Whether it is 1500 or 2000 years ago, the facts are not much different. The light bulb did not exist. The computer did not exist. The telephone did not exist. Most people on the planet thought that the earth was flat. The only people who knew of the existence of the Americas and Australasia were the people who inhabited those land spaces.
And yet we are still supposed to accept that all the religious beliefs of those times are totally accurate and cannot be challenged.
Science has many satisfactory explanations for what is now in this universe. Much of what needs to be known, although not everything, is known. But it is reasonable to believe that with time more will be discovered. And that species have evolved, and continue to evolve, is perfectly logical given all the evidence that we have available. Richard Dawkins gives us an excellent account of these facts in his book “The God Delusion”, and his scientific explanations cover matters in far more detail than can be done in a short article like this.
Religion, on the other hand, will reveal nothing more than belief that is in most respects antiquated. It will never move forward with its theories, it is trapped in its period and its belief structures, and let us be blunt, its superstitions!
So how did “it” all begin? One curious fact about both the Christian and atheist take on the universe is that both accept the concept of infinity. For the Christian, there was an infinite God who created everything. Why this creature did so when it happened, and not before or after, is an unanswerable question.
An atheist accepts that something always existed, even if only void. There is no logical development which takes you from absolute nothing to existence. Even if the theory known as the “Big Bang” does work (which, in my opinion it does), that still accepts that there was some logical form – even emptiness – before it occurred. Then logically, when we accept that infinity “exists” at the beginning, so will it always be. Something in some form will always exist within the universe. As there was no beginning, so there will be no end.
So how do those of us, who are committed to the atheistic view of the world, envisage our existence? Take the question as to what is the meaning of life, for example. The answer to that surely is that it is an irrelevant question, in that it assumes that life has a meaning. There is no particular reason to believe that there is. Life has no provable basic purpose (though we may add humanist concepts to our mere acceptance of our existence, and aim to make life as satisfactory for all as we can, wherever possible).
And as for facing death – one of the other “mysteries” that often obsesses humanity – let us be clear in our views on that as well.
Accept that there is no after-life, that when death occurs the heart stops working and the brain switches off. Why should we be afraid? The brain feeds our conscious and subconscious mind. When it switches off, these will no longer work. We will not know anything, we will not be aware of anything, or need to be afraid of anything – the brain (the source of our knowledge and our awareness) will not be there to feed us the information. The idea of a void may be disturbing, in its way, but when there is nothing to sense, there is nothing to fear.