“Why should I allow a religion to restrict my way of life? If we only live once, it makes our lives more meaningful. So live life to the fullest!”
A typical objection to religion is that specific regulations over one’s personal affairs and the promise of an afterlife “cheapens” the value of life in general. Why should we allow for any ethical code to limit our freedoms; robbing us of whatever our hearts desire? And isn’t life more precious, more sanctified, and more worthy of preserving when there isn’t anything to look forward to beyond death?
Yet, all of these sentiments are vacuous and contradictory when examined and brought to their most logical conclusions.
Let’s imagine that death is in fact the end of all individuals — that there is nothing after this life; no heaven, no hell, no final judgment, and ultimately no God. What do we have? We have a finite existence where everything and everyone is finitely valuable — where everything has an expiration date. And no, I’m not just talking about food. I’m even talking about morals themselves.
In a world where you exist with an end, there is nothing more rational than to live your life to the fullest; without any obstacles nor any burdens. It means that the best way to live life is to be as selfish as possible; without sacrifice and without remorse. To serve or attempt to put your life at risk for others would ultimately be ridiculous, because you’d be cutting your one and only life short for something that ultimately doesn’t matter — ‘love’ has no transcendental value beyond what you make of it. And if you’re dead, so dies the value you place in others. Hence, self-sacrifice is a contradictory notion for the limited existence of a free agent whose only goal should be to “live [my] life to the fullest”.
Survival of the species? Who cares. It’s not your life. That’s just a genetic predisposition with no real value. Who in their right mind would even bother to have children? For what? Do children really fulfill living life to the fullest or are they just another burden? What makes life fuller with an additional mouth to feed, house, and rear till that person has full control over your every action and choice in life? You desire companionship or a sense of accomplishment? There are easier ways to obtain these things than to go through such insignificant pain and toil over something you’ll never get to experience: the future.
To believe you actually have an investment that will outlive you is an absurdity as much a waste of time as the myths you claim to abhor.
And what of older individuals who give nothing to society — like the elderly? Why should we care to take care of them? Because of past affections we no longer need like a childhood trinket? Because of some personal favor? What are these to a life that wishes to “live to the fullest”? They are no longer of any asset to us sitting in their wheelchairs clamoring about for our attention. We should only give our attention to those who will give us something in return — that will help us to “live life to the fullest”. To do otherwise only helps us to regurgitate a no-longer-existing past.
And what of the sick, the injured, the disabled, and the mentally ill — why should we sacrifice our time and energy to assist their lives when it only gets in the way of fulfilling our own? Oh, you have a’heart’ you say? It makes you personally feel good to do things for others? That’s your motivation? So then what meaning do these people’s lives have beyond fulfilling your arbitrary desires to make yourself feel a sense of accomplishment? I suppose that aligns with being as selfish as possible, but I’m not sure such a selfish understanding of value is what you had in mind when you said “life is precious”. Because if the worth of individuals is entirely dependent on how they make you feel in this limited existence, I’m very certain there are others out there who find your existence a mere obstruction to their own goals; worthy of death because it brings them closer to their own satisfactions. Are they not also living their lives to the fullest? So, tell me, why should they follow your arbitrary restrictions?
“Because we should treat others as we want to be treated!” you may retort.
But why? If you have the power to avoid any consequence, the privilege to leave the sick and dying to their own ends, and the good sense to avoid angering the wrong people — what is the “Golden Rule” other than a mere archaism for the gullible? Only the pathetic and weak want others to follow this guideline, because their only means to living their own lives to the fullest is by groveling at the feet of the strong. But even then, such a guideline is a ruse, because most doctors desire high salaries in exchange for their “high altruism”. And those who don’t? How foolish for them to believe being commended is something that actually has any worth in this one forgettable life? What value is there in being called “good” when it doesn’t produce anything to further your own existence?
Oh, but maybe that’s what you want: a pat on the back. That’s what you live for? Then your goodness is merely another form of selfishness — and I doubt that’s the sort of ‘good’ you had in mind.
“But aren’t those who wish for Heaven also selfish?”
Truth be told there is a bit of selfishness in all of us. We all want to be rewarded somehow, someway, and somewhen. But there is a difference. You see, there is an actual rational incentive to sacrifice in a world where there is more to this existence; where there is something transcendent that gives us value and purpose. In the YOLO world? What meaning is there to sacrifice if the only purpose is to strive to “live life to the fullest”? What value is there to sacrifice if what you lose [your life] is the only means to valuing anything at all? And what reward is there in giving up the only rewards you’ll ever achieve in the one life you live?
The greatest moral exemplars of mankind looked to a life beyond their own. That’s why they were able to sacrifice so much of their desires and material means; they believed there was more to existence than just existence itself. They sought a reward alien to everything they could see, taste, touch, or hear — anything they could possibly imagine in the small amount of time they had on this earth.
And this is why they were good, not because they “lived life to the fullest”. #PleaseReflect