Experience has taught us that everything has a beginning, and this causes us to think that the universe, too, must once have begun. The earliest origin-explanation was that it was created by a god, an interpretation based upon the assumption that such an entity exists.
This explanation has two great advantages over our modern understanding: it is simple, and it is easily understood. However, it also has two great disadvantages: it tells us nothing about the universe and it does not help us to understand cosmological behaviour. If we want to understand reality, then we must work from what we know rather than from what we assume.
Religious founders and leaders rarely state why a god created the universe. But they always attribute purpose to our existence, and they always teach us to live in a manner that demonstrates we value attainment of this purpose. Living to attain this purpose, we are told, presents problems; these, just like all of our everyday problems, can only be solved by understanding the environment that holds the conditions to be met (as we saw in Problem Environments). This is why each religion’s environment is described and explained, and why their God’s criteria or commandments, the existence of a judgement day, heaven and hell, and so on, are detailed. In explaining such things, these leaders all (except, perhaps, a few) confidently believe that they are carrying out the instructions of a higher Being.
A belief in any purpose creates a mind that can make decisions with the clarity of vision and the certainty of conviction. A strong belief in any leader’s vision creates an ardent proselyte. However, belief only makes the believed-in concept real to the believer. It cannot make it true in the real world, for the real world is quite unaffected by what its inhabitants think. And it often cannot make it true to others, where many may simply adopt the views of the local majority to avoid arousing trouble for themselves.
Over the centuries we have significantly added to the belief we started with—that a god simply created the universe. Many of us now infer that this god has a purpose in mind, that humans are intimately linked to this purpose, and that God periodically intervenes in our lives. We have made these assumptions because we cannot solve moral problems or make moral decisions (i.e., obtain peace of mind) without first holding (or, for many, actually believing) that our existence has purpose. Directing our daily activities toward accomplishing valued purposes gives us the comfort of feeling that our lives are meaningful.
But some beliefs prevent us from thinking logically about what surely must be important in life—the way we act when living. Behaviour blinded by benighted belief can have terrible consequences, as acts of terrorism regularly demonstrate.
(A postscript to this chapter titled Developing A Universal Religion/Rationality In Science And Religion is to be found at the end of this part.)