Thoughts on Rick Warren's The Purpose Driven Life, Chapters 0-15

intro . one . two . three . four . five . six . seven . eight . nine . 10 . 11 . 12 . 13 . 14 . 15

Thoughts on Rick Warren's
The Purpose Driven Life

(What on Earth am I here for?)

by Roger Bourke White Jr., copyright May 2008


In spring of 2008 I was given this book by my good friend Daniel Lee (Lee Se-Jong) who thought I might find it a good read.

I looked at it quickly and found it was a basic convert-to-Christianity book. The author recommends reading just a chapter a day, and the chapters are just a few pages long.

Doing a few pages a day didn't sound bad and I decided I would journal my thoughts as I read.

What you see here are my thoughts about Christianity as I read Rick Warren's book. The thoughts address the subjects that Rick Warren brings up on a chapter-by-chapter basis.

Have fun with this,

-- Roger

Roger's Journal of Thoughts on

"The Purpose Driven Life", by Rick Warren

Day One

Chapter One:

The first page of this book by Rick Warren has several flaws that I consider "classic" in Christian religious discussion. I will outline those here:

o The Bible must be interpreted.

Rick, in picking and choosing pieces of the Bible to tell us about, is saying that we readers can't understand the Bible. He is saying, "I can understand it, and here's what you need to know."

Rick, in this case, does this in spades... he picks and chooses from dozens of version of the Bible, not just one.

What all this picking and choosing does is turn the Bible into a "white noise source". White noise is a jargon term in electronics, and what it means is random information. The Bible can say anything... anything at all... because Rick is going to pick and choose what we should hear from it, and... further... explain to us what the meaning of what he has chosen.

If I wrote a computer instruction manual that was as fuzzy and interpretable as the Bible, I would be fired. But picking, choosing, and then interpreting, is the mainstay of Christian high-profile pastors. So for them, a fuzzy Bible, or many fuzzy Bibles, is really handy.

o I agree with his Bertrand Russel quotation, "Unless you assume a God, the question of life's purpose is meaningless."

This is the point of view I take. For me, this question of life's purpose is meaningless.

o Warren, "You were made by God and for God."

If I was made by God and for God... God is a really sloppy designer. Look at the size of the universe God created! 13 billion years old, and 13 billion light years across.

I recently wrote an essay on how big an intelligently designed universe would be. The result came out very close to the size that ancient wisemen postulated. I came up with: one light year across -- big enough to hold the solar system -- and ten thousand years old -- long enough for Biblical history to take place. That's it, and that's a far cry from billions and billions we observe today.

If this universe we live in is created mostly to house mankind and let mankind experience mortal existence... this is a really sloppy job! It's even sloppier than Bible writing. Why would an intelligent God be so wasteful and sloppy?

o Warren, "You were made by God and for God. Until you understand that -- life will never make sense. "

Frankly, I agree with this wholeheartedly. But... I feel that life doesn't make sense. Which brings up the next interesting question: "If life is essentially meaningless, why is it important to humans that it makes sense? Which is essentially the same question as, "Why do we have religion?"

An answer I came up with recently was, "Religion protects mankind from dangerous ways of thinking. Human-style thinking is a valuable and powerful tool. But, like any powerful tool, it can do harm as well as good. Religion is a way of taking a dangerous edge off human thinking. Specifically, it allows humans to engage in self-aware thinking without sinking into the destructive forms of nihilistic thinking.

End of Day One


Day Two

Chapter Two: You are not an Accident

In this chapter Rick describes God in ways that would bring warm fuzzies to any classical physicist of the 1900's.

He says that God is completely determinist, completely! God goes right down to selecting the DNA that will come from each mother and each father to make each child. Completely determinist!

