I've never been religious personally, but beliefs I once held could be termed "spiritual" and I have studied many religions, and the history of
mysticism in general. I struggle with the concept of mortality, and the apparent lack of any inherent meaning or purpose to my existence, life,
thoughts, and emotions.
Stark, frank reality, as revealed by science and observation, and scientific theories consistent therewith, reveal reality to be quite nihilistic.
People disagree with that, and that is their prerogative, but that is my impression. According to the most current research that we have to draw upon
when attempting to describe reality and our place in it, everything we experience that we attribute meaning or importance to may in fact be inherently
One possible interpretation of reality based purely upon science and scientific theory is this:
Emotions are electrochemical interactions in the brain. Thoughts and choices are just emergent behaviors. Matter isn't matter as we traditionally
conceive of it. We are stuck like flies in fly paper, in what is termed a membrane. All matter is simply disturbance and complexity in said membrane,
which at the fundamental level is just quantum "foam." The universe may exist as an undefined expanse of dimensional interplay and movement, without
purpose or origin necessarily.
Love, friendship, family, and everything else we value are inherently meaningless beyond evolutionary necessity, which in turn is simply a result of
natural selection. Natural selection is not a magical force, but simply "how things shake out." You can witness a analogous form of natural selection
by dumping a bag of differently weighted and buoyant stones into water. Some will rise to the top, others will not. They are not alive or animate, but
they undergo natural selection. Biological life as we know it, replete with the aforementioned emergent behaviors and interactions that give us the
illusion of consciousness, free will, and our lives having "meaning," originated with natural selection amid similarly inanimate substances long ago.
We are "just how things shook out."
Any attempts to assign greater meaning to our existence than this, such as by acknowledging and embracing scientific knowledge but then also going
beyond it to say that somehow being altruistic (including philosophies such as Humanism, which frequently attest atheism and science) is innately good
or preferable for any reason other than "it feels good because humans' survival benefited from the development of empathy," are the cognitive mind
using dissonance to reestablish the illusion of purpose and importance. There is no "greater good" because life has no meaning other than that which
we attribute to it in an attempt to avoid the realization of nihilism and existential terror, as any life form without these defense mechanisms would
experience. And any thoughts of "doing good" or being a "good person" are irrational unless viewed simply as the result of the biological mind's
attempts to justify and preserve its importance, and perpetuate itself or its offspring.
All life forms of sufficient complexity have a survival instinct, because this is beneficial to their species' perpetuation, the pursuit of which only
evolved through natural selection by being the most fit to survive. In short, nothing matters, and when your life ends, your consciousness and the
emergent behaviors arising from the interactions of the brain that give rise to it, will also end. You will cease to exist, period.
Note that the above is not what I firmly believe necessarily. However, it is one possible interpretation of reality. And it is one not inconsistent
with the available facts. So that being the case, I think it's easy to fathom why people have all kinds of techniques, tendencies, methods, and
beliefs to provide their existences meaning and structure. Whether that means some form of spirituality, imaginary friends, a personal philosophy, a
pet project, a lifelong goal, or organized religion, people have a profound, and probably evolutionarily inherent, need - not just want, but need - to
give their lives meaning, or to feel that their lives have been given meaning by someone or something else.
I do believe that many in organized religion prey upon this need to manipulate and to influence. Others, having been on both sides of the fence, I
believe genuinely believe in their religious convictions. Others are simply following their natures.
While not religious, I often say I believe in human love. But what is love? According to science, it's a specific distribution of thoughts, electrical
activity, and neurotransmitters. It has no inherent meaning, other than its evolutionary function. And yet I am compelled, logical or no, to transcend
that definition. Because that is my nature and to do otherwise results in pain. If you care about anything
and believe it matters beyond your
brain's need to think so, you have faith
in my opinion, whether you choose to term it such or not.
edit on 12/24/2012 by AceWombat04 because: Typos