Life can be really tough at times – everyone knows this. Illness and death can strike unexpectedly, as can financial and relationship trouble. The list is long.
A naturalist view of the universe can help in this regard. First, it tells us that suffering is exactly what we should expect given the world we live in and the evolutionary process by which we came to be here. We do not need to agonize over why a god would allow us to suffer, because no such god exists. This is not to say that we should be indifferent to suffering – if we dislike it (and we do), then it’s in our own best interests to mitigate it to the greatest extent possible.
Second, there is a certain peace in knowing that the stresses of an uncertain afterlife do not need to be added to the stresses we already have here on earth. When I was a Christian, I don’t think I ever really believed I was going to hell (I’ll bet no Christian does), but the thought of Judgment Day looming ahead was nonetheless a little unsettling. It was a bit like a really, really important exam that I thought I was well prepared for, but which made me nervous anyway.
The evidence, though, indicates that there are no menacing supernatural forces trying to claw us into hell. There is no pending apocalypse. There is just us and our fellow animals, eking out what living we can on this bizarrely wonderful planet.
Life is a beach. Beautiful but indifferent. And death is as natural as the sweep of a wave as it erases a footprint in the sand. There is no fear in that. Just peace.