He even quotes Einstein from his early days when he was a classicist, "God doesn't play dice." (Einstein later changed his mind... albeit grudgingly)

This causes problems on two levels:

First, classical physics can't explain our real live universe... the one we live in and experience every day. Explaining the universe we live in every day takes quantum mechanics. (See the story of the mystery of the Ultra Violet Catastrophe to see an early example of classical physics not being able to describe our real world.)

One of the aspects of quantum mechanics is that at the subatomic level, the world we experience is uncertain.

We live in a universe that can't be absolutely determined. Grappling with this was the hardest part of the quantum mechanics revolution in physics thinking. So... Warren is describing a universe that is not the one we live in. (Ah well... it's not the first time a Christian has done this.)

The second problem is that such complete determinism excludes free will. If God has micromanaged down to picking which genes will get selected, he's micromanaged what mate we will pick, and what moment we will conceive... which means he's micromanaged our thoughts: we are not going to think of anything he has not planned for us to think!

Hmm... Where's the free will in that?

Where's the God's love in that? Is this universe just an elaborate mobile in God's living room? Does God love us like we love the Mona Lisa?

Smaller issue:

On page 24 Warren says, "The Bible says, 'God decided to give us life through the word of truth, so we might be the most important of all the things he made.' This is how much God loves and values you!"

... just to start with... what in Sam Hill is 'word of truth'???

Now... wait... before you answer that. Keep in mind that in Warren's eyes we are talking about a God who micromanages DNA... *all* DNA. This same God who micromanages DNA can't write the Bible as an instruction manual clear enough for me to understand? He writes something that requires people like Warren to pick and choose pieces out of... and then Warren has to explain to me what those pieces mean?...

Whoa, that smacks of serious inconsistency in capability.


Day Three:

Chapter Three: What drives your life?

For years it was a curiosity to me: religion does not describe the world well, it is full of mistakes in its description of the world and how it works, and yet... it seems to be valuable to mankind's survival. Why is that?

About two years ago, I came up with an answer to that mystery:

Religion is a protection tool that helps stop the damage that self-aware thinking can cause.

Self-aware thinking. The concept that, "I am different from you, so you don't know everything that I know." is a way of thinking that is distinctively human -- no plants and very few animals can engage in it.

It is hugely valuable because it allows a being to teach others. If I know that others don't know what I know, then learning how to teach them becomes a meaningful activity. Without self-awareness, teaching happens by accident.

But, self-awareness is a tool, which means it can be used for good and for bad. The bad side of self-awareness is asking dangerous questions, questions which can cause the being to damage itself. One of the most obvious dangerous questions is: "Why am I here? Why am I on this Earth?"

The straightforward answer is, "There is no reason for you to be here." This is the, "you are a fluke of the universe" answer, and it's not a comforting answer.

If the self-aware being comes to this conclusion, and then kills himself or herself in despair, then the human community has been damaged, not helped, by self-aware thinking.

Religion provides a different answer to this dangerous question, a more livable answer, and this is the value of religion to humanity.

Day Four:

Chapter Four: Made to Last Forever

I don't agree that there's an afterlife.

I don't see any evidence for one.

Even the Bible doesn't count as evidence for it's existence.

First off, much of the writing about afterlife in the Bible comes before Jesus. Yet he seems to be the only one in Christian history who has experienced afterlife and come back to talk about it.

That's what makes him so special, right?

If he's the only one, then all the Old Testament writing about afterlife is just people guessing. It's feelgood talk.

But... Jesus has resurrected only once. He hasn't repeated the experiment. One of the tenants of good science is that an experiment must be repeatable. Once again, what the Bible tells about afterlife us is just feelgood talk.


Day Five:

Chapter Five: Seeing Life from God's View

"The Bible offers three metaphors that teach us God's view of life: Life is a test, life is a trust, life is a temporary assignment."

First off: the presumption of thinking to know God's Plan for people!

This God we are talking about is an alien being! This being lives outside our universe! It lives in at least two more dimensions than we do. (It has to if it is going to create our universe and move around freely in it.) This being has created a universe that is billions of light years across and billions of years old. This same being micromanages human DNA, which means it micromanages uncountable subatomic particle interactions throughout the universe, and has for billions of years.

