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Meaning never required God

November 24, 2009

I feel like I’ve just come out of the twilight zone recently…Mormon Matters had a discussion, “Finding Meaning in Suffering,” recently…and I guess this is a fair topic to discuss…but the various commenters (and even the author of the article) kept making these weird presumptions and assumptions that alienated me.

Some quotations:

If he wants to see meaning in his suffering is that a bad thing, even though it may be false?  Is it false?

or

Though I do not believe all suffering is meaningful, I would never say that to anyone else who had really suffered.

or from a commenter:

I’m not sure I find meaning in all suffering. I’m not sure God micromanages things like suffering and inflicts it lovingly on His people.

I can’t really pinpoint it, but there seems to be some presuppositions laced through the conversation that I disagree with.

The major presupposition that is hinted throughout the comments is that meaning is provided by God. So if God doesn’t “provide” something, it is meaningless. There is doubt that any other kind of meaning really “counts.” For example, does the meaning that a suffering person projects onto his experience represent a “bad thing” or a “falsity”?

What?

Why are we even having this conversation? This seems like such a confusion!

Meaning never required God. Meaning was always projected by subjective beings…God was just one of the proposed subjective beings…but of course, in absence of God, there are other subjective beings to project meaning…like us.

The odd thing is…at face value, I would like to say that suffering is meaningless. As an inanimate occurrence…suffering is just a thing. It doesn’t mean; it has no will to mean.

But when I say suffering is meaningless, it is in the sense that objective meaning either is unknown or nonexistent. But when the Mormon Matters posters and commenters say suffering is meaningsless, they do it to “wash God’s hands,” so to speak.

So, the difference becomes clear in what the two groups say is meaningful. The strange Twilight Zone sense I was getting was from realizing that here are people who truly believe that things are only meaningful if God has had something to do with it!

I would disagree. Things are meaningful because we subjectively project meaning on to it. So, it’s not that a work of art has beauty intrinsically built-in. Rather, we perceive beauty from our reaction to it. We perceive meaning from suffering (it’s really really terrible and we would like to alleviate it from as many people and things that we can. Or we would like to learn to endure and challenge it. Or whatever else.)

I just feel…flabbergasted…at a loss for words…I can’t even begin to talk in the same direction as these commenters, because they and I are directed differently. They are concerned with getting God off the hook. “Is suffering connected to God? Why does God allow suffering? Does suffering have meaning? Is God powerful enough to stop suffering? Maybe we need suffering to become Godlike?”

Ugh! Stop talking about God behind his back! God would be disappointed of all this gossiping about him! Instead, what we can ask (and answer) are these: “Is suffering connected to us? Does suffering have meaning to us? Are we powerful enough to stop suffering? Do we need suffering to improve?”

Suffering does have meaning to us. So suffering, whether it is objectively meaningless or meaningful, is subjectively meaningful, and that is all that matters. This subjective meaningfulness covers the suffering caused by human agency all the way to the suffering caused by the universe’s cosmic indifference (if not hatred) to/of us. Suffering is connected to us. And whether or not we are powerful enough to stop suffering is something we must broker every single day, even if it is utterly futile. Because in facing this absurdity, we will improve.

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33 Comments
  1. Rico permalink

    As the original writer I feel that I should respond. I was writing against that very assumption that meaning in suffering is provided because God wants us to suffer to become like him, or that God tries the faithful. I am not sure I can accept these and so you are right I did have that assumption. I am sorry if that alienated you, I enjoy the discussion there primarily because it helps me challenge such assumptions.

    I do believe in God and so therefore feel that it is possible that meaning is provided by God and must therefore deal with it.

    My point is exactly that for those who feel that God is making their suffering meaningful I am not sure that I can see anything bad in that, if they find peace through it.

    I know what you are saying about us washing God’s hands and I agree. But more accurately I am trying to put off the ideas that others have had about God’s ability to provide meaning for or alleviate suffering.

    Further I am not arguing that nothing is meaningful without God giving it meaning. In fact I wanted to convey the opposite. Whatever meaning we find is just as real as the ones supposed placed by God, because I too believe that suffering is meaningless.

