In the past on this site, we've had debates about the ultimate narrative of the human condition ("Your Story," if you will). There are essentially two main stories that we human beings tell about why we are here and where we are eventually going--the theistic story and the scientific story. There are other stories that human beings have told as well throughout our history (existential, nihilistic, pantheistic, panentheistic etc.), but these seem to be the two big options.
The question that you should ask yourself is which story do you accept a the true human narrative and why. This has major implications for the way you live you life and how you view human relationships and human society.
Here are the two big stories.
THE THEISTIC STORY
- The universe and everything in it was created by an all-perfect, all-knowing, and all-loving Supreme Being (SB). From before time began, this Being knew that you would come into existence and had a very special plan just for you. You are precious to Him, because you are, in fact, one with Him, and his love for you is constant and all-enduring.
- Your life has ultimate meaning because it is part of the SB’s ultimate plan for mankind. This plan, furthermore, has been revealed through the SB’s word as it exists in the sacred texts of your particular faith tradition. All you have to do is follow the blueprint for your life as it has been revealed through this sacred text and interpreted by the SB’s anointed ministers and teachers and you will experience happiness in this life and salvation in the next.
- During your life, you may experience suffering and pain, but these are merely tests to see if you are worthy enough to receive eternal life. Assuming you endure your suffering with equanimity, follow SB’s blueprint for your life, and remain faithful, you can be assured that, despite any adversities you experience, you will receive an eternal reward in the next life. The heavenly bliss that you will experience in the next life, in fact, will make even the most exquisite pleasures of this life pale by comparison.
- Of course, you have also been created with the gift of free will and can use the freedom you have to transgress the SB’s law, reject his love, or engage in despair about your condition. If you do this, you will experience misery in this life and unspeakable torment in the next (i.e., eternal separation from the SB, the source of all love and goodness).
- The world will come to an end, but the faithful who are part of the SB’s chosen people (i.e., the elect) will continue to enjoy supreme bliss with the SB in heaven for all eternity.
THE SCIENTIFIC STORY
- You were born into this life with no control over where you were born, to whom you were born, or in what social and economic conditions you were born. You couldn’t decide to stay in the womb rather than being thrust out into the world naked and screaming, and once you were born, you pretty much were handed a dealt deck in terms of your genetic make-up and your environment. If you were very lucky, you weren’t born in a war zone or to abusive parents or with a life-threatening disability or mentally incapacitated.
- For approximately 18-25 years of your life, you grew physically and developed, to a greater or lesser degree, the intellectual, psychological, and social skills needed to navigate your way through life and find your place within human society.
- For much of the rest of your life, you put the skills you learned to use working in some kind of job—in all likelihood, one that you didn’t enjoy very much or that didn’t pay you the kind of salary that you thought you deserved. The money that you earned from working, however, enabled you eventually to leave your parent’s home and pay for those items necessary for survival (food, clothing, housing) and those that contribute to human felicity (cars, Iphones, designer handbags, etc.).
- Like all animals, you have a built-in desire to procreate and to spread your gene pool as widely as possible to ensure the survival of the species. If conditions were right, you may have found a suitable partner with whom to produce offspring. You would then spend the most productive years of your mid-life providing for those offspring, attempting to ensure their survival into adulthood, and training them—with greater or lesser success—to become autonomous individuals in their own right.
- If you were lucky, you didn’t die accidentally, perish from a disease, or get killed, and made it into old age. At that point your body began to break down, you got sick, you suffered physically (and perhaps emotionally as well) and eventually died. Within moments after your death, your body began to decompose, and within a few years, almost nothing was left of you at all.
- Within one or two generations of your death, you were forgotten by every other human being on the planet (unless you were one of the ridiculously small percentage of human beings who were skillful or lucky enough to make an impact on human history, in which case, you might be remembered a bit longer). Your grandchildren will probably only have fleeting memories of you and their children will only know who you were through dusty, old photographs that have been left behind (if they haven’t already been tossed away by a careless descendant, that is).
- Within a relatively short amount of time—planetarily speaking—humanity itself will be destroyed through some kind of global cataclysm or pandemic and nothing will remain of our species. At some point in time a new species may evolve from the bugs that have managed to survive, but this species will probably have little or nothing in common with our own. Eventually, the planet, and even the universe itself, will simply cease to exist, and all that will remain will be the infinite void.
From: Michael S. Russo, ed. The Problems of Philosophy. New York: SophiaOmni Press, 2012.