What if Life is a Joke?

What if the truth about life were horrible? What if, as the ancient Hebrews believed, we are all destined to spend eternity in a shadowy sheol rather than a glorious heaven? Or what if there is no afterlife at all? What if life is absurd — just a cosmic joke played on us by no-one at all?

If you were to discover that any of these propositions is absolutely, undeniably true, how would you feel?

I’ve been rereading Plato at the Googleplex, in which author Rebecca Goldstein imagines Plato on a book tour in modern America. I’d like to share with you a passage that I find very moving. Ms. Goldstein, synthesizing Plato’s writings, has him say this about those who are fit to be the Guardians of his ideal republic.

[An essential character quality is] an inborn horror of being deceived as to the nature of things, and an inborn desire to know the truth… [It] is something different from intelligence and different from knowledge. Those who have this trait love the truth not because it is like this or like that. They love the truth simply because it is the truth and are prepared to love it no matter what it turns out to be. They will stick to a view just so long as it seems to them the truth and will not be seduced away from that view no matter what others are telling them, or what flashier and more attractive options are dangled before them; but they are also the least reluctant among all people to abandon a formerly loved view, if once they become convinced that it is not true. They are always on the scent of the truth, like dogs, who are the most philosophical of animals.

Do you identify with this? I do. During the years that I was in the evangelical church, nothing “seduced me away from that view” — not money, not social opportunities, not fleshly lusts, not even the common decency to see some of its teachings as horrible. I thought I had found the truth; how could anything else matter?

When I became convinced otherwise, I did not mourn the loss of eternal life, a God who loved me, or a sense of eternal purpose. Instead, I felt anger at having been deceived.

I don’t think life is a joke. I’d say it’s more of a game. But if that is the truth of the matter, I am prepared to love it. Delighted, even. How about you?

6 responses to “What if Life is a Joke?

  1. Great words… thank you. I too am always looking to validate the truth. Living by deception seems so cruel to me.

  2. Life is… it needs no description. We deceive ourselves over many things, religion is just one of them. Each of us is but a collection of our experiences… if in our youth they are experiences of god belief we are doomed.

  3. There may be no higher arrogance than being certain that one has The Truth and others don’t. I fall into this trap too often.

  4. I’d venture to say that most of what everybody believes is not true. One must separate what they know from what they believe and both from what it true for the truth transcends both what we know and what we believe. It’s not ignorance that withholds us from the truth but the illusion of knowledge. How then does one find the truth? One must turn to another greater than they and this is exactly what all of humanity does. So the personal growth question is, “Who or what do I turn to?”

  5. As one who is now looking at my own Christian Worldview from another perspective, I wonder if all that is currently being done in the name of God is , some shudder at the thought, A TOTAL WASTE OF TIME? My biggest challenge may be how to address(?) this issue with the rest of my family, if at last I do change my belief.

    • Ryan, I wish you wisdom and happiness as you rethink your Christian worldview. If you haven’t done so already, you might like to read my series on leaving evangelical Christianity. (If you click on Most Important Posts near the top of this page, you’ll find an index to the series.)

      You said your biggest challenge will be addressing this issue with the rest of your family, if at last you do change your belief. I don’t know your family, so only wear this shoe if it fits, but I would urge you not to wait until you have changed. If I had my journey to walk once more, I would involve my family — especially my wife — all along the way. I would have let them in on my questions and see me struggle for answers much more than I did. If you do this and you do decide to leave your faith, they will have seen the honesty of your quest. Maybe some of them will even go with you. If you decide to stay in your faith, they will see how you were able to overcome some of the same doubts that they will face someday, or maybe secretly harbor even now.

      One of the most hurtful things about my deconversion was that some people who were close to me could not accept that I left because of honest objections. They had the same unwavering prejudice that I had had, namely that if someone does not believe it must be because he is not willing to obey God. (I plan to write a post soon on what I consider one of the most pernicious verses in the Bible, John 7:17.) They only way you can avoid this hurtful misunderstanding is to let them see you grapple honestly with the issues.

      If you enlist the help of the adult members of your family (not knowing how old you are, I don’t know if you were referring to your wife or your parents), and they are unable to come up with satisfactory answers to your questions, I would expect they would be much more understanding if you were to eventually leave the faith.

      Finally, let me give you some hope. If you decide to stay in your faith, you will have the consolations with which you are familiar. If you decide to leave, you will be surprised at the joy and wonder that will open up for you, perhaps after an initial period of tumult. (See my post How It Felt to Lose My Faith at https://pathofthebeagle.com/2012/12/28/how-it-felt-to-lose-my-faith/)

      Best wishes for your search!

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