And yet, Warren proclaims, we can understand what this alien being is trying to do with humanity. He has the audacity to say he knows that God put us here for a trail, a trust and a temporary assignment.

...Tell me again why this isn't just feel-good talk?


That said, lets look at the question of what we can carry to an afterlife.

One of the key questions concerning afterlife is: what body will we inhabit? Our current body, or a different one?

The second key question is: what is learning?

Second question first:

Learning is what our body does all the time we are alive. Most of our learning does not happen at the conscious level. Most of our learning is things such as: how to balance as we walk, how to digest kimchi, how to maintain blood pressure as we stand up or lie down. Conscious learning, the kind we remember and pass on to others, is just the wee tip of the iceberg of learning.

This means that if we change bodies when we move into the afterlife, if we move into perfected bodies of some sort, we toss out 90-99% of our learning -- most of what we learn during our Earthly experience will be absolutely meaningless.

Further enhancing this meaninglessness of our learning, our bodies are tightly designed to live well in an Earthly environment:

o Our bodies expect to live with one gravity of weight pulling us towards a solid ground.

o Our bodies expect to be surrounded with air pushing us in at 14.5 pounds per inch.

o Our bodies expect to have mosquitoes hunting for our blood from dusk to dawn...

We are designed to live on Earth! Is the afterlife going to be on Earth? If not, our new bodies will be quite different than our existing bodies, and we will have to do a whole bunch of learning all over again.

If where we live in the afterlife is not on Earth, if we inhabit a new body... what learning, what value from a trial, what result from a test, are we taking into the afterlife?

What presumption to know that this is why we are here!


That said, here is my speculation on what God is testing us for:

What we humans (and other living organisms, I don't consider humans as some special kind of life) take to the afterlife is the mortal experience. We take the experience of sleeping, waking and knowing that each day takes us a day closer to the end of our mortal existence. We also live in a competitive world: if we aren't constantly on our toes, our mortal existence ends real quickly!

I see three kinds of existences as possible:

o the mortal existence -- the kind we experience, where we age and die

o the immortal existence where the being can be killed -- a vampire or elf existence (Class One Immortality)

o the immortal existence where the being can't be killed -- a Christ existence (Class Two Immortality)

The mortal existence teaches the spirit (the spirit being defined as whatever it is that moves on to the afterlife) to be in a hurry. It also teaches the spirit to take take chances. We aren't going to live forever, so it's OK to cross a busy street.

The Class One immortal experience, where a being can die, teaches the spirit to be shy and risk adverse. Death from crossing a street may be a one-in-a-million chance, but if you live a million years, and cross a street once each year, you stand a 50-50 chance of dying crossing a street.

This means that if a mortal-trained spirit and a Class One immortal-trained spirit get into a conflict situation, the mortal-trained spirit will always face down the immortal-trained spirit because the mortal-trained spirit will be willing to take risks. It also means that the mortal-trained spirit is certifiably crazy if the afterlife body we inhabit is an immortal one. The mortal spirit is crazy because it will take risks with a class one immortal body, and, sooner rather than later, it will "die"... whatever that means to our afterlife bodies.

So... if God is using the mortal human experience as a training ground for spirits who will join him in the afterlife, he wants a few billion spirits who are impatient and willing to take risks. He wants spirits who will boss around other spirits. He wants spirits who will "kick ass and take names", and face down spirits who whine and complain when God asks them to do things.

This is what I see God as wanting mortal-trained spirits for.

This also means he wants these mortal acclimated spirits to die in some fashion as part of serving him in the afterlife, and it means he doesn't care if they act crazy in their new bodies. In fact, he needs them to act crazy. If they didn't act crazy, they wouldn't die for him.

Hmm... Well... I guess he is an alien being, after all.


