We are nothing but the products of millions of years of random evolution. Survival machines blindly programmed to pass on our genes. That is the dominant view of science. There is another view that is equally controversial that holds that Humankind is special. A little higher than the angels but exiled to Earth and condemned to toil away all their days. I think there is merit to both views.
Atheism is often criticized as cold and depressing. We’re born, we grow old and we die. Death is the final end. This worldview is actually quite beautiful. It places human happiness as the goal of the species. Birth is a miracle that is celebrated by the materialist. Life is to be lived to the fullest. There is even the promise that through science life can be indefinitely extended. Important emphasis is placed on Art and Culture to give a sense of meaning. Morality is more essential to Atheism than it is Theism for a very important reason. Our choices are rendered more important by the absence of heaven and hell. Society would not exist without order and the basis for order and progress is a set of moral absolutes. It’s not like we have the chance to live another life so it is important to get it right the first time.
Religion is not science. There is no sufficient evidence a Theist can point to to refute the Atheist worldview. It would appear that there is no debate to be had. Well actually there is a way we can reason that there is more to the world than what we see. The Philosopher Rene Descartes proposed a system based on Universal doubt. The only thing we can be absolutely sure of is our own mind’s awareness of itself. Is the world nothing but a dream? How can we be certain that the physical world is not in fact an illusion presented to us by a malevolent genius. The Hindus had a name for this condition. They called it Maya. What happens when we go to sleep. There are a lot of theories. Scientists still do not know the reason why we dream. According to the Jews, every night when we close our eyes our soul goes on a journey. We are taken to heaven and returned to our body when we wake up.
Do we really have to choose? Isn’t there a third alternative? Perhaps we should strive to reconcile the two hypotheses. It is part of Roman Catholic Dogma that the evolution of our bodies in the distant past from the lower animals is the truth. That sometime in the distant past Humankind achieved consciousness is beyond doubt. Theistic Evolution teaches that the origin of our souls is divine. Our flesh is corruptible and subject to decay. Infused within it is our precious soul, that will finally be released the moment we have died.
So now we have a viable alternative to the two theories above. What answers can we infer from it? Why are we here? Is the physical world a mistake? I don’t think so. The lessons of childhood may hold the key to understanding our true purpose. Children are naturally curious about the world around them. They are born completely dependent on their parents. As they grow they will be thrust into the world with only their limited knowledge to guide them. Their parents will expect them to function properly. Experience will teach them that life is very difficult. That there are obstacles standing in the way of their will. The only thing important to know in life is yourself. If you know what you are capable of, you will know better what your limitations are. Only the courage to not be afraid to fail and the experience of failure which produces suffering in the individual will create a love for life. The acquisition of power is what everyone aspires to. Nobody aspires to poverty. The will to power is best served by practicing humility, building meaningful social relationships and overcoming adversity. We are all children thrust into a world we didn’t make, with limited knowledge and obstacles to our will that we must strive to conquer.