What it Means to be Human
By: Wendell Krossa
Since the beginning people have wondered what it means to be human; to exist as a conscious person and what is it all about. This is seen in all mythology and religion, which was pretty much what all ancient writing was about, down into quite recent times. Armstrong says that religion was in all areas of life – economic, political, and social. Religious was the way people saw life and understood it. Which is to say, people were trying to make sense of it all, and explain that impulse for meaning. Consciousness brought that impulse and awareness to humanity.
What did it mean to be human. The God element was just humanity’s ultimate expression of the human thing, taking it to its ultimate meaning. People, with consciousness have always realized that we are part of something bigger, Something that explains why we are here. The larger reality is infinitely better than what we experience.
So there is this tight relationship between whatever the greater reality is about and our life here. Anthropologists like Clifford Geertz have dealt with this human drive to shape human life after greater ultimate reality or gods, or heavenly models and plans. Landes notes also this human desire to follow some greater plan. It’s a very natural desire, and evident among most people right from the beginning. People structure their behavior, and even their living situations to fit in with the plan. They shape their towns, their houses, the food they eat or don’t eat, their clothing, and so on. The OT has examples of how various tribes were arranged in order around the temple and all the details of life planned according to the divine plan.
Modern atheism cannot get rid of this impulse to follow some greater ideal or authority, and that’s why it remains a minority position in the human community. This is the case, even with secularizing movements, where people are not abandoning spirituality, but just the formal religious expressions of spirituality.
Even the atheists do exactly the same as religious people with their efforts to deal with the human impulse for meaning. Dawkins goes about creating meaning, and a new god, a new ultimate ideal for his clan of atheists – Natural Selection, the Source of all Enlightenment. Something to explain everything that is in the physical world and by which to model life.
So we here are wrestling with a new way to express this- a new safer way to handle this tight God/human thing. How to understand it properly, and to work with it in a better way than has been used in the past. Some caution against dogmatism over what we know, or don’t know, or don’t know what we don’t know (to quote Donald Rumsfeld). This is something that we have observed from the beginning of humanity. It is what all religion has been about. So we have to deal with it somehow. Why not find a better way?
Recognizing that the Ultimate Reality you are trying to understand is infinitely better than the best you can imagine, and getting the humane thing right (as unconditional does better than anything