Day Six:

Chapter Six: Life is a Temporary Assignment

As I have pointed out earlier, there is nothing in this life that points to the existence of an afterlife... except peoples' strong belief in one.

The question now becomes: "Why is a strong belief in an afterlife valuable to humans?" Afterlife is not true... meaning it's not provable, but believing in it seems to be part of many successful human cultures on Earth.

This is a good indicator that, true or not, it's valuable thinking to humans.

I propose that it's valuable because it promotes cooperation between humans.

Cooperation is a new style of thinking for human males. (Females have cooperated longer than males because has been helpful to child raising for a long time.) The traditional thinking for males is to live as a loner, and come together with other community members only to fight over food and women.

This means cooperative thinking is hard for people to do, and those things which help cooperative thinking are valuable.

Believing in a judged afterlife is particularly helpful in preventing the dangerous thinking of hedonism -- doing things for oneself that damage the community.

Second thought:

The modern religions, such as Christianity, Buddhism and Islam, date back roughly two thousand years. This is interesting because it's a fairly narrow time span: two thousand years ago, plus or minus a thousand years. It's not as if Christianity dated back ten thousand years, Buddhism dated back five thousand years, and Islam only one thousand years.

This hints that human thinking is evolving rapidly. It hints that three or four thousand years ago, humans weren't ready for modern religious ideas that demand heavy cooperation from believers, and offer a glorious afterlife in return.

I propose that recorded history is showing us changes in how the brain is hardwired... how it thinks... as well as the more obvious lessons about kings, battles and inventions.


Day Seven:

Chapter Seven: The Reason for Everything


"How can I bring Glory to God?"


How can Rick Warren propose he knows how to bring glory to God? How come this God... who can micromanage DNA... who can manipulate exactly when my Daddy will make love to my Mommy, can't tell me in plain and simple terms what brings Glory to him? Why is he using intermediaries such as a fuzzy written Bible, and a dubious interpreter such as Warren? And not just one Bible, but many! Warren cites not just one, but fifteen different Bibles! Why can't God make just one clearly written one?

The fact that he can't write a clear instruction manual, the fact that he has to send Jesus to explain what he means, the fact that he has to send Rick Warren to explain Jesus... all this says his thinking is alien to us humans.

If it is alien, how can we know if we understand it? What makes Rick Warren authoritative? (Hint: Quoting from fifteen Bibles does not.)

In summary, if God's thinking is not alien to us, why is he having such difficulty explaining it?


How can I bring anything to a being with creates and micromanages a universe as big as the one we live in? Again, if this creator is micromanaging the trajectories of atoms, which he must do to pick my DNA, and he is doing this throughout a universe that is billions of light years across. What difference can my actions make?

Further, if he is micromanaging atoms, and picking my DNA by telling my parents when to make love, my actions are not my actions to take anyway, they are his. There is no free will.

This concept that I can add to his glory with my actions is a silly one.

In Warren's assertion that we can make a difference to God, we are left with, once again, a feel-good thought created by a very human person who is marketing a product to people. Warren is saying what many people want to hear, his assertion that our actions make a difference to God has no more authority than that.


Day Eight:

Chapter Eight: Worship

For me, this chapter is about picking nits... as in nitpicking. It is a complete non-issue what part of a service or what kind of music is involved in worship.


Day Nine:

Chapter Nine: What Makes God Smile?

"The Smile of God is the Goal of your Life."


Putting aside for now the issue of, "How come I can't understand the Bible, Jesus or God directly?", we come to the issue of what does God really want from me?

Rick proposes we want "the smile of God", and he gives us the story of Noah as an example of a person getting God's smile.

... Wow! It didn't rain in Noah's time? God told Noah the specifications of the Ark?

This the same God that can't write a clear Bible?

Man... there are so many inconsistencies in the Noah story, and Warren's interpretation of it! Warren praises Noah for obeying God completely and exactly... OK... does that mean that God gave Noah clear and exact instructions? If so, Noah got something I don't get.

