Tag Archives: agnostic

My Agnostic Theories On Death

Humans have a psychological need to explain things we don’t understand. There has never been a society where Agnosticism was the mainstream “religion.” In ancient times, people invented mythological stories to explain weather, stars, plants, the origins of life and what happens after we die. Their brains simply couldn’t accept the honest truth, “We don’t yet understand why these things happen.”

Science has explained what rain, lightening, and stars really are, but we’re still struggling with the concept of death. So most people pick a religious book and accept its answers as flat fact. They defend the hastiness of their decision by saying, “If it brings me peace and doesn’t hurt anyone, then what’s the harm?”

There are three problems with this justification. First, most religious texts are littered with passages that can cause harm. If you accept the book as a whole, you risk letting the bad in with the good unless you cherry pick what you want to believe, but then you’ll spend half your life doing mental gymnastics to reconcile you’re contradictory beliefs.

Shall we start with the Bible? -Exodus 21:7-11, Deuteronomy 22:28-29, Deuteronomy 22:23-24, Exodus 21:20-21- I could go on.

The second problem is that your actions in this life are guided by your purpose. So what you believe about death will sway the course of your entire life. Believing you’ll go to heaven for following a specific set of rules invented by Bronze Age tribesmen will have you chasing your tail while ignoring more important issues. Believing you’ll be reborn in a new body can lull you into a false sense of security and cause you to ignore time-sensitive tasks. Believing sin is caused by space ghosts that can only be exorcised by paying a cult member to hear your confessions can cost you a lot of time, money, and freedom.

The final and most important problem is that truth matters. Living out a fantasy feels good, but the opportunity to experience reality is meaningless if we choose not to live in reality. The only sane way to explain death is to admit you don’t, can’t, and won’t ever understand it.

Ironically, your brain is still hardwired to make sense of the unknown, and you still need some kind of working theory on death to give context to your actions and guide them towards a purpose. So you need some kind of idea/s in your head that you can follow as if they were true while simultaneously doubting them enough to reject and improve them for the rest of your life.

Based on the scientific evidence we have, the simplest and most honest explanation of death is that when you die, your consciousness ceases, and that’s it. There is no soul, afterlife, reincarnation, second chances, fairness, justice, mercy, punishment, or any other kind of consequence or closure.

This isn’t as grim as it may appear on the surface. The brevity of life gives it value and should motivate you to make the most of the present moment for its own sake. It also implies a moral code that is best summed up by Sam Harris, “Consider it; every person you have ever met, every person will suffer the loss of his friends and family. All are going to lose everything they love in this world. Why would one want to be anything but kind to them in the meantime?”

"Consider it; Every person you have ever met, every person will suffer the loss of his friends and family. All are going to lose everything they love in this world. Why would one want to be anything but kind to them in the meantime?" - Sam Harris

You can use this nihilistic atheistic framework as the basis for a meaningful life while still reserving the disclaimer that you could be wrong, or as Lee Child put it, “Hope for the best, plan for the worst.”

"Hope for the best, plan for the worst." - Lee Child

We can’t prove there’s an afterlife, but we also can’t prove what started the big bang or defined the rules of nature. The universe is an infinitely large, expanding machine that has rearranged itself over the course of billions of years to create planets that excrete sentient beings capable of experiencing reality. It wouldn’t be wrong to say the universe is a sentient machine that creates reality.

The power and genius required to invent our universe is incomprehensible, and the same force that created quantum physics also created life and death. If it went through all this trouble to design us to die, there must be a reason that is as logical as the freezing point of water. I don’t know what that reason is, but I know we’re in good hands; we’re in the best position to hope for the best. If the universe is on our side, almost anything is possible.

Maybe there was only a one-in-infinity chance of your consciousness existing, but on a long enough time scale, “one-in-infinity” is tantamount to “inevitable.” And if your consciousness existed once despite all odds, that sets a precedent it could happen again. It’s entirely up to the will of the universe, which again, already seems to be on your side.

It’s theoretically possible you’ll be reincarnated into whatever you choose, deserve, or need. Half-believing that should motivate you to become the best version of yourself. So would half-believing you’ll simply re-live some version of your current life over and over for the rest of infinity.

But here’s my favorite half-believed working theory about life and death. You are the universe incarnate. Your consciousness is the universe’s consciousness, and the universe never dies. Even when all the stars burn out, the force behind it still exists.

This means you’re basically a character in one of “God’s” dreams, and dying is like “God” waking up from a dream. Maybe you’ll cease to exist as an independent consciousness, but you’ll live on as a memory with as little regret for your loss as you would after waking up in the morning, ending the lifespan of a projection of yourself that existed in last night’s dream.

Then again, maybe once your consciousness has existed, you can’t put that genie back in the bottle. Though, it could be possible that in order to hold onto your consciousness, you have to achieve a level of awareness and completeness to hold yourself together. If you don’t, then your death reverts to “God” waking up from a dream.

In either scenario, when you treat other people kindly or cruelly, you are the universe doing that to itself, and that’s reward and punishment enough in and of itself. Torturing you for eternity would just be God sticking its own hand in a fire.

I’m not saying you should believe this, or that I even believe it. All I’m saying is I wouldn’t rule out the possibility we were created for a purpose. I do know we were born with an incredible set of mental tools that can be used to define and improve your consciousness, and there would be no point in giving us those tools and the opportunity to use them if we weren’t meant to.