    Moreover, I think the questions relating to how we view suffering are important but I cannot help involving God in this process because of what I believe and also because of what have been taught about him.

    Anyway, I am glad at least that my post provoked such a thoughtful response.

  2. Thanks for commenting, Rico.

    I think the alienation is from this implication (please correct me if I’m wrong) that if you reject that meaning in suffering is provided because God wants us to suffer (which you say you do reject), then suffering is meaningless.

    No, the meaning suffering had has nothing to do with God and it never did.

    It seems that while you don’t “see anything bad” in people who find meaning in suffering, you doubt whether this is valid. Again, you bring God into the equation. “for those who feel that God is making their suffering meaningful“. This has the alienating assumption stated right there: that people feel like they need GOD to make something meaningful. God is needed to make suffering meaningful, and if God does not make it meaningful, then it is…?

    If the point you wanted to convey was what you say (“Whatever meaning we find is just as real as the ones supposed placed by God”), then I guess that is refreshing, but the way you phrase it seems awkward. Now you say “whatever meaning we find is just as real…”, but in your original post you had doubts about this very thing. You asked whether the meaning a suffering person found was “false.” This doubt suggests to me (and correct me if I’m wrong) that even though you say “whatever meaning we find” is just as real as the one supposedly placed by God, you truly don’t know if you accept that. You think that “whatever meaning we find” may be false…

    So I still don’t see that we are on the same track here…

  3. Rico permalink

    I think I am working with that assumption, but in wanting to speak to that group I tried to talk in a similar vein. However, I wanted to convey that I am uncomfortable with that idea and believe that we create meaning in suffering. Which seems to be similar to your point as well.

    I don’t believe God inflicts suffering for our benefit, however if people believe that I do not necessarily believe that this is wrong because this might be there way of finding meaning. I see this as the same type of meaning people find without God.

    Maybe I should try re-stating my argument and be more careful about my definitions.

    1). Some Christians, and I have been taught, that there is divine meaning in their suffering (God wants us to or inflicts suffering for our benefit).

    2). I am not convinced that this is true because some people suffer more than is necessary for the development of any virtue. However, I acknowledge this could be wrong.

    3). Just because I am not agnostic on this issue does not mean that I think people are wrong to create their own meaning in this type of suffering even if this involves God.

    4). I also sense that there is some wisdom to not trying to find meaning in suffering.

    5). The meaning I find in some suffering is that (and I think Gods experience is the same) we can learn to love and serve with greater intensity.

    6). I am not convinced that this view will work for everyone and so i would tell another that i do not believe God is causing them to suffer. they might find solace in it.

    I guess there are assumptions about suffering that bring to this which I find difficult to let go of, like is their a true meaning, i.e. can the true meaning be no meaning or is it that their is a meaning God wants us to find but he has nt inflicted upon us. I am not sure here and so this is where my doubt is and where we will probably disagree.

    I agree that we are probably not on the same track. But I think you raise certain valid points about my argument and some that I felt were not quite what I was saying. But if this still seems confused them it s because I am not done thinking it through yet.

  4. Andrew,

    I think the problem might be that some people are using “meaning” more broadly than you are. They’re not asking “What does suffering mean?” so much as “What is the purpose of suffering?” They’re not asking how people deal with suffering (what does suffering mean to them), they’re asking why suffering exists (whether it has a purpose).

    And the way many religious people view the question is through the idea that suffering has (or might have or can have) an objective purpose assigned by God (e.g., “God wants me to learn compassion”), so their task, if you will, is to discover that objective purpose rather than to construct a subjective meaning.

  5. FireTag permalink

    Well, Andrew, it was MORMON matters, not ATHEIST Matters. You have to grant theists a little home field advantage. 😀

    The problem of human suffering is one of the oldest problems in theological thought; it probably preceeded theologians, and may have motivated their development in history, as commenters on the thread pointed out.

    My thought is that the fairness of the system can never be apparent from the perspective of a single copy of “us”. But if there are infinite copies and variants, we all are the suffering and the causes of suffering. We are all theists and atheists. We learn from our own experiences — including our responses to the experiences of others. The subjective “meaning” in my mind comes from the hope that there is symbiosis occuring in the fact that you and I are exchanging these ideas elsewhere/elsewhen — but we are arguing for the opposite sides of the issue.

