A universe without God?

Discovering Humanism

I don’t believe in an all-powerful god sitting somewhere looking down on us and letting bad things happen to people who don’t deserve it. As an 11-year-old, I couldn’t figure out why, if god made everything,  did (he) make the devil. The scripture teacher smacked me on the bottom in front of the class for that question.

At the same time, I felt a strange sense of jealousy when my best friend, Annette, would go to church on Sunday. When she had something special to believe in, and I had nothing. When her family had elaborate rituals, and my family had nothing. The sense of community it gave her.

Later as an adult, I went on to describe myself as agnostic. I believed there must have been “something” to believe in, I just wasn’t sure what.  I couldn’t say for certain there was NO god. I couldn’t prove that god didn’t exist. But neither could I prove god does exist. That feeling of disquiet I felt as a kid remained. I wanted to believe in something; to give me “purpose” and focus.

When my daughter converted to Judaism and lived as an Orthodox Jew in Israel, I was in awe of her strength of passion, and again jealous of her sense of commitment and surety. I was jealous that she was so sure of what she believed that she was willing to turn her life upside down for it. That she had a way of ordering her life that made sense to her. I struggled. Why was I here? What was my purpose? What was the purpose of the Universe?

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I reflected on my jealousy and realised part of it stemmed from the fact that if there was no god and if I did not follow a religion, then everything was up to me, and I had to be responsible for all my own actions. That burden sometimes felt too heavy. I wanted someone to tell me how to live my life and how I should act.

I have changed my mind again and now I feel liberated and free. I have discovered there are people like me and we are called humanists. Why did it take nearly 60 years to find this out?

Humanists believe in science. They do not believe in God, gods or supernatural beings. They do not believe in an afterlife. They believe we live one life and we have a moral obligation to live that one life well. To not damage others or the universe. To exist in harmony and peace.

Notre Dame - God's grandest house?
Notre Dame

Humanists understand that life is uncertain and we can not know everything. We can, however, use rational thought, experimentation and our senses to learn about and then explain our universe and the amazing things in it.

That describes what I think and believe. There are people out there who feel the same way and hold conferences, have debates and write books I never knew existed. I have found my tribe! My lack of religion is not a calamity, it is not a shortfall in my character or upbringing. It is sensible, rational and true.

I came from nothing, I will become nothing. I have no memories of life before I was born because there was no consciousness. When I die, I will again have no capacity to feel or think and I will be nothing but a pile of saggy flesh and bones hopefully nourishing a tree.

I will be gone, and maybe I will be remembered kindly by those who knew me. That is up to me, and how well I live my one life.

 

 

House of God?

 

Recycling Humans?

Chemistry as it applies to the human population.

Recent bush fires in Australia have had me thinking down some very black roads.  Some related to politics, capitalism and how the world could have been better if we had taken advantage of different “sliding door” moments.

I have reflected on climate change, sustainability, the death of native animals, destruction of houses and communities. I thought about the moments in history which have led us here to this time and place.

…And then I got to thinking about thermodynamics. About available energy and matter.  The fact that there is a finite number of atoms on this Earth.

The big question in my mind then became “How many people could live on this planet without ruining it?”

As a chemist, I have studied closed system reactions. Our earth is essentially a closed system.  A closed system only has a certain number of atoms available so once you use them up the reactions have to stop. Rearranging atoms usually uses up energy. Energy is also limited.

These limited atoms are used to make up all the things on Earth including humans. There are an estimated 7,656 million people on the planet. Let’s say the average mass of a human is around 80kg. That’s 612,480 million kilograms of humans. (1 kilo = 2.2 lbs)

If we wind back the clock just 300 years to the 1700s, the estimated upper limit[1] of the human population was 680 million. That means there is an extra 558,080 million (558,080,000,000) kg of human flesh on the planet now compared to then.

Most of those extra kilograms have come from other living things in our closed system because we eat them.  There has to be a time when we simply run out of atoms and energy to keep making more humans. The majority of the energy we are using now has come from the stored energy of ancient living things – a.k.a fossil fuel.

While some of the atoms in current humans may have come from recycled humans (i.e. the return of nutrients to the soil through decomposition) most of the time we don’t generally “recycle” humans. We put them in sealed boxes in burial grounds off-limits to agriculture where the nutrients can not be returned to the system. Cremation adds to the carbon in the air.

We waste and misuse so many resources. As consumers, we salve our conscious with the catch-cry,  reduce-reuse-recycle, but that is unlikely to be enough to stop or reverse climate change.

Is it time to stop being humans who recycle to humans who are recycled?

Is it time to start thinking about burial practices so the nutrients in humans are available for other uses? I’m of course not the only one thinking about this sort of thing; burial trees pods have been mooted for a while.

It’s all sounding like Soylent Green may not be such a bad idea after all! By the way, that movie, where people were recycled to make food for other humans was set in 2022.

I also believe that those of us in developed economies, who use a lot of resources, have a moral imperative to reduce the number of children we have. We need to seriously consider limiting our population through natural attrition so that some of the atoms can be returned to make other things.

Instead of “one [child] for mum, one for dad and one for the country” how about just one for the planet?

[1] https://www.ecology.com/population-estimates-year-2050/

Valentine’s Day

Valentine's Day

Is Valentine’s Day even a thing in Australia? For some of us yes, for others it’s another capitalist plot to make us spend money.

Roses are red

Violets are blue

Capitalism is fed

As Hallmark scams you!

According to a 2019 survey conducted by Relationships Australia, more than half of all adult Americans and a third of adults in the UK celebrate Valentine’s Day in some way. Eighteen per cent of the 1700 Australian respondents in this survey said they had never celebrated Valentines Day because they don’t believe in it. I am with that 18%.

Valentine's day

Another Australian survey conducted in 2015  by Canstar Blue says that of the 2050 respondents they questioned, 46% said they intended on doing nothing for Valentines Day. Of these people, 54% did not celebrate it because they didn’t believe in it.

I don’t think I have ever received a Valentine’s Card. Well, at least I don’t remember if I have. I don’t know of many of my peers who make a fuss over the day either. From my casual observations, it seems to be celebrated here by people who celebrate Halloween or who think Black Friday is a sale day and not a day to commemorate tragic bush fires in Adelaide!

On a personal note, I see it as another way to get people to spend money on things they don’t really need. Or perhaps spend money on things they should be doing anyway, such as spending quality time with people they love or have significant relationships with.

Approximately 131 million Hallmark cards were exchanged on Valentines Day in 2016 raising more than a $1 billion dollars.  Not to mention the money spent on roses and chocolates.

Valentine's Day

On the other side of things, it singles out single people. This might make them feel sad or SAD! A counter-movement called Singles Awareness Day (SAD) is ‘celebrated’ on February 15th and accentuates the positives of being single. I’m with them!

Maybe we should start another movement and channel all that money into showing our love for our planet. Instead of buying a single long-stemmed red rose grown in a greenhouse, think of ways to lower your own greenhouse emissions. Instead of giving a whole bunch of roses that will die in a few days, plant some trees which will last more than a lifetime. Instead of giving chocolate which leads to the destruction of rainforests, spend time with the people you love and volunteer together to help clean up your local area.

Make February 14th (and every day) LOVE Day. Love Our Valuable Earth Day