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October 30, 2011


Mike McVey

Good thoughts as usual, Greg. I am curious as what my inspiration would be to love people outside of Christianity. I really do not like people that much and save for my religion (whether that's good or bad) I wouldn't want to interact with them very often. So what is the secular impetus to love?

Greg Horton

Not sure there is such a thing as a "secular emphasis" as much as there is simply a human tendency to love. Christianity only offers the distinctive that we ought to love everyone, even enemies, and as much as I dislike Ayn Rand, she's at least right that this makes no sense whatsoever unless one believes there will be a reward later. So the impetus to love in a non-religious context comes down to a basic principle of reciprocity.


I think "purposes" is a more practical way of thinking about how to organize life than "purpose." Occasionally my various goals will dovetail for a while into an Ultimate Concern (TM) a la Paul Tillich, but it's more common for them to pull in different directions, in which case the challenge is just as much balancing them as working on them.

Regardless of metaphysical commitments, it seems fair to say that an Ultimate Concern (TM) has to be as much constructed as discovered. You can't just read something in a book or have a mountaintop experience and then expect to be constantly inspired and energetic for the rest of your life. I think this dynamic is more consistent with a complicated brain trying to impose order and structure on a basically chaotic collection of systems, than with a universe that actually contains some kind of super-objective that capriciously and sporadically reveals itself only to a relative handful of people who tend to be awful communicators.

Re: love, there are a variety of secular perspectives; some, like the atheistic Japanese strains of Zen Buddhism, often wind up recommending universal compassion that is (theoretically) indistinguishable from Christian admonitions to love, though in practice there's less nonsense about looking out for people's souls and more tangible guidelines about taking care of their physical needs. Though the basis for this is purely selfish (if you want to think of it like that): people who are compassionate toward everyone are nearly always happier and more joyful than people like me who basically make relationship decisions around reciprocity. It all depends on how much you value happiness as a goal in itself. Anyway, this is one of about a dozen reasons why I don't think there's any meaningful connection between the content of beliefs and the actions of believers, which means it's easier for me to keep up friendships with people who believe all sorts of things.

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