  6. re Rico:

    Looking at your restatement, I guess it clears a few things…but I wanted to ask about a few other points:

    4). I also sense that there is some wisdom to not trying to find meaning in suffering.

    Can you explain? Because in point 5, you point out what you believe the meaning of suffering is…if there were wisdom in not trying to find meaning in suffering, this would negate your point 5.

    Also, relating between point 5 and point 6…(and going back to point 2). You believe with suffering, we can learn to love and serve with greater intensity. But isn’t this a “value add” of the more copious amounts of suffering? Isn’t this “necessary for the development of virtue.” For example, I can imagine that x amount of suffering allows love and serving of x intensity…but then from your point 5, it seems that x + y amount of suffering allows love and serving of a greater intensity. I guess it’s as you say…you’re still thinking through.

    re kuri:

    The issue is that purpose, like meaning, is projected by subjective beings. Again, to say suffering is meaningless or purposeless from an objective standpoint is one thing. (Nothing intrinsic to “suffering” is purposeful. Nothing internal to “art” is “beautiful.” Art doesn’t intrinsically exist with its purpose to be beautiful.) However, when we (subjective beings) come to the stage, we do project purpose. Why does suffering exist? We can still project a purpose…It exists to show us the way the universe is (note: the answer to the question isn’t the way the universe is…but is a projection of what we think the universe is.) Why does art exist? What’s it’s purpose? Again, we project the purpose.

    When religious people assign “God’s purpose” as an objective purpose, I think they err in that “God’s purpose” is still a subjectively projected purpose. They are still discovered this subjective purpose…in the same way we “discover” that x band sounds awesome upon hearing them. But “awesomeness,” “beauty,” “purpose,” “meaning,” and so forth aren’t intrinsic to the band, the art, the suffering, the whatever. They still are projected.

  7. re FireTag:

    Oh, you got me! Although Atheist Matters doesn’t sound like a bad idea…

    I think the problem isn’t a home field advantage…but a home field disadvantage. As you say, human suffering is a great problem for theology…so on the “home field” of Mormon theology (I guess MM isn’t quite that esteemed, but let’s just say it’s close enough to “home field”), people want to root for the home team, instead of evaluating the data.

    I would still propose infinite/multiverses is a bad faith effort. After all, even though we theoretically have multiverses to pull data from, *we* *ourselves* are limited to one right now. We *do* perceive our universe from the perspective of the single copy “us.”

  8. FireTag permalink

    IF I’m right in my speculation about how reality is put together, then there is an exact analogy between spirit and person as between mind and neuron.

    It may suck to be a neuron (particularly one that’s function is to feel pain), but the mind may justifiably conclude it needs the pain neuron for its own well-being. Doesn’t make the mind either masochistic or sadistic. Doesn’t mean the mind has to put up with the neuron’s “objections”, or make its ultimate purpose the welfare of the neuron, either. Balance between the “whole” and the “part” stabilizes the system.

    I can subjectively have faith and hope (or not) that higher levels of the system appreciate the fact that these particular “neurons” are sentient, take control (as we do with things like medicine and other technologies) to optimize toward some standard which includes that sentience in the calculation, but I think those higher levels would be insane if they let the lower levels take control of the process.

    My guess is that the optimization leans toward letting us experience ALL the possibilities of our existence — even the ones we don’t like. I infer that because, in a mathematical sense, the universe we see has pretty close to the maximal complexity its physical laws allow. No proof, but a strong hint, I think.

    • I don’t even know HOW you would begin to say the “universe has pretty close to the maximal complexity its physical laws allow.”

      • FireTag permalink

        Andrew:

        The following is from a paper I wrote on the subject of critiquing process theology from a physicist’s viewpoint. (Rico may find process theology interesting because it proposes a God of limited power and largely subject to physical laws as a solution to the problem of suffering. Although it’s interesting as philosophy, I think it relies on outmoded physics, even though its original proponent, Whitehead, was an accomplished mathematical physicist.)

