A minister friend of mine was once leading a group for people who were inquiring into the Christian faith, and at some point early in the first meeting of the group he asked them about the role that God played in their lives. One of the members made this reply: “The way I figure it, God’s got a lot of things to worry about – earthquakes, and famines, and wars, and AIDS, and global warming and all that stuff. My little concerns probably aren’t very significant to him. In fact, the best thing I can do for God is probably to stay out of his way”.
The man was not being facetious; he genuinely had difficulty believing that, in the great big scheme of things, the mundane concerns of his life were all that important. And if that is the case for a person who believes in the existence of God, how much more for a person who has no such faith? Why is their life important? Why is my life important?
Until fairly recently in human history, we human beings have believed that we were the point of the story of our planet; the whole story of life on earth was leading up to us, and we had the manifest destiny of subduing the earth and using it to better our own lives. But the advances in scientific knowledge over the past two centuries have given us a very different view. Most scientists now believe that the universe came into existence as the result of a big bang over fourteen billion years ago, and that our earth did not come into existence until about nine billion years later. Our earth appears to be about 4.5 billion years old, and we human beings have been around for a tiny fraction of that time.
Sometimes this is illustrated in terms of a twenty-four hour clock. Suppose the entire 4.5 billion year history of our planet had been compressed into one twenty-four hour day? What would the proportions be like? Well, if the earth was formed at 12.01 a.m., then the earliest forms of life would appear at about 3.30 a.m. After a long day of slow progression to multicellular organisms, the enormous diversification of life that scientists call the Cambrian explosion would finally occur at about 9 p.m. – twenty-one hours into the twenty-four hour day. A bit later on, dinosaurs would appear and would roam the earth until they became extinct at 11.40 p.m., with twenty minutes left in the day, at which time mammals would start to become dominant.
The divergence of the evolutionary branches leading to chimpanzees and humans would occur at one minute and seventeen seconds before midnight. Anatomically modern humans would arrive with just three seconds left, and the life of a middle-aged human today would occupy only the last one thousandth of a second.
In this scheme of things, how can my little life possibly be of any significance?
(Read the rest here).