One of the things you’ll often hear when asking people why they are religious is that it is comforting. The idea of life after death, an eternity with your loved ones and belonging to something greater than yourself can be immensely reassuring to many people. By comparison, the scientific view may seem cruel; the universe doesn’t care about your existence and once you die, you simply cease to exist.
It’s been said many times that what’s comforting is completely irrelevant to the pursuit of truth. I completely agree. I posit that anyone who needs such comfort so desperately as to turn a blind eye to the truth is a sad and sorry person indeed. Anybody who uses this reason as a justification for their religious beliefs is, perhaps, so damaged or so afraid of responsibility that it may not be healthy to wean them off religion by encouraging the pursuit of truth.
So I offer an alternative view. I have never questioned the value of my existence because of this simple fact.
Something is only precious because it is rare.
Think about that for a moment. The rarer something is, the more precious it becomes. What’s the rarest thing of all? Life. You will only ever have one life and it is an opportunity for you. If you were born to die, the only thing that defines you is what you do while you are alive.
What theists consider to be comforting – the promise of eternal life – I think is just cheapening the value of life. It is no longer rare because it is no longer fleeting. It is not precious.
If you have an infinite amount of time to do something, there is no urgency to make every moment count. There’s no strong need to love, learn, spend time with your family or even live.
As for belonging to something greater than yourself, what bigger thing is there than the universe? The atoms in your left hand could have come from a different star than the atoms of your right hand, billions of years ago somewhere in the universe. Some people feel insignificant when they think about how vast the universe is, but just imagine – your entire existence was created by things infinitesimally greater than yourself.
So what’s more comforting? That’s up to you to decide. But for me, life has never been more fleeting, and thus precious, more tiny, and thus grand, than when I discovered science and truth.