The Nature of Existence and World Religions

I attended the screening for “The Nature of Existence” tonight. Since I blogged about the film last week, I wanted to follow up with my thoughts and reactions.

Director Roger Nygard interviewed over 100 people of different nationalities and beliefs. I heard the views of scientists in the same minute as Jainists, Native Americans, and New Age gurus.

Everyone answered the same 85 questions. Much of the insight I’ve heard or read before,  but the most striking part of this documentary was the cacophony of thought and theory made up by all of these radically diverse groups. At first, It just felt like a  mess of  totally unrelated beliefs.  I laughed quite a bit–both at the absurdly delusional and the fabulously comedic. Not until the very end when I had a time to reflect did I see the larger point.

It may seem simplistic, but I came away from The Nature of Existence with a renewed compassion for spiritual and religious people. My curiosity about world religions and the individuals that follow them has ballooned once again. Becoming an atheist may have brought a new realization that religion is based on delusion and  unnecessary, but hearing people of all different philosophies ponder why we exist and what it means to live a good life just makes me want to be kinder and more open to those who are on the same journey as I am. The difference between us is which path we choose to get there.

There may be a larger truth, but no one religion has it. Even science doesn’t fully understand yet. We search for meaning because it’s part of our natures. Let’s just be kind to one another  along the way, ok?

P.S. Go see the movie! Support independent film makers!

I Apologize to Science!

May I present you with today’s episode of Your Daily Woo, brought to you—very unfortunately—by me. Try to figure out why I’m ashamed to have bought the following product:



I swear I didn’t know! It was 2009! I didn’t even use them! If I had realized what the label claimed, I wouldn’t have bought the silly things.

Dear science, please forgive me for purchasing homeopathic “medicine.”

The label says “No risk of side effects. No expiration date.” Of course there are no side effects and no expiration date. There’s nothing in them to cause a reaction! The main ingredient is bullshit.

Teenagers Ditching Youth Group & Church

photo by marcia furman

USA Today published a short piece on how the days of overcrowded youth groups and church trips are over.

Only about one in four teens now participate in church youth groups, considered the hallmark of involvement; numbers have been flat since 1999. Other measures of religiosity — prayer, Bible reading and going to church — lag as well, according to Barna Group, a Ventura, Calif., evangelical research company. This all has churches canceling their summer teen camps and youth pastors looking worriedly toward the fall, when school-year youth groups kick in.

A few individuals guess why kids are ditching:

“Talking to God may be losing out to Facebook,” says Barna president David Kinnaman.

“I blame the parents,”who didn’t grow up in a church culture, says Jeremy Johnston, executive pastor at First Family Church in Overland Park, Kan. … “Remember, 80% of kids don’t have cars. Their parents could be lazy or the opposite — overstressed and overcommitted. If parents don’t go to church, kids don’t, either.”

Don’t forget the overcommitted teens themselves, the recession and growing competition from summer mission trips, says Rick Gage of Go-Tell Youth Camps, based in Duluth, Ga.

But then this quote sneaks in at the very end without any explanation or curiosity from the authors:

“I started to question if it was something I always wanted to do or if I just went because my friends did,” says Atkeson, now 18. “It just wasn’t really something I wanted to continue to do. My beliefs changed. I wouldn’t consider myself a Christian anymore.”

This is where I think the article would get interesting! Why did they stop there? This may be the most important issue—beyond lazy parents and facebook.

There must be more to kids leaving Christianity other than “I’m not attending church” or “I’m not going to camps with my youth group.” Many Christians often say things like, “Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a mechanic.” If Christianity and faith is so much more than just attending services, then what’s causing this shift in teen commitments?

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August 11, 2010  |  Christianity, religion, society  |  27 Comments

Why Do We Exist?

I am sure we’ve all been asked this question or  wondered ourselves. But have you ever heard the answers given by Buddhists? Scientists? Mormons? Taoists? Roger Nygard, director of Trekkies and Trekkies 2, took his curiosity and sense of humor on the road and asked this important question to hundreds of people. His new film The Nature of Existence tells the tale:

About the film:

I wrote the toughest 85 questions I could think of, about our purpose and the nature of existence, and then asked hundreds of people all over the globe, such as: Indian holy man Sri Sri Ravi Shankar (The Art of Living), evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins (The God Delusion), 24th generation Chinese Taoist Master Zhang Chengda, Stanford physicist Leonard Susskind (co-discoverer of string theory), wrestler Rob Adonis (founder of Ultimate Christian Wrestling), confrontational evangelist Brother Jed Smock, novelist Orson Scott Card (Ender’s Game), director Irvin Kershner (Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back), Stonehenge Druids Rollo Maughfling & King Arthur Pendragon and many more… How would YOU answer?

I decided to take a look at these 85 questions, and I think we should all try them on for size. Here’s a taste:

  • Why do we exist?
  • What is the best thing about existing?
  • What is our purpose?
  • Should religions be challenged?
  • Is skepticism a good thing?
  • Which religion is right?
  • Do we have a need to believe in something?
  • What is spirituality?
  • Is there a God?
  • What does God need from us?
  • Who is/are the Messiah(s)?
  • How do we determine truth?
  • Where does morality, or our “conscience,” comes from?
  • Does God want to test us? Why?
  • What determines sexual orientation?
  • Why is God interested in our sexual behavior?
  • Do we have free will?
  • Is everything predetermined?
  • What is best path to happiness?
  • Does meditation work?
  • Why do we need an afterlife?
  • When does life begin?
  • What is the greatest danger facing man’s existence?

I love them all, and I think I’d like to take some time to write out my own answers in the future. What do you think of The Nature of Existence? If there’s a screening near you, will you see it?

How would you answer the questions?