        “This idea can be given a more precise, quantitative meaning from the viewpoint of information theory. Our visible universe can be regarded as a “device” that stores and then manipulates information in the form of interactions of particles and energy fields. Each individual manipulation can be defined as an “operation”, exactly analogous to the operations performed by a computer program. Laws of physics involving both quantum mechanics and relativity limit the number of such operations that COULD be performed in the visible universe since the Big Bang. Seth Lloyd and Y. Jack Ng note that the number of operations ACTUALLY performed in the universe by physical laws is, to a high approximation, exactly that maximum number(30). In other words, the universe acts as if it were a computer containing the most information and performing the most complex calculation of which it is physically capable.

        30. Lloyd, Seth, and Ng, Y. Jack; “Black Hole Computers”. Scientific American November 2004, page 53.

      • Fair enough. I am simply outclassed by the physics research. Mindblowing stuff.

  9. Andrew,

    The issue is that purpose, like meaning, is projected by subjective beings.

    Suppose I coach a basketball team, and I make my players run 25 suicides at the end of every practice. Say my purpose is to get them in shape physically. That’s an objective purpose (and if I can get them to run the suicides, I’ll accomplish it).

    But if I don’t tell my players why I’m running them, they’ll have to guess why. Is it because I hate them and want them to suffer? Is it to punish them for something they did? Is it to make them mentally tough? To get them in shape? They don’t know, but they can choose any explanation they want. They’re free to assign that kind of subjective meaning.

    But that meaning has nothing to do with my objective purpose. I have my purpose, and that’s why they’re running. Some players won’t care why, but some players will really want to know. So I might tell them what it is, or they might hear why from past players, or they might know me well and figure it out for themselves. Or I might not. And even if I do tell them, they might find their own reason more useful. But again, there is an objective purpose to their running.

    And that’s how lots of religious people see the world. They believe there’s a God out there who causes or allows their suffering for some reason. They want to know what that reason really is. Not what they think the reason is (subjective meaning), but what it really is (objective purpose). They want to know why the coach is making them run.

    Of course, I don’t believe there is a cosmic coach of any sort, so I think whatever reason they come up with will thus be subjective. I don’t believe there is an objective purpose. But that’s not what they believe. They believe that there is a coach, and they want to find out his purpose. And that’s often what they mean when they talk about the meaning of suffering.

    • kuri:

      I don’t know WHAT your definition of objective is, but it’s definitely not the same as mine…Your purpose to get them into shape is not objective. It is clearly subjective. YOU project that on to the practice. Except for you, a subjective being, to perceive and project that purpose, it would not exist. It is not objective.

      You know another “check” for knowing it’s subjective? BECAUSE your players can quibble and disagree. For example, even if you tell them it’s to get them in shape, they can subjectively project whatever counter-purpose they want on it. They might agree with your subjective purpose (it’s to get them in shape), or they might perceive other purposes (it’s for them to suffer; for punishment, make them mentally tough.)

      But THEIR purposes have the SAME weighting as YOUR purposes…they are both subjective! How dare you claim you are objective!

      Just because you are you doesn’t make you objective…Your team may SUBJECTIVELY assign you “authority” as a coach, but this doesn’t make you objective. This is an immense power fantasy that you really cannot fulfill.

      This is exacerbated with the religious. They subjectively assign authority to this being they call God and then confuse that with objectivity.

      If we want to look at “what the reason really is,” we can’t go to any person (even a person’s idea of God). We often come up with the more unsettling answer: the “real reason” is unknown or doesn’t exist.

      What is the purpose of running? It is unknown or does not exist. But what is YOUR purpose of having them run (e.g., subjective)…it is to have them get in shape. Is this the purpose of running? Is this what the purpose of running really is? Well, “running” doesn’t care if you get in shape or do not. “Running” doesn’t care if you suffer or do not suffer. “Running” doesn’t care if you sprain something. These are things that subjective beings (like people) have associated.

      I think it’s fallacious to say that a coach someone makes an objective purpose, when the coach is also subjective. Similarly, God, the cosmic coach, fails twice. 1) He is subjective himself, and 2) he is actually a projection of subjective people’s subjectivity

      • Is there anything that isn’t subjective by your definition?

