There is an example in a post by James at the local Catholic apologetics blog Being Frank (see Audacity of faith). Here he describes his purpose:
“God has put me here to discover Him, to choose to follow and love Him, and to show Him to other people. Simple as that. My reward for doing these things? When I die in this life, I get to exist forever with Him in a state of pure supernatural bliss.”
So Frank believes that this is the reason his god created the universe!
But it’s all very vague. Mission statements should be more concrete.
Getting out of bed
Of course the usual flip side of such apologetics hubris is the assumption that non-theists have no purpose. James goes on:
“What comfort does your belief in a lack of purpose in the universe (and your life) provide you? If there is no God involved in the creation of existence, and if there is no afterlife, what gets you out of bed in the morning? When times get tough, since this is all there is, how do you carry on? What comfort is there in an existence with no purpose?”
Come on James! Look at the facts. The third of New Zealand’s (at last census and growing) without a religion don’t stay in bed all day. And they do “carry on.” There’s just no evidence for large numbers of non-theists topping themselves. And we get regular news of theists committing suicide – usually with bombs and usually taking innocent others with them.
For James to ask these questions suggests he has no understanding of people with different beliefs to his. We all have our own purpose in life – and most of us can describe these more precisely than James has done. And many of us don’t base our purpose on bronze age myths.
What caused the “big bang”?
James also throws out the hoary old question – What caused the Big Bang?” He asserts:
“Either you believe someone/something(s) purposefully initiated it (which I like to do), or you don’t. Care to try and convince me that what you believe is better? I know you can’t prove you’re right, just like I can’t, so convince me as to the benefit of changing what I believe.”
But, James, the origin of the universe, just like the origin of our planet and the origin and evolution of life are not a matter of “belief.” They are a matter of objective facts. And many humans have as their personal purpose the discovery of these facts. “Beliefs,” and especially the “god did it” beliefs are of no use in this quest.
James could benefit from considering another cosmological example – Isaac Newton’s problem with the planar arrangement of the planets. (See Isaac Newton and intelligent design). Newton was able to explain much with his laws of motion and gravitation but he gave up on the planar arrangement and “explained” it as created by his god. He wrote: “This most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent Being.”
This “god did it” “explanation” had two results. It prevented him from persisting with the problem and solving it himself (something he was clearly capable of doing). And it left the discovery of the real reasons to be made by those who came after him.
James commits the same mistake when he says that his god caused the “big bang.” He’s no closer to understanding the phenomenon. But James might feel he is on safer ground here thinking that such a big question is beyond science. Well, they used to say that about lightning and thunder – didn’t they.
Worth getting out of bed for
Currently we have no physical theory applicable to conditions at the very early stages of the evolution of the universe (although we can go back to fractions of a second). But, we are working on it. The fact that we can ask questions about what came before the “big bang”, develop speculative hypothesis about this and the big bang itself, and suggest experimental ways of evaluating these shows we are making progress. For more details have a look at Roger Penrose’s lecture (Before the Big Bang: Is There Evidence For Something And If So, What?). We don’t need James’s “god of the gaps” here – or anywhere else.
Now, I think most people will agree that this and similar research is amazing. It’s certainly worth getting out of bed for in the morning – even if your role is to appreciate rather than directly participate in this human endeavour.
I find this purpose far easier to understand than the vague apologetics mission statement James gives.