We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Michael Shermer, in The American Scientist, has written a thoughtful piece entitled "The Soul of Science" about how he claims that he finds fully-satisfying non-transcendent meaning and purpose in his life. My title above is a bit tongue-in-cheek, and I have not dropped the dime to the Spanish Inquisition - lost their phone number. Nor do I have any argument with anyone who feels simply that "Life is to Live" - I think that is an entirely wholesome, if willfully unreflective, approach to the miracle of existence. We all have to map our own way of being in the world; that's the burden and blessing of freedom.
You can easily tell from his earnest writing that Mr. Shermer is a very good, decent, likeable, thoughtful fellow. But there is something in his piece, an undercurrent of trying too hard, or protesting too much, that makes me wonder whether Mr. Shermer is resisting something in himself. I am not a religious man, nor - God forbid - a "spiritual" man. But, like most people, I have a feeling about, or interest in a transcendent force. Call it what you will. And I do find an unaccountable joy in singing hymns about Jesus which causes me to imagine that something "out there" is connecting with something "in here."
Some of us Maggie's crew had dinner with The Analyst, Dr. Bliss, last month in Cambridge. She expounded on the theme that "everyone worships something," whether they know it or not. She feels that self-worship - the idolatry of "self-fulfillment" and "self-importance" and "self-realization" is the pop alternative to a deity. At which point Bird Dog tends to crudely interject about his yet-unwritten book entitled "I'm An A-hole, You're an A-hole" - the theoretical counterpoint to that best-seller of the 70s I'm OK, You're OK. I have doubts about whether Bird Dog's title will sell books, but I get his point.
Shermer puts everything in a science frame: "Humans have an evolved sense of purpose—a psychological desire to accomplish goals—that developed out of behaviors that were selected for because they were good for the individual or the group. The desire to behave in purposeful ways is an evolved trait; purpose is in our nature. And with brains big enough to discover and define purpose in symbolic ways that are inconceivable to millions of preceding and coexisting species, we humans are unique"
Despite his welcome humility about it, I guess Shermer "worships" science, or genetics, more or less, since that is how he decides to frame his experience of reality.
Read entire and see what you think. I am out of time. (The ironic choice of photo is of Baal, AKA Beelzebub, to whom live children were sacrificed in Christ's time.)