Wednesday, April 21, 2010

God, Sex and the Meaning of Life

According to the Westminster Shorter Catechism, the purpose of life is to “glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” Indeed, this same sentiment is found all throughout Christian theology and philosophy. Some Christians, such as William Lane Craig, have stated that “the chief purpose of life is not happiness per se, but the knowledge of God.”

In light of this, it is pretty clear that the Christian purpose of life is not to do good to others, to give back to society, etc, but to come to know God, and worship him. Though, Christians would surely argue that once you know God, good deeds etc would subsequently emanate.

This is all well and good, but it seems to me that this meaning of life could ONLY be known if you were living in a time and place in which Christianity was around. No one would ever come to this conclusion on their own. That is, no one would ever figure that the meaning of life was to worship Jesus, unless they were told this. This seems to be a problem.

It seems that if the creator of the universe made a species of people, specifically for the reason of coming to know, worshiping, and glorifying him, it would be much more obvious. I would think that such a desire would be almost instinctual. It would be a drive that all of humanity shares. Something we all wanted, all yearned for, and all thought about. It would transcend gender, race, class, social status, etc. Obviously, this isn’t the case. Granted, there are many people who do do this. But as I mentioned before, this was taught to them, it wasn’t from some inborn desire.

However, there is indeed something that every human, regardless of race, sex, creed, etc desires. That thing is sex. Or more specifically, the urge to reproduce. This urge, in fact, is so strong, that it actually transcends our own species. Every living organism on the planet shares this urge!

From the naturalistic point of view, in which there is no supernatural creator; humans and all other life were “created” through the forces of natural selection, the most important thing that we can possibly do (from a biological perspective) is reproduce. Our genes want nothing more than to get themselves copied into the next generation.

How does theism, especially Christianity, account for this? As it has already been pointed out, our desires should be to come to know and worship God. So why is it that our actual desires are in no way related to what God wants of us, but exactly what evolution predicts?

I can think of only one answer. It would seem that the Christian would have to argue that our desire for sex is part of our sinful nature. Certainly this is consistent with Christianity’s terror over sex, but it seems very awkward and ad hoc. Today, most thoughtful Christians claim that sex is a gift from God. But if it is a gift from God, why would he have made it so powerful of an urge-- a more powerful urge than what he actually wants us to do? Why not give us a desire to seek, know, and worship him instead?

If God wanted sex only to exist for reproductive reasons alone, he could have made it not so pleasurable. He could have made it just be like so many other biological things. Blowing your nose, going to the bathroom, cutting your nails, etc. These things aren’t bad, but people don’t sit around obsessing over them, wanting to do them constantly.

On the other hand, if evolution alone is responsible for our existence, sex would be the most important thing there is. Evolution would have done everything it could to make sure that organisms reproduce and pass their genes on to future generations. Some species will go to great lengths, risking (even sacrificing) their own lives, just to mate. Even among humans, we will risk ruining our careers, destroying marriages, etc just for sex. God must have known that such a thing would consume us, so why make our urge for it so strong? It seems that he could have just as easily made the desire to know him and worship him as strong. And if that truly is what he wants of us, why didn't he create us with the desire to do so?

As a perfect case study, look at Catholic Priests. They have chosen to devote their lives to what the Christian meaning of life is: coming to know God. However, like everyone else alive, the biological meaning of life is much, much stronger, and in many cases, they give in.

In conclusion, I have to ask: seeing how sex is, without a doubt, the strongest urge that any living organism has, is that what we would expect to see if our purpose in life was to worship God? Subsequently, isn’t this exactly what we would expect to see, if indeed we were shaped by the impersonal forces of evolution, whose main "goal" is the survival and replication of our genes? Obviously, the fact that the strongest urge in existence is reproduction is explained much better by the naturalistic worldview, rather than theistic one. Therefore, we can conclude that it is more reasonable to presume that we were created without the help of God, than with.