On Heaven and Objective Purpose

For the sake of this post I shall use the terms “objective purpose”, “objective value” and “objective meaning” interchangeably; their definitions are interdependent and in places indistinguishable from each other. Here is not a place worth separating out their subtle nuances.

Imagine playing tennis, without keeping score. You may begin to notice certain differences between your strengths, weaknesses and technique and your opponent’s. For example, you may be able to hit the ball much harder, but they may be able to be much more precise with their power; you may be better at getting around the court, but they may be better at hitting the ball where they want it to go.

But, as you’re not keeping score, your game has no objective purpose against the rules of tennis. You’re still having fun, but there won’t be a winner. The differences between you and your opponent won’t have mattered. You won’t even be sure which of you is better. But you’ll have had fun.

What does keeping score change? If you were happy to play without keeping score you’re probably not that competitive. It does become difficult to imagine exactly what keeping score would change except for being able to say “I won” at the end.

I often play badminton without keeping score. And I have a great time. Those games have no objective purpose against the rules of badminton. But even when I do keep score, those games have no objective purpose against the rules of tennis. And neither game has any objective purpose against the rules of Heaven.

This, I hope, reveals the word ‘objective’ to be pretty slippery. The main reason it is slippery is because “objective” is often made to mean “binding”, on top of what it does actually mean. Its application doesn’t change anything and you can define the external meters (like game-specific rules). On top of that, it reveals that objectivity in some things is dependent on human-created meters (like how to score points). More importantly though, I hope it reveals ‘objective purpose’, as a term, to be without a clear grounding.

Imagine I say “the purpose of life is to acquire money and die with large amounts of savings; the more you have at death, the more your life is worth”. I can now objectively measure the value of any life as it passes. It is objective, and it has a meaning; it is an objective purpose. But so what? Just because that can be implemented as an objective meaning or purpose to life does not mean you should care about, or value, my judgement. So, whatever it is that God has uttered to be our purpose is what God refers. In terms of significance it is indistinguishable from my utterances about the objective purposes to life.

This is where I begin to struggle. How could the rules to the game of life, as outlined by God, be distinguished from the insignificant preferences uttered by God? Why is morality or faith, for example, actually an objective purpose over a meaningless preference? After all, faith does sound like something God would prefer. What if God had outlined self-obsession, narcissism and homicidal tendencies as the objective purpose to life? Would we still agree that was our objective purpose?

For those that think that God is incapable of outlining homicidal tendencies instead, you’re being obtuse. God is capable of a complete range preferences; niceness right through to evil. If something limits what God wants, then that limiting agency was external to God. God has merely decided to reward (or punish) us according to this external agency. God is not the path to objective purpose by this logic; He is merely an intermediary or a messenger.

If it is Heaven you assert gives life purpose then what you are saying is that eternity is a sufficient answer to the question of purpose. But to me, all that does it pushes it back further. What is the purpose of being in Heaven? If the fact that Heaven is meant to be rather nice is the answer, never forget that this life could be nice as well. If only we valued this life instead of pretending we had another. Does objective purpose come down to the fact you prefer niceness?

I simply do not, and cannot, understand how the offer of eternity and a list of rules from a specific being can be seen as answering our purpose. It is strange to think we are owed an answer, or that an answer exists, to the question of purpose. But an eternal second-life just pushes the question out-of-mind; it stops the question being asked.

I also do not see how God’s-given purpose trumps man-made purpose. We could make our purpose to raise successful children; to leave a legacy in our society; to express our own individuality; to leave behind more happy memories in other people than bad ones. But the idea that Heaven and God are our objective purposes diminishes and removes the sentiment and the value of those man-made purposes.

6 thoughts on “On Heaven and Objective Purpose”

  1. The idea of heaven is in absolute opposition to free will. If the conditions of heaven are enforced (no sin, no pain, no harm, joy, bliss etc.) then there is no reason to have an Earthly life. I find it difficult to reason free will by means of Christianity since for eternity you will not have it, only in this brief existence on Earth. In these terms free will as defined by Christianity makes a mockery of heaven, and by extension also the Christian ideals of objective morality. It can be seen as an opportunity to defy objective morality, and in doing so we see that moral values are subjective instead.

    e.g. We do not see the Christian god telling anyone to stop owning slaves, yet Christians find slave ownership morally bad. In this, they pick subjective morals for themselves by defying or denying the morals given them by the divine. This creates a life long test which you cannot pass until you reject the rules of the test in the first place.

      1. Yes, it seems to me that about 90 seconds of talking max is about as big as a blog post can get before it loses that ‘something’ that makes it good to read.

      2. A good writer could write a book. I just don’t have that knack.
        I read Hitchen’s Mortality in about 2 hours. But Dawkin’s God Delusion took me weeks…
        (The bible took me over a year)

      3. Writing in a way that makes it easy to read is not easy and I am currently struggling with that on a couple of half done posts. It seems it is taking me too long to get them done.

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