      • kuri:

        Things within themselves are not subjective. So, let’s take a series of pressure oscillations. This is a thing within itself. It objectively exists or does not exist. Its existence does not depend on any subjective being (e.g., us, to perceive it.)

        Now…the next step is iffy…normally, we would call these “pressure oscillations” “sound.” HOWEVER, we reach a problem because some people define sound as pressure oscillations that disturb the ear organs.

        If we define sound as simply the pressure oscillations, then the existence of sound is objective. Then we answer the question, “Does a tree that falls in the forest with no one around make a sound?” with “Yes. It makes a sound regardless of who’s around.”

        ON THE OTHER HAND, if we define sound as that which is heard (e.g., by disturbing the ear organ of some thing)…then it is subjective. The existence of sound would require a being to perceive it. “Does a tree that falls in a forest with no one around make a sound?” No. Because sound must be heard by someone if we define it that way.

        The deal is that we do share some common subjective ground because of similar objective wiring: e.g., our neurology, genetics, etc., There is variation among humans, obviously…where we are…the quality of our ears, the quality of organs, etc.,…if we are deaf, then we perceive (subjectively) a whole lot differently than if we are not deaf. The PRESSURE OSCILLATION stays the same…but the perception differs.

        Does this make sense? This is a technical example.

        Now, what’s most subjective? From a pressure oscillation, some of us may perceive the arrangement as being “aesthetic.” Then, we call it “good, beautiful music.” BEAUTY does not objectively exist (it is not inherent in the pressure oscillation). Beauty only exists because WE (subjective beings) perceive music as being beautiful.

        Does this make sense? This is a less technical extension.

        The idea is…if you want to call something objective, you need to pinpoint what would exist regardless of anyone to perceive it. Purpose tends not to fit this. Purpose exists because WE subjective beings perceive and project it.

  10. Sofal permalink

    I think that if you start from the standard TBM premises, it is rational to believe that everything has a purpose in the mind of God. He has His own subjective views which He sometimes makes or has made known. Furthermore, since He is perfect, omniscient, all-powerful, etc., His subjective views are such that compared to yours they might as well be objective, and they override yours (in the case of a conflict) at all times. He is the only one that sees the entire picture, completely zoomed out. He also has declared that not a hair shall fall from your head without Him acknowledging that fact. At once He notices the cosmic destruction of colliding galaxies and your subconscious hesitation to step on a crack in the sidewalk.

    One belief that I’m not sure necessarily follows from the existence of God but that the scriptures seem to support is that God can have different degrees of “involvement” in any particular event. If you accept this, then you can speculate about His degree of involvement in your specific suffering and about His reasons for getting involved or not getting involved. Different people argue for different extremes on this continuum. A lot of the time it ends up being a semantics issue.

    I think that a big problem that you then face is that there is a huge focus on “ask and ye shall receive”. It would sure be great to know what He thinks about your sorry situation. Nobody can get a straight answer, though, and so people are forced to be liberal in their interpretation of what it is exactly that will be received. What if we ask for a reason why? What if we ask for protection from harm and accident and we don’t get it? Apparently we can’t ever assume that we’re being divinely protected from harm, can we? Oh, except that there’s that inspiring story about a miraculous delivery from harm! Praying earnestly for protection is not actually statistically correlated with being protected, but perhaps that doesn’t matter to most TBMs.

    It looks as though the only answers that a TBM can hope to get through “personal revelation” are:
    1) “Don’t worry about it.”
    2) “It’s good for you.”
    3) “It doesn’t matter.”
    4) “Here’s a warm fuzzy.”

    Jumping from answer #4 to the premises in the beginning is where I think the disconnect really is.

    • His subjective views are such that “compared to yours they might as well be objective.”

      Heh. That sounds like “subjective” to me. Especially with the description. Seeing the “whole picture” does not objectivity make. a subjective being SEES. If a subjective being sees more, his subjective interpretation may be affected by it…but it’s still subjective. Objectivity is in the objects…which do not see themselves.

      Again, the second problem is that God is omni, omni, omni because we subjective define him to have these things.

