Life is an absurd, existential dilemma: part 3

Part 1: Accept that you’re lost

Part 2: The need for self actualization

Part 3: Religion as a crutch

Part 4: Marriage and children as a crutch

You can look at life like a game by using game theory. A game doesn’t have to be a pointless way to idle away the time. Game theory turns a “game” into a conflict between an individual and an opponent (which can be yourself, another person [or people] or the environment). But unlike most games, the goal of life (and thus the rules) aren’t defined and can’t be empirically provable. Even if you can’t figure out what you should do with your life (philosophically speaking), you still need figure out what you want to do with you life. Even if this doesn’t fulfill the meaning of life it will give your life personal meaning. It will give you a reason to live, and you’ll feel fulfilled. And as long as you’ve chosen what gives your life personal meaning then who is to say you haven’t given your life real meaning and in doing so validated your existence?

Unfortunately, the social systems built by our predecessors don’t actively, systematically, diligently or universally teach most people to understand and define themselves in a way that will allow them to accurately choose paths that suit them or successfully pursue their paths. In fact, many of the social systems in place actively, systematically, diligently and universally act to hinder the people within their sphere of influence from achieving self-actualization. Thus, while those systems may put food on the table they create an existential vacuum that hinders people from leading lives that are personally meaningful.

As a result many people will find existential crutches to lean on throughout their lives. Some of the most common crutches are religion, marriage, children, work and social status.

Let’s be painfully blunt about what religion is. The major religions are mythologies created by megalomaniacs in primitive cultures that project the founders’ beliefs (and their culture’s values) into a personification of God in an effort to legitimize their beliefs and cultural norms. Now let’s be painfully blunt about what religious people are. However, in order to do that we need to divide religious followers into two groups. One group is the active followers who have genuinely devoted their lives to studying their chosen mythology and serving the personification of what/who they believe God is.

There’s fault to be found in this group of people’s misguided (albeit well intended)  decision to devote their lives to sacrificing their lives to an imaginary construct. However, I won’t fault them with using religion as a crutch because far from being a crutch it’s actually a burden. However, this is a burden that they find personal purpose and thus meaning in. So even though their primitive mythologies have very real and very negative consequences to the rest of the world in that they tend to enforce obsolete (and thus detrimental) cultural norms into natural, social, economic and political environments that require very different behavior to survive and thrive in, the use of religion is personally meaningful to the individual devout followers. Thus, it gives their lives meaning, and from a narrow point of view that legitimizes their existence.

Having said that, most people who claim to be religious are not in fact religious. Most people who claim to be religious don’t actively study their religion and thus don’t understand it. They couldn’t pass a basic competency test on their own religion. And since they don’t even know what their religion says or truly believe what they do know they don’t follow it (except when it suits them). Primarily they follow the cultural norms of the society they were brought up in, which may incidentally include some norms that are tightly or loosely based on that religion. But make no mistake, if you’re “sitting in the pews” instead of “preaching from the pulpit” then chances are you claim a religion you don’t truly belong to. If you’re not even “sitting in the pews” or read your religious text daily then it’s practically guaranteed you’re a poser…and you most likely don’t even realize it.

Religious posers do use religion as a crutch, and while posers are ignorant people (and ignorance is the root of all evil), they’re not intentionally evil. Life is hard. Life is bleak, and death is bleaker. We’re all born into that terrible situation, and we’re all looking (consciously or subconsciously) for answers, for meaning, for hope, for validation, for closure and finality. If somebody comes along and promises to make all your wildest dreams come true both in the immediate present and after death if you simply believe them and they threaten you with your worst nightmares if you don’t believe them and they claim to speak with the highest authority in the universe then logic and game theory would say you should believe them. On the surface it appears that you gain everything and risk nothing both in the immediate present and after death.

But a deeper analysis of the game theory of religion shows this to be a bait and switch tactic. Once you’ve agreed to believe in religion, something that appears to be free, you’re then asked to give up all your real, physical, mental and temporal resources to the religion in return for a lifetime (and possibly an eternity) of empty promises. Most people won’t end up sacrificing everything for a religion though. So if you start to back out religions will present you with a compromise. They’ll say, “I didn’t really mean you have to give up everything. You just need to give up whatever you’re comfortable with. If you need a specific number, let’s say 10%.” While the real leaders of the church who are taking your time and money in place of their absent God are losing revenue by you not giving everything you’ve worked for to them, they’re still getting something without having to pay anything out.

But people will continue to pay into the scam because they get to use religion as a crutch. For only a fraction of their income they have something to fall back on whenever their lack of purpose takes its toll on their emotional state. It gives them a logical loophole out of the absurd, existential dilemma of life in that they can defer the missing answers, meaning, hope, validation,  closure and finality to the God they’ve bought.

However, for posers, exploiting this loophole is like putting a Band Aid over a gun shot wound to the chest.  An excuse is not a reason. If religion isn’t what you live for then it doesn’t give you a personally meaningful purpose to live for and draw true fulfillment from. In fact, it accomplishes the opposite because anytime you start to approach the point where the temporary chores and entertaining distractions of life fail to cover the gaping hole in your life and the emptiness starts to draw you towards making a real, meaningful choice as to what you want to do with your life, that motivation will be sideswiped by religion. It’ll fill the hole until the demands and distractions of life can fill it again. Thus, you’ll perpetually put off creating any real, personal, meaningful goals in your lifetime, and you’ll die never having done anything that validates your existence.

And on the off chance that a God did create you then religion will have caused you to waste the life God gave you.

Part 1: Accept that you’re lost

Part 2: The need for self actualization

Part 4: Marriage and children as a crutch

However you felt about this post, you’ll probably feel the same way about these:

11 ways mainstream academic philosophy has come to resemble religion

Deep thoughts by the wise janitor

Biker Philosophy

Ethics

Thinking

Atheism and Agnosticism


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