Spirituality or religion won’t save us

So here’s the thing.

There is an industry devoted to spiritual awakening or finding salvation in the afterlife — and that’s not to besmirch either — but if you think it’s the solution to our anthropocentric woes, I worry for you.

Take Buddhism (it’s always a moot point if it’s a religion) which, generally speaking, invites you to undertake a practice to steady the mind, calm the nerves and, if you’re lucky, find a place of equanimity that means you don’t suffer, or not as much as us ordinary, non-enlightened folk. Now I get it. Who wouldn’t want to go through life not being dragged out of shape and defeated by our incessant, contrary thinking? Then again, surely, if you thought about it, the only way to eradicate all that suffering is never to have been born!

I’m not making a cheap point, honest. If you think about it, though, the only way not to have to suffer the slings and all the arrows of life is never to have been born.

Of course, that’s a fatalistic, extreme position but it’s one that’s been written about down the ages and includes the work of David Benatar who’s probably the stand out academic in the antinatalist field.

You might ask why I’m taking aim at spirituality and/or religion? It’s obvious, isn’t it? It’s because it’s another solution that’s being offered to the rising tide of anxiety that if it’s not solely related to climate change et al. it soon will be. Even if your reason for falling under the spell of both or either has nothing to do with the Anthropocene, ask yourself if you were speaking more generally on the subjects why you’d still advocate for being brought into existence.

To suffer?

Who knows. But it sure looks like a strange set of circumstances to continue trading on the hope of awakening or salvation when neither would be an issue if you were never brought into existence.

I’m sure the contrary argument to my antinatalist stance is to say, on balance, that life is better than evens (I’m assuming you can value all your experiences as plus or minus). However, when you think about it, over the course of a long life, and especially at the end, it does seem questionable why we’d bring anything into existence when we know it’s guaranteed to suffer, and thereafter we’re playing Russian Roulette in hoping that our newborn can reap the benefit of all those saccharine-infused, hedonistic and life-affirming experiences to counteract the negative things which includes, of course, grief and death.

Perhaps, like so many things, I’ve got this all wrong but then again, if someone had had this discussion with me when I was just starting out, it sure would have made me think carefully about so many of my life choices and the things I’ve said.

Take care,

— Julian

ecological pessimist — influenced by Zapffe, Benatar, Thacker