One reader recently added a comment to the post “How much time do we have?” saying that I have it all wrong. She suggested that maybe I needed to “figure out what the truth is before writing a book and terrorizing the human population into thinking the world is going to end.”
I have been thinking about the serious issues this comment raises and have decided to devote a series of posts to my thoughts about terror, about religion, about truth, and science. These are my current thoughts, and they come with no claim to being right. They are merely the way things look to me at present. In addition, my ideas have changed very much as I have moved from childhood to adulthood and I have no doubt that they will continue to change – and I hope mature -for as long as breath is given to me.
First of all, I have no desire to terrorize anyone with stories about the end of the world. For myself, I find my own death, which is certainly more imminent than the end of the world, is quite enough to absorb my capacity for worry. The end of the world, whether we are talking about our planet Earth or even of our entire universe is of great interest to me. But the belief that this will eventually happen does not fill me with terror. Neither I, and I doubt anyone reading this, will be around for the end of the world.
The end of the world, however, I think is described in sufficient terror in chapter six of the Book of Revelation of the Christian Bible. St. John the Evangelist describes the four horsemen of conquest, war, famine, and death. I myself think his evocations of persecution, war, plague, corruption, economic breakdown and death are far more terrifying than the few words of optimism with which my own small book, The Big Bang to Now, concludes. It is, at least to me, as terrifying as any description of the end of the world proposed by science.
Ultimately, though, I don’t think it is religion or science that create terror. Life is scary, whatever beliefs we hold. Illness, pain, fear, broken relationships, death, confusion, loss, humiliations, failures, and disappointments are intrinsic to being alive.
For some people religious beliefs give them strength to live a life of greater love and fulfillment and hope. I, as a matter of fact, am one of those people. But I have great respect for people whose religious values are different from mine, or who hold no values whatsoever that they themselves label as “religious.”