Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Alienation, purposelessness, meaninglessness and Christian conversion

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Although the only reason for becoming a Christian is that it is the truth, that it is reality; nonetheless, since we humans are weak and corrupt there also needs to be at least some short-term reward for conversion.

There needs to be some therapeutic aspect to conversion.

And that which requires therapy is modern secular life; which (whether pleasurable or miserable on average) is perceived as ultimately alienated, purposeless, meaningless.

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Alienation, detachment, alone-ness, lack of any connection or relation to the world - is pervasive in modernity.

Alienation can be solved with animism, with paganism; it can be solved in fantasy and sometimes in art; it can be solved in human love (of spouse, of family).

And alienation can also be solved by Christianity which affirms a continuous personal relationship with God (specifically Jesus Christ) so that we are never truly alone.

Also, for a Christian there is the continual reality of Unseen Warfare, of the struggle for salvation affected by angels and demons (which are Christian interpretations of the conscious natural entities of animism or the gods and goddesses of paganism).

Since the Christian is never alone, and always the object of attention; alienation is a temporary illusion - not a permanent reality.

Furthermore, for a Christian the unity of Man is not a mere aspiration, but a fact. We are - whether we like it or not - all in it together; and what we think and do affects not just ourselves but everybody.

No Man is an island: not even in his 'private' thoughts; humans are necessarily social even in solitude. Hence the divisions between practical and personal, work and prayer, contemplation and labour are abolished. A desert-dwelling hermit may exemplify the fullest membership of humankind.

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Purposelessness is a feature of modernity where life is specialized, each specialism exists only to serve other specialisms, yet each specialism is narrow, literal and un-engaging.

Everything feels trivial because it is going nowhere for no reason.

Some moderns 'lose themselves' in work or human relationships, others in whatever happens to provide temporary distraction or relief from consciousness (e.g. intoxication, busyness, serial pleasure-seeking). But these are merely means to an end which is left blank by modernity.

For the Christian, however, there is an underpinning purpose to life: which is salvation. All our choices lead either toward, or away from, salvation.

Properly understood, there is also the possibility of increasing holiness - which is termed theosis - i.e progress in this life towards God-like-ness. The success of theosis is Sainthood - a Saint being understood as one who lives partly in Heaven while still on earth.

So, for a Christian, nothing is trivial: everything is goal-directed.

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Meaninglessness is the sense that nothing matters in an indifferent universe. The secular materialist looks up at the stars and feels infinitely insignificant.

By contrast, Christianity states that on the contrary everything is significant.

It offers a cosmology, a description of reality, which encompasses this life, the reality of the soul and its survival of death, the nature of the next world into which the soul survives, the existence of beings intermediate between Man and God - namely angels and demons.

When a Christian looks up at the stars he become partially aware of (is glimpsing) spiritual reality: a universe of life, meaning, struggle - the field of transcendent truth, beauty and virtue - and a reality in which his own soul is a focus of vital importance.

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So that although Christianity is not about 'being happy' (rather it is a struggle until death, an unseen warfare); and although Christianity is not about re-making the world in accordance with our subjective desires (not about lets-pretend or wishful-thinking  - but rather about fitting oneself to reality); nonetheless adopting the Christian perspective does offer some immediate and profound psychological rewards.

For a Christian things matter: choices matter, what we do has meaning and purpose; and the universe is in personal relation to the perceiving soul.

What happens in life is never lost in time and space - but (for better or worse) is a permanent reality of the soul.

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Wholeness, weight and significance are restored to life; there is no longer reason to live wholly for distractions.

So although wholeness, weight and significance bring a new set of problems for the convert - Christian conversion is not entirely a matter of struggle, trial and tribulation; it does have immediate rewards.

Conversion to Christianity means reality is real and has our human experience at the centre of things; there is no longer need to live by strategic evasion of consciousness and systematic suppression of thinking.

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