The Mother of All Questions

by | October 17, 2019

By James Haught

James Haught is editor of West Virginia’s largest newspaper, The Charleston Gazette, and a senior editor of Free Inquiry. He is 87-years-old and would like to help secular causes more. This series is a way of giving back, as he opens in No Qualms (Ed., published on 2018, July 18, i.e., when he was 86), “I’m quite aware that my turn is approaching. The realization hovers in my mind like a frequent companion. My first wife died ten years ago. Dozens, hundreds, of my longtime friends and colleagues likewise came to the end of their journeys. They number so many that I keep a “Gone” list in my computer to help me remember them all. Before long, it will be my turn to join the list.”

[Ed., Thank you, Jim, truly.]

Seekers of truth face an ultimate question that overrides all others. The answer dictates your entire approach to life.

Is there a supernatural god who may burn you forever in fire after you die? If the answer is yes, it’s the most crucial fact of human life. But if no such god exists, western religions have committed millennia of fraud and deception.

British historian Paul Johnson put it this way:

“The existence or non-existence of God is the most important question we humans are ever asked to answer. If God does exist, and if in consequence we are called to another life when this one ends, a momentous set of consequences follows, which should affect every day, every moment almost, of our earthly existence. Our life then becomes a mere preparation for eternity and must be conducted throughout with our future in view.”

TV host Steve Allen wrote in Reflections:

“I do not understand those who take little or no interest in the subject of religion. If religion embodies a truth, it is certainly the most important truth of human existence. If it is largely error, then it is one of monumentally tragic proportions – and should be vigorously opposed.”

In God is Not Great, Christopher Hitchens said:

“The argument with faith is the foundation and origin of all arguments, because it is the beginning – but not the end – of all arguments about philosophy, science, history and human nature. It is also the beginning – but by no means the end – of all disputes about the good life and the just city.”

Philosophy asks: Is there a purpose to life? Religious believers don’t need philosophy, because their priests tell them the answer: Yes, the purpose of life is to prepare for heaven; God created the universe and put people here to be tested according to his divine plan.

Skeptics like me cannot swallow that answer. It’s dishonest because it claims to know supernatural things that nobody can know.Does God exist? My answer is yes, yes and no, depending on definitions.

First, if God is defined as the driving force of the universe – the stupendous power of gravity that whirls billions of galaxies and solar systems – the awesome energy inside the atomic nucleus that makes stars and hydrogen bombs – the amazing replication ability of DNA that creates all living things – the answer is yes. Those powers exist. Their immensity can be seen in the fact that only as much matter as a dime turned into energy at Hiroshima in 1945.

Of course, you can’t worship physics or pray to E=MC2, so a pantheistic god is more science than religion.

Second, if God is defined as the compassion and caring found in people (and a few higher mammals), the answer again is yes. The better angels of our nature are a genuine part of humanity – just like the worse angels.

Of course, you can’t worship psychology or pray to human kindness, so the “God is love” approach is mostly a topic for brain research.

Third, if God is defined as the father-creator portrayed by religions and the Bible, forget it. No evidence supports a personal deity who cares about people and manipulates worldly events. He’s just a concoction of the imagination, as far as honest thinkers can tell.

Beliefs are baffling. Nobody knows what causes some people to want to believe supernatural claims – or causes heathens like me to doubt them. Our personalities are formed by subtle factors still not fully understood.

But this much is clear: If the answer to the god question – the deepest human question – is no, then religions have been lying since before written history began.

Link here at Daylight Atheism.

This article previously appeared in Free Inquiry, Oct-Nov 2017.

Canadian Atheist Associates: Godless Mom, Nice Mangoes, Sandwalk, Brainstorm Podcast, Left at the Valley, Life, the Universe & Everything Else, The Reality Check, Bad Science Watch, British Columbia Humanist Association, Dying With Dignity Canada, Canadian Secular AllianceCentre for Inquiry CanadaKelowna Atheists, Skeptics, and Humanists Association.

Other National/Local Resources: Association humaniste du QuébecAtheist FreethinkersCentral Ontario Humanist AssociationComox Valley HumanistsGrey Bruce HumanistsHalton-Peel Humanist CommunityHamilton HumanistsHumanist Association of LondonHumanist Association of OttawaHumanist Association of TorontoHumanists, Atheists and Agnostics of ManitobaOntario Humanist SocietySecular Connextions SeculaireSecular Humanists in CalgarySociety of Free Thinkers (Kitchener-Waterloo/Cambridge/Guelph)Thunder Bay HumanistsToronto OasisVictoria Secular Humanist Association.

Other International/Outside Canada Resources: Allianz vun Humanisten, Atheisten an AgnostikerAmerican Atheists,American Humanist AssociationAssociação Brasileira de Ateus e Agnósticos/Brazilian Association of Atheists and AgnosticsAtheist Alliance InternationalAtheist Alliance of AmericaAtheist CentreAtheist Foundation of AustraliaThe Brights MovementCenter for Inquiry (including Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science), Atheist IrelandCamp Quest, Inc.Council for Secular HumanismDe Vrije GedachteEuropean Humanist FederationFederation of Indian Rationalist AssociationsFoundation Beyond BeliefFreedom From Religion FoundationHumanist Association of IrelandHumanist InternationalHumanist Association of GermanyHumanist Association of IrelandHumanist Society of ScotlandHumanists UKHumanisterna/Humanists SwedenInternet InfidelsInternational League of Non-Religious and AtheistsJames Randi Educational FoundationLeague of Militant AtheistsMilitary Association of Atheists and FreethinkersNational Secular SocietyRationalist InternationalRecovering From ReligionReligion News ServiceSecular Coalition for AmericaSecular Student AllianceThe Clergy ProjectThe Rational Response SquadThe Satanic TempleThe Sunday AssemblyUnited Coalition of ReasonUnion of Rationalist Atheists and Agnostics.

Photo by EMILE SÉGUIN 🇨🇦 on Unsplash

One thought on “The Mother of All Questions

  1. Tim Underwood

    The Earth is our creator, obviously.

    The Earth’s creators were a whole bunch of supernovas.

    And so on back to less and less observed creations.

    Intelligence evolved from selected random mutations.

    No gods have evolved, so far, that we have photographed.


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