To What Purpose?

On several occasions now, I have written about the troubling tendency of American society to neglect the spiritual and focus on the material. Over the end of Passover I began reading Allan Bloom's "The Closing of the American Mind," and I am even more troubled. Bloom traces this mindset to the very philosophical underpinnings of our democracy, starting from Locke; worse, all we have to look forward to (according to prevailing philosophy) is the nihilism of the Nietzschian abyss, as the contradictions within Locke become more apparent.

At present, we are most concerned with creating material wealth and political peace and stability for the entire world, that being the way to achieve universal happiness (in theory). Very well; imagine this scenario. In perhaps twenty years, but certainly within the next century, we will possess the technology and manufacturing capacity to feed, clothe, house, educate, and entertain everybody on the planet in a manner scarcely dreamed of by the kings of old. Judging from current trends, by that time the greater part of the world will be ruled by democracies, and interstate war will become almost nonexistent.

So we will have achieved universal peace and prosperity. Then what?

How will we spend our lives? To what will we dedicate ourselves? What will animate our faculties, inspire our imaginations?

For the part of humanity that has banished the spiritual from their lives, we will begin to see a world out of "Fahrenheit 451," in which constant amusement is the order of the day. People will be frantically diverting themselves to avoid confronting their own meaninglessness and purposelessness. Indeed, we are beginning to see such a world today in America. Have we ever spent as much time and money on our own amusements as we do today?

What truly amazes me is that all of these existential crises that supposedly overthrow our very natures are predicated on philosophies that assume, as their first axiom, that God does not exist and that religion is mere superstition. Let us set aside for the moment the thought that such an assumption is incredibly arrogant, and amounts to a deification of the human intellect as final judge over reality. What these philosophers are saying, is that it is better to unflinchingly believe that there is no God, no meaning, no purpose in life, and then to accept the inevitable destruction of human society that must ensue, rather than to continue believing in God, virtue, and the good.

Yet if one simply believes in God, suddenly all of the angst and emptiness of modern life is swept away and replaced with the shining certainty of truth and virtue. Moreover, the prospect of universal prosperity presents no terrors to the spiritual mind; indeed, such a world is best suited for the cultivation of the soul, as individuals are at last freed from the necessity of endless daily labor.

And on what basis was it declared that "God is dead"? Because we cannot perceive a God? What absurdity. Indeed, as science continues to roll back the mysteries of the universe, it becomes harder and harder to believe that the universe, Earth, or humanity came about by chance. The sheer infinitude of factors that had to converge for humanity to exist awes the mind (to say nothing of the events of the Big Bang, which even the devout atheist Stephen Hawking admits were outside the bounds of physics).

(It is perhaps easier for Jews to believe in God because our own history is so wildly improbable. That we survive, and prosper, in circumstances in which every other people in history have simply evaporated, forces the conclusion that an unnatural factor is intervening. But regardless.)

Yet if the Western mind does not rediscover spirituality, if not actual divinity, we are doomed to the slow disintegration predicted by Tocqueville nearly two centuries ago. In a world of individualistic nihilism, why participate in society? Why have children? Why deprive yourself of instant gratification in search of moral refinement?

Much has been said about the imploding birthrate of Western Europe, and the explosion of the Muslim birthrate. Aside from the geopolitical implications, I believe that this shows clearly that in a Darwinian sense, atheism is a poor survival trait. Over time, atheistic societies will be swallowed up by theistic societies.

Which shall America be?

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