Sunday, September 24, 2023

From the Publisher – Art Hall – 6/14/2006

By Rick Racela

From the Publisher
  Are You Happy?
 Over the course of the last several years I have read the work and listened to the lectures of an interesting thinker named J. P. Moreland. I often share his thoughts with friends because he has such an encouraging and ultimately “happifying” way of looking at life, and life after death.
 With you, the reader, in mind, I met with him and asked if he would put some of these thoughts into pithy columns for the Herald.  He, along with a close colleague, Craig Hazen, told me they’d enjoy doing it.
 The first of these appears this week below.  I hope that you enjoy them. 
       Art Hall, publisher
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Why Aren’t Americans Very Happy?
There’s good news and bad news.  The good news is that happiness is wonderful.  The bad news is that very few today are happy.  Depression for baby boomers increased tenfold over previous generations.  That’s an epidemic.  And things are getting worse.  Experts say it’s because people have stopped living for a larger purpose and are obsessed with personal satisfaction.  Pleasure has replaced purpose, a flat stomach is preferred to character and meaning.
But what if there is no ultimate purpose?  Suppose we played Monopoly with one rule change:  You may do anything during your turn.  So you put hotels everywhere.  I follow by dumping the board over and turning on the television.  Immediately you realize that your move is futile.  Why?  Because if the game as a whole is without purpose, the individual moves within the game are meaningless.  What if atheistic Darwinists are right:  we are the result of a blind, meaningless process and life is just “one darn thing after another?”  In such a world the difference between Mother Teresa and Saddam Hussein reduces to the difference between a Big Mac and a Whopper.
Serial Killer Jeffrey Dahmer concluded that since there was no God and we evolved from slime only to return there upon death, moral values were arbitrary human inventions.  Accordingly, he saw no reason to deny himself a source of pleasure (murder) even if it violated arbitrary conventions.  If Darwinian atheism is true, it’s hard to avoid Dahmer’s conclusions.
But we have a longing for objective purpose to life.  Maybe this longing is a key to reality.  Maybe we were put here for a purpose.  If we were, then Someone had to purposely place us here for that purpose.  If so, then living for that purpose will give us meaning and happiness will be thrown in as a side benefit.  If not, then it’s Monopoly and Dahmer.  Now that’s depressing.
*  *  *
Dr. Moreland is Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, Biola University, La Mirada, Calif.  He is co-author of The Lost Virtue of Happiness (NavPress, 2006).

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