If anyone has ever read Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy they may have noticed the little quirk Pullman put in; there are two entities competing for the title of “God”. The winning entity, the entity that there are Churches dedicated to worship, is “The Authority”. This is ironic for many reasons: the authority is obviously not a God, the narrative tells the story of the Authority being the first angel that simply tells the other angels He created them; the Authority is power-hungry; the Authority is immoral.
So what, exactly, gives the Authority authority? Obviously, the Churches believe the Authority to be a God, and so worship it. But why does the buck stop there?
Why are we in a floating state of meaninglessness, unless there is a God; what about a God grounds our purpose so? Making God happy? How so very arbitrary. What is so great about that? We can ask the same of our morality: why does it have to agree with, and be grounded in, a God to be more than just some evolutionarily driven preferences? Why do all the big questions only get meaningful answers if we just drop the question off at God’s door-step and push the question out of mind?
I suspect it’s exactly that, it’s an excuse to push the question out of mind. They aren’t easy questions, God forbid we think about them (see what I did there?). If you actually think about it, placing all your worth in a being that happens to be cleverer and more powerful than you is like ants placing their worth in us. But what ants want doesn’t line up this what we want, and they’d be serfs to alter their behaviour so. They would not be fulfilling some final purpose. The fear of punishment only makes their preferences line up, but not for our sake; they don’t want to be punished.
There is a deeper question, which is why do we feel we are owed answers to those questions? Why do we have to have a prescribed purpose? It should be enough to have the liberty to define your own path. We are not owed an ‘ultimate purpose’; we do not know there is a ‘divine morality’; God should not be an authority to prescribe these things to us. It should be enough for us to take the one opportunity that we know we’re going to have to do something we enjoy; something we can respect ourselves for; something that will make an impact. We are not owed more than that, we do not have reason to believe there is more than that, we should not dwindle this life like it is a test.
God is an authority because, like the children in His Dark Materials, we are made not to think about it. In His Dark Materials children are forcibly ripped away from their capacity to think critically and creatively, in this world we are criticised as being worthless if we try to think critically or creatively.
God is an authority because we have allowed Him to be. He gives people purpose because we have not been allowed to ask how. God is made an authority by the weakest parts of us.
We need to become the authority of our lives.