One Self-Reliant Species
Editor's Note: This essay has been previously published in Atheist Voices of Minnesota (Freethought House, 2012), edited by Bill Lehto, and is reprinted with permission.
Such is the destiny of all who forget God;
so perishes the hope of the godless.
What they trust in is fragile;
what they rely on is a spider's web. (Job 8:13-14)
We are fragile.
Our bones break, our skin tears, and our organs fail. Viruses ravage our immune systems, bacteria infect our bodies, and tumors take our lives. Without food or water, we die; without laws, we kill and steal. Our environments are violent, volatile, and indifferent. Tornadoes flatten our cities, tsunamis swallow our loved ones, and earthquakes tear open the ground beneath our feet.
We know the individual is fragile—our lives and the lives of our friends and families could end at any minute within any hour of any day: a heart attack, a car accident, a stroke—but how fragile are we as a species? What do we know about the fragility of the human race?
We know that our economic progress is polluting ecosystems and we know that our apathy is destroying them. We know technologies that are capable of mass murder are being maliciously sought. We know our seas are filling with plastic, our air is filling with exhaust, and our rainforests are filling with open space. We know our food supply is straining while our population is surging. We know reefs are dying, oceans are rising, and whole species are tumbling toward extinction. We know that our planet—as it whips around a dying star in the suburbs of the Milky Way at 67,000 miles per hour—is on life support. We know that over 100 billion other galaxies surround our Milky Way, and we know that each of these galaxies is home to billions of other stars, each star joining our Sun on its expansive journey into the Great Unknown.
Naked in space, our home unconsciously avoids asteroids as we consciously avoid the problems before us. We should be collectively facing our threats, but, instead, we scurry across the tectonic plates as they slowly shift beneath us, thumping our chests and spreading new dangers. Rather than working together to reverse our planet's plunging health and bridge our conflicting cultural divides, we form tribes to fight over resources and power, revealing our primitive past and present. The same truth that unites us, it turns out, also divides us: We are human. And we are fragile.
For those of us who do not believe in a benevolent God, the fragility of the human race is compounded by the conviction that nothing is guiding our species into the future. We're on our own and we always have been. The training wheels were never there. For our achievements and triumphs, we deserve the credit, but for our bungles and blunders, we deserve the blame. Together, we hunted mammoths, crossed oceans, and walked on the Moon. But, together, we also ignored the starving, neglected the sick, and allowed odious crimes to be carried out against our own kind.
Ryan Benson is a public relations and social media marketing professional. He is coauthoring a book with David Lose about having respectful and productive religious/secular dialogues (Russell Media 2013). Please connect with Ryan on Twitter so he can stay in touch with those who are interested in the book. When released in 2013, there will be free copies given away on Twitter: @RyanJBenson.