Answering the big questions of life

We are great fans of Occam's Razor:

"The best answer is usually the simplest one,
the one that makes the fewest assumptions and
invents the fewest new ideas.

Based on Occam:

  • We see no need for the god idea because everything explained by it can be explained simpler without it.
  • We see no evidence for the god idea.
  • We therefore reject the god idea.
  • We become annoyed when the god idea becomes "the god assumption" - especially in religious schools.

How did we get here?

Nothing has a "beginning" - nothing pops into existence out of nothing - everything is a rearrangement of things that came before. Even the "Big Bang" (if that's your favourite theory) is a rearrangement of whatever was there before.

The Universe has always existed, in one form or another, and will continue to exist, in one form or another.

It is ever changing and we are here at this particular moment as a result of a process which we understand: evolution.

You pays your money ...

... and you takes your choice.

For the last few thousand years mankind has chosen the god idea as a model for the Universe.

Those with even a passing knowledge of history will know this has led to multiple gods, multiple religions, multiple prophets, multiple holy books and multiple conflicts. The dead from wars caused by religion, or where religion has been used as an excuse, run into hundreds of millions. Most holy books contain extreme violence and even today are used to justify violence against others.

Benzi Lieberman, when chairman of the Council of Settlements in Israel (and arrested in 2015 on suspicion of fraud), quoted the Judaist Torah (the Christian Old Testament): "The Palestinians are Amalek! We will destroy them. We won't kill them all. But we will destroy their ability to think as a nation. We will destroy Palestinian nationalism."

The god idea has not proved healthy for mankind.

The world of cosmology is more recent. No one has gone to war over the steady state theory, the oscillating Universe theory, the big bang theory or the infinite Universe theory.

When its comes to paying your money and taking your choice, it seems healthier to go for one of the cosmological ideas. Personally (author!) I go for the one where the Universe is infinite in time, matter and energy and it merely changes form over time. One giant recycling plant seems simpler to me than all the complexities and violence involved with inventing gods and religions. I love the idea of being recycled along with the stars.

Our medium sized star, the Sun, is reaching middle age and in a few billion years will expand beyond the orbit of the Earth to form a red giant star. It will then expel about 50% of its mass into space before contracting under the force of gravity to form a white dwarf star.

Unfortunately the Sun is not quite massive enough to explode as a supernova like the Crab Nebula which appeared in the sky as a bright flash of light in the year 1054. The mass expelled from the Sun (dust, rocks, gas, particles) will eventually merge with the remains of others stars and, under the force of gravity, come together to form new stars.

This recycling of "stuff" in the Universe is a never ending process.

Religious people propose a supernatural and never-ending god, we make it simpler by dropping the god bit.

At this point we would normally ask the standard questions: "well, if your god created the Universe, what created god?" and "if everything has a beginning, how did your god begin?" But we won't.

Instead we recommend going outside on a still clear night (as far from street and house lights as possible), lying down and looking straight up. You will see millions of stars, all of them in our own galaxy, the Milky Way. Some of the things you see will not be stars, they will be other galaxies, each, like the Milky Way, containing billions of stars.

There are billions, if not trillions, of galaxies - so do the sums - that's a lot of stars. The Universe is a truly big and awesome place and you are but a dot, on a fairly small planet, orbiting a medium sized, middle aged star in a galaxy amongst billions of galaxies each containing billions of such stars. Either god must have been very busy or the Universe has always existed and is always changing.

Please click here or here for a BBC GCSE Bitesize description of the life cycle of stars.

What happens after death?

We have no fear of death - though we would like the law changed to permit assisted dying so we can have a dignified death without having to travel to Dignitas in Switzerland. We take personal responsibility for our own lives so we should be responsible for our own deaths - we have no wish to hang on to the bitter, and often painful, end.

When blood ceases to reach your brain you lose consciousness and die.

The thing that makes you unique, your personality, is formed by your genes and your life experiences and is a function of the chemical and electrical activity of your brain. It ceases to exist when you die.

Your physical body, whether buried or burned, will be recycled in the ever changing universe. Your atoms will become part of something else in a never ending process.

You are made of the stuff of stars and you will return to the stars. That's awesome enough for us!

We have no need of "souls", "life after death" or promises of "heaven" - they were invented to overcome a fear of death and have become key components in a suicide vest.

Religions have always used fear as a means of social control so "hell" was invented to keep people in their place.

What is the purpose/meaning of life?

From a purely biological point of view the answer is simple: to reproduce and continue the species.

As Atheist Humanists we are conscious, intelligent and empathetic beings so we prefer:

"to enjoy a fulfilled, happy and responsible life while helping others to do the same."

It ain't rocket science!