It is surely the designer’s absolute masterstroke (or the masterstroke of mindless, emotionless, sexless chance) that survival depends on love. Once single-cell reproduction had given way to sexual reproduction, there had to be a union of bodies, followed by a period of motherly devotion. Without these two phases, survival of the species would have been and still is impossible. Although sex is obviously not synonymous with love, there are many creatures that mate for life, and even if humans are not necessarily among them, nevertheless, the initial union of man and woman is generally a mixture of the physical and the emotional.

The second phase, in which the mother (and one hopes, in the case of humans, the father too) nurtures, feeds, protects, teaches, etc., is one of absolute devotion. The baby is helpless. Without parental love, it must die. As far as we know, animals provide that love spontaneously. A lioness does not need to be taught how to give birth, how to suckle, etc. Humans do, or at least they do in societies that like to think of themselves as sophisticated. Parenting is a subject for study, for theory. We write books about it, we hold courses, we even change direction, as one fashionable expert gives way to another. This applies to all the activities that animals perform naturally, and it is symptomatic of the loss of animal spontaneity that makes us forget what we are.

Lest the religious believer be carried away with the notion of love being evidence of the designer’s beneficent nature, we need to redress the balance by mentioning another process without which we cannot survive – namely, eating. When life according to the atheist sprang spontaneously into existence, and spontaneously created its own reproductive system, it also originated an extraordinary process of fuelling. The complexities of the digestive system need not concern us here, though. In this context, we are considering the nature of man and other animals as a reflection of their possible designer, and eating is surely the very converse of the love we have just lauded. If the absorption of other matter is a scientific necessity (and we must face the fact that life requires energy, and energy requires fuel), why – even before the arrival of humans – did the designer not confine the concept of food to things without feelings? Drink too is essential to life, but it is probably safe to assume that water has no awareness, no sensitivity to pain. We have no evidence that grass, herbs and other forms of vegetation have feelings either. But other animals most certainly do. To make the survival of some animals dependent on their killing other animals seems cruel in the extreme. And totally unnecessary.

When eventually we humans came on the scene, the pattern was already clear. We were ready to kill and eat anything. Not only that, but other patterns were also clear: animals would fight for territory, for mates, for leadership. Violence was integral to the fabric of life. And from all this violent competition and conflict, from the endless struggle for survival and power, comes much that we call sin. How absurd, then, to claim that Adam and Eve were in any way responsible for it, when the entire system of selfishness and destruction was established long before them.

So far as we know, our ancestors lived much like animals: they inhabited caves, reproduced, nurtured their young, went out to hunt and kill, and taught their children to do the same. The fact that they devised tools to make the task easier does not mean that the task itself was any different. But if we now leap forward to modern man, we find two things: 1) that the task has been institutionalized, and 2) that it has been vastly expanded.

The repercussions of “institutionalization” reach into most areas of our existence. We have already mentioned the possibility that our senses have been dulled by the dominance of our intellect, and when it comes to food, shelter, defence/attack, education and all the other facets of our push for survival, we have created an enormous range of mechanisms that hide the animal nature of the processes. Our food industry is an extension of the hunt; our houses are an extension of the caves; our arms industry is an extension of teeth and claws; our schools are an extension of parenting, and so on.

But despite our extraordinary self-awareness, we remain helpless in the grip of the same instincts that govern the other animals. We are, if you like, still “programmed”, and no matter how much we may rationalize, analyse and theorize, the basics remain exactly the same. Instead of hunting, gathering, etc., we go to the office so that we can pay for the kill or the fruit, for the cave, for the protection, for the parenting. This is a major problem for all human-centred religions: they cannot accept the idea that man was not at the forefront of their god’s thinking when he began the life process. Even though they know that the so-called animal kingdom preceded the human kingdom by millions of years, they still cling to the idea that the real beginning was the arrival of man, and that man has a unique place in the pattern. They do not ask why it took their god so long to put him there, and they do not see that the savagery of our human world is no more than a continuation of the system that has made nature “red in tooth and claw”.

Why does it matter? When Darwin first propounded his theory, there was an outcry against the idea that man was descended from the monkeys – although of course Darwin never said any such thing, his proposition being that man and monkeys had a common ancestor. It was as if people were in denial of their animal nature, and in denial of the facts placed before their eyes (the physiological similarities, and the shared basic needs). But perhaps the denial went and still goes deeper – right into the heart of the designer. Once we acknowledge the fact that, for all our sophistication, we are only part of a developing process that began with creatures we deem to be inferior to ourselves, we open up the terrifying possibility that we are not in safe hands.

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12. Religion

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