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The Mother of all Questions

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The Mother of All Questions

By James A. Haught

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.

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James A. Haught is editor emeritus of West Virginia's largest newspaper, The Charleston Gazette-Mail.  Mr. Haught has won two dozen national news writing awards. He has written 12 books and hundreds of magazine essays and blog posts. Around 450 of his essays are online. He is a senior editor of Free Inquiry magazine, a weekly blogger at Daylight Atheism, (more...)

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