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The Purpose of Life: An American Conceit by William M. Hastings, Ph.D.

The Purpose of Life: An American Conceit

by William M. Hastings, Ph.D.

406 pages
Why life has no purpose and why that is okay.

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Category: Religion
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About the Book
The events of 9/11 shattered the traditional quiescence of Americans toward religious matters and brought the advent of the critics of religion known as the new atheists. The ongoing dispute on the desirability of religion has been valuable, but the biologists and Baptist preachers leading the debate have often been one-sided and simplistic. They typically limit their conception of religion to the common Western version featuring a threatening macho Creator, with a long list of thou shalt nots…, who dispenses one-way tickets to heaven and hell. The Purpose of Life explores the social science of religion in order to uncover these unconscious assumptions and develop a more nuanced appreciation of the pros and cons of religion in the modern world. The special focus is America, which is universally recognized as paradoxically both the most materialist and the most religious of all the industrialized nations.

Religion can be understood as a variety of quite different things including an aesthetic attitude, a belief system, a moral code, and a structure of social control. These elements can be taken apart and often exist in surprising combinations. In particular, morality and belief in a purpose to life are independent of each other. There are many forms of religious expression that exist on the personal as well as the institutional level. They are frequently at odds. The Purpose of Life disentangles the threads of morality, belief, and ritual from the web of confusion woven by the major social institutions that exploit life’s natural fear and uncertainty to advance their own power. It demonstrates that most religions get along fine without pretending to reveal a grand purpose to the universe and its life forms. The Purpose of Life reveals how at the core of the confusion advanced by religionists, spiritualists, and academics is a bogus claim that they have found the pure, simple, unchanging purpose to the universe and all its life forms. When we disabuse ourselves of this prideful delusion, we can forget about the purpose of frogs and ferns and construct a valuable purpose to our individual lives. Only then can we welcome the beauty, mystery, uncertainty, and challenge of our lives.



About the Author
William M. Hastings, Ph.D. William M. Hastings has a Ph.D. in social psychology and for many years was a professor of social science in a Christian liberal arts college. After a career of attempting to explain complicated and touchy issues, he wrote The Purpose of Life to answer the biggest question of all.



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