If death is the end, that’s all the more reason to become the best version of yourself while you can, so you can experience your fleeting life to the fullest.

Although the universe may have put you in the best position to hope for an afterlife, that’s no reason to be complacent. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by using the tools at your disposal to put yourself in the best position to hope for an afterlife by becoming yourself to the fullest extent possible and making the most out of the opportunity you were given. How to do that is another question altogether that you were probably meant to spend rest of your life trying to figure out.

P.S. Never forget to question your answers.

If you liked this post, you may like these too:

Agnosticism 
The Meaning of Life

An Agnostic Take On Pascal’s Wager

Pascal’s Wager argues that although you can neither prove nor disprove the existence of God, specifically Yahweh from the Bible, there’s always the chance you could go to Hell for not believing in Him. So you might as well believe in Yahweh just in case.

The gigantic, glaring hole in Pascal’s logic is that he’s taken one mythological deity out of the thousands of mythological deities humans have invented and assumed his is the one true God. Pascal was raised around Catholics in France, but if he were raised around Muslims in Saudi Arabia he would have said the same thing about Allah. If he were raised around Hindus in India he would have said the same thing about Shiva. In fact, if he had been raised by Jews in Israel he would have said the same thing about Yahweh except without the added modifier of Jesus Christ.

 

Picture of various dieties and prophets, with the caption, "HEDGING MY BET WITH PASCAL'S WAGER! Who knows which God is the right God? Best to believe in all of them to ensure your future life in paradise!"

However, he does raise an interesting point. It’s true that we don’t know what happens after we die, and there is prudence in assuming a worst case scenario, but how do we hedge our bet if we’re not going to just pick a mythological deity at random and base our lives on the commandments ghost-written in that God’s name?

Pascal’s call to action was to believe in an invisible man, attend weekly religious ceremonies and tithe 10% of your income to the Ministry of Funny Hats. That’s actually not very hard to do, and if you break any of the arbitrary moral rules laid out by the sexually repressed chauvinists who wrote the Bible, you can always ask for forgiveness. You never need to think for yourself. In fact, you’re commanded not to. You just wind down your existential clock going through the motions of life as absentmindedly as Catholics reciting their Sunday invocations. This is an easy way out. It’s so easy as to be a coward’s way out. Religious fanatics would argue that it’s not easy to be religious. To that, I would reply, compared to what?

If you wager that you have but one brief life to live and no supernatural agent to carry the burden of eternity for you, then it’s solely up to you to live a life worth living. To make matters even more severe, you don’t get a religious cheat sheet. In fact, if God doesn’t speak through men and everyone is truly equally lost then you can’t rely on the authority of any man living or dead. So not only do you have to live your life for yourself, but you also have to figure out life for yourself. That’s terrifying. That’s the greatest responsibility any living creature could possibly bear.

Religious fanatics tend to minimize the courage it takes to accept the challenge of living alone by pointing out that without the belief in a sadistic, mythological deity there’s nothing stopping you from just living a completely selfish, hedonistic lifestyle with no concern for the future or anyone else. And while that’s technically true, very few people actually analyze the grandeur of life, the universe, and existence and then weigh all their options and decide to take that path. You don’t need God to tell you there’s more to life than getting drunk before noon and raping your neighbor. If you can’t see that then it’s no wonder you would settle for a life of meaningless rituals and self-deprecating rules to fill the void between birth and death.

But what else is there? Well, I’ll give you my two cents, but remember that I’m no more an authority on the subject than anyone else. As long as you agree to take this with a grain of salt I’ll hazard to point out the obvious, which is to tell you that by asking that question you’ve already answered it. Consider this. Do the technicians who design sports cars (or computers or video games or fine art pieces) see themselves as failures until they’ve built a complete sports car? Their passion, their success doesn’t lie in looking at a completed car. Their passion, their success lies in the pursuit of designing the perfect car. In fact, once they finish designing a car they get right back to designing another one. Do you want to know what to do with your life? Your brain was designed to solve problems. You were designed to solve problems. Your life begins the day you start thinking about it. I would wager my life on it. In fact, I am.

If there is an answer to the question of the meaning of life, the only way you’re going to figure it out is by thinking about life, the universe, and your existence. If there isn’t an answer or its true nature is as elusive as God, then the only way to figure what the next best thing to do with your short, irreplaceable life is to think about it. If there is a God watching us to see how we make the most of our lives in an absurd, existential universe, what could possibly please that being more than doing the very thing He/She/It must have done to design this sports car of a universe we’re joyriding our bodies around?

You’re a sentient being. Think about everything,  and have fun doing it.

 

If you enjoyed this post, you’ll also like these:

 

Agnosticism 
Atheism
Secular Living
Islam
The Bible is mythology
Christianity is Harmful to Society
Preaching, witnessing and arguing with Christians
Christian Culture
My Tweets About Religion

 


Do Agnostics Believe In Intelligent Design?

There’s a scientific organization known as S.E.T.I whose purpose is the Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence. The founders of this organization asked themselves how you would scientifically deduce the existence of intelligent life in the universe if you couldn’t directly shake hands with an intelligent alien. They concluded that if you can find patterns in radio waves coming from deep space that are too orderly to happen randomly in nature, then it would be logical to conclude that those patterns were coded by an intelligent being.

