One Self-Reliant Species
We humans are a peculiar species. Do not, however, mistake novelty for invulnerability. Scientists estimate that 99.9 percent of all species that lived on Earth went extinct before us, and Homo sapiens has not been granted an exception from the threat of joining them.
Theists disagree: We are here for a purpose and we have a set path, they say. If we only believe it to be so, salvation will come. For those who are willing to accept it, there is a happy ending, and it is near. The death, destruction, and torture that accompany the happy ending may seem contradictory, but, rest assured, God loves you and He has a plan. Relax.
As an atheist, then, one of the most fearsome features of Christian and Muslim doctrine is the heavily debated doomsday clause, which states this world must be destroyed before the Kingdom of God can be built. The Apocalypse brings on the Savior, which is . . . a good thing?
Nearly half of America believes the End Times are here. The earthquakes, tsunamis, droughts, floods, hurricanes, and wars that currently plague our planet are warning shots from the Divine Wrath that foreshadow the immense devastation to come. For many believers, humanity's extinction is the final plot point in the monotheistic drama, and it's followed by resurrection and eternal bliss.
Even moderate believers—that is, unless they subscribe to the poetic, putty view of scripture that conveniently evolves with the changing moral zeitgeist—must slip the Great Tribulation into the closing act of the existential narrative they upload into their children, maybe with a sugar coating: "Everything will be okay. I promise."
Will it? Have we actually convinced ourselves that this comforting adage we tell our children at bedtime is true? The guaranteed and, for many, the welcomed destruction of our world is not a banner inspiring action, and action is what we desperately need. Regardless of your beliefs, it's high time for us, as a species, to acknowledge the fact that faith in a better world after death does not improve this one, and that praying for those who suffer does not ease their pain. We must acknowledge that hope is not a substitute for action.
Don't assume God will keep you healthy; keep yourself healthy. Don't pray for the starving and the sick; help the starving and the sick. Don't call on the Lord to stop climate change; call on your representatives. If there is a God, He jumped out of the driver-side door long ago, leaving us to deal with the problems we created within His creation. If you need to speak with Him, then speak with Him, but you must understand our situation demands that you act first. Our future is our responsibility, not His.
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So here we sit, together, riding in a driverless jalopy as it hurtles toward the edge of a cliff. An alarming number of my fellow humans are swaying in the bucket seats, drunk on certitude and impervious to the danger flying toward us. Everything happens for a reason. Submit to the will of Allah. God has a Plan. Everything will be okay. Relax.
More are stuck staring out the window in the front seat, distracted by the passing landscape. Some know the cliff is coming, but they are too shortsighted to show concern or they feel too small to affect the outcome. Others have been deluded to the point of utter denial: They do not believe the cliff is there. Enjoy the view while it lasts, they say. You only get one life to live: crack a beer, kick up your feet, turn on the television. Someone else will stop the car. Climate change is a scam. The cliff is an illusion. No one is crazy enough to use a nuclear weapon. Relax.
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.