Pain - tearing, ripping, burning pain - is all around us. And that pain comes from all over, whether it be physical beatings from an alcoholic parent, the chains of one's psyche tearing him limb from limb, or the scorn of one's peers throwing him into a pit of depression. No matter which corner we turn, pain is waiting for us just around the bend. Many cannot handle the pain; they throw their lives away.
Others turn to religion to help them persevere through hard times. Some find their way by themselves. Simultaneously surrounded and alone in a vast, ever-expanding universe, these people living without religion grit their teeth through their pain and find inspiration not in the supernatural, the holy, or the afterlife, but in the stars, on the Earth, and even simply in their own existence.
The fact that we exist, that you and I, with all of our individual thoughts, ideals, and opinions, exist, is often taken for granted. The chances of us being here now, of hundreds of millions of years of evolution and experience and reproduction creating just the right arrangement of just the right amount of cells that make us who we are today, are astronomically slim.
We are an anomaly; we are impossible. Nevertheless, here we are, circling around a blazing star on a giant hunk of rock surrounded by the only intelligent, sustainable life for light-years in any direction. The same hunk of rock that is home to the Grand Canyon, to Niagara Falls, to the Great Wall of China. The same hunk of rock that has been molded not in an instant by the hands of one god or another, but by years and years of erosion and civilization.
Beyond that civilization and beyond the reaches of the wind and water that shape the Earth, are the stars - the brilliant, twinkling signals that call to humanity to explore. These stars, these beautiful, blazing beacons, know no god. They know not of humanity. These stars know nothing but the passage of time. They began as we did; they began as swirling motes of dust. They grow, and eventually they die, returning to dust, as we someday will. This dust, these stars, us - we are all the same. At the moment we may be small, but at one point we were the very stars themselves. Why, then, should we, who were beings beyond this Earth ourselves, have to lean on a religion, on a god, to give us strength?
Humanity itself is what those living without religion look to for hope during hard times. What civilization has been, what it has become, and what it shall be are our reasons for pushing through our pain. We are the masters of our domain, the top of the food chain. We have been nothing and we have been everything, and we will be so again. We have shaped the enormous world around us and we have illuminated the darkness of the universe - what problem could we possibly face that we cannot overcome ourselves?