 

 

For example, if an alien spaceship flying past Earth picked up a radio transmission of an Elvis song they would know there is (slightly) intelligent life on Earth because that song is too orderly to happen randomly in nature. But what if it wasn’t an Elvis song they heard? What if it was a code describing in detail how to build an android? If aliens heard that coming from earth they would know there was extremely intelligent life in this galaxy. But what if that code wasn’t sent via radio waves? What if they found a box floating through space containing a single solid-state computer chip that held the code? That would still be too orderly to exist randomly in nature.

If the scientists at S.E.T.I. found such a computer chip floating around Earth they would conclude it was intelligently designed. But what if the code wasn’t in a chip? Would it matter where we found the code, as long as we found a logically patterned code somewhere in something?

Well, look at our DNA. It’s a code. The code is a program. The program is for the design of an intelligent being that is capable of self-direction and self-awareness. Its body can process resources to generate its own energy, repair itself and even create new robots.

 

 

Now let’s take a step back and look at the rest of the living creatures on planet earth. Each living thing contains similar codes. These codes even overlap between species. Humans, reptiles, fish, and birds (to name a few) all have eyes. Dissimilar species have lungs, feet, skin, reproductive organs, hearts, skeletons, etc. One or two examples would be a coincidence. The extensive number of similarities constitutes a clear pattern. The pattern indicates order. Order indicates these similarities aren’t an accident; the code is designed that way.

Consider also how these patterns came to exists. All of these species didn’t pop into existence 6,000 years ago. They evolved over millions of years. Since evolution has produced patterns, we can conclude that there is an element of order in the process of evolution. Evolution isn’t completely random. Taxonomy isn’t random. Hereditary traits can be predicted because they’re not random. Mutations may be random, but every child born with ten fingers, ten toes and two eyes are the product of order.

When we use the same criteria for identifying intelligent life that S.E.T.I. uses, then evolution is probably the best evidence we have for the existence of an intelligent designer. Having said that, even if God does exist, religion is still mythology.

 

If you enjoyed this post, you’ll also like these:

 

Agnosticism 
Atheism
Secular Living
Islam
The Bible is mythology
Christianity is Harmful to Society
Preaching, witnessing and arguing with Christians
Christian Culture
My Tweets About Religion

 


Do Agnostics Ask, “Why Is God So Cruel?”

Picture of bodies in a pit from the Holocaust

 

As an agnostic, I find enough evidence in the physical universe to leave a reasonable doubt that some force may exist somewhere out there that fits some definition of the word, God. This leaves me in a position to wonder why a God, even a vaguely defined, theoretical one, would allow so much suffering in the world it created.

I’ve heard high school aged anti-theists say they don’t believe in God because no God would be as cruel as the one in the Bible. This is a logical fallacy. I’m convinced that all the religions invented by our ancestors are mythologies that have stayed on the shelf past their expiration date. Any stories of God murdering “His” chosen people’s enemies are just more evidence religion is mythology.

It could be true that God exists and religion is mythology. It could also be true that God is just cruel. The existence of pain and suffering in the real world doesn’t mean there is no God. Whether or not you like something has no bearing on whether or not it’s true. If God is cruel though, it brings us back to the question, why does God allow child cancer, abject poverty, and war crimes to exist?

Personally, I find it hard to resent the theoretical creator of the universe for all the suffering in the world, because if God is truly omnipotent and omniscient, then that means God knows and experiences everything that happens. If that’s true, then God has experienced every drop of pain that has ever happened: every shooting, every beating, every disease, every tear.

If that’s true, then God hasn’t just experienced every instance of human pain. God has experienced it for every other living thing to ever exist. If God was looking through the eyes of every animal that ever got torn to shreds, then the question, “Why does God let bad things happen?” becomes, “Why would God go through all the pain in the universe to bring us here in the first place?”

The same concept might also be a little bit true even if there is no God. If the universe is all that exists, then life is the universe incarnate. Our blood and tears are the universe’s. So why would the universe sublimate life, if it meant damning itself to every ounce of pain that has or will ever exist?

The thing about questions is, God doesn’t answer them. The only way humans have ever gotten any answers to any questions is by studying the data they have and asking themselves the questions.

I don’t know how or why the universe was created the way it was. All I can do is look at what’s here and try to connect some dots. I know in this universe, there exists elegance in nature, consciousness, pain, and happiness. I know I value my life, and I was born with the ability to hope, love, want, cry, play, create, and above all, be.

So immediately, I have to give credit where credit is due. I couldn’t say any of that without existing in God’s Matrix in the first place. So any whining I do is from an ivory tower. Even though humans have experienced unspeakable misery on this planet, we were given the tools to make life better. We were given hands, eyes, bi-pedal legs, opposable thumbs, and most importantly, brains more powerful than any supercomputer.  We were not left alone to die in the rain. We were given everything we need to create a world where joy eclipses sorrow. We’ve just chosen to use our gifts to hurt each other. So when I see pictures of corpses of children riddled with bullets, I feel ashamed to blame the same higher power that gave us everything we need to end those atrocities.

