The Prime Question

Posted on July 31, 2014 by Robert Ringer


As religious fanaticism continues to pester civilized people, one wonders how civilization has managed to advance as far as it has.  One would have thought that by this time religious fanaticism and intolerance would have become passé.

Religion aside, it would seem that the least everyone could agree on is a single, self-evident point:  that a Universal Intelligence exists.  I guess if someone chooses not to believe that there is a Universal Intelligence (“God,” “Conscious Universal Power Source,” “the Universe,” “Supreme Being,” etc.), there’s nothing wrong with that — provided he doesn’t try to interfere with the rights of others to connect in their own way.

Over the past twenty-five years or so, an increasing number of scientists have arrived at the conclusion that there is something unknowable beyond science, primarily because science cannot answer the “how” and “why” questions:  Why do scientific laws work the way they do?  Why do human beings have the ability to discover and understand these laws?  If the universe is “dead,” how could we have evolved from dead cosmic dust into cognitive beings?  And so on.

To those who insist that humankind is the result of nothing more than a cosmic accident, I must confess that I don’t know what they mean by the word “accident.”  How does unconscious matter “accidentally” become conscious matter — atoms combined in such a way that the resulting molecules are able to reflect on their own existence?  Quite an accident, to say the least.

Many people get off track because they begin with a false premise — that science is in opposition to God.  On the contrary, I believe that science, along with everything else in the universe, is a creation of Universal Intelligence.  In fact, science itself, which is bound by universal laws, is a miracle.  Why?  Because it works!  No one has, or will ever have, any idea why science works — let alone why it works the way it does.

Perhaps Gene Cernan, commander of Apollo 17 and the last man to walk on the moon, put it best when describing what he felt when he looked back at the Earth from his historic perch:

“What I saw as I looked at the earth from the moon was that it was all too beautiful to have happened by accident.  This could not have been the result of two dust particles coming together.  I wanted to grab that crescent earth, put it in my spacesuit and take it home and show it to people.  Looking up at the earth, I had the sense that I was sitting on God’s front porch.”

I’m not a proselytizer.  I’m a social observer and philosopher.  My only reason for sharing my insights into this subject is because I genuinely believe you can benefit — right here and now, in this life — by making the effort to connect with Universal Intelligence.  Regardless of your belief system — religionist or atheist — you’ve probably already done it many times in your life, though you may not have been consciously aware of it.

Has anyone ever called you at almost the exact moment you were thinking of him, someone with whom you had not spoken for many months, or even years?  Have you ever taken action on a hunch and it led you to something wonderful that you would never have been able to imagine?

My doctor recently told me that he was introduced to his wife at a party by a woman — a total stranger — who said she believed they would make a perfect couple.  Sure enough, it was love at first sight, and they’ve been happily married for more than thirty years.  But guess what?  Neither of them ever saw that mysterious woman again, nor do they have any idea who she was.  It makes one wonder why the metaphysical world operates the way it does.

Try making a list of all the big “coincidences” in your life — things you cannot explain in rational terms — and dump them into a mental compartment labeled “Universal Intelligence.”  Then, review its contents from time to time.  If you’re not already there, you may ultimately come to the conclusion that pretty much anything is possible if you can just find a way to plug into the Universal Intelligence that is responsible for those things we cannot otherwise explain.

Which brings me back to how each of us chooses to relate to the Universal Intelligence of which all atoms are a part.  What the precise form of that Universal Intelligence is, no one can say with certainty.  And how a person chooses to “worship” Universal Intelligence is his own business.  Surely, all rational, civilized people can agree on this self-evident, natural right.

Sadly, however, they do not.  Which makes this the overriding question of our time:  What are we to do with the ignorant but dangerous religionists who seem more intent than ever on making other people’s spiritual business their business?  It is the prime question that civilized people around the globe must answer as our world continues to spin ever faster out of control.

The very survival of modern civilization may well depend upon the answer.

Robert Ringer

Robert Ringer is an American icon whose unique insights into life have helped millions of readers worldwide. He is also the author of two New York Times #1 bestselling books, both of which have been listed by The New York Times among the 15 best-selling motivational books of all time.

