There is something in people that causes us to want to see beyond ourselves. Some want to deny this, but honest people know better. It has variously been referred to through the ages as a hole, an empty space, a yearning, a need. Whatever you call it, it has not been a bad thing. It has driven the human race from the discovery of fire to the breaking of the atom. It took us from exploring the tree tops to exploring space. And it drives us, still: this cosmic emptiness that begs to be filled.
Throughout history, people have tried to fill that space with love (family, spouse, children), knowledge, work, and a host of things that have never fully done the job. Because of that I believe God will always be worshiped by the majority—perhaps the vast majority of the human race. Indeed, it is this very striving after God—the ultimate unknown and some would say, unknowable—that has caused us to strive after all things unknown, that we may know them and embrace them.
Within that context, though, there have always been some who have sought to remove the ultimate unknown from the equation. The only way to do that is to replace a creative, guiding and in the end deciding intelligence with some sort of blind or accidental force. One replaces faith with perception, reason with chance and purpose with meaninglessness. To say the least, this position of universal meaninglessness has never been popular but before we break out into a debate over the merits of one position or the other, let me just say there have been practical reasons for holding to the atheist position.
In denying the ultimate unknown (denying that there is in this universe something greater than ourselves) we make ourselves the sole arbiter of reality. Thus—or so it is believed—we are able to get out of the dreamy, unrealistic state of most human minds and see this life more clearly for what it is. At the very least, it can help an individual focus on this life more directly and move in one’s own self-interest more certainly. (What may drive a person’s self-interest in that case is another side debate not center to this hypothesis).
Thus while most of the human race dreams of what is or what may be possible, there are always some who keep their feet planted firmly on the ground. To put it another way: while some people are reaching for the stars, others are concerned about here at home. To put it still another way, while some imagine life as an accidental event and consider only words like luck, chance and coincidence, others find comfort in meaning and purpose in life and believe that no matter how inexplicable certain events may be to our limited minds, nothing is out of control and it will all be made right in the end.
Curiously, in our day science has become the main support of the atheist position. That makes no sense to me at all. The very philosophy of science on which all science is based suggests we live in a reasonable universe which can be reasonably understood. It seems to me the more we learn about the way life, the universe and everything works, the more “scientific laws” we discover, the more unreasonable words like chance, accident and random appear. True, the universe does seem to be able to function quite nicely without any need to appeal to a supreme being of any sort. But why should it be that way? I feel that is the operative question.
So while some feel the universe is perfectly understandable without the need for any supernatural mumbo-jumbo, others believe the very reasonableness of the universe suggests words like “intelligence” and “design.” But here, I am letting my prejudice show and that is not what this post is about. It is about why some form of theism and atheism may always be part of the human race and it is about a hypothesis concerning that point. But first I feel a story may be in order…next time.