"But My Purpose is God"

I’m getting emails and comments from believers who attended my talk at GVSU.  I guess today I’ll spend some time while traveling to PA to ramble about morality to respond to some of them.  The first comes in the form of a comment from Maegan.

I attended your talk this past Thursday, December first, at GVSU. In your talk you said you believe that everyone can determine their own purpose. I find my purpose in God. So, who are you to tell me this is wrong, when you say you believe that everyone, including myself, can determine their own purpose?

It is one of the most fortunate things about this universe: we human beings get to determine our own purpose in life.  Maegan has said that her purpose is “god.”  I’m going to assume she means worshiping/serving god, etc.

Of course, Maegan, this is not the only purpose you’ve assigned to your life.  Presumably, another ambition you hold for your life is figuring out what is true and ditching what is false (otherwise, why even come to my talk?).  If this is not true, then you’ve made a virtue of being unreasonable and there’s no point to me responding to you.

Your aspiration to figure out what is true most certainly takes precedence over your desire to serve god.  After all, you can hardly worship a god who doesn’t exist.  So who am I to make commentary on the purpose you’ve assigned for your life?  Someone who thinks you’re factually in error.

I’m also someone who believes you have a moral obligation, not only to yourself, but to your teammates here on planet Earth (like me), to be as reasonable as possible.  We have to work together to figure out what is morally true in order to coexist, and that requires all parties to be rational.  For instance, we both have a stake in what laws our government produces and enforces.  If there is a moral disagreement like whether or not homosexuals deserve equal rights because people think god insists they don’t, then I have no choice but to explain why people believing in god are wrong.  If you aspire to do right, if that is a purpose you have adopted, then god’s existence is a question you should really care about.

The problem is that even the Christians who think gays are a-ok believe in god for all the same lousy reasons as the less moderate believers.  It’s not like I’m capable of focus-firing (or that I’d care to even if I was).

I’m here to help you care about that question, just like you’re here to help me care about it.  The problem is that while we both presumably hold reason as a purpose to our lives (surely you think god’s existence is a reasonable conclusion), it seems I’m the only one of the two of us helping the other to be more reasonable.  I mean, you asked me why I care what those with whom I share this terrestrial space believe, but you didn’t ask “Have you considered x, y, or z reason I might be right?” or “Have you considered you might be wrong for x, y, or z reason?” as though a simple passion for the truth would be insufficient.

If you’re right about god, then more people believing will result in a better world.  Likewise, if god doesn’t exist, we could do just fine without religious wars, inaccurate moral conclusions, people credulously dumping money into faith healers, and on, and on.  If we care about making the world a better place, as I assume we both do, then we should give a damn about the answer to that question.

Who am I to say god doesn’t exist and that therefore your purpose of serving him is empty?  I’m somebody who cares.  I’m somebody who thinks highly enough of most of humanity, including you, Maegan, to think you can and should do better.  I’m a friend who cares enough to tell you the truth, even though your holy book and the majority of your peers will tell you I’m your enemy.

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About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.