It doesn’t take a psychologist to figure out joy is relative to pain, or a poet to observe that “the summer would not be so sweet were it not for the winter.” The bigger question is, is the cumulative pain of every living creature in history worth the joy of existence? If the math didn’t add up, I couldn’t imagine life would exist in a universe as mathematical as ours.

There’s nothing illogical about how this universe operates. If things like death, suffering and quantum physics seem illogical to us, it’s just because the universe is smarter than us. We can’t answer the question, “Why would God be so cruel?” because we don’t know shit about shit. One thing we do know about the universe is it operates according to brilliantly logical mathematical equations that create perfectly operating universe’s, planets, atoms and subatomic particles. So, if all that stuff is working so brilliantly, and suffering is part of that design, then maybe suffering is as necessary as gravity.

 

If you enjoyed this post, you’ll also like these:

 

Agnosticism 
Atheism
Secular Living
Islam
The Bible is mythology
Christianity is Harmful to Society
Preaching, witnessing and arguing with Christians
Christian Culture
My Tweets About Religion

 


Do Agnostics Fear Death?

I can’t speak for all agnostics, but I can offer my perspective on death. I don’t know if there’s a God or an afterlife. I don’t know why we’re here or what happens after we die. I don’t know how much our lives matter, or if they even matter at all. But I do know one thing, that the universe is amazing. Its size, complexity and power are unfathomable.  Its design is beyond genius. The more I dwell on what little I know about the elegance of the observable universe, the less I worry about death.

 

"Everything we call real is made of things that cannot be regarded as real. If quantum mechanics hasn't profoundly shocked you, you haven't understood it yet." Neils Bohr

 

As scary as death is, I take solace knowing that our life and death were engineered by the same genius that designed the stars. If I had to pick someone to determine my eternal fate, I’d pick whoever or whatever designed the universe. Even if the universe is simply the product of existential probability, I would volunteer to put my fate in the hands of existential probability, because apparently, it’s doing a really good job so far. Conveniently for me, the same force that created the universe is the very force that will determine my fate. So… whew.

For selfish reasons, I would like for my consciousness to continue to exist after the death of my physical body, but I’ve never seen any hard evidence to support that that’s even a possibility… except for the fact that I came into existence once against all probability. If it happened once, there’s a statistical precedent that it could happen again. Surely, the same force that created this universe could create another opportunity for us if it were logical to do so. And it did see fit to give us this opportunity. So why not another?

But even if I just go into an eternal, nonexistent sleep when I die, I’ll preemptively accept my fate graciously. That wouldn’t be my first choice, but everything the universe has done to create and manage life has been “good” so far. So, as much as my survival instincts make me hate the idea of eternal unconsciousness, if the same power that manages the subatomic particles of stars has computed that it’s logical for me to spend eternity in a nonexistent sleep, then who am I to argue?

Even if I’m wrong about most of this, any fool can look at the night sky and see that we’re part of a grand design, and that design is awesome. If death is a part of the majestic work of staggering genius that is the universe, then whatever happens after death will be mathematically logical, if nothing else. But… since we’ve already got the weight of the universe pushing in our favor so far, we’re in as good a position as we can be to hope for the best.

 

If you enjoyed this post, you’ll also like these:

 

Agnosticism 
Atheism
Secular Living
Islam
The Bible is mythology
Christianity is Harmful to Society
Preaching, witnessing and arguing with Christians
Christian Culture
My Tweets About Religion

 


My Quest To Find The Meaning Of Life

The cover of my book, "Why: An Agnostic Perspective on the Meaning of Life"

Over the course of 10 years, I wrote a book on the meaning of life titled “Why: An Agnostic Perspective on the Meaning of Life.” I didn’t do it to get rich quick, or because God told me to or because I’m the smartest person alive. My motives came from somewhere much more down to Earth. To understand why I wrote this book, you need to know the whole story.

I’ve always been an introvert, predisposed to working alone on long projects, and I’ve always loved puzzles. At the age of seventeen, I made a conscious decision to make a hobby out of solving difficult logic puzzles for the fun and challenge of it. Originally, this consisted of completing puzzle books, which I did with varying levels of success. That got boring quickly though because I was just rearranging words, letters, and numbers, which felt tantamount to mental masturbation. I wanted to solve real problems that had useful implications for myself and hopefully the rest of society.

The first big challenge I picked was creating a perpetual motion machine. Although I failed to build a working perpetual motion machine, I don’t count the quest as a failure, because it provided me hundreds of hours of entertainment and valuable problem-solving practice. When that thought-experiment had run its course I started looking for a new one. It wasn’t long before the question of the meaning of life caught my attention.

The challenge started out as a game, but the more I thought about it, the more seriously I took the question. I considered myself a responsible person who followed all the rules and lived a successful life by modern society’s standards, but could I say for certain I knew the meaning of life? No. So could I honestly be sure I was fulfilling it? No. I was just expecting I’d nail it by chance; I was leaving it up to chance whether or not I validated my existence or wasted it in vain. For the first time, it struck me that the meaning of life might not be a novelty riddle after all. It might be a matter of life and death. In fact, it might even be a matter of eternal life and death… and that wasn’t even the worst part.

What shook me even more profoundly was the realization that if I didn’t know the meaning of life then I couldn’t teach my future children what it is or how to fulfill it. I was leaving their fate up to chance as well. How could I do that in good conscience?

