[Originally published as the first part of 5 Dangerous ideas about faith]
Imagine if, out of a desire to get your child to eat healthier, you told her there is a little leprechaun who will throw cereal at her while she sleeps if she eats Lucky Charms for breakfast?
Do you think she would believe that story? Possibly. It depends on how young she is and if she has seen you as trustworthy in telling her the truth in other matters.
What would be the consequence of your child believing this idea? If she believes you, she may find it funny or get really scared at night if she accidentally sneaks in some sugary cereal for a bedtime snack.
This could result in her not sleeping well and other behavioral issues. Also, the parent may find it humorous that the child believed them and grateful that their child is allegedly making better food choices out of being scared away from the unhealthy option.
However, she will most likely find out later that the appearance of a real leprechaun was, in fact, not true and that Lucky Charms taste delicious. This may result in her trusting what her parents say on certain topics less. The consequences may vary, but this little scenario is most likely not going to wreck a child and parent’s relationship. Nonetheless, all ideas have consequences for good or ill.
What if you told your child these things instead:
“There is no absolute truth and whatever you believe in about the purpose of life is up to you…as long as you are sincere and happy is all that counts.”
Can you think of any potential problems with this statement?
How is a child supposed to determine what truth is really true if truth is up to her to decide? How is this saying supposed to work out in the real world? How can you determine the meaning of life if you are the sole decider of that purpose? What if someone else comes up with a contradictory meaning of life that may cause harm to you? Since everyone is different, our changing feelings can’t be the standard of the purpose of life. It must be beyond us and an unchanging standard.
The meaning of life must transcend humanity: meaning that is objectively beyond humanity’s own definition from within. Thus, our ultimate purpose in life is something that we must discover, not create.
If all humans were created for a purpose by a divine being and will someday stand before him in judgment, then our purpose in life must conform with WHY the creator made us. Meaning must correspond to the reality of our divine designer’s intentions.
However, if humans were not created by a divine being and are just the result of a cosmic accident and mutations that led to us today, then how can we objectively have purpose, value, an unchanging standard of right and wrong, and ultimate justice for all the wrongs done in this earth?
All of these ideas have dramatic consequences that are far weightier than what type of cereal our kids chose. As parents, teens, and college students, it is vital that we develop our ability to test all ideas and learn how to respond to them.