Has God ever given me clear and exact instructions? Why not? And... No... having Warren, the Bible and Jesus speak for God *is not* the same as having God give me clear and exact instructions... sorry. Noah didn't design his ark by listening to Warren, consulting the Bible, or by listening to Jesus.

Second issue: If God micromanages our thinking, why does praise make any difference at all? And, once again, if God controls our DNA as Warren asserts in Chapter One, he micromanages our thinking. What mankind can offer God is only the equivalent of writing a letter to oneself. This kind of praise is preaching-to-the-choir praise.

For me, this is the theme of all Christian thinking: Inconsistency... inconsistency... inconsistency.

The problem with this inconsistency is it opens the doorway to intellectual tyranny. It means that Warren can *tell me anything*, and say it is justified by what the Bible says, because the Bible is telling us what Jesus said, who is telling us what God wants.

But... what's the difference between Rick Warren telling me, Adolph Hitler telling me or Joseph Stalin telling me? In all three cases, the men doing the talking say all I have to do is start believing, and I'll feel just fine. What's the difference? This is what I mean by intellectual tyranny.

What's the difference between Rick Warren and Isaac Newton or Albert Einstein? Or, Charles Darwin, for that matter? The difference is the scientists say, "You don't have to trust us to believe us. Just look at the real world around you. We are simply explaining what we see happen in the real world. If what you see no longer matches what we describe, then don't believe us any more."

And, this is what happens in science. As we learn more about our real world, science theories are updated. Newton is now "wrong" because we have done more careful observing of the universe, and Einstein's explanation works better than Newton's when explaining extreme conditions.

In the same fashion, Darwin's ideas have been updated, but the updated ideas are often called Darwinian for convenience sake.

But, that's not the case with what Warren is talking about. Warren bases his ideas not on the real world, but on fifteen interpretations of a two thousand year old book... a book, not a reality.

What if Warren isn't right? How would I know?

The Bible isn't going to tell me if Warren is right or wrong, which means Jesus isn't going to tell me if Warren is right or wrong, which means God isn't going to tell me if Warren is right or wrong.

The relation of science to the real world isn't the same. The real world is with us right now, and speaks directly to all of us. If Rick Warren says, "The sky is red.", I can walk outside and check for myself.

I can check with the real world on what Rick Warren says, I can't check with God on what Rick Warren says.


"Every activity, except sin, can be done for God's pleasure if you do it with an attitude of praise." -- Warren

Why the exception for sin? For now, this is an unanswered question. There will be more on this later, I'm sure, but the reason I ask it now is that if we are so tightly crafted by God, why should a sinful activity be possible? Why should it be possible for mankind to engage in a proscribed activity? Remember: Warren's God is a micromanaging designer!


Day Ten:

Chapter Ten: The Heart of Worship

"The Heart of Worship is surrender."


When I read this chapter, I see thought patterns that resonate strongly with being a human woman.

"Trust is an essential ingredient to surrender."


A woman who has decided the time is right to have a baby is putting enormous trust in her husband, her extended family, her community. Human child raising depends on more than a mother, more than a mother and a father together. If the child raising is to be successful, mothers, fathers, family and community must all help.

Thus, this idea of trust and surrender is as old as assisted childbirth, which is one of the distinctive traits of the human species.

This is, perhaps, why this idea of putting trust in God is such an easy one for people to listen to. Trusting is a style of human thinking that has been necessary for thousands of human generations. It is a deep and useful instinct. The difficult part of the question is: who to trust?

"Surrendering to God is not passive resignation, fatalism or an excuse for laziness."


This again sounds like advice to give to a woman readying for a child raising. She is surrendering to the process, she is trusting those around her, but she is far from doing nothing, and far from not making choices.

Once again, what this means is that Warren is playing with a comfortable thinking chord, an instinct, built into humans.