To my surprise, I found I wasn’t playing a game any longer. I was waffling at a crossroad in life. Should I go down that rabbit hole or find a way to write these thoughts off and get back to my routine, comfortable life? I didn’t have to second guess myself for very long. Regardless of anything else, the bottom line was I was planning on becoming a parent, and I had a responsibility to my unborn children. A father’s job is to teach his children how to make the most out of life, and since I didn’t know the meaning of life I didn’t have an end goal to teach my children how to accomplish. I was going to have to find some kind of answer to the meaning of life so I could teach my descendants everything needed to know to have the best chance at validating their existence and making the most out of life.

Being a child myself at the time, I had no idea where to begin answering such an enigmatic question, but I knew history was full of people much smarter than me. I assumed/hoped one of them had already figured it out. So I started making trips to the library and bookstores hunting for the book the master wrote his/her revelation down in.

Some of the things I read had promise, but without exception, they were all flawed in one way or another. Most of the self-help books were oversimplified and based on emotion more than logic. You could sum up most of them in the phrases, “The meaning of life is a good cup of coffee.” Or “Love everybody.” Nice sentiments but vague to the point of being useless.

The books written by self-proclaimed spiritual gurus tended to ramble incoherently and not be based on any kind of evidence whatsoever. The authors just said, “This is the answer,” and expected the reader to accept their mystical conclusions without asking for any logical or empirical proof.

As for Western philosophy… I know I could get crucified for saying this, but I would describe most of what I read as nine parts academic masturbation and one part insight. For all the amazing and useless things I read, I never found a systematic, logical, empirically valid explanation of the meaning of life.

And then there are the world’s religious books. The first problem they pose is that most of them claimed to be the final truth on life and state it is foolish, arrogant, or outright immoral to question them let alone believe in any other belief system. So even if I quit searching for the meaning of life and bet my soul on any religion, I would still be committing blasphemy according to multiple other self-proclaimed holy books. This concerned me deeply because I don’t want to go to Hell. If blasphemy is immoral, then I don’t want to commit it, but we’re all in a no-win situation. In the end, I figured if you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t, you may as well do your best.

All things being blasphemy, the way I chose to commit it was to put all the religious books I could find to the test of empirical and logical truth. Without exception, they all contained historical and scientific errors, textual problems, absurdities, contradictions, and incoherent moral codes. Hundreds of thousands of books have been written about each religion, attempting to explain their mysteries. But Occam’s Razor can explain all of them in one sentence: All the religions humans have created are mythologies.

If that’s true, it creates as many questions as it answers. How was the universe created? What defines ethics? Is life meaningless, or is the purpose of life simply beyond the grasp of human intelligence?

The last question bothered me the most. If it really was true that we can never know the meaning of life then that would mean we have one, but can never sure if we’re succeeding at it. Does that mean we were never meant to fulfill it? Would that mean, for all practical purposes, life has no meaning? Are our lives nothing more than pieces in a cosmic game of Periwinkles? Are we not important?

My inability to answer any of these questions drove me to existential depression. I tried to act like nothing was wrong and continued going to work and socialize with friends but found it hard to be enthusiastic about anything since it seemed nothing we did mattered in the long run.

Walking through my tiny corner of the universe, I couldn’t shake my suspicions that it would be absurd for life to exist without a purpose. Surely there had to be a reason why such a complex universe full of complex living beings existed. So as I went through the motions of life I continued to think about and observe the world around me hoping to find the clues I’d missed.

On my way to work in the mornings I passed by a large oak tree, and I’d often stop to stare at it and ask myself, “What are you doing there Mr. Tree?” One day I was studying Mr. Tree when I found the clue I was looking for. The tree contained patterns. The branches weren’t geometrically organized, but there was a pattern to how trees in general look. Then I looked down at myself and found patterns in my body. We can recognize humans from other animals because our structure follows the same pattern. Skeletons follow patterns. Heredity follows patterns. Biology is all about patterns. For that matter, so is the rest of nature: gravitational pull, chemical reactions, and mathematical equations. These all behave according to patterns which reflect phenomenally elegant order in the universe.

It would be illogical to assume that everything in the universe behaves according to predictable patterns, but life (and all the patterns it contains) came into existence on accident. It’s no more an accident for life to exist than it is for water to freeze. The universe was meticulously designed to produce living beings. The immeasurable level of detail in the design of the universe isn’t an accident.

Atoms, molecules, solar systems, and DNA are so ingeniously designed that I can’t discount the possibility an intelligent God created them. If that’s true, then why does God let bad things happen? Does/should God answer prayers? How do you learn about an absentee God of science? Do you even need to know God, or were we put here to do something else?

I wanted to explore these questions, but a voice in the back of my head kept asking, what if I’m wrong about religion, and there really is an angry, jealous God?  If I ever claimed to figure out life for myself, would I be punished? Would I go to hell? Were humans not meant to think for themselves? Why would God create children who aren’t supposed to think for themselves?

With or without God, is it still impossible (or at least too difficult) for humans to figure out? If the question can be answered, who’s smart enough to do it? Could I do it or should I leave it to the professionals? But who are the professionals? What would make someone qualified/disqualified to find the meaning of life anyway? Do you need a doctorate degree, a Nobel Prize, membership in a high IQ club, or at least published book under your belt before you’re certified to… ask questions?

