Sometimes I feel like I have a special gift. The best articulation of my way of thinking is contained in the paragraph in “Unweaving the Rainbow” by Richard Dawkins. Here is the clip on Youtube beautifully read by the author. It starts out, “We are going to die and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they’re never going to be born.” And it continues from there in one of the most eloquent descriptions of how lucky we are to exist at all.
Each one of us is the result of an unbroken chain of reproduction. For billions of years not one of our ancestors was unable to procreate. The chances of you being alive and being you are absolutely staggering.
Those numbers don’t even show the chances of you being born now in the age of wonder and technology – with modern medicine and a high standard of living. Where your meals are purchased in a grocery store instead of hunted down.
I can’t help but feel deeply offended when I hear a believer talk about all their worth being tied up in living for eternity. That a short life is worthless. It is a greedy jerk who can’t feel the wonder of existing now and being given knowledge and wonder and food and modernity (I realize not all in the world have this). I feel so privileged to be able to understand the wonders of the universe (not all of them of course). But I know that Thor didn’t throw a thunderbolt, I know how big the visible universe is, and I know where we came from. These are things previous people never dreamed of knowing.
When I hear about a child dying an early death of cancer, I think about how horrible that must be for them and their families to have their life shortened and how lucky I am to have lived as long as I have. And yet for most of the planet that’s not enough. I want to live a long time too! But eternity? To me the fact that believers even posit an eternity for themselves shows me the limit of man’s greed. And of course it shows there is no limit. To wish for eternity when you’ve already won the greatest prize we know of in our slice of the universe is the ultimate selfishness.
There are so many signs that religions are completely man-made. The holy books although eloquent have all the signs of humanity in their barbarism, anachronisms, and absurdities clearly show their gods to be all too human. But what distinguishes man from beast is his ultimate greed. And there is nothing greedier than thinking we are entitled to and destined for immortality. It’s the ultimate sign of humanity’s greatest invention – unmitigated gall.