This is, in part, a reply to this post made over on the Bad Catholic blog.
While I agree with the conclusion, that God exists and that our life in this world is not the sum of all our life will ever be, I must admit that I do not quite understand the argument. As atheists have asked in response to C. S. Lewis’s thoughts, how does a yearning for something imply the existence of something else? The statement that “I yearn for the eternal” implies no more to me than what it states. To make the argument valid, you’d first have to show how yearning for something implies anything else. And saying “well, people yearn for food, and food does exist” does not help. That’s just an example that fits the model. Hunger doesn’t itself imply the existence of food just because food actually does exist. (You could argue the matter on biological and evolutionary terms, but if you intend to then speak in terms of the spiritual, I’m not sure what the point would be.)
What, then, are we to make of the desire to be happy?
Isn’t that missing the point? Why do we have to make anything of it?
What are we to make of the existence of dirt?
The real question is: how do we find happiness?
When you’re hungry, you don’t sit there thinking: “Gee wiz, I’m sure hungry. Hey, wait! That means there must be food! Well, that’s comforting to know.”
No. Ya get up, ya find food, and ya eat it!
While eating, you don’t say: “Hey, wait. After eating this and getting full, I’m just going to be hungry again later. What’s the point of this? I guess I’ll just stop eating and never eat again.”
No. You eat until you’re not hungry anymore (hopefully not until you feel like barfing), and then you eat again later. Your stomach isn’t going to have an existential crises just because the cycles of digestion are never ending until you die.
(The atheist, on the other hand, says: “Gee wiz, I’m sure hungry. But that doesn’t imply there’s food. Or that the hunger is even real. In fact, I’m not even hungry anymore. Guess I’ll just sit here, the noble accepter of truth that I am.”)
I would also claim that we don’t want eternal happiness. We want present happiness. It’s not about what we’ll feel tomorrow versus today, as if our happiness is the sum of dots mapped out on some timetable. The now is all that matters to happiness. Reminding ourselves of yesterday’s sadness does not destroy a wonderful present, nor does reminding ourselves of yesterday’s fortune overturn a present despair. The experience of anything is always in the now. This is what wanting eternal happiness means; it means wanting happiness now, which exists eternally. (It is always now.)
So the question becomes: How can I be happy now?
“Well,” a faithful servant of the Lord might say, “you can’t be completely happy now. You will have to wait until you die and go to Heaven!”
OK. Thanks. Way to not answer the question. Let me rephrase: How can I be as happy as I possibly can right now?
“Um,” says the determinist, “you already are!”
Oh, you determinist, always making jokes!
“Oh, I just had to!” the determinist replies.
But seriously, what’s the answer?
I hope you will forgive me, but I will save an attempted answer for a later blog post, for it is late, and it would very much please me to go to bed now.