I lost sleep asking myself these questions. I knew if nobody else had life figured out, then I’d have to do it on my own, but I didn’t think I could or should for all the reasons stated above. But then again, not trying was as good as suicide…and in the case of my potential offspring I was responsible for, manslaughter. This infuriated me. I kept telling myself, “This is insanity. It doesn’t make any sense.” Then, after a long night of tossing and turning in bed, I finally let myself admit the simple and obvious truth of the matter. It was insanity. It didn’t make any sense because it was illogical.

There may or may not be a God. We’re all just stranded in this big, elegant universe. We’re so lost we don’t even know how lost we are. If God’s out there, we’re left on our own to sink or swim. We don’t know the difference between right and wrong or if there is one. There is no instruction book. All we can do is figure out life for ourselves.

Whether we know or will admit it, everyone does this. We look at everything around us and come to our own conclusions. So I said, “To Hell with taboos,” and made a decision to consciously do what I’d already been doing all along. I’d figure out my own systematic, logical explanation of the meaning of life. The point wasn’t to create a book to publish. It was to create my own personal guidebook to life.

Having decided that, I turned my attention to the enormous task of figuring out where the hell to begin. Ask yourself, “What is the first thing you need to do to answer the question, ‘What is the meaning of life?’” That’s a riddle within an impossible riddle. When I posed it to myself, I felt completely dumbfounded, but in that boggled, fuzzy state of mind I had a moment of horse-sense clarity. I realized if you want to answer any question, you need a step-by-step guide to answering questions.

So I went back to the library and the bookstores and read a stack of books on logic and problem-solving. I learned a lot of useful things from those books, but I didn’t find the streamlined guide to answering questions I was looking for. So I looked back over everything I had learned about thinking and boiled it down to a neat list.

  1. Ask a question.
  2. Gather data
  3. Identify the variables you have.
  4. Identify the variables you don’t have.
  5. Sort the data.
  6. Apply formulas.
  7. Ask sub-questions.
  8. Question your answer.
  9. Apply the solution.

I spent years applying these steps to the question of the meaning of life and piecing my conclusions together in this book. I included a detailed breakdown of my method of problem-solving in Chapter 14 since everything you’ll ever do in life will be the product of questions you’ve asked yourself. No matter what the meaning of life is, it involves problem-solving since everything does.

If you read “Why” you’ll see how I applied these steps to the question of the meaning of life. If you just want to know the final conclusion I came to, read the next paragraph for the spoiler:

Regardless of whether or not God or an afterlife exists, or even if there’s no meaning to life at all, the most logical thing a living being can do with their brief time here is fulfill their potential. If that sounds anticlimactic, it’s because the most interesting part of the question, “What is the meaning of life?” isn’t “what,” it’s “why.”

This book isn’t the final answer on life. God didn’t reveal it to me. It’s just the conclusions I’ve come to that I base my life around. If you read my book and find even a single sentence lacking I hope you don’t dismiss all my observations and conclusions. Takes what you find to be true, and leave what you don’t. If you have a better answer, the world needs it. I need it. The way I’ll measure the success of my book isn’t by how many people believe me but by how many I inspire to ask questions.

If you enjoyed this post, you’ll also like these:

The Meaning of Life
My Goals
My Life Stories (in chronological order)

What do Agnostics believe about God?

Picture of a beautiful galaxy in space above the words, "Agnosticism: There is more going on than we are fully aware of, but only the arrogant claim to know precisely what it is and only the ignorant dismiss it without consideration. There is no truth, only human opinion."

 

Life is a mystery that each of us is confronted with at birth. The quality and meaningfulness of your existence will be directly proportional to the extent to which you unravel the mystery of life. Choosing not to even attempt to unravel the mystery cedes all control of your fate.  Choosing to put a halfhearted effort into unraveling the mystery will result in a life half lived. Choosing to devote your life to understanding life will result in a life well understood… or at least, a life as well understood as possible, and that will result in a life lived as well as possible.

If you want to understand anything, the best place to start is usually the beginning. Applying that simple rule to understanding life will take you all the way back to the beginning of time where you’ll find a pivotal question: What created the universe?

We know the universe began with the Big Bang (though you can call it whatever you’d like), but what catalyst set the Big Bang in motion? Was it simply the nature of the universe or was it caused by the action of a sentient entity? This question makes all the difference because the implications build up exponentially to the point that the question is as important as life and death.

So let’s take an objective look at the issue. On one hand, the universe exists, and its structure and function are both marvels of perfect mathematical elegance. It’s been argued that if you find a watch in the desert you can assume that there must have been a watchmaker who designed it. A valid point except for the fact that we’ve explored all the deserts on earth and peered across the boundaries of our galaxy, but we haven’t found a watchmaker anywhere. At this point, it’s reasonable to assume that there might not be a watchmaker anywhere to be found.

However, you could take the watchmaker analogy a step further and say that we’ve found intelligent beings (ourselves) and that the existence of an intelligent being necessitates that an intelligent creator predated the intelligent creation. That’s possible, but it raises the question, if we needed an intelligent creator to create us then wouldn’t the original creator require an intelligent creator Himself?

Eventually, both sides of the argument cancel each other out. The only way a creator could exist is if He existed forever or He created Himself, but if you can believe that then it would take an equal amount of faith to believe that the universe either existed forever or created itself.