On another note:

"The night before his crucifixion, Jesus surrendered to God's Plan."


Hardly! Jesus surrendered to God's Plan when the Tree of Knowledge was planted in the Garden of Eden. Both Jesus and God are Class Two Immortals (unkillable) and both can see the whole of human history. As God was planting the tree of knowledge, the whole history of mankind, from Adam and Eve to today, was being planted as well. And both Jesus and God were aware of all of human history at that time.

One of my powerful images of God and Jesus is to view them in the Garden of Eden on that fateful day...

Chewunk... Chewunk... Chewunk... With each shovelful of dirt God moved with the spade as he planted the Tree of Knowledge...

Smack... Smack... Smack... Jesus felt the slam of a spike being hammered into a hand or foot as he was nailed to the cross a thousand years later.

Eeeewww! What an image!

The point of this image is that Jesus knew every detail of his destiny long before he came to Earth. Saying he surrendered to God just the night before it happened is more evidence of weak thinking on Warren's part.

Time and time again, Warren's story is not internally consistent. Time and time again, Warren, the Bible and Jesus don't "map" to what has happened in the real world. This is why I find Christianity silly and unbelievable.


Day Eleven:

Chapter Eleven: Becoming Best Friends with God

"God wants to be your best friend."


My opinion of this chapter is that it is silly and wishful thinking on Warren's part.

Once again, there are the odd lapses in logic:

"We were made to live in God's continual presence, but after The Fall, that ideal relation was lost."


If that relation was so ideal, why did God permit it to be lost?

My own experience with meditation is somewhat different than what Warren describes.

What I find is that focusing, concentrating on a problem, helps on some problems, but not all problems. For those kinds of problems that focusing doesn't help on, what helps is: setting up a problem, formulating it in my mind, then walking away from it at the conscious level and letting my unconscious level work on it.

I have in my brain a file full of unsolved mysteries. When I notice something interesting but unexplained, I analyze it a bit, then I put it in my unsolved mysteries file, then I move on... I get about my life. Someday an answer may come, and I'm delighted when it does!

I now have hundreds of items in my unsolved mysteries file, and, as a result, delightful answers now pop out fairly often. Dare I call this wisdom? It seems to be that.

I use this technique for story writing, too. I write a story until I come to a part where I don't have a good answer for what is going to happen next. I stop, put it in the unsolved mysteries file, and work on other things. At some point, a good answer to my story problem pops up. I write that neat answer down, then move the story along to the next obstacle.

I find this technique very similar to Warren's description of "talking with God", but I feel like I'm talking with myself, not someone else.

Are we both right?


Day Twelve:

Chapter Twelve: Developing your friendship with God

"You are as close to God as you choose to be."


This chapter is just wishful thinking. It is Warren writing about what Warren wants God to be like.

There is even less support for the ideas of this chapter than the previous ones. The only kind of support he offers is snippets from the fifteen Bibles.

Day Thirteen:

Chapter Thirteen: Worship that Pleases God

"God wants all of you."


This chapter is as much wishful thinking as Chapter Twelve. If you already believe, this may sound warm and fuzzy. If you don't already believe, this is anthropomorphising.


Day Fourteen:

Chapter Fourteen: When God Seems Distant

"God is real, no matter how you feel."


The topic of this chapter is worshipping God when God is no longer showing himself to you. The advice given by Warren: keep worshipping, you'll get through this dry spell.

The problem with this chapter is that it's teaching fanaticism. It's teaching that if you lose sight of your goal, if your goal is no longer realistic... try harder! Your belief in your goal will come back.

This is fanaticism., pure and simple. It can be used to support worshipping God, worshipping Communism, worshipping Fascism, worshipping Britney Spears... worshipping anything!

What you are saying when you say, "Keep worshipping even if you no longer see what you are worshipping for.", Is that your own rationality, your own good sense about what is happening in the world around you, is worthless.

