Naturalistic meaning and purpose, by Jon Cleland Host
This week’s piece is special in a couple of ways. First, Jon is the moderator of the yahoo group Naturalistic Paganism, which may be the community most closely resembling our own. Second, it’s Thanksgiving weekend for Americans (Canadians had it last month), and Jon shows us what a marvelous universe we have to appreciate.
Understanding the natural world and how we got here from a naturalistic perspective gives my life incredible meaning and purpose. We are literally made of stars – of stardust, forged in cosmic furnaces, assembled into nanotechnology far beyond what humans can make today!
I marvel at my family tree, which goes back though innumerable life forms, through amazing stories of survival, hope, courage, and parental love. It includes the tiny mammal, surviving through the freezing, year-long darkness after the asteroid impact by eating, and likely hiding in, a frozen dinosaur carcass. It includes the first mother to produce milk, and the first blurry view through a newly evolved eye.
If a depressed child suddenly discovered that she was descended from a long line of Nobel prizewinners, think of how her outlook and actions would instantly change! In the same way, I’ve grown from a long line of survivors – noble creatures of every sort, who conquered deadly challenges billions of times over. I stand on a mountain of love and success, and without winning a cosmic lottery against unbelievable odds, I wouldn’t be here. What other outlook could possibly give my life more meaning?
Dawn of a new age
Through fits and starts, the universe has created in ever more wonderful ways, and it will probably lead to a just and sustainable world. It could happen after centuries of environmental disasters, bloody wars, and untold suffering, or it could happen sooner, through our efforts to build a loving, rational culture focused on this world. It’s up to us to choose when we’ll get there.
We stand at the dawn of a new age, the first time we know of when the universe has become able to reason and plan.
My family, your family, and all life on earth will live with the consequences tomorrow of the decisions we make today. Seeing my kids, or any kids, reminds me of that.
What could be a greater purpose, and a greater reason to take control of one’s life? What could possibly be a stronger moral basis for ethical behavior – a clearer reason to love my neighbor as myself?
Understanding our incredible universe in a naturalistic way makes my ancestors and our future world sources of meaning and purpose.