You could continue making logical arguments for and against the existence of God all day long, but the fact remains that we don’t know what happened before the Big Bang. Ultimately we don’t know how or why the universe was created. So we can’t say for certain that God does or does not exist. To declare either side true or false would be an act of speculative faith.

So where does that leave us? Well, the fact of the matter is that we’re still alive, and the quality and meaningfulness of our lives still depend on understanding life as well as possible. Just throwing our hands up in the air and quitting will still only result in ceding control of our fate. So the only real option is to proceed cautiously and objectively with what little information we have. In other words, the best thing we can do at this point is to make both assumptions: that there is a God and that there isn’t.

The universe may have been created by a sentient being, but if it was, that being has chosen not to show Himself to us or communicate with us. So we have no idea what that being’s nature or intentions are.

To assume the existence of a being we know nothing about would be pointless. So if we’re going to assume the existence of a creator we need to take the next step and make some kind of assumption about His nature and intentions.

There are 3 ways we can proceed with making these assumptions:

 

1. Trust other people’s statements about God.

There are a few points to take into consideration before trusting other people’s statements about God. First and foremost, we need to ask ourselves what makes anyone an authority to speak about God? Before you answer that question though, don’t ask it with only one religion in mind. This question applies to all religions and prophets. This is a vital and fundamental issue that believers of any one religion tend to dismiss with a shamefully irresponsible lack of due diligence. If you don’t apply the question, “How do we determine which prophet (and thus, which religion) truly speaks for God?” objectively to every religion then you end up turning a blind eye to certain religions and give them a benefit of the doubt they don’t deserve. Ultimately that means you give certain religions power over you that they don’t deserve. You owe it to yourself to think about this question seriously.

Anyone can claim to be an authority on God, but what gives their claim authenticity? A personal claim is satisfactory if you’re taking advice on which vacuum cleaner to buy, but when it comes to speaking for the creator of the universe and decreeing how we should live our only life we need more evidence than that, especially since every prophet’s claim has to compete against every other prophet’s claim.

Exercising Godlike power would be pretty convincing, but nobody can do that. There are stories about this happening in the past, but none of those stories come from sources that pass even the minimum reputability test of a mere professional scientific journal. At any rate, there are stories from competing religions in which competing prophets claim to have used the power of God. How do we reconcile these competing claims? We could assume that they’re all true. We could assume that they’re all false, or we could assume that none of them are reliable enough to take into consideration.

The fact that no miracles have been recorded since the invention of modern recording devices points directly to the conclusion that no miracles have ever happened. However, even if we do give the benefit of doubt to the existence of miracles, we still have no reliable way to tell which ones actually happened. So the only logical conclusion is to dismiss them all as valid evidence.

If we can’t determine which prophet speaks the truth by their actions we can at least measure which ones speak falsely by their words. It’s reasonable to assume that any prophet who speaks with the authority of the creator of the universe wouldn’t make any faulty statements about the nature of the universe. Unfortunately, every religion makes shamefully amateur inaccurate statements about the scientific nature of the universe.

Another fact that should raise suspicion about the authenticity of a prophet is if his/her moral codes can be directly tied to the moral standards of the society that produced the prophet. Again, this is something every prophet in history is guilty of.

Another major warning sign that prophets aren’t reliable spokesmen for the creator of the universe is if a prophet’s teachings result in him/her fulfilling base, human desires for things such as money, power and/or prestige. Again, every prophet in history has reaped these convenient rewards from their ministry. Sure, some of them died penniless, but to a megalomaniac, that’s a small price to pay to be worshiped for centuries.

Here’s what it boils down to. In the universe we live in, the simplest answer is usually the correct one. The simplest, most elegant, most reliable explanation of every religion men have written books about is that…they were written by men…just men…relating their limited understanding of the universe and their personal and cultural biases while hiding their ignorance and their selfish motives behind terroristic threats and unaccountable promises.

 

2. Trust your own intuition

If trusting other people’s statements about God is unreliable, we can still rely on our intuition. However, there are several problems with feeling “led” to the one true religion. First is the inconvenient fact that people have felt led to believe in every opposing religion. So how can you be sure that everyone else was led by a deceiving force and you were led by a reliable force? You can’t.

The simplest, most elegant, most reliable explanation for why God abandoned everyone but you is that your emotions were the force that led you to your beliefs, not God. If you look at yourself introspectively and honestly enough you’ll find familiarity, anger, fear, anxiety, hope and a selfish desire for security led you to your decision to pick one religion over the others. Familiarity, anger, fear, anxiety, and hope aren’t good reasons to pick a vacuum cleaner much less a scientific explanation of the physical universe and a moral code that will control your entire life.

Still though, you might stand firm in the belief that you felt something so real and powerful that it couldn’t be anything other than the power of God at work in your life. To that, I would reply that Friedrich Nietzsche put it best when he said, “A casual stroll through the lunatic asylum shows that faith does not prove anything.” You could also compare feeling led to your religion to the single-minded irrationality of the first time you were in love. The first time you had a junior high crush didn’t you believe with all your heart that you felt something so strong it had to be the most real thing in the world? Our minds are designed to latch onto ideas that make us feel good in the moment despite the reality of the situation. For all these reasons, intuition doesn’t qualify as valid evidence for anything other than our ability to delude ourselves.

