The Meaning of Life


The meaning of life has plagued humankind since we first arrived on the scene. Do other animals ponder this question? We don't know for sure, but I'm prepared to declare that the meaning of life is life itself. Yeah, I know; that needs some explanation.

We should begin by understanding that we are the most recent major event in the earth's evolutionary life history. We are the latest of the great eruptions of dominant species. Many creatures were here long before we were here, and many have vanished. Who knows, we may also vanish. The image below, for those who are reading this online, shows how we showed up after most of the heavy lifting of the earth's evolution had been done. If you want to see it without my little edits, you can view it at;</p>

It took humans around 4.5 billion years to get our act together in terms of evolution and begin the process of probably screwing everything up. We came after all the dinosaurs, hairy beasts, saber-toothed beasts, and other creatures had done their best or worst regarding our planet. Why am I going on about all this? To make the point that many of the animals we now share this planet with have been around longer than we have, or at least their ancestors have been around for millions of years in slightly different forms.

For example, the Nautilus, that weird-looking half snail, half squid-looking thing, has been around for 500 million years. The Horseshoe Crab, 450 million years. A couple of critters you might be more familiar with are the Sand Hill Crane, about 10 million years; lice (hopefully you're not too familiar with them); 20 million years; crocodiles; 55 million years; and bees; 100 million years. You're probably saying, "Mike, will you STFU and get to the  point?" Yes, I will.

All these animals and many more have survived a very long time. Like us, they have other species that can threaten their survival, whether through predatory acts or competing for food and space. They also share other traits with us. Many species form societies with their own species and other species to survive. They mate and procreate to improve their species and increase their numbers. And we all eat and defecate all over the planet - I just thought I'd throw that in to keep it real.

To my knowledge, and while I may sound that way sometimes, I don't know everything. I've found no evidence or theories that any animal other than humans practice or believe in religion and mystical supreme beings. Like us, virtually all species want to live; why else would the gazelle run from the lions? Why does the lowly housefly zip about while you're trying to swat his nasty little ass? The average housefly only lives for two to three weeks; they have to get on with the business of life. All creatures are "programmed" to survive if for no other reason than to procreate and increase the species.

Despite our overactive egos, humans follow the same process that all the other animals play out daily, mainly to survive and procreate. Yet, we've added a layer of complexity to the business of living called religion. We use religion not only to reassure ourselves of everlasting life in whatever way our philosophy teaches, but we use it to separate into tribes and to discriminate against other humans who don't believe as we do. We criticize them, shun them, oppress them, exile them, try to convert them, and in many cases, physically abuse and kill those who refuse to believe as we do. We do all this in the name of a God that most of us profess to be loving.   Strange.

As I said earlier, to my knowledge, there is no evidence that any other creature on Earth engages in religious beliefs or practices. Still, they seem to have figured out a way to form societies and rules of behavior that have permitted them to survive for millions of years longer than we have been around to this point. Rats have been around for at least 56 million years, raccoons about 25 million years, and bats about 32 million years - see what I'm getting at? And I've yet to see a tiny mouse, bat, or raccoon church.

I put the rules of behavior in the last paragraph in bold font. Humans need rules to live by; all animals seem to have established rules of behavior within their species. Most animals are not as complicated as humans but have rules and hierarchies to keep things running smoothly. Without rules, you have chaos. But the question remains, who gets to set the rules? Most religions have a series of strict rules that evolved at a time in human history when we knew very little about the universe that surrounds us. The other option to religious doctrine is to use what science has and continues to reveal to us about the truths of our existence; these are civil rules and laws that evolve with us as we move forward.

The founders of the United States saw the problems that religion in government caused in Europe and went out of their way to try to keep religion out of our Constitution and governance. They also had seen the emergence of science and technology in modern science's first couple of centuries. They understood that religion if it must exist, should be a personal pursuit, not a function of the ruling class, any more than choosing what music you can listen to should be decided by the government. They opted for civil rule.

Like all our animal friends, humans face many challenges; we engage in fights and wars, suffer epidemics and diseases, and some lie, cheat, and steal to survive. We have numerous ways to discriminate against each other, and through our ingenuity, we've created our own unique ways of dying, like guns, planes, and automobiles. Like the male species of most of our animal friends, we men get testy (you know that word has to be related to testes) when we are mating or in love. Like some of our animal friends, we'll fight like hell or worse to hang onto a mate.

I said at the beginning that the meaning of life is life itself. If we look at the animals around us, that would seem true. Almost everything they do is to ensure and prolong their lives. They eat, love, play, and, yes, die, all in the pursuit of life. When the end comes, it's simply the end. Like humans, they run from death, but it will eventually catch up with them. That is the cycle of life.

With all life's problems, why do we need the added burden of arguing and fighting about religion? Based on historical analysis, we only came up with this notion of religion a few thousand years ago, and the damn thing has caused millions of deaths, millennia of suffering, and searing pain across our planet. Perhaps it's time to do a value-added analysis of this philosophy, a simple one. Draw a vertical line down the middle of a sheet of paper. On the left side, write down all the positives of religion, and on the right side, list the negatives. Be brutally honest in your evaluation, and the result might surprise you.