Christianity brags that it holds the ultimate meaning and purpose for human life. It states most emphatically that the whole purpose of the human experience is to enjoy God and glorify Him forever. It boldly claims that any and all activity outside of the narrow path is worldly, of the devil, and ultimately worthless.
While finding a valuable meaning for an individual life is something most people desire, to accuse all who reject the claims of Christianity to be living worthless lives, is arrogantly rude, and historically it’s been destructive.
In 540 A.D. Christianity was given a unique opportunity to demonstrate the power of its worldview. Soon after the bubonic plague struck Byzantium that year
, striking down 10,000 people a day until 100 million lives had been lost, the Roman Empire was destroyed. Christianity benefited immensely from the pandemic as droves of terrified people flocked into the Church.
Christianity castigated secular medicine for failing to cure the plague. The Church subsequently declared all secular medicine heretical. For the next ten centuries, blood-letting, herbal remedies and prayer became the treatments of choice for every ailment. With medical advancement at a standstill, millions died, perhaps as many from the treatment as the malady.
Developments in science and technology were abandoned. Extensive aqueduct and plumbing systems created by earlier generations disappeared. Since the sinful flesh was to be despised, even washing was discouraged. Disease of ever type ran rampant as hygiene and sanitation was forgotten. The vast network of roads that enabled transportation and communication fell into disrepair and remained that way until the 19th century. Ref
Book burning became commonplace. In the sixth century B.C.E., Pythagoras
had already suggested that the Earth revolved around the Sun. By the third century B.C.E., Aristarchus
had outlined heliocentricity while Eratosthenes
had measured the circumference of the Earth. Hipparchus
had invented longitude and latitude.
After the onset of the Christian Dark Ages, it wouldn’t be until the 1500’s that Copernicus would reintroduce the forgotten theory that the Earth revolves around the Sun. When Galileo attempted to promote the theory, he was tried by the Inquisition in Rome for heresy. It’s untrue to assume only the Roman Catholic Church condemned heliocentricity, Calvin
, the founders of the Protestant Reformation, also harshly condemned the idea, insisting that as it contradicted the Scriptures, it was therefore false.
Even as early as the fourth century St. Augustine had written, ”It is impossible there should be inhabitants on the opposite side of the Earth, since no such race is recorded in Scripture among the descendents of Adam.”
Historical research was nonexistent and what history there was, was rewritten to conform to the Bible. Modern archeology has proven that human history far exceeds 6000 years, but until very recent years, nearly all English Bibles placed a date on Genesis 1:1 at 4004 B.C.
We now know that well before 4000 B.C.,
rich cultures already existed
with well developed art,agriculture, architecture, city-planning, dance, drama, trade, writing, law, and even a few forms of democratic government.
History is replete with significant forward development followed by major setbacks. While Christianity claims to have gradually lifted humanity out of dark ignorance of a dark pre-Christian world, the truth is opposite. The longest and darkest setback in the progression of western civilization lies at the feet of Christianity.
Ignorance was crowned king when the great libraries in Alexandria in were burned in 391
. Ancient academies were closed and education for anyone outside the clergy ended. The Fourth Council of Carthage, in canon 16, permits only Bishops to read the books of heretics in a time of need..
Jerome, a Church Father in the fourth century, reportedly rejoiced that the classical authors were being forgotten. St. John Chrysostom, a preeminent Greek Father of the Church said, “Every trace of the old philosophy and literature of the ancient world has vanished from the face of the Earth.”
Whether medicine, art, science, history, music, reading, writing or math, everything was to be brought into conformity with the accepted doctrines of Christianity. The laity and the priest craft were kept ignorant of any ideas outside of a religiously Christian framework. Even the monasteries, filled with educated monkish scribes, were consigned to only preserving works of religious devotion. All other types of literature were consigned to oblivion, hidden away or destroyed, considered at best meaningless works of the flesh, or at worst distractions to lead astray the pious. Worldly writings were thought more suited for the flames, as their authors were destined for hell. Every thought was to be brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.
I know that in my own life, while a youth, I believed there was no greater purpose in life than learning about, and serving, my Lord. I believed the Rapture would occur any day, and nothing could take priority over saving the lost. Prior to my conversion I was an A student, but in the following years I spurned secular academics and neglected my studies in exchange for what I considered more worthy, eternal pursuits. In my mind, higher learning and high paying jobs were vain. Temporal pursuits, I thought, were not worthy of an eternal resident of heaven.
So what about purpose?
While immersion in a religion may bring about a feeling of purpose, it is a false purpose, one that ultimately hampers all human creative expression and growth.
Without religion, or belief in a God that is directing history, it becomes immediately apparent that our species and our lives are fragile, subject to being snuffed out without much notice by the rest of the Universe. Our sun and our planet are obviously not eternal, and our survival as a species is fraught with uncertainties. Great monsters, called dinosaurs, ruled this planet for an impossibly long time before extinction took them away. Without some god to guarantee our survival, extinction is a very real possibility for us. Without a promise of personal survival in some heaven, the only real immorality we can hope to achieve is through our children and grandchildren – the generations of humanity that follow in our footsteps. Pursuing personal enlightenment through religion may provide an appearance of purpose, but it is ultimately a selfish pursuit. Personal religion is about my salvation, my god, my jeweled crown, my holiness, my Bible, my prayer time, my church, my group, my denomination, my experience, my, my, my, my, my.
I would say that a far higher purpose – a better purpose – than mindless obedience to religion, would be a life devoted to making the world a better place to live for all of us. By striving to better our neighborhoods, our communities, our nations, and our world, we have a better chance of ensuring a good future for everyone.
Ultimately we each make and choose our own purpose. Jesus does not have a plan for my life; I have a plan for my life. It falls to me to take responsibility for my own life and bring my plan to pass.
This has been the podcast of ExChristian.Net for April 9, 2006.
Related article: Another, "The Meaning of Life."Technorati tags: ex-Christian | exchristian | podcasts