 

3. Draw conclusions from physical evidence.

The only logical way to make any assumptions about the nature or intentions of God is to draw conclusions from the physical evidence, which is to say, the physical universe. All we have to understand the Watchmaker who left His watch in the desert is the watch itself…that and the fact that the Watchmaker is nowhere to be found.

Here are a few things we know about the universe:

There’s no physical evidence of divine intervention in the form of rewards, punishment, protection or favors. There’s no physical evidence of magic or other nonphysical powers. There’s no physical evidence of angels or demons. There’s no physical evidence of God speaking through prophets, and if there is a God, He doesn’t reveal Himself in any way that’s recognizable, which we assume He could do if He chose to.

Here are a few more things we know:

The universe operates according to cause and effect. The universe is designed mathematically. Human beings possess the capacity for logic. The circle of life is that all living things are born, grow and die.

All of these facts point to the conclusion that God has left us to stand or fall on our own. From one point of view this makes God seem callous and uncaring, but from another point of view, it makes sense.

Before I guess why that may be, I need to start with this observation: An all powerful being doesn’t need humans for anything. We can’t do anything for Him that He couldn’t Himself…except be ungrateful. So it’s unlikely that God created us for His sake. If God didn’t create us for Him then He must have created us for us. Furthermore, from a purely scientific point of view, what would change in the universe if all life disappeared all of a sudden? Nothing. The universe would go on spinning without noticing a difference. So if we don’t serve any purpose outside of ourselves in the physical universe then why do we exist? If the only thing our existence benefits is us then we must have been created for our own sake.

God might have created us for our sake. Great. If God cared about us to go through all the trouble to create us, then why didn’t create us in a universe with no pain or sadness? You could also word that sentence this way: “Why is God such a dick?”

God gets a lot of criticism from people who want their asses wiped for them, but what happens when human adults coddle their children? Their children grow up weak and can’t survive on their own much less grow up to fulfill their full potential. The freedom to make your own choices gives meaning to your success, but it also carries the burden of suffering the consequences of your choices.

Let me make this absolutely clear: Bad things happen to good people because shit happens and nobody is going to wipe your ass for you. This doesn’t necessarily mean God is spiteful or indifferent. God probably loves us. After all, He went through the trouble of creating and sustaining us. God just loves us enough to let us grow up on our own. And if we view life from this perspective there’s no need for God to reward or punish us for our choices. Our successes in life is its own reward, and our failure is its own punishment.

This raises the question, what are we supposed to do now that we’re here? What constitutes success and failure in life? Well, let’s look back at the watch and see if we can use it to reverse engineer an answer to the question, “What use is this piece of junk?”

What does any life form do? All life is born, grows and dies. We don’t have any control over when we’re born. There are limits on how much control we have over when we die. Between those two points, the question of life is, “To grow or not to grow.” The only difference between plants and humans is that humans have the added burden/blessing of growing their minds as well as their bodies.

Think about it, don’t human parents love their children and want them to grow up and live a successful life? Yes. Would a good parent kill their child for doing poorly at life? No. Would a good parent torture their child or allow their child to be tortured for doing poorly at life if the parent could prevent it? No. Life is about growing up. It’s not about being judged and punished.

Now, you’re never going to be able to grow to your potential as an individual unless you accurately understand reality. That means figuring out truth…for yourself. Look at the universe. It was designed by a stoic mathematician who gave you a mind capable of critical thinking. If you want to walk the path of God then do what you were designed to do and think for yourself.

Here’s something else to think about: If God is truth then wouldn’t anyone who speaks objective truth arrived at through logical thought be speaking with the authority of God? If so then that would also mean that anyone who opposes critical thinking (and thus opposes truth) opposes truth opposes God. It could be so, but don’t get carried away with this and assume I’m saying that anyone who took Intro to Logic should walk around congratulating themselves as a saint and a prophet. From a scientific point of view, we can’t know when we’re speaking truth. Einstein put it best when he said, “No amount of experimentation can ever prove me right. A single experiment can prove me wrong.” We can never be sure we know the truth about anything, but we can be sure we’re wrong when sufficient evidence is presented. So even if we speak the truth we would be fools to claim to speak with the authority of God.

But that doesn’t mean we should just give up and shit in our hands. You can do something. You can learn something. You can figure something out. That means you should try, because trying to arrive at truth translates into trying to live. The more truth you understand the more you’ll grow. The more you grow the more truth you can understand.

So if there is a God then you should seek to understand the universe. You should seek to understand yourself. You should seek to understand what you can be come and then seek to become that. Do those things and not only will you live a quality and meaningful life but you’ll fulfill the purpose for which your Parent gave birth to you. Aside from that, help others to do the same, and don’t hinder anyone from fulfilling their potential. Aside from that, exercise your free will to choose how you want to enjoy life without worrying about the haphazard moral standards of any archaic, brutal, tribal, warring theocracies that heaped untold wealth, power and prestige on their scientifically ignorant leaders.

 

If you enjoyed this post, you’ll also like these:

 

Agnosticism 
Atheism
Secular Living
Islam
The Bible is mythology
Christianity is Harmful to Society
Preaching, witnessing and arguing with Christians
Christian Culture
My Tweets About Religion

 


%d bloggers like this: