let it remind you not to take yourself too seriously.

You alone have the power to decide the meaning of your life. What you do with this power, which ideals you may value, whither you choose to soar or fall, is up to you. You may face or defy human justice but, in the end, the final Judge to which you are answerable is your own conscience and your sense of ethics. Do not cast away lightly, however, the values which your fellow men have held in respect: keep in mind that reason and good will are better advisers than passion; respect and understanding more productive than enmity; and forgiveness and compassion sweeter than hatred.

You may also elect to follow the rule of some God, and I will respect that God and His sacred writings as I try to respect human creations: but you will be happier if you remember that you created Him and not He you. You will be happier if you remember that the only fetters you bear are those you wrought yourself. Do not attempt to lay them at your brother's feet.

Now go in peace.

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