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Ethics / Psychology

Happiness and God

In a previous post, I discovered a dilemma. Happiness is the goal of human beings and is of the utmost importance. However, it seems that there is no way for human beings to be happy. All of the means that human beings try seem to fail. So it appears that human beings cannot be happy. But it is impossible for something to be of the utmost importance and also be impossible to achieve. So some will naively claim that God is the answer.

Let’ s consider why some will think that God is the answer. God is all-powerful and has no limits. He can provide anything that we can dream of. God is all-knowing, so he can always provide something new. God is perfectly good, so he would be good enough to make us happy through friendship. Any of the barriers that prevented us from being happy in our activities do not apply in the case of God. If this were all to consider, then God would indeed be the answer. We should all find our happiness in God.

Unfortunately, there are problems with this idea. First, any attempt to be happy must deal with our current realities. It is no good to point out that God can provide us with anything and always be creative unless he actually does so. Since there is no evidence of this, we must assume that God has not done so. Second, it is very well to claim that God is willing to be our friend. But there is no evidence that friendship with God is anything like friendship with another human being. We can all ask our friends for minor favors. Becoming dictator of the world, becoming immortal or just having a dear friend resurrected would be a minor favor from God, so why does it never happen? The only reason can be that friendship with God is nothing like friendship with another human being.

There are yet further problems with this idea. Happiness is also harmed by our own problems. While I have only mentioned people who successfully pursue the means of happiness, many do not. There are many people who strongly believe in a particular means of achieving happiness, but find themselves unable to pull it off. If God truly is what they are looking for, why does he not help them? Nor is this our only problem. We also have a problem with those whose pursuit of happiness is blocked by evils both natural and moral. This includes the obvious case of death, but also includes sickness, disability and the destruction of property.

Finally, there is no explanation for just how we might find happiness in God. God is not material, so we cannot observe him through our senses. That means that the most likely means of achieving happiness is by intellectually contemplating God. Perhaps some sort of mystical union with God would also work. For some people, this would indeed give them a measure of happiness. The problem is that not everyone finds those sort of activities to be fun. Some people wish to live an active life, build structures, write creatively, socially interact with human beings, etc. For those people, that sort of activity would simply not give them happiness. Even for those that do find happiness in that sort of activity, it would be improbable to suppose that would find unending happiness if that was all they did. Even the most reclusive person still needs human contact. So given our present understanding, there is no reason to suppose that God solves the dilemma.

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