I wrote this letter to my friend Charlotte Sarah Greene in 2009.
Is there life after death? Does it matter?
My comments about religion weren‘t much fun because they were negative – I don‘t like religion. Today is the fun part.
The basis of my spiritual philosophy is rejection of faith and belief. There is no person on Earth or who ever has been on Earth who knows any more than I do about whether God exists. There are a lot of people who believe God exists, either because that is what they were taught or because it gives them comfort. That’s ﬁne with me – everyone should do whatever it takes to keep their ship aﬂoat.
I think it is probable almost to the point of certainty that there are beings in the universe with greater intelligence than humans; i.e., aliens. That thought gives me comfort, while the notion that humans are the most intelligent creatures in the universe is as terrifying to me as zombies are to you. This is as good as it gets? ACK!
I believe that a higher intelligence had some part in the design and creation of nature. (When I use “believe” in this way, I’m not saying that I accept something as true. I mean that I think there is a high probability of it being true.) I think Darwin’s Theory is correct (and that Creationism is absurd), but I recognize the possibility of intelligent design. I don’t know what that intelligence is. I am not willing to personify it and call it God. I doubt humans could begin to understand it if we were told everything about it, but I do think it exists.
But, most important, I don’t care. I’m not afraid of death, and it doesn‘t matter to me whether there is any existence after death. And that‘s because I see all around me mind-boggling complexity and beauty. I love to walk through a forest and see a grand old tree that has fallen and begun to rot, and all the new life springing from or depending on that tree. I am awed as much by the complexity of a ﬂea as I am of the human body. The interaction of all of nature’s parts humbles me and ﬁlls me with awe. And I know that I am, we all are, a part of that.
Far be it for my little brain to concoct a special place for myself in this wonder, or to worry about my inevitable death. I am an inﬁnitesimal speck in something the beauty of which we have only seen the surface of, and yet is far beyond anything our imaginations could ever produce. Whether the design is for me to live again somehow after death, or to be like a fallen tree in the forest, I embrace it with all my heart and with every speck of gratitude in my being.