I read this blog post on CNN last week, about Richard Dawkins (author of The God Delusion) and his views on atheism, religion, creationism, and evolution. Some people see Dawkins’s outlook on religion as bleak. If there’s no afterlife and no higher power, then what’s the meaning of life? Is there no deeper meaning? We spend our 80-something years on earth and then we become dust and dirt? Others admire Dawkins for his logic, intelligence, and arguments for debunking creationism.
I’m a Christian, but I don’t necessarily believe that God created the earth in just six days, or that all of civilization sprung from just two people in a garden, or that the earth is only 10,000 years old. After all, how much of the book of Genesis can be taken literally? Theologians often say that our lifetimes are just blinks of an eye to God, so “six days” to God might in fact be millions of years to us.
In a sense, I like to believe in Pascal’s wager, which basically says you might as well believe in God, whether he exists or not, because if you die and it turns out he doesn’t exist, you haven’t lost anything; you’ve lived a good life on earth because you’ve followed God’s precepts. But if you don’t believe in God, and he actually does exist, then you’ve lost the chance to go to heaven and you’re going to go to hell for denying his existence.
In the blog post/interview, when Dawkins was asked about what happens after we die, he said this:
Of course it just ends. What else could it do? My thoughts, my beliefs, my feelings are all in my brain. My brain is going to rot.
I cannot argue that that is precisely what is going to happen to each of our brains when we die (unless we manage to encapsulate our heads in jars like they do in Futurama). But some may argue that Dawkins’s perspective, however truthful, is downright depressing. We may rely on religion to help give us hope that there is indeed something else after our relatively brief life on earth — that it won’t all be over just like that. We, as humans, have relied on religion to give us comfort when facing hard facts of life (the fact that we must die, we will inevitably lose people we love, etc.). So religion and spirituality may indeed just be an irrational mixture of myths and emotional beliefs to give us comfort that our physical death is not the true end of us; that we have a soul that will live on eternally.
But I believe that there are things that no amount of scientific reasoning and logic can ever explain. I think life would be rather boring if there was nothing to speculate about, and if everything in the universe had been completely explained by science and logic and rationality. Some mystery makes life interesting… and it’s nice to have something to believe in.