      I agree though that when you’re already in a TBM framework, it’s kinda too late to start arguing this. By this time, subjective belief are “codified” and people won’t accept that they still are subjective frameworks.

      • Sofal permalink

        Within the TBM framework, it doesn’t matter much whether God’s desires and purposes are subjective or not. That’s just a technicality. What matters is that if God says something is beautiful and you think it is not, then you are wrong. Like it or not, that is the absurdity that a TBM accepts. The premise is not just that God exists, but also that He is the source of everything that is “good”. Therefore, if He declares something to be good, it is good. This whole idea of subjective versus objective is already irrelevant from the beginning.

        One thought on the basketball example above: the fact that the coach initiated the drill with a purpose in mind is an objective fact, and if a player can’t see why this will benefit her, it’s likely that finding out what the coach’s purpose is will help her get into the spirit of it. Otherwise she’ll just have to settle for her own purposes, which can be less satisfying.

      • Sofal, I think you’re right. This is why I generally have a thought experiment that I like to go with.

        If you knew God existed, and determined where people went for an afterlife, but he demanded that people needed to do a specific thing to get into Heaven, would you still follow God if you felt the thing required to get into heaven was personally objectionable?

        Here, in this case, if you don’t do it, you will be “wrong” and God will have the power to throw you into hell.

        However, if you do the objectionable thing, even though you will be right with God, you will be wrong with yourself. And even while you’re in heaven, you will be guilty and miserable.

        Many people say they would do anything to avoid hell, including something objectionable…but some people realize what I think is vital: it doesn’t matter what God considers Heaven and Hell if we personally suffer.

        This is generally observable with religion. People have ideas about what traits are objectionable and what traits are praiseworthy. Sometimes, these traits line up with the moral systems that “God” has espoused (throughout biblical or Book of Mormon stories). But other times, people come into conflict…what God said was right (e.g., kill Laban for the plates; offer Isaac as a sacrifice, etc.,) strikes us as completely abhorrent. Do we follow God because he’s God? Or do we follow our conscience because it is our conscience?

        Re the basketball example: the fact that the coach initiated the drill with a purpose in mind *is* an objective fact. But this is true for any “historical” fact. If I find a certain band to produce beautiful music, this *is* an objective fact. But it doesn’t change that the purposes (or the beauty) themselves are subjective. “Finding out what the coach’s purpose is to help get into the spirit of things” is subjectively felt.

      • Sofal permalink

        I think this is another premise issue. If I accept that God is the source of good, and that what is “good” inevitably will make me happy in the long term, then I have a different take on your scenario.

        It looks like you may have based your thought experiment on Nephi’s Laban-slicing experience. Of course, in his case he was eventually convinced of the moral goodness of the action and then performed it without guilt (we assume). But Nephi was given an explicit reason before he was convinced, whereas in your more general scenario, all I know is that God requires it of me. Regardless, I still know two things: 1) God only tells me to do good things, and 2) doing good things will always make me happy in the long run. Therefore I will carry out the action (like, say, flying an airliner into a building) despite my reservations because it logically follows that sometime down the road I will learn that my reservations were unfounded.

        It’s pretty scary when put in these terms, but I think it demonstrates why accepting such premises can be dangerous.

      • Sofal,

        (This relates to euthyphro’s delimma, btw, if you wanted some additional reading.)

        if you accept that God is the source of good, it does not necessarily follow that what is good will make you happy in the long run. There is no guarantee (though scriptures allude to it) that “happiness” is “good.” After all, you could be happy being “wrong” and “bad.” You could be unhappy being “right” and “good.” In this case, goodness would distinctly bring you unhappiness.

        On the other hand, if you followed for “happiness,” you could indirectly or directly seek things that are “sinful,” “bad,” “wrong,” or “evil.”

        My thought experiment isn’t based on Nephi’s killing of Laban. This killing (and also the Abrahamic challenge with Isaac) is simply an example that I trust you’d be familiar with.

        I think you’re right that Nephi was eventually convinced of the goodness of the action…but what if we applied this to everything..? If you had a voice from God telling you to murder someone, would you want to eventually be convinced of the goodness of this action? What would it say to you to know that you could be convinced of the goodness of such an action?