This is a pretty dangerous way to think. This is the winding and broad path to delusion thinking... a way of thinking that is easy for humans. Delusional thinking is simply not paying attention to the world around you. You make up a way of thinking that is logical and comfortable, but not right. Not right in the sense that it doesn't match what is happening in the real world around you.

A person doesn't have to be crazy to be delusional... well, not too crazy, anyway. An example of mild delusion: President Bush firmly believes that on the morning of September 11th, he saw pictures on TV of the first jet crashing into the WTC. The problem with that belief is that no videos of the first jet crashing were broadcast until the afternoon of Sept. 11th.

It's a mild delusion, but it's a real one. This human ability to support delusion is why fanaticism is so easy, and this is why a Christian must be careful about what he or she believes, or works hard to keep belief in.

The example I think of when I think of delusion gone bad, is the story of a Catholic Crusade sacking of the then-heretic city of Beziers, France in 1209. The details of what happened and who said it are now fuzzy, but this event produced the now famous saying, "Kill them all, God will know His own", or as it is commonly said today, "Kill them all, God will sort them out."

This attitude is to me an example of the fruit of fanaticism, which makes it the fruit of worshipping God when you can no longer see its rightness.

This is something that should be done cautiously, not blindly.


Day Fifteen:

Chapter Fifteen: Formed for God's Family

"You were formed for God's family."


This chapter starts with wishful thinking, "You are born to be part of God's family." It's a nice thought, it's fun and comfortable to believe it, but the real world we live in gives absolutely no evidence that it is true.

This is one of Christianity's warmest and fuzziest offerings to humanity: believe in God, die, go to Heaven and get, "First, we will get to be with God forever. Second, we will be completely changed to be like Christ. Third, we will be freed from all pain, death and suffering. Fourth, we will be rewarded and reassigned positions of service. Fifth, we will get to share in Christ's glory. What an inheritance! You are far richer than you realize."

Well... OK... first assuming that this list is not something developed merely because it sounds good to people... here are some problems with it.

o Be with God forever: so fuzzy, so meaningless

o Changed to be like Christ: once again, meaningless. But I will presume this means changed into a Class Two Immortal who is omniscient about our universe. Whoa! What a big change! This is really the antithesis of mortal existence. Why should we like it? It is totally alien to our current existence.

o Freed from all pain, death and suffering: pain is a signal that something is wrong. We don't want to experience it all the time, but it's sure handy for keeping us alive and healthy. No pain, no suffering? This presumably means an alien lifestyle in which we need no signals that something is going wrong. Now that's alien! Or... God is playing word tricks on us? Perhaps in heaven we won't experience pain when we stand too close to the fire, instead we will experience "a signal of heat discomfort". A signal... but no, not a pain. Likewise, in our mortal existence we can stop suffering with a shot of morphine. The problem is the tradeoff. What's the tradeoff for losing suffering in heaven? If you say "there is no tradeoff, that's the glory of heaven!" then you are engaging in more hopeful talk. How do you know that?

The chapter goes on to espouse one of the crasser elements of Christianity... something I consider a bad case if blatant "product placement": the assertion that you can only get to God through Christ.

This is a statement that makes no sense, and it hasn't made sense since I first seriously started studying religion as a teenager.

Why would God... maker of this marvelously diverse world we live on... make only one way to get closer to him. There is no logic behind this... except the logic of selfish people, or the logic that this thinking supports a long-lived religious organization while alternatives do not do so as well.

With time, the interesting question around the "one way to God" issue for me has evolved from,

"Why do people believe in something so silly?"


"Why do people find this 'only one way to God' belief so attractive?"

I suspect it's popularity is because this tweaks instinctual thinking in humans. It may be part of clannish thinking. (see my essays on polygamy to see more of my thoughts on clannish thinking.)

--End of Chapters One through Fifteen--


intro . one . two . three . four . five . six . seven . eight . nine . 10 . 11 . 12 . 13 . 14 . 15