Saturday, July 23, 2011

It's Not a Question of Brie

Is it possible for us, as human beings, purely and simply to lay aside the question of God, that is, the question of our origin, of our final destiny, and of the measure of our existence?.. We are compelled to choose between two alternatives: either to live as if God did not exist or else to live as if God did exist and was the decisive reality of my existence.
Christianity and the Crisis of Cultures, 87-8

Reflection – Ratzinger writes here about the illusion of agnosticism. This is the theory that we can simply suspend our decision about the existence of God. Maybe He is, maybe not, and anyway who can know? And who can know what kind of God this is, if He is, and what He actually wants with us?
Ratzinger points out in this passage, as he does in many places in his writings, that this seemingly humble and reasonable position is in fact untenable. The reason for this is that the existence of God is not a mere piece of data, like the existence of France or koala bears. There, we can be as agnostic as we like. I’ve never been to France, and it’s just possible that the whole thing is a massive put up job, a joke. I mean, c’mon, a nation that prides itself on its sophistication and culture but likes Jerry Lewis movies? Whadya think I am, a chump? You’ll be sending me on a snipe hunt next.
The question of God is not like that. Besides my being ethnically French and loving Brie, the existence or not of France is of no consequence to me (no offense to my French readers! Vive la France! Vive la gloire!).
But, you know,  I can live without Brie. But God? This is not a mere data point; it is the question of the meaning, coherence, direction of the universe and of my own life therein.
Either there is a God, and my life is from Him and towards Him, and I need to live accordingly, or there is no God, and thus no overarching meaning to the universe. I can do whatever I want (until, you know, someone stronger comes along and quashes me) but nothing I do has any meaning or point beyond my own 6 feet and 185 pounds of presence in the cosmos.
It does seem to me (as it does to Ratzinger) that these are the only two logical possibilities. If I’m wrong about that, and there are other possible ways of framing the question, please comment below!
Now the question is left open, if we decide to opt for the God side of the question, of who and what this God is and what does He/She/It want of us, anyhow? But if we decide there is a God or gods or Something(s), it seems our chief priority in this life is to come to some conclusion for ourselves about the matter. Not a snipe hunt, but a God hunt.
My own conclusion, the reasons for which are too long to go into in this post, is that the claims of Catholic Christianity are true, and so my life is built on at least trying to shape my life according to those claims. What is your conclusion?

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