        How, then, could you distinguish between this and people who “rationalize” sin as good..?

        In my scenario, I can flesh it out as much as you’d like. Let’s say God tells you why you need to do this action you find abominable. He provides you reason upon reason.

        The question is…people provide reasons all the time. What’s more important is if you’re convinced. We *assume* that God would be convincing to us, but what if he wasn’t? What if, at the end of the day, we saw the action as an abominable act even though we understood and accepted that God has his reasons, his plans, etc.,?

        Your answer is that you would do the abominable act, because you have faith that eventually you would see that it is not abominable. (Somewhere down the road, you say, you will find that your reservations were unfollowed.) If that is the case, I fear for you and your soul.

        Not because you would do the abominable act, per se…but because what happens if you don’t ever see that it was not abominable? You go to Heaven, as you wanted, but you realize that all the people in Heaven with you and God have all done these abominable things because of God’s wishes. The difference is that some of them TRULY believed the abominable act was not abominable (in other words, they agreed with God’s reasons). I think that in this case, you, even though you’re in Heaven, would live forever with estranged…facing all the suffering…all the lamentation. Isn’t this actually Hell?

      • Sofal permalink

        Right, well you had to throw away one of the premises in order for me to be in any danger. My point is just what you’re saying: the premises are faulty. I’m just saying that those premises are the starting point for a typical TBM, and that is why they talk about things like meaning and purpose as though they were objective. They believe in moral absolutes (objective moral laws) to begin with, so it doesn’t take much of a logical jump from there.

      • On the other hand, the lived experience of finding things that appear to be espoused by divinity (or at least, scriptures/Prophets say they are), yet appear abominable is something that people — TBM or not — face.

        The lived experience of having some issue where one laments because “God’s way” seems wrong (even though they want to believe it is objectively right) is something that people face.

        Even with the TBM premise that moral laws are absolute, it could be the case that “absolute moral laws” are abominable. Do we follow an absolute, objective moral law that rends into our soul as abominable? Or do we refuse, knowing fully well that *we* will be criminals and sentenced as such?

      • Sofal permalink

        Do we follow an absolute, objective moral law that rends into our soul as abominable?

        The standard answer to that is to deny that it could ever happen in the long run. Why? Because the true believer assumes that we all have the same basic moral reference, and that deep down every human agrees on what distinguishes good from evil. If you truly consider something to be “abominable”, then there are two possibilities: 1) it is actually good, and you will eventually learn and agree that it is good, or 2) it is actually abominable, and therefore cannot be a moral law. Therefore if you reject a moral law in the long term then you have willingly chosen evil over good by your own definition.

      • …If you truly consider something to be “abominable”, then there are two possibilities: 1) it is actually good, and you will eventually learn and agree that it is good, or 2) it is actually abominable, and therefore cannot be a moral law. Therefore if you reject a moral law in the long term then you have willingly chosen evil over good by your own definition.

        What if 1 doesn’t happen (and you continue to feel anguish over the abomination?), and yet you still accept it is a moral law? As you say, you would be aware that rejecting this would be “rejecting a moral law in the long term, willingly choosing evil over good.”

        Would you accept a moral law and choose good over evil on the hopes that “you would eventually learn and agree it was good”…even though every day passes and it doesn’t happen? What would the individual believer do?

        Because of course, they can believe that “eventually,” they will learn and agree it was good, but “eventually” is a long time to wait…could be an eternity.

      • Sofal permalink

        I think “eventually” in this case is really “on or before your death”. And I agree that as long as a distraught believer is waiting around for that “eventually” to happen, it would probably be a good use of time to examine the reasoning behind their acceptance of this supposed “absolute moral law”. They will likely find that their convictions are only based on their own subjective feelings, in which case they can use these same feelings to reject this “law” outright.

      • If “eventually” is on or before death, then it really becomes shadier…

        I completely agree though. I think that upon examination, the believer would find that either 1) his convictions were based on subjective feelings or 2) objectivity is irrelevant against his subjective feelings.

