The Big Picture

I wrote the original version of this page a long time ago. Since then I've refined some of my opinions, and I've become dissatisfied with the previous version of this page. For those who are interested, here is the previous version of the page. I based this new page upon the old one. I edited, added and subtracted as necessary.

I guess you'd have to call me a skeptic. I believe in nothing that cannot be proven to me. Previously I felt that the only possible exception to this rule would be my faith in logic. I felt that if one were to truly understand the universe, then one would discover it to be some sort of logical system. I've had some time to think about that and I am no longer sure. Logic, despite it's appeal, has many limitations. And, of course, it is a human creation. I have no reason to believe that logic is any more sacrosanct than any other belief.

Where does that leave me? Quite simply, I believe in nothing. I cannot imagine a proof that makes no assumptions. Unless such a proof exists, nothing can be proven absolutely. In order for me to believe something, I must know it to be true. That, to me, requires proof. So any statements I make are at best conditionals -- assuming certain premises, I can then draw conclusions. But I know of no self-evident premises.

Naturally this means I hold no real religious beliefs. The first reason has been discussed above -- none can be proved absolutely. But beyond that, in no case have I found a religion that is the best way to explain reality (in my opinion). I see no good reason to invent a god to explain the creation of life and the universe when none is needed. There are many arguments for the existence of a higher power: what caused the universe, how did life arise, et cetera. Why must the universe have a beginning? Humans are accustomed to all things having beginnings and endings, but we are rooted in a physical world. Why would existence itself require a beginning? Some point to the Big Bang as a beginning, but that is merely the beginning of the physical universe. There are several problems with trying to discuss what occurred before the Big Bang, not the least of which is that the idea of "before" makes no sense without the physical universe. There certainly is no reason to require god (or anything else) to have caused the Big Bang.

As for the creation of life, while it is not rigorously proven that humans are a product of biological evolution, there seems to be no reason to assume that god created life rather than evolution. It seems, in my opinion, to be more consistent with the evidence to assume evolution is correct.

Don't infer from all of this that I am an atheist... At one time I considered myself an atheist, but I don't believe that there isn't a god (or gods). Nor do I believe that there is one. In other words -- I don't know, and to my mind there is no way I am going to know. So I'm an agnostic. For the most part it seems silly to debate the existence of god because there is no evidence either for or against it... It all comes down to whether or not you have enough faith to believe in a god without any absolute proof. As I've said, I require absolute proof.

As far as morality is concerned, I am of the belief that there is no such thing as an objective, universal morality. For there to be universal right and wrong would require some sort of a god to create this morality. I can define my own right and wrong, and so can anyone else -- but it requires a supreme being to impose an objective morality on all of us. Something has to impose the morality -- to call it a supreme being is perhaps being a little vague. Nevertheless, there is no evidence for the existence of such a being, so I have no evidence that the act of killing a human being is anything more than just a physical act. It is distasteful to me, and it is distasteful to most people, but that gives it no more moral significance than combing your hair. I am not advocating going out and killing people -- that's why we have laws. Laws, while they may not reflect any particular morality, are still necessary for a stable society. Morality, as I am aware has been expressed by many others, is just a nice device for keeping people in check. If physical punishment won't deter criminals, perhaps metaphysical punishment will... So why not invent a supernatural judge who frowns upon, for whatever reason, shoplifting. Is it logical that a being with the power and mental capacity to create a universe would spend it's time policing the local Stop 'n Go? It seems quite implausible to me. I don't deny it's possibility, but nor do I deny it's usefulness as a tool to control the masses. And, as Marx said, "religion is the opiate of the masses." It makes people happy to think that this life has some higher purpose. Hell, it would make me happy to think that. But I've got no good reason to... I've often tried to make myself believe in one moral system or another, but I always find myself questioning why I should believe it. So where does that leave me? In a universe that is indifferent to the existence of humanity, as far as we know. And to be honest, I don't find that a particularly disturbing thought... In my opinion, it's incredibly egotistical for humans to think so highly of themselves that they assume that they hold some central position in the grand scheme of things. Not that I haven't been accused of arrogance before... :)

But while I do not find the idea of an uncaring universe to be disturbing, I do find it to be very depressing. In one sense it makes life that much more precious -- it is all we have. Yet it also means that once we die, that may be the end of the line. It is easy for me to type this up and say that the prospect doesn't frighten me. Ask me again about it when I'm dying. I'm sure I'll have a different outlook. It's no wonder that many people become religious in their old age. When you are young, death doesn't frighten you. It is a distant shore that you will never have to visit. It is easy to be strong and declare that truth is important, that you shall believe nothing that you do not know to be true. But as you age it becomes increasingly clear that you will never know anything to be true, and death isn't quite as far as you thought. It is so easy just to believe, and it will ease your mind. I have no idea how I will face death and aging. I'm young, so I'm sure I'll remain agnostic to my death. If I'm wrong, then it certainly wouldn't be the first time I've changed my mind.

The thought of dying is terrifying, but it is one of the few things that all living things share. But despite it's universality, just try and imagine it. Try. If death is truly the end, then you will never see your loved ones again. And worse, you will cease to exist. As a wise friend of mine once said, "the only life I know is the one with me in it." Can anyone really imagine the world without them in it?

I've just typed all of this up very quickly, so it may not be very clear. This is the result of much thought and debate within myself and with others... I encourage you to e-mail me and discuss any of the above things with me, or discuss anything else, for that matter. As I've mentioned on my main page, I enjoy getting email from strangers. I'll probably add more to this stuff later...

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