Recently in my college literature class we read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. It’s a book I’ve read many times before, mostly because I’ve always loved the absurdity throughout the book, but taking a deeper dive into it for my class has opened my eyes to new meanings within the words.
In the book, a super computer called Deep Thought was asked what the, “meaning of life, the universe and everything,” was. After calculating for 7.5 million years, Deep Thought had calculated the answer. Famously, the computer gave one answer. Forty-two.
This answer really just created more questions.
I haven’t been able to stop thinking about this fictional interaction since I’ve done the deep dive into it. I used to just take the answer of 42 as part of the absurdity of the book, laugh and then move on. Now I can’t stop thinking about how it could possibly relate to the ideas of religion that we hold as a society today.
To put it simply, we look for answers only to find more questions.
After Deep Thought had come up with this answer, another supercomputer was built to try to figure out what 42 was referring to. Thus, Earth was made. Yes, in this book Earth is a super computer designed to answer the question of the universe (and it gets blown up before it can).
According to ThoughtCo.com Ashley Crossman writes in her article “Sociology of Religion,” “As a social institution, religion is a pattern of social action organized around the beliefs and practices that people develop to answer questions about the meaning of existence.”
I’ve come to believe that as a society, we developed religion as a means to feel comfortable about things we are unsure about. Religion comforts us in times of hardship. We turn to religion to answer questions that give us anxiety. But it doesn’t answer absolutely everything. Sometimes religion leaves us asking questions.
Which is a good thing.
If we knew everything, there is no way we could live meaningful, experienced lives.
In the same way that Deep Thought gave the simple answer of 42, we are given answers to satisfy us for what we need in the moment, but sent back out to search for more.
Life is full of searching. It’s meant to be. I know lots of people believe religion is supposed to answer all of their questions right now, and that their Higher Power has a set-in-stone path for them right off the bat, but I think it goes more like this.
Your High Power wants you to learn. They will give you the answer that satisfies you in the moment, but will not give you everything.
You’re meant to keep learning yourself.
Maybe build your own supercomputer (but don’t let mice run it).