Today, saw a viral video that used the musings of a man known for his deep thinking and philosophical insight, Jim Carrey*. It actually contained some real nuggets, like this one: “Our eyes are not viewers, they are also projectors that are running a second story over the picture we see in front of us all the time. Fear is usually writing that script.”
But then Jim went on to encourage us to ask the Universe for our dreams and the Universe will come through, if we just ask. I recognize in his speech, a quasi Christian worldview superimposed onto a neo pantheistic, materialistic, hedonistic one: Ask the loving universe for your outrageous dream and the universe will give it to you, but be patient and trust the universe for the how and the when of dream fulfillment. He actually sounds like a lot of sermons on prayer I’ve heard or even delivered (not the first time I’m been compared to Jim Carrey!), just replace the word Universe with God.
That is, the Universe, capital “U”.
This was just the most recent example of how it has become politically correct to expunge every mention of God out of our vocabulary and in pop culture today, but it has not become taboo to use rhetoric about religious devotion, prayer, worship, awe or guidance, purpose and meaning. If we simply refer to the Universe instead of God using the exact same rhetoric, we can sneak “spirituality” in.
But let’s examine this trend. At first glance, this is a less offensive way to appeal to universal religious sentiment in people by being less sectarian, and less overtly religious. Who can be offended by outsourcing our universal religious feelings onto something that everyone, regardless of religious belief, can feel and see and “know” – like the Universe? How uncontroversial! At once it seems to include believers and non-believers alike. Even the atheist/agnostic eggheads on “Big Bang Theory” will invoke the “Universe” from time to time in reference to personal purpose or guidance. It’s not uncommon for irreligious characters of all kinds to now say, “I wonder if this is the Universe’s way of telling me I should…”
However, after short examination you can see how this trend is disingenuous at best, and utterly illogical at worst. For what exactly do we mean by the Universe? If it’s what we typically mean, all the atoms and space and heat and energy and particles that make up the observable universe, then how can that stuff DO anything for me, personally? How can I trust this material stuff? How can it hear me, it has no ears? How can it answer me, it has no power except to follow relentlessly and obsequiously, its own predetermined path, set by its own immutable laws? How can it guide me, when it itself is just flowing along a perfectly unchallengeable script? Why would “it” suggest options for me to follow, to uncover my secret fate or purpose, when inside the closed system of the Universe there are, in reality, NO OPTIONS; No option for the movement and actions of atoms, therefore, no real options for the movement or actions of people, who are simply a collection of atoms, bound by Universal laws.
Now, I get humans personify things all the time. Things like mountains, or wind or trees. So it’s not a surprise that we might personify the Universe. But when we say, “the mountain forbade us to ascend that morning…” our personification is simply a metaphor and we know it. We mean, “the weather was bad.” But truly, in the case of the new usage of “Universe”, no metaphor is being used or implied. Jim Carrey really means that the Universe will guide him, answer him, bless him, love him.
But this is just logically ridiculous. We are, without saying it, attributing personality to something completely and totally impersonal. Of course, this trend would make some sense if when we are talking about the “Universe” we really mean something MORE than the atoms and energy and space of the universe as we know it and speak about it, in the proper sense. I imagine the sage Jim Carrey himself might respond that he means something more than the physical universe when he invokes the “Universe”. He means “all of its energy together, synergistically making up more than the sum of its parts, creating a Universal Soul.” But then whatever it is he’s referring to, is something OUTSIDE of space, time and matter. And that something, whatever it is, is properly described as spiritual or extra dimensional, because it is by definition beyond the space time matter dimensions. So why call it the Universe? It seems by every other thing Jim Carrey says about it, that what he means is in fact the OPPOSITE of the universe. When he says universe, he means the NOT-universe. It’s the grossest mislabeling you could imagine. To talk about “height” and mean depth. To talk about heat and mean cold. To invoke the Universe and mean, “God”.
This is why the Theistic worldview alone makes sense of the data. It rejects the No-God solution of Atheism, which cannot seem to expunge or account for our religious urge (the “Universe Loves Me” pop trend only the latest evidence of this), and it rejects the All-God solution of Pantheism, which illogically foists personhood onto the impersonal, spirituality onto matter, morality onto relativism. Only Theism accepts the material world without rejecting a spiritual Source for everything and vice-versa. So go ahead Jim Carrey and all pop icons, invoke “the Universe”. We know what you really mean.
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thanks Shea. I've noticed that the "old" atheists (you mentioned a few) seem to be a bit more self aware about the absurdity of meaning in an atheistic world, than are the "new" atheists. They at least see that a godless universe is absurd and a "farce". The new ones (Dawkins being the foremost) seem never to engage with the philosophical implications of their worldview.
You can start spelling nature with a capital N, or cosmos with a capital C, but the bold fact is that living life as a person with a capital P requires a personal god with a capital G.
Spend some good quality time with Crick, or Dawkins or Hitchens or Russell or Sagan or Camus or Nietzsche - and you will notice they all eventually began to seek out subtle substitutes for God because the gap of "make pretend" is just too unbearable to live with - at least sanely.
Bertrand Russell was inconsistent as an atheist because he was also an outspoken social critic and denounced war as "evil". He filled in the gap with his own anger and protest. Russell admitted that he could not actually live as though ethical values were simply a matter of personal taste, and therefore found his own views to be "incredible". "I do not know the solution," he confessed.
Steven Weinberg says in his book says that everyone and everything faces a future extinction of endless cold and that "the more the universe is comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless". He calls it all a "farce" - everything we say and do and believe - all one big farce. Then he goes on to talk about how Noble it is to dedicate one's life to scientific discovery.
So everything is meaningless, pointless and foolish - EXCEPT the things he says and does and believes - those are "Noble". Maybe he is far far smarter than me, but I suspect I must have a better nose for b.s. arguments because he doesn't even notice the stench. If everything is a farce then nothing qualifies as noble, he and his thoughts cannot escape the void.
If meaningless, valueless, purposeless existence encompasses all (which is inescapable without a Good Creator) - the scientist is every bit the fool as the pothead couch-slouch or the religious devotee. There is no objective significance to anything you or I think or do - or love or hate or fight or embrace.
Dr. L.D. Rue identified the terrible outcome expected of these "discoveries" in the early 90s and he advocated that we should all just deceive ourselves with "A Noble Lie." - "A lie that deceives us, tricks us, compels us beyond self-interest, beyond ego, beyond family, nation and race. It is a lie, because it tells us that the universe is infused with value (which is a great fiction), because it makes a claim to Universal truth (when there is none), and because it tells us not to live for self-interest (which is evidently false). 'But without such lies, we cannot live'.
This is the predicament atheism is pushing on us all; either live consistently and honestly without airs of any significance whatsoever, or create a lie that gives us a shady veneer of make pretend meaning.
This is where our culture is heading, tragically so, and madness will likely be on its heels, unless Idiocracy steps in first. You and I are being made victims of a very dangerous ideology via Scientism (not science proper).
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