It was a bright September day, clear, cool and perfect. My wife Genie, my grandchildren Lucy (age 5 and in the picture here taken that spring at Easter), Jack (3) and my daughter-in-law, Becky, were sprawled on the lawn. Lucy wandered over to the vegetable garden and picked cherry tomatoes. She ate them while dancing and watching her shadow flicker over the grass. Becky was starting to show with her third child.
Love, contentment and sweetness were as palpable as the sunlight. The whole world pines for these sublime moments.
We spend entire lifetimes striving to achieve fragments of peace. Tragedies when babies are killed or children are ripped from mothers, are tragic only because we compare the sorrow to the joy that might have been and to those glimpses of perfection that come our way. It is our fate to pine for what we lose. It is our fate to fear the loss of what we love.
There would be no Holocaust museums chronicling horror unless there was a sense that horror is abnormal and, therefore, preventable. Yet, if we insist on a material-universe-only view of ourselves, we have to admit that the story of evolution proves that suffering, death and extinction are inevitable. Yet, we impose a human ethical standard on the material world.
This imposition is not fact-based– if we insist on understanding that facts relate only to the material universe. Most people don’t really want to live only according to narrowly defined material facts. Most of us try to direct our human primate evolutionary process along ethical non-material lines.
We impose standards that do not come from nature. Nature is cruel yet we try not to be.
We prosecute people for war crimes that are no more destructive than what happens every day in the churning cauldron of life where everything is eaten and where death is the only incubator of life. We call murder wrong although it’s the most natural thing on earth.
We’ve decided to let an imagined utopian ideal, a future Eden if you will, rule our present despite this being a spiritual non-material-universe-based choice that flies in the face of natural selection. We impose ethics that exist only in our heads upon the material universe. We are part of nature yet we have decided to be nicer than nature.
There would be no war crimes trials unless our ethically evolved selves questioned the method of evolution itself. There would be no tears after the death of a friend, unless we had it in us to dream beyond what by now we should be used to.
A spiritual non-material-based way of life turns out to be the actual way we live no matter what we say we believe. We live by ethics not found in nature and we enrich our lives with art. That says something to me. Maybe a purely material view of the universe and of ourselves is not in fact a fact…
You’ve been reading an excerpt from –WHY I AM AN ATHEIST WHO BELIEVES IN GOD: How to give love, create beauty and find peace Chapter 19