[Trigger warning – Depression, mental health issues, and faith crises will be described.]
This post will be a mix of self-disclosure, confession, rant and serious questioning about what might make life worth living.
To establish a baseline for my current mood, be aware that I have been in some state of mild to severe depression since mid to late childhood. I have also had paranoid thoughts (delusions?) to some degree since about the same time. Recent neuropsychological testing rated my depression as severe, with paranoid thoughts that border on psychosis or possibly schizoid. I have also been having difficulty with racing, disorganized thoughts flooding into my consciousness that no longer seem to be under my conscious control. At this moment, I feel relatively lucid and in control of my thoughts. However, my wife usually needs to accompany me to any social event to monitor (and mediate) my occasional outbursts or inappropriate responses to others. Overall, I feel very far from cheerful or optimistic about the future, both personally and globally.
These factors probably influence my thinking as I write, yet the issues that now seem so distressing are the same ones I had recognized decades ago. At that time, they seemed too immense to tackle. So I pushed these thoughts out of my consciousness and focused on job, family, and the routine worries of life. Until things began to fall apart and the questions demanded attention.
As I began to unravel my past to find clues to my attitudes and thinking, I came to the realization that my life experiences while growing up probably programmed me to think the way I have been thinking most of my life. I recognize that the past is past, but I have also come to realize that avoiding or repressing feelings about past events simply causes them to manifest in a different form. For me, they seem to reappear as depression, social anxiety, despondency, hopelessness, and paranoia.
Furthermore, it finally began to dawn on me that the very doctrines I had learned from childhood into early adulthood were so negative, self-interested, and bigoted, that it was nearly impossible for me to conceive that there could be goodness or positive outcomes while living on this earth. Most of these belief systems taught people how to explain away the most fundamental questions about life with a pre-packaged world view that only sought feedback for it’s own validation from within the same belief group. They also focused on the danger of negative influences that supposedly existed outside their closed belief systems. But I still had questions, big questions that were not answered…
The REALLY BIG questions for me are:
- Why did God create humanity as sentient beings with a spirit capable of communing with Him if His original plan was to send most of them to eternal torment?
- If Jesus Christ’s blood sacrifice was sufficient to cover all the sins of all mankind for eternity, could not God find a way to redeem their hearts and minds as well? Otherwise, it seems that God’s own sacrifice was actually not sufficient for all humanity and for all eternity.
- What did God have to prove, and to whom, that He knowingly created the earth and all that is on it with the expectation that the fall of man was inevitable? Or is this universe nothing more than a thought experiment or simulation within the mind of God that will ultimately either evaporate into nothingness or be restarted with new operating parameters?
- If God needed to prove His goodness and righteousness to the angels and other spirit beings, why would He make mankind as spirit beings capable of suffering in body and soul (eternally), most of whom He knew would reject Him? Apparently, these damned souls must have been predestined by God to give Satan and his demons some companionship in their eternal torment. Both of these actions would actually confirm Satan’s accusation against God that He was unjust in His punishment as well as arbitrary in doling out rewards to a very few who were selected for this purpose.
- Why does God seem so intent on punishing humans for actions and attitudes that most do not even comprehend as being morally wrong?
- If God is induced to send the overwhelming majority of all human beings into eternal torment, which is what Satan intends, how does God win and Satan lose in this scenario? It would appear that God was actually manipulated by Satan into destroying His creation by His own hand so that Satan gets his way at God’s expense.
- What is the true nature of human free will or intentional choice? How many of us are absolutely “free” to make any choice outside knowledge, experience, and tentative speculation? How then will God account for this on the Day of Judgment?
- Why do most new movements within Christianity (or most other religions) seem to turn into either personality cults or stagnant institutional edifices?
The answers to most of these questions, according to conservative evangelical Christian teaching (that I have experienced) boil down to a belief: “God can do whatever He wants because He is God. Just shut up and live with it because that is just the way it is, and that is the way God wants it!”.
In other words, silencing, scolding, shaming, shunning and all the other punishments that social groups use to maintain control of group members, are the means to avoid actually answering the really tough theological and philosophical questions. As a nearly compulsive non-conformist, these punishments have not always worked on me, which is probably the reason I have yet to find a church home that seems comfortable for me!
I realize that most of these questions have been debated for hundreds, if not thousands of years, so fully satisfying answers are not likely to be found within my lifetime.
Still, there is a nagging sense that somehow the human race is just not “getting” some very fundamental understanding of the true nature of this universe and what it was intended to accomplish, if anything. If the answer for “ultimate purpose” does come back as “nothing”, I don’t understand why anyone has a reason to live within these present constraints. Many claim to have found purpose and meaning in this temporary life (or one to come), but their reasons do not resonate with me as satisfactory.
The trite answer to the meaning of life is often claimed to be something like “to love and be loved” (by God and humankind). Unfortunately some are born without the capacity for either, or become so emotionally (or physically) damaged that they lose this capacity during their lifetime. There are also many millions or perhaps billions who live in conditions that make love difficult or impossible to find. What then is the meaning of these lives?
Similar arguments would apply to the assertion that the purpose of human life is to glorify God and enjoy fellowship with Him. What of those without sufficient mental capacity to comprehend the concept of God, let alone communion with Him? What of those whose lives are lived in such difficult circumstances that, due to the effort needed to merely survive, they are unable to develop the spiritual disciplines that lead to relationship with God? These are not hypothetical questions, but reflect the reality in this world at this time, and possibly throughout history.
The intention of this post is not to discourage others or dissuade them from their faith, but to simply pose the questions raised in my search for intuitively satisfying answers on which I would be willing to stake my eternal destiny. That being the case, finding the most “correct” answers possible does not seem to be too much to ask, does it?
Or, maybe that is the meaning of life – to continue to seek answers to the big questions, search out the mysteries, try to solve the puzzles, even though we never will…