Tag Archives: meaning without god

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.

 

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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.

 

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Do Agnostics Ask, “Why Is God Is 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.

 

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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.

 

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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:

 

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Christian Culture
My Tweets About Religion

 


How can the universe and life exist without God? What’s the purpose?

Agnostic Atheist = I don't believe any God exists, but I'm not claiming that I might be wrong. Gnostic Atheist = I don't believe any God exists, and I know they don't exist. Agnostic Theist = I believe there is a God, but I'm not really sure. Gnostic Theist = I believe there is a God, and I know God exists.

 

Can the universe and life have meaning if there’s no God? If there is, the only way we’re going to find it is by analyzing the physical universe and seeing what clues it holds.

In this universe, everything happens because of cause and effect, and every naturally occurring event can be broken down into mathematics. Thus, every cause in nature can be viewed as an equation, and every effect in nature can be viewed as the solution to that equation. Now, if we trace the cause and effect equation of the universe all the way back to the beginning I suspect the equation will reduce itself to the simplest mathematical equation possible: 1 or 0? You could also represent the equation as, “on or off?” If you want to be poetic about it you could represent the equation as, “To be or not to be?”

If that was indeed the original equation, we know the answer was 1. If the existence of the universe was the solution to a mathematical equation, then the structure of the universe would also be the solution to a mathematical equation, though the solution to that equation is as extensive and intricate as the universe itself.

But how could this be? Wouldn’t God need to exist in order to formulate these equations, to solve them and to apply the solution? Well, wouldn’t 2+2 still equal 4 even if nobody were there to ask or answer that question?

Let me propose a radical theory. Try to imagine the universe before the Big Bang where nothing, not even the laws of nature existed. The only thing that existed was potential. That potential begged the question of existence, and the mere possibility of the question’s existence made the question a reality. Once that question came into existence it begged the next question, and then the next and then the next. In a moment or possibly over the course of infinity (which would have been impossible to distinguish the difference between at that “time”) every possible equation came into existence. After every possible calculation unfurled an answer was reached. Then, by its mere potential to exist it became a reality…and there was a Big Mathematical Bang that unfurled a big, mathematical universe that reflected the mathematical nature of its origins. On a side note, I can also imagine that just before the final answer was reached an infinite number of potential universes flickered in and out of existence as all but one solution were posed and then ruled out by the inherent mind/program/nature of the universe.

Now, based on the scenario I just proposed, you could infer that the calculation of the universe was the mind of God at work, and surely, if you make the definition of the word “God” vague enough and reverse engineer its definition to fit the evidence at hand then yes, you could say that God created the universe. However, this is more of a problem for traditional theists than it is for atheists because this God doesn’t leave you with anything to worship other than impersonal mathematics. It doesn’t leave you with any source for moral codes other than your own logic, and it doesn’t leave you with anyone to be held accountable to other than yourself. In fact, the concept of God becomes completely redundant.

I’m not saying that this is the Great, One and Only Answer to All Things. What it is, is a theoretical explanation for how the universe could have come into existence without the presence of a traditional God. And even if the creation part of this scenario doesn’t pan out to be true, the picture of the universe it paints after the Big Bang fits all the evidence we’ve observed in nature.

Now, with a mathematical view of the universe in mind, let’s look at the question of life. The first thing that must be said about life is that in a mathematical universe in which nothing happens outside of cause and effect, the existence of life couldn’t possibly be an accident. If we assumed that it was then we may as well also assume that the freezing point of water accident and the rotation of planets are accidental. However, everything that happens in the universe is bound by the laws of nature. It would fit the scientific nature of the universe more elegantly to assume that the existence of life was the solution to a mathematical equation that fits into the inherent mathematical design of the universe that has existed (at least) since the Big Bang.

I believe scientists will eventually reverse engineer our DNA to the point where they can unlock the equation of how life exists. Once we do that, we’ll be able to engineer (“engineer” would be a more accurate term than “create”) new life forms out of inanimate matter. There are some exciting implications to that statement, but the main reason I bring that up is to point out that answer the question “How was life created?” is just a matter of details. The big question is “Why was life created?”

If God existed, we could learn about Him by listening to His self-proclaimed spokesmen or try to deduce clues to his nature and motives by analyzing the universe He created, but in the end, all our theorizing might be completely wrong. There’s no way to know for sure. If the universe we live in is absurd, romantic or nihilistic then all our theories about the meaning of existence would be equally void. The best case scenario to build a reasonable theory about the meaning of existence is in a mathematically designed, scientific universe in which God does not exist.

It just so happens that all the empirical evidence points to the conclusion that we live in a mathematically designed, scientific universe. Immediately that tells us that life has some kind meaning because nothing happens in this universe without a cause, and there can’t be a cause without some sort of reason.

What makes deducing a logical explanation for the meaning of life is its simplicity, not its complexity. If you want to understand the purpose of life then just take life out of the equation. What would change if life didn’t exist? Nothing. We serve no purpose outside of ourselves. So our purpose must be to accomplish something that serves no other purpose outside of us.

It would be illogical to conclude that the meaning of life is to reproduce. If the meaning of your life is to have a baby, and the meaning of that baby’s life is to have a baby, and the meaning of that baby’s life is to have another baby then the process keeps delaying purpose to infinity. So the purpose of our existence must be something immediate. Also, mathematically speaking, every human being is the same. The reason for one person’s existence must be the same as everyone’s. More to the point, mathematically speaking, every living thing is the same. So the reason for one living thing’s existence must be the same as every other. So the meaning of life must be something personal, immediate and universal.

