They say as you grow older you tend to become more religious. This makes some sense as one draws closer and closer to life’s exit door. I’m just the opposite. Organized religion looks more and more childish to me as time passes and I wonder how anyone with any education can really believe such contradictory and unsubstantiated nonsense as that found in the Bible, Koran, etc. Religions are basically collections of stories, many of which have been passed down from the dawn of human consciousness. These stories are attempts to explain the unexplainable and ease the terror of those living in a world that on the surface makes very little sense.
The questions are profound. Why do we die? Is death final? Why do good people fail and bad people prosper? Why must we suffer so much? Does life have any meaning? We still have no answers to these questions, but we do have stories, and if you believe they are true, they provide structure to the universe. God created us. Yes we die, but after our physical bodies fail, our spirits go somewhere else that is wonderful. In that spiritual world, good people are rewarded and bad people are punished. Life does have meaning if you follow God’s rules.
Comforting stories, but stories nonetheless filled with magic and contradictions. For instance, we are told in the Bible that Adam and Eve were the first man and woman, the seeds of the human race. They had two sons. Think about that. Make sense? It’s an origin story and there are hundreds more like it from different cultures and parts of the world. Stories of a great flood predate the Bible. Noah and the ark? Forget about it. So does rejecting organized religion make me an atheist? Not really.
I think science is slowly leading us to the realization that there are other realities that exist beyond, or perhaps alongside, the one which we experience. Just think about the past 100 years and the new worlds we have discovered from black holes to DNA to subatomic particles to the recent confirmation of the Higgs Boson, the so-called God Particle. We’ve unlocked all of these previously mysterious worlds in a mere century of scientific research. Think what the next century will bring.
What animates living things? Some call it a soul or spirit, but I call it energy. We exist in an animated form for 70 or 80 years and then we die, our physical bodies wear out, entropy, and our energy leaves our corporal being. The promising part of this scenario is that science tells us that energy cannot be created or destroyed, but only take another form, so the energy that animates us when we are alive is not destroyed when we die, but merely takes another form. It’s possible that our energy simply dissipates into the universe, but it is also possible it exists in another reality. Based on the trajectory of scientific discoveries, I think we will someday come to the realization that our reality is only one of many that exist in time and space.
Ironically, science is taking me beyond atheism. I don’t make any claims to know what exists beyond our own reality—no streets paved with gold or 72 virgins at my beck and call, and I think at this point it is unknowable, but I am growing convinced that our energy, that thing which animates us, exists beyond our physical death in some state. It doesn’t seem implausible to me anymore, but then, that exit sign is closer today than it was yesterday.