Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Existence, God, and the Meaning of Life

I exist, so do you, and so does God. I'm pretty sure that I'm right about all three assertions.

Some Guy with a Blog, God, and Authority

But I'm just "some guy with a blog." For all you know, you could be a figment of my imagination.1

At least for the duration of this post, let's assume that stuff exists, including:
  • You
  • Me
  • God
Let's also assume that there's some point to wondering why any individual human being exists.

I've got opinions about all of the above, but I'm just some guy living in central Minnesota. My opinions are just that - opinions. Which is why you'll see all those links to more authoritative sources in this blog.

Assumptions about authority and the nature of knowledge are - other topics. I've posted about God, authority, and stuff, before.2

"I Believe," We Believe," and the Meaning of Life

The new Roman Missal is going into effect this Advent, so we'll be starting the Nicene Creed with "I believe," the way it's been in Latin for all these centuries. There's a difference between "I believe"3 and "we believe," but both involve the verb "to believe."

That (finally) gets me to what I've been studying this week:
"We begin our profession of faith by saying: 'I believe' or 'We believe'. Before expounding the Church's faith, as confessed in the Creed, celebrated in the liturgy and lived in observance of God's commandments and in prayer, we must first ask what 'to believe' means...."
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 26)
The rest of that paragraph includes a definition of faith, it's man's response to God; and a list of things that get discussed, like the:
  1. Search for an ultimate meaning of man's life
  2. Divine revelation
    1. God coming to meet man
  3. Response of faith

God, Doors, and Free Will

I think the Revelelation 3:20 thing happens to all of us. Not that the Almighty is against doorbells, or walks up to the door. Yet more topics.

What we do, when God makes Himself known, is up to the individual. We have free will. (Catechism, 1730 and following) Each of us can, seeing God coming our way, say 'buzz off, I've got better things to do.' I think that's a really bad idea: but each of us can decide to reject God.

What "to Believe" Means

I didn't find anything particularly exotic about what "to believe" means. Not in that part of the Catechism, anyway. It looks like the 'dictionary' definition applies. Part of it, anyway:
  • Believe (Verb)
    1. Accept as true
      1. take to be true
    2. Judge or regard
      1. Look upon
      2. Judge
    3. Be confident about something
    4. Follow a credo
      1. Have a faith
      2. Be a believer
    5. Credit with veracity
    (Princeton's WordNet)
Being a nit-picker, I could say that definition 4B doesn't quite apply, since "be a believer" is something I've heard more in connection with the louder end of American Protestantism. But that's being mighty picky.

Moving on.

'A God-Shaped Hole'

'There's a God-shaped hole in each of us.' I heard that somewhere, and think it's a pretty good metaphor. I'm also quite certain it's true.

It's not that I'm a "religious" person: I don't wander around with a vague smile and unfocused eyes; yell Bible verses at folks waiting for a bus; or come up with new-and-improved End Time Prophecies.4

I also don't go to every morning Mass; have callouses on my knees from kneeling in prayer; and recite the Apostles' Creed faster than an auctioneer with a deadline.

Morning Mass is, I think, a good idea. A very good idea. It's just not part of my habits. Not yet, anyway. There's a saint whose nickname came from 'prayer callouses,' but that's one saint: Prayer is a good idea. Knee callouses seem to be options.

Racing through memorized prayers? I try not to do that. Applying Matthew 7:1-5, I'd better move on.

What's the Big Deal About God?

Turns out, that "God-shaped hole" metaphor is right:
"The desire for God is written in the human heart, because man is created by God and for God; and God never ceases to draw man to himself. Only in God will he find the truth and happiness he never stops searching for:
"The dignity of man rests above all on the fact that he is called to communion with God. This invitation to converse with God is addressed to man as soon as he comes into being. For if man exists it is because God has created him through love, and through love continues to hold him in existence. He cannot live fully according to truth unless he freely acknowledges that love and entrusts himself to his creator.1"
(Catechism, 27)
Again, each one of us is free to acknowledge God's love - or not.

The Meaning of Life, in 100 Words

There's quite a lot more, about how we can know about God, and all that. I put links under Background," below. That's not even close to being all the Church has learned over the millennia: but it's a place to start. No pressure, of course: what you do is your decision.

The " 'I Believe'-'We Believe'" section's summary starts with:
"Man is by nature and vocation a religious being. Coming from God, going toward God, man lives a fully human life only if he freely lives by his bond with God. Man is made to live in communion with God in whom he finds happiness: When I am completely united to you, there will be no more sorrow or trials; entirely full of you, my life will be complete (St. Augustine, Conf. 10, 28, 39: PL 32, 795}. When he listens to the message of creation and to the voice of conscience, man can arrive at certainty about the existence of God, the cause and the end of everything."
(Catechism, 44-46)
"Certainty?" I'm about as sure as I can be that God exists. That's not the same as being absolutely certain about what God has to say about what folks wear, traffic regulations, and haircuts.

And that's yet again another topic.

Related posts:

1 Saying that the world we observe isn't really real may still be a way to seem "intelligent." Or maybe that weird bit of shrapnel from Philosophy 101 has stopped ricocheting around Western culture. There's been a remarkable degree of diffidence about acknowledging objective reality for the last several decades:
2 I've posted about God, authority, and all that, before:
3 I believe quite a few things, some of which I've had to change over the decades. Here's a look at my current set:
4 Prophecy is a charism. (1 Corinthians 12:7-10) So is speaking in tongues. (1 Corinthians 12:28) But that doesn't make everyone spewing Bible verses and snatches of Aramaic a grade-A-number-one prophet:

Administration is charism, too, (1 Corinthians 12:28) but folks don't seem to get quite as enthusiastic about it. More topics.


Brigid said...

I don't think you need that comma: "I'm about as sure as I can be, that God exists."

The Friendly Neighborhood Proofreader

Brian Gill said...


I think you're right. Fixed, and thanks!

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Brian Gill said...

Thank you, Anonymous, for sharing your experience.

(My "interest if Faust" mentioned by Anonymous is evidenced by 19 posts I wrote while reading Marlowe's play. (link list: Christopher Marlowe's "The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus"))

I am very glad that you 'came back,' Anonymous. Look me up after the Last Judgement. Seriously.

I am glad to hear that I helped you. That's why I'm here.

Brian Gill said...

Anyone reading these comments - please be aware that I care: but may be among the world's worst correspondents.

I forgot to check for comments in this blog - for entirely too long.

One of these days, I'll work out a way to keep up with comments: maybe. ;)

Brian Gill said...


I blundered, seriously: and hope you will forgive me.

About an hour ago, I pushed the wrong button: and deleted your comment.

I deeply regret this action, since you had shared a deeply moving experience. Others could, I am sure, have benefited by reading your words.

There is no way that I can undelete your comment: none that I have found, anyway. The articles I read indicate that, sadly, there is no way for me to recover your comment.

I am truly sorry for this situation.

-Brian H. Gill

Anonymous said...

everything happens for a reason. ill be seeing you mate

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What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.