Secular Religion: Salutary benefits of believing yourself small in the face of God

by phil on Saturday Jan 3, 2009 3:12 PM
secular religion

One of the benefits in believing in God, or in things higher than you for that matter, is that it forces you to take your life less seriously. There's a danger to not taking your life seriously at all, but your life should be put into the broader context of the world and cosmic order. If you, for example, over-imagine the responsibility you have to everybody around you, it'll make you arrogant, haughty, and overly anxious. It could also make you indecisive and paralyze you.

In Gore Vidal's Judgment of Paris, the main character Philip and Sophia are in Egypt, talking about a similar concept:

Philip said, "I've never felt so relaxed before. For the first time, nothing maters . . . no anxiety, no memory . . . nothing but the present and the past."

"The ruins," she said. "That's what does it, of course. It's very hard to dream of the future when the past is all around one, reminding one that what is has been before and will be again, over and over and over. . ."

"Proving, perhaps, that individual acts are nothing in themselves, except to the doer at the moment he acts."

"Yet human beings love the idea of posterity." She smiled. "It makes us feel important. Think how confident Thutmose, the great king in these parts, must have been that his name would be immortal, a household word until the end of time; that Egypt under his descendants would remain unchanged, very much as it had been for the thousands of years that preceded his own reign. One consolation, of course, is that he doesn't know his corpse has been dug up, the wrappings removed, the bones x-rayed, the skull measured and compared with his portraits, his diseases duly noted, as though he were some prehistoric Java man instead of a successful soldier and politician. There's no long fame for mortals. None at all."

I'm not really advocating a nihilism, but I see the salutary benefits of believing yourself to be small in the grand order of things.

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