People want hope in something other than the life they have, and if their life is awful that is understandable. However, the life we have is the only reality we can be sure of. Projecting our hopes and expectations of happiness into a mythical, future, life after death distracts us from working to make our lives worthwhile and the lives of others more bearable.
But if there is no other life to look forward to, does that mean there is no God? Is hope possible in a universe that doesn’t offer the security of a Divine Designer, Author of the Great Plan, Architect of History, a Great Decider? Philosophers offer the concept of The Ground of All Being, the Holy – a quality of our universe instead of something beyond it. Is this enough for us to anchor ourselves to, to have faith in?
And what about the millions who still cling to the Cosmic Santa Claus, the Genie with unlimited wishes – just recite the Chaplet of Mercy or go to mass eight Fridays in a row and your wish will be granted or at the every least you will go straight to heaven when you die. Not a bad deal!
Surely it is the duty of the enlightened cynics among us to break the rose-colored faith spectacles of the religiously naive – a past-time many college philosophy professors take delight in. Surely we are doing these pious idealists a favor: they need to see how awful, how truly terrible life is.
No! No one has the right to attack another person’s faith and religious naïveté. If someone’s faith provides a structure of meaning that makes life do-able, then they have a gift cynics are jealous of. No one has the right to debase another’s view of God or to impose their own – whether atheist, or religious fundamentalist. Those who try to do so are being spiritually violent; we all have our own spiritual path to walk and deserve to do so in our own time.
And the cynics can no more prove the non-existence of God and ultimate futility of life than religious believers can prove the existence of God and of life beyond life.
We all need hope, and the best kind of hope is hope in each other. Hope in the power of individuals to overcome obstacles and in the willingness of people and nations to overlook each others failures. Hope in the power of creative and innovative change.
Belief in an after life should not result in an acceptance of intolerable conditions in this life; belief in a Supreme Being should not result in an abrogation of our human duty to those in need. We can hope for something “more than” and still work for something “better than.”