Adam has written another elegant post over at daylight atheism:
We must face the facts: our lives, in the grand scheme of things, are short. Like the leaves falling from the tree, we bloom, flourish, and inevitably wither. Vast expanses of time preceded each of us, and equally vast expanses of time will follow us. We were not there, will not be there, to know what happens; we will never meet the people who inhabit those times, as they will never meet us. Our existence is, as Robert Ingersoll said, like a narrow vale between two cold and barren peaks.
And yet, in that narrow valley in between, there is a wondrous thing: a creature who exists, who lives, and who is conscious of that life and that existence. —http://www.daylightatheism.org/2007/10/fragile-trappings.html
We don’t need religious nonsense in order to convince ourselves that life is wonderful, that being human is worthwhile. In fact the religious nonsense gets in the way of appreciating reality in its fullness. It throws up a smokescreen, it imposes a fake “holiness”—fake God or gods—between us and the real holiness: physical life itself. Access to this holiness is free: we don’t need to fill the coffers of any religious sect, hop to unnatural moral commandments, or swallow any impossible nonsense. We are bodies, and that gives us direct access to the great reality itself.
Although we know much about that reality, it is true enough that we will never really know what it is. Likewise, we will never really know ourselves, no matter how much we know about ourselves. Our scientific knowledge is built of consistent, useful models of physical reality: the models work in that they are testable against that reality. But they do not lay bear its ultimate nature: knowledge never can.
Yet that doesn’t give excuse for believing nonsense, or for embracing models which long since collapsed under the weight of their inconsistencies and uselessness. Adam says it best,
In the face of our imperfect knowledge, what we need is humility and a candid admission of our ignorance. We do not need anyone pretending they know all the answers and dignifying that pretending with the name of “faith”. The mysteries we confront are far deeper than that, far too profound to admit of such shallow, simplistic, easily disproven answers. In truth, they are not answers at all; they are baubles, little diversions, stories invented for the comfort of children. —http://www.daylightatheism.org/2007/10/fragile-trappings.html
As if hell and a vengeful God could ever comfort children—such nonsense is more likely to traumatize than comfort. But beyond the Pyrrhic victory of believing that by faith you will be saved while others burn, beyond that rather vicious conceit lies the fact that everything which makes life wonderful is physical. All the great emotions are emotions felt in bodies, by bodies, for bodies. All our wonderful sensations, including our most sublime thoughts, are sensations of the body, require a body for existence. Without body, they can’t happen. Without body, we can’t be.
Life is an embodied enterprise. Without body, life loses its magic. And we must not forget that whatever that magic is, it is physical magic. Why then do so many try to separate human life from its reality by inserting this or that religious or spiritual barrier? Why do they seek such a condom? Why throw up so many obvious lies, such nonsense, from so many pulpits? Why shrink from reality?
What are they afraid of? To me, that’s the real mystery.