Most of my extended family belongs to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. You might know them as the annoying little white boys who show up to your home bearing a sickly sweet disposition and a bible, ready to save your soul. My family is Mormon…
Now before you jump to assumptions, let me clear some things up. I am not Mormon and neither are my mom or dad, the rest of my dad’s family is. But I know that Mormonism is a “living” religion; the president of the church supposedly talks to God every once in a while and hears His “revised” word (that’s how they flex with changing times). Mormons believe that if they do their duty on earth, they will be rewarded with a planet (yes you read that right, a planet…) to live out eternity with those they love. I think the fear of not receiving the reward by disappointing God is why they are some of the most externally kind and polite people I’ve ever met.
You’re probably thinking, Why on earth am I learning about Mormons and what does this have to do with existentialism? Well when we talk about existentialism, we refer to a lack of understanding of purpose and motivation to exist. Mormons, like many other religious groups, have a purpose. They believe they are on earth to serve God and that everything that they do in their life has meaning and culminates in a reward after death. My question is: How might I talk to my religious family about existentialism?
Let me draw up a metaphor; A researcher someday finds a cure to cancer (lets just say all cancers), and someone else, for some reason, doesn’t like or believe in that cure and continues to search for a new cure. She then gets frustrated and says The cure to cancer must not exist! She then goes to ask the cure creator, I need to find a cure for cancer, but I don’t believe in your cure. Please help me! Now the researcher does his best to convince her that the cure he found works, but is unsuccessful in winning her over. So he thinks talking to the woman is silly. Why would he talk about finding a cure, when he knows the one he has works?
Now replace cure with the meaning of life and the researcher with a Mormon. A Mormon who has found the meaning of life (to serve god), must find it ridiculous to talk to someone about an alternative or nonexistent meaning of life when they believe their religion is factual. Now of course as a not-super-religious-person, I think that much of the Mormon faith is ridiculous (no offense to anyone who believes in god defining purpose- everyone has their own beliefs), but I still want to understand the meaning of life.
In conclusion, I don’t know how to talk with a religious person about the meaning of life… If anyone knows, please tell me.