45 responses to “The Prime Question”

  1. Greg Lauer says:

    "Coincidently," I was discussing a very similar topic with a co-worker today and we were both astounded to have noticed that the most ardent, the angriest, the loudest, the most adamant, and at times most violent people in our lives had been the atheists trying to convince us of their positions. Sadly enough I don't believe those same atheists will ever recognize their infringements on our rights or their own brand of religious fanaticism. And yet they have all called me the "rube." Thanks, as always Mr. Ringer, for your thought provoking piece.

    • John E. Gabor says:

      The best argument I've heard against atheism is who puts all that time, energy, emotion, etc, into something they don't believe in?

    • Bill Sadler says:

      Greg; My experience has been the opposite of yours. I don't know the answers and I know that I don't know. But I do know that the least tolerant people I come across whether in my life or in the media are those who are believers. Most people I know who would call themselves atheist are rational, logical and the only concern they have with "religious " people are the rules those folks are insistent be applied to them. I say live and let live or just leave me alone.

      • Greg Lauer says:

        Bill…I didn't originally include it, but yes…I've also had some VERY bad interfaces with "other believers" from different denominations than mine. Just ridiculous.

      • Teri says:

        Bill, don't write off every believer you know.
        I work in an office with believers and unbelievers, Democratics and Republicans, straights and gays. Granted, most of them are dumb as a rock but there are still some who are really quite bright and can support themselves and they are not looking for a government baleout and they are doing just fine.
        Hang tough Bill!

    • Jack Bear says:

      But Greg, do you include the murderous Muslim terrorists or the Catholic Inquisitors from Spain when making your list of the most ardent, the angriest, the loudest, the most adamant, and at times most violent people in our lives? I've never had an atheist try to kill me in the name of 'atheism'. Hardly a fair comparison to the unholy violence foisted upon innocents in the name of religion.

      • Greg Lauer says:

        Jack…sorry I wasn't more clear. The ones I referred to were in my own personal experiences. And in those experiences I've been punched, screamed at, called filthy names in front of my children, and had my car defaced by atheists.

    • Murray Suid says:

      My experience is different from yours, Greg. I've never had an atheist come to my door and try to persuade me to believe in atheism. Whereas over the years, perhaps 20 religious believers have come to my home, proselytizing.

      Out on the street, no atheist has ever handed me a tract, but religionists have done so frequently.

      Where I live–in the San Francisco Bay Area–at least three radio stations broadcast sermons and other religious shows 24 hours a day. I know of no similar atheist program. Sure, one doesn't need to listen. But the point is that the religionists work hard to convince listeners to believe according to the hosts' views.

      When I was a public school student in South Florida, every day of the year a Bible reading was broadcast throughout the school. I do not recall anyone ever reading from an atheist book or article. I do know this: I was required by law to attend school, and I was forced to listen to 180 religious messages each year.

      I am sorry that you have encountered aggressive and thoughtless atheists. But my experience shows that a person is more likely to encounter religionists promoting their perspectives than atheists. And history certainly shows us that it wasn't atheists who burned religionists at the stake.

      • Jean says:

        That depends on the religion. Conscientious Jews, for example, are FORBIDDEN to proselytize, precisely because Judaism respects your right not to have a relationship with G_d; they believe that their life example should be the reason you make an inquiry. Christians, on the other hand, were commanded to proselytize – it's called "the Great Commission." They are restricted from FORCING others to see things their way – the Inquisition was spearheaded by a fanatic anti-Semite (history repeats itself, does it not) but they are expected to communicate with others about Jesus.
        You claim that atheists don't force others not to believe, but I have to argue to the contrary. What do you consider the lawsuits filed by the Freedom From Religion organization against the town of Elkhart – a largely Amish community – to eliminate a carving of the 10 Commandments? Using the strong and long arm of the government to bludgeon believers is certainly force, in my opinion. If you are "offended" by religion or religious people, then stay the hell out of an Amish (or Chasidic) community. Pretty simple, right?

  2. Rock Shaw says:

    Excellent article! Matches my sentiments and thoughts exactly! I have used the term Universal Intelligence in certain meetings and groups when there was apprehension that some of the group might get perturbed at the mention of any deity. I believe that almost everyone has connected with Universal Intelligence although they may have called it something else or didn't know what to call it.

  3. Jean Nooney lll says:

    Many thinkers and authors in the metaphysical world have come to the conclusion "one must admit the unknowable to know the knowable" . It is amazing how many things fall into place on a daily basis when one adjusts their attitