Is Life Really a Gift, Let Alone a Gift from God?

There’s as much cultural nonsense surrounding the idea that life is a gift as any other uncomfortable topic that human’s try to explain away in order to feel secure. After all, we came into this world without our consent and certainly weren’t handed a road map. From the first traumatic push through the birth canal, we landed in a situation not of our choosing. I contend that everyone is suffering from some form of PTSD due to the birth process alone, but when you factor in the total randomness of the lottery of birth, the deck really is stacked against many of us.

For those of us who lucked out when it came to the circumstances we fell into on the day we were born, well, let’s just say, don’t get overconfident. 

Life is such that everything is hanging in a precarious balance and the tiniest breeze at the wrong moment can send any lucky lottery winner into a tailspin from which they may never recover. And, whether we want to admit it or not, the grim possibilities appear to be limitless. From a microscopic brain-eating amoeba up our nose to enduring the death of a child to being bludgeoned by another crazed human being, we are under threat every moment of every day of our short lives in a million different ways. 

Is the fact that a single sperm managed to find my mother’s egg thus forming a new life which turned out to be me all the proof I need that an all-powerful, loving God gave me this life?

Seriously! Am I unique and there’s a plan for my life? Was there, in fact, a personal plan for all humans? By 2050, there will have been 113 billion human beings that have lived, suffered and died on this planet. All with a personal plan? All enjoying this marvelous gift called life? 

I’m not surprised that religious folklore has tried to deal with the questions surrounding the mystery of life? 

Yet, like so many things that they’ve insisted on explaining away by oversimplification, the contradictions in their stories stand out like a sore thumb to a cultural myth buster like myself. Life certainly is a mystery. The very fact that the planet is absolutely teeming with life from the tiniest amoeba to the tallest tree and everything in between does boggle the mind. That the instinct to survive and procreate has kept many species from going extinct is also something at which to marvel. 

But in all of that mystery and mayhem, there is nothing that implies that the universe has our happiness in mind. 

Nor does there appear to be any guardian angels standing by to direct our footsteps and protect us from pain and suffering or horrors and atrocities. That seems to be left up to some kind of random luck of the draw where the nastiest of the lot can win big while a little baby gets stepped on and squished into the pavement.

No rhyme or reason to the system at all, if it can even be called a system. 

There’s a weakness in human beings called denial. It is a defense mechanism that keeps us from searching for viable options. Religion preys upon that weakness. Our cultural drive to explain life through story telling was once the only way to make meaning of the world. Religion used our perpetual state of fear and denial to step in and take control of societies at large and persist in doing so to this day. However, we have gathered an enormous amount of knowledge since our early tribal days. For storytelling to be the way we explain life to our offspring insures that ignorance will continue to influence social outcomes. What a waste of human ingenuity and curiosity, scientific endeavors and altruism. 

Another long held cultural belief that continues to support and promote intentional stupidity is the whole idea that life is a gift because god is good for us and to us. 

Obviously, there is never a good explanation offered by the devout when random humans are selected to suffer untold anguish. Why them and not me? There is no answer that satisfies. To say there is no plan or no god watching over us, however, is something that the religious simply can’t face. Their stories give them comfort perhaps but at the expense of delayed problem solving and creative solutions? And, if they’re right, how is it even possible to consider the gods they have concocted to be loving or caring? I wouldn’t treat a dog the way some humans are forced to live. 

The truth is that life is actually horrible most of the time for some people and grim some of the time for the rest. 

There is no one that doesn’t experience suffering, however. That’s life. It's a series of problems that requires solving and in between the problems are some feel good moments if we’re lucky. Life isn’t designed to be nice or good. Happiness wasn’t factored into the equation. That doesn’t mean we won’t ever experience joy, but it’s not promised and it’s often fleeting. 

The ONLY thing that makes a difference in the quality of life is how we treat each other. 

If we aren’t interested in the good of mankind as a whole, something more than just our own well-being, then life will become even grimmer. Without human compassion, ingenuity and creativity, we must face whatever nature unrelentingly doles out as well as what other humans perpetrate without much hope of things getting better. 

I happen to believe that it’s our job to do what we can to make the world a better place for the children we insist on having. 

Every good thing that has happened in the world was because a human lifted a hand to help. No god ever fed a hungry child. It’s always been humans who make the difference. Making up stories won’t change anything. Praying to a god doesn’t work. Believing that we’re unique and that god has a plan for our lives is at the very least deluded and the very worst arrogant. Life isn’t good or bad. It just is. How we cope with and how we help others cope with life is all that we’ve got. Our progress as a species depends on our willingness to find ways to make it possible for more and more people to live better and safer lives. 

That’s as GOOD as it gets, my friends. 

It’s up to us. If we stand around waiting for a god to lift so much as a little finger to help out, nothing will get done. NOTHING. And, although the world will always be riddled with problems to solve, we can find solutions to many of our problems through cooperation and the willingness to bravely face the realities of life together. 

More than ever before in the history of humankind, our cultural fairy tales are not only useless to society but harmful to our progress.   

Teresa Roberts is a myth buster. Her recently published book - Have We Been Screwed? Trading Freedom for Fairy Tales - can be purchased on Amazon