On one level, we can say the meaning of existence is to exist, which is to say, existence is not a means to an end, it’s an end in and of itself. You’re here to experience existence. What does that mean you should do with your life though? Sit on your roof and stare at the clouds all day? Not necessarily, because the more your mind and body grows the more acutely you’ll be able to experience existence. This goes for all living things. Everything is born, grows and dies. The big difference between humans and other living creatures is that we can choose whether or not to grow. That’s your freedom, but choosing not to grow will defeat the purpose of existing. And if all this work went into creating this incredible universe to give you the opportunity to grow we can deduce it must be a very important goal, the accomplishment of which is its own reward.

So what does this mean? That there’s some ghost in the machine that has decided to create living beings who can experience their own existence out of the goodness of its computation? That’s one possibility, but remember that we sprouted from the universe and are made of the same stuff the rest of the universe is made of. We’re not children of the universe. We are the universe. The matter in our bodies has existed since the Big Bang, and the logical structure of our bodies that allows us to be self-aware was formulated before the Big Bang. We’re the spirit of the universe. We’re the eyes and ears of the universe.

We exist because we’re the fulfillment of the universe’s calculation that it is good to be alive, aware, and possess an individual identity with individual wants. “We” have been working on fulfilling the meaning of life since before the Big Bang and through the cooling of the universe. We finished 99% of the work when we were born. Now, all we have left to do is grow and be ourselves. See, that wasn’t so complicated.

 

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

 

 


What do you do if you can’t know the meaning of life?

Picture of a cat below the words, "Nihilist in the streets, existentialist in the sheets."

 

Even if God exists, He’s left us to stand or fall on our own. Since we’re not living with God in any practical sense, then for all practical purposes, there is no God.

This isn’t a comforting idea except in the sense that we don’t have to fear being punished by a psychopathic tribal God who sets flippant and unachievable demands on His own children only to torture them for eternity for losing at a game He set them up to fail at and that only took a few moments to play and that they didn’t even agree to play in the first place. Aside from than that great relief, it’s frightening not to have a coddling parent to wipe our asses for us, but if that’s the conclusion the evidence points to then that’s the reality of the situation, and wishful thinking isn’t going to make it any different. In fact, denying reality will only cripple our ability to arrive at any truths we could glean from objectively analyzing the evidence around us.

A lot of Atheists get hung up at this point. They conclude God doesn’t exist, and then they sit back like they’ve won, but coming to a conclusion on the existence of God is just getting out of the starting gates. There’s still a lifetime of questions you need to figure out to ask and then figure out how to answer after that.

The big question now is, “If God didn’t create us then why are we here?” The big question is not,  “How did we get here?” because that answer lies in some physical process…which, except for the first step, would be the same process as if God had created us. The point is that how we got here is just details. The big question is, why?

This is the most important question anyone can ask themselves because it indicates what we should do with our lives. Unfortunately, just as you can’t prove whether or not God exists you also can’t prove why the universe was created. As a result, intellectuals have become just as divided and dogmatic over this question as they have over the existence of God. Some people assert with absolute certainty that life has no meaning. Others assert with absolute certainty that they’ve found the one true answer. People have come up with all sorts of convoluted and/or convincing arguments for their side of the debate, but the fact remains that unless you were present before the universe was set in motion you don’t know for a fact why it was set in motion.

So what do we do about this? Shit in our hands and give up? No. Even if we can’t answer the question of whether or not life has meaning, the fact of the matter is that we do exist, and we still need to figure out what to do with our lives.

Let’s start figuring this out by making the assumptions that life has no meaning, there’s no absolute value to anything, and there are no absolute truths… other than that there are no absolute truths.

This relieves us of any responsibility to search for any kind of greater understanding of existence or to follow any particular moral code. However, the fact remains that we’re here, and unless we’re just going to kill ourselves we need to figure out what to do with our lives.

If we decide not to kill ourselves then that means we’ve decided to survive. If we’ve decided to survive then we’ve defined at least one goal to accomplish during our lifetime: survival. Once we’ve set a goal we should follow the best practices for accomplishing that goal. This means that if nothing else, the nihilist should strive to master the art of survival, which is to say, responsibility. I won’t get into the skill of responsibility here, but suffice it to say that responsibility involves making decisions based on a cost/benefit analysis of what will benefit you the most in the long run.

Aside from survival, we have no other obligation to do anything else in particular…with one exception. At this point, we can choose to do nothing or we can choose to do something. Either way, we still must make a choice. That translates into exercising our free will. That means we must exercise our free will, if in no other way than to surrender it.

If we choose not to exercise our free will then there’s really no reason to continue surviving except out of fear of death, but in that case, we’re really not living for anything. So we’re as good as dead anyway. If we choose to live then the only course of action we can pursue that is even relatively meaningful is to continue exercising our free will.

However, if we choose to exercise our free will then we’ve defined a goal, and once we’ve set a goal we should follow the best practices for accomplishing that goal. In order to maximize our free will e need to define our wants while freeing ourselves from any evolutionary or socially influenced desires.

In order to do that, you need to study your body, your mind, and your society. Ultimately this path will lead you to what psychologists refer to as self-actualization and what Buddhism refers to as enlightenment. It’s going to take your entire life to accomplish. So, far from being an escape from responsibility, Nihilism should ultimately lead you down the hardest, most responsible path a human being can take…unless you decide to just kill yourself.

 

If you liked this blog, you may 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

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