A Rope to Hang A Culture

“The strands of epistemological, metaphysical, and ethical nihilism weave together to make a rope long enough and strong enough to hang a whole culture. The name of the rope is Loss of Meaning. We end in a total despair of ever seeing ourselves, the world and others as in any way significant. Nothing has meaning.

Kurt Vonnegut Jr., in a parody of Genesis 1, captures this modern dilemma:

In the beginning God created the earth, and He looked upon it in his cosmic loneliness.

And God said, ‘Let Us make creatures out of mud, so mud can see what We have done.’ And God created every living creature that now moveth, and one was man. Mud as man alone could speak. God leaned close as mud as man sat up, looked around, and spoke. Man blinked. ‘What is the purpose of all this?’ he asked politely.

‘Everything must have a purpose?’ asked God.

‘Certainly,’ said man.

‘Then I leave you to think of one for all this,’ said God. And he went away.

This may at first appear to be a satire on theism’s notion of the origin of the universe and human beings, but it is quite the contrary. It is a satire on the naturalist’s view, for it shows our human dilemma. We have been thrown up by an impersonal universe. The moment a self-conscious, self-determining being appears on the scene, that person asks the big question: What is the meaning of all this? What is the purpose of the cosmos? But the person’s creator – the impersonal forces of bedrock matter – cannot respond. If the cosmos is to have meaning, we must manufacture it ourselves.”

– James Sire, The Universe Next Door (p. 111-112)

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