Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Just Stuff

I recently had a conversation with my father in law on the topic of faith and religion. He mentioned that while he is no fan of organized religion he does believe that "something greater" than us exists and that people are not just made of stuff. He like many others feel that life would be very depressing if we all are just completely material beings without a "soul" or "spirit". How could you love or value someone if they are just carbon based robots, bags of flesh and blood?

Now this question or challenge to atheism is only problematic if you implicitly accept its hidden assumption, namely that physical material is essentially valueless. Only magic and and the metaphysical is valuable, material is just a tool.

To me being depressed that this world is "just" stuff is about as ridiculous as being depressed that you won "just" a million dollars. The stuff that faith focused people seem to devalue is not only valuable to me, it is the only thing that has value. I don't value our planet, our environment, my family, my wife and my children in spite of their material existence, but because of their material existence. I love my sons' material minds, their material bodies, their material smiles, their material life. This life isn't the antechamber to a greater form of existence, this life is existence and it is amazing because it exists.

If a soul exists in a material world in what way is it non-material in any valuable sense? Can something non-physical even have value outside of a material reality?

You can place the word "just" in front of anything and try to pretend that means it is no longer valuable, but simple linguistic tricks don't devalue anything. You could say that a person is "just" your spouse, "just" your planet, "just" your life, "just" your soul even, but it means nothing. This world is material stuff, material stuff with immense value.

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