Several years ago Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church published a book called, “The Purpose-Driven Life” which sold millions. Clearly the book struck a chord with many people and was the beginning of a whole “Purpose-Driven” empire of products. The “purpose” that Warren wrote about is pretty simple: We are all put here to glorify God by serving humanity. (It’s basically a re-packaging of the opening question from the Westminster Catechism of 1647–Q: What is the chief end of man? A: The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.)
This model of human purpose raises a few questions. Is it really possible that all 7-plus billion people on earth have the same fundamental purpose? And if that purpose is for all of us to spend our lives singing the praises of the Great Heavenly Leader–doesn’t that sound just a little totalitarian, like living in a large version of North Korea?
One of the critiques thrown at the freethought movement goes something like this: “But you’re taking away people’s sense of purpose! What is there to live for if you take God’s plan out the equation?”
What is there left to live for? Here are a few possibilities.
- Discovering what your passions and talents are, and pursuing those areas of life that bring you joy.
- Using one’s unique talents for the betterment of life for others.
- Learning more about how the world works. Science is the gift that keeps on giving, a never-ending source of wonder, awe and new insight.
- Relishing the joy of human fellowship, especially family and friends.
Honestly, do you really need any more “purpose” than that? I really don’t see why the myths of religion are necessary to convey virtues like love, forgiveness, humility and service. Isn’t it possible to affirm and celebrate the goodness and beauty of life without requiring people to believe implausible things?
I guess I even question why it’s necessary to believe in some large, over-arching purpose. Can’t our sense of purpose change with different life circumstances. For instance, as I’m writing this post, I am waiting on the delivery of a very yummy pizza. At the end of a long day, that pizza is all the purpose I’ll need for the rest of the evening.