        Let’s take part 2…let’s say there *is* an objective purpose in the universe and God is part of it/has established that. Let’s say there *is* objective morality, and let’s say that someone *does* find some tenet of it abominable.

        Will following an objectively moral commandment do any good if it is personally subjectively perceived to be *abominable*? The individual must live with her subjective perception every day for eternity (if she cannot “turn his thinking around,” so to speak, which is what she’s HOPING for.)

      • Sofal permalink

        Probably the best you could hope for at that point would be that conversely, you would find that the things that are supposed to be bad about Hell (or the T kingdoms) are acceptable to you.

        Aside: isn’t it ridiculous to think that what we do in these short years is the deciding factor of our eternal state? I don’t think Mormons give the right gravity to the word “eternity”. Imagine yourself 2^(10e100000000000) years from now thinking, “if only I hadn’t stolen that money…”. It’s like a bad joke. It’s probably why some people start making up their own doctrinal overlays about cross-kingdom progression.

      • Sofal, I think I’m way ahead of you on considering that. To me, Outer Darkness especially *doesn’t* seem bad (I guess it’s not a good thing that the “stick” doesn’t seem all that bad and the ‘carrot’ doesn’t seem all that good)…and the T Kingdoms don’t seem that bad either.

        I agree that it seems ridiculous that this speck of time (as even some members will describe it) determines the eternities…but when I hear people talking about “progression between kingdoms,” I feel like the ground has been pulled from beneath me.

  11. Rico permalink

    The disparity between my points 4-5 is one of personal experience and a range of other possible experiences I cannot conceive for which I can imagine there is no possible meaning for people, or more accurately they cannot find meaning in it. My personal experience has helped me find that meaning but I can imagine that there are those people who cannot find any meaning in their suffering and to try might be more painful.

    Your second comment relates back to your original problem the idea of suffering being false, can we make it seem like God made us suffer by loving more etc. I think my point in this regard is that we may find value but God did not put it there. I may have suggested a mathematical formula but that is not what I think. I used it as an example of meaning I have found. Plus because I see becoming like God a goal I aspire to I see using that suffering in that regard as ny attempt to find meaning. So it is not that suffering can only produce love. I think this is where I need to distinguish my perspective from what others might generate.

  12. Rico:

    I just wouldn’t see why they wouldn’t find any meaning. See…meaning can even be: “This universe is cruel/doesn’t care/life is not worth living/(insert other seemingly nihilist/depressing statement.)”

    re 2nd paragraph:

    If people make it seem like God made us suffer by loving more, then this is the value that people put on there. If you don’t believe in God, for example, then you recognize that EVERY assertion about a god is a value that people have have that God did not put in there. Regardless of if God does or doesn’t exist, this value, meaning, purpose that people have created does.

    The issue is that people can come to different conclusions (regarding either the “God” part or the “by loving more” part)

  13. Rico permalink

    ok, I agree that perhaps I see meaning as a positive thing, which is a very subjective value judgment. As I said I see positive meaning being tied to God’s plan in some way. So in this your right I did not challenge my assumptions enough.

    I of course agree that meaning could be nihilistic. I am even inspired by that to an extent as expressed in the original text, but I am wonder where that would led me. I think it might make me more passive.

    I am certainly not saying this is the case for everyone.

  14. Rico:

    I think that nihilism generally must be coupled with something else.

    Because nihilism only makes a statement about objective meaning. In other words, the universe is objectively meaningless, valueless, purposeless. Suffering is objectively meaningless, valueless, and purposeless.

    But nihilism cannot touch our subjective meanings. So, I think every nihilist must be absurdist or existentialist and pursue a subjective meaning even in the face of objective meaninglessness.

    The question is: who CARES if this life is “ultimately” purposeless? We never cared about ultimate purpose in the first place! We had these elaborate *subjective* purposes, and some people like to BELIEVE that these purposes are objective (e.g., they project God, and then project their purpose as “God’s” purpose), but they were subjective nonetheless.

    Of course, people still might come to the conclusion that subjective purpose isn’t worth projecting. It would be as if saying, “It’s not worth doing something if no one will recognize me for it.” Sure, this is a lamentable attitude, but some people take exactly this attitude.

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