Statesboro, GA, USA
sorry this took so long ...
It made sense to believe in a God then.
Yes it did (does). I really get what you're trying to say Brad. I'm human, and I feel the same things. And yet, if we take the book of Ecclesiastes as a whole, we see convictions that moderate the earlier (or concurrent) thoughts of Solomon that you quoted. For example, there is also this:
"The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil. " (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14)
Even though the doctrine of resurrection was not fully developed in Jewish Theology, there was a shadowy inkling of something to come, where justice would be granted, and human beings would be judged. In view of this, I think Solomon represents a bridge between natural observation and revelation. Solomon's thoughts about people being essentially no different than animals, justice being blind, and the best course of action being terrestrial enjoyment, are offered not as final conclusions, but as ad interim viewpoints. To those who might feel bad about having such thoughts, I would say that the were meant to encourage us, since even the wisest shared them. To those who feel that they are okay as ultimate conclusions, there are those other statements I've mentioned which assert the design of God, and even of Judgment beyond death. I guess what I'm saying, is that taken as a whole, Ecclesiastes is best viewed as a sympathetic chronicle of progression.
I know this is a bit of a long passage by Lewis, but I think you’ll find it interesting, in that it addresses exactly what we’re talking about:
“It seems quite clear that in most parts of the Old Testament there is little or no belief in a future life; certainly no belief that is of any religious importance. The word translated "soul" in our version of the Psalms means simply "life"; the word translated "hell" means simply "the land of the dead ", the state of all the dead, good and bad alike, Sheol. It is difficult to know how an ancient Jew thought of Sheol. He did not like thinking about it. His religion did not encourage him to think about it. No good could come of thinking about it. Evil might ...
Behind all this one can discern a conception not specifically Jewish but common to many ancient religions. The Greek Hades is the most familiar example to modern people. Hades is neither Heaven nor Hell; it is almost nothing. I am speaking of the popular beliefs; of course philosophers like Plato have a vivid and positive doctrine of immortality. And of course poets may write fantasies about the world of the dead. These have often no more to do with the real Pagan religion than the fantasies we may write about other planets have to do with real astronomy. In real Pagan belief, Hades was hardly worth talking about; a world of shadows, of decay. Homer (probably far closer to actual beliefs than the later and more sophisticated poets) represents the ghosts as witless. They gibber meaninglessly until some living man gives them sacrificial blood to drink. How the Greeks felt about it in his time is startlingly shown at the beginning of the Iliad where he says of men killed in battle that "their souls" went to Hades but "the men themselves" were devoured by dogs and carrion birds. It is the body, even the dead body which is the man himself; the ghost is only a sort of reflection or echo. (The grim impulse sometimes has crossed my mind to wonder whether all this was, is, in fact true; that the merely natural fate of humanity, the fate of unredeemed humanity, is just this-to disintegrate in soul as in body, to be a witless psychic sediment. If so, Homer's idea that only a drink of sacrificial blood can restore a ghost to rationality would be one of the most striking among many Pagan anticipations of the truth.)
Such a conception, vague and marginal even in Paganism, becomes more so in Judaism. Sheol is even dimmer, further in the background, than Hades. It is a thousand miles away from the centre of Jewish religion; especially in the Psalms. They speak of Sheol (or "hell" or "the pit") very much as a man speaks of "death" or "the grave" who has no belief in any sort of future state whatever-a man to whom the dead are simply dead, nothing, and there's no more to be said. In many passages this is quite clear, even in our translation, to every attentive reader. The clearest of all is the cry in 89, 46: "O remember how short my time is: why hast thou made all men for nought?"
As we all know from our New Testaments Judaism had greatly changed in this respect by Our Lord's time. The Sadducees held to the old view. The Pharisees, and apparently many more, believed in the life of the world to come. When, and by what stages, and (under God) from what sources, this new belief crept in, is not part of our present subject. I am more concerned to try to understand the absence of such a belief, in the midst of intense religious feeling, over the earlier period. To some it may seem astonishing that God, having revealed so much of Himself to that people, should not have taught them this.
It does not now astonish me. For one thing there were nations close to the Jews whose religion was overwhelmingly concerned with the after life. In reading about ancient Egypt one gets the impression of a culture in which the main business of life was the attempt to secure the well-being of the dead. It looks as if God did not want the chosen people to follow that example. We may ask why. Is it possible for men to be too much concerned with their eternal destiny? In one sense, paradoxical though it sounds, I should reply, Yes.
For the truth seems to me to be that happiness or misery beyond death, simply in themselves, are not even religious subjects at all. A man who believes in them will of course be prudent to seek the one and avoid the other. But that seems to have no more to do with religion than looking after one's health or saving money for one's old age. The only difference here is that the stakes are so very much higher. And this means that, granted a real and steady conviction, the hopes and anxieties aroused are overwhelming. But they are not on that account the more religious. They are hopes for oneself, anxieties for oneself. God is not in the centre. He is still important only for the sake of something else. Indeed such a belief can exist without a belief in God at all. Buddhists are much concerned with what will happen to them after death, but are not, in any true sense, Theists.
It is surely, therefore, very possible that when God began to reveal Himself to men, to show them that He and nothing else is their true goal and the satisfaction of their needs, and that He has a claim upon them simply by being what He is, quite apart from anything He can bestow or deny, it may have been absolutely necessary that this revelation should not begin with any hint of future Beatitude or Perdition. These are not the right point to begin at. An effective belief in them, coming too soon, may even render almost impossible the development of (so to call it) the appetite for God; personal hopes and fears, too obviously exciting, have got in first. Later, when, after centuries of spiritual training, men have learned to desire and adore God, to pant after Him "as pants the hart", it is another matter. For then those who love God will desire not only to enjoy Him but "to enjoy Him forever", and will fear to lose Him. And it is by that door that a truly religious hope of Heaven and fear of Hell can enter; as corollaries to a faith already centred upon God, not as things of any independent or intrinsic weight. It is even arguable that the moment "Heaven" ceases to mean union with God and "Hell" to mean separation from Him, the belief in either is a mischievous superstition; for then we have, on the one hand, a merely "compensatory" belief (a "sequel" to life's sad story, in which everything will "come all right") and, on the other, a nightmare which drives men into asylums or makes them persecutors.
Fortunately, by God's good providence, a strong and steady belief of that self-seeking and subreligious kind is extremely difficult to maintain, and is perhaps possible only to those who are slightly neurotic. Most of us find that our belief in the future life is strong only when God is in the centre of our thoughts; that if we try to use the hope of "Heaven" as a compensation (even for the most innocent and natural misery, that of bereavement) it crumbles away. It can, on those terms, be maintained only by arduous efforts of controlled imagination; and we know in our hearts that the imagination is our own. As for Hell, I have often been struck, in reading the "hell-fire sermons" of our older divines, at the desperate efforts they make to render these horrors vivid to their hearers, at their astonishment that men, with such horrors hanging over them, can live as carelessly as they do. But perhaps it is not really astonishing. Perhaps the divines are appealing, on the level of self-centred prudence and self-centred terror, to a belief which, on that level, cannot really exist as a permanent influence on conduct-though of course it may be worked up for a few excited minutes or even hours. All this is only one man's opinion. And it may be unduly influenced by my own experience. For I ... was allowed for a whole year to believe in God and try-in some stumbling fashion to obey Him before any belief in the future life was given me. And that year always seems to me to have been of very great value. It is therefore perhaps natural that I should suspect a similar value in the centuries during which the Jews were in the same position. Other views no doubt can be taken. (From Reflections On The Psalms)”
If the universe is designed for life, we do not need a miracle for life to begin.
If life began with a miracle, then the universe is not designed for life ...
The universe and its laws are fine tuned for life's existence (therefore God). Yet, the chances of life actually being created and surviving in this universe are so small that it takes a miracle for it to happen (therefore the universe is not fine tuned for life).
I think this is a false dilemma simply because the fact that the fine tuning of the Universe would not dictate that it would inevitably produce life. A house in the wilderness was built with someone in mind, and yet the occupancy must come from outside. In other words, these two remarkable things ... 1) that the universe is unlikely to have produced life of itself, and 2) that the universe is unlikely to have produced a habitable planet where life might flourish, do not cancel each other out.
[This message has been edited by Stephanos (04-30-2011 06:47 AM).]