I find myself pulled to the following two claims:
- If nothing lasting can come from human activity (think of Russell's description of everything returning "again to the nebula"), then no human life has much meaning.
- If nothing lasting can come from human activity, some human lives (e.g., lives lived in loving service to others) still have much meaning.
If the conditionals in (1) and (2) are material, then there is an easy way to reconcile these two intuitions. For if they are material conditionals, then (1) and (2) together entail:
- Something lasting can come from human activity.
This seems too facile. (Maybe only because I am not sufficiently convinced by my arguments here. But I also think that this interpretation ignores the anti-material marker "still" in (2).) But here is a more sophisticated hypothesis about these two intuitions. Suppose that God has designed our world so that only events that can have eternal significance are deeply morally significant. Then it is contingently true that:
- Nothing that lacks eternal significance has deep moral significance.
- If lives of loving service to others lacked eternal significance, they would still have deep moral significance
This hypothesis would explain why we are drawn to (1). We are drawn to (1) because we have a deep divinely implanted intuition that (4) is true, and (4) makes (1) very plausible. Moreover, the hypothesis can explain why we are drawn to (2), namely that with reflection we discover (5) to be true. (Contrary to what the name "subjunctive conditional" suggests, we do use the indicative mood for subjunctive conditionals sometimes.)
The hypothesis also explains why it is hard to find arguments for (1), why belief in (1) is more of a gut feeling than an argued position, but nonetheless a gut feeling that it is hard to get rid of.
Finally, the hypothesis is compatible with the possibility of there being non-theists like Russell who overcome their pull to (1). The intuition isn't irresistable. The only plausible story as to how (4) can be true is that, in fact, God makes all morally significant things have potential eternal effects. So a non-theist is likely to realize that (4) fits poorly with her overall view, and hence get rid of (4).
This hypothesis about (1) and (2) charitably does about as much justice as can be done to both intuitions simultaneously. This gives us not insignificant reason to think the hypothesis is true, and hence that there exists a God who makes morally significant events have potentially eternal effects.
Of course, one might come up with naturalistic explanations of the pull to (1) and (2). But I suspect that these naturalistic explanations will end up simply denying one of the two intuitions, and then explaining why we have this mistaken view. An explanation of our intuitions on which the intuitions are true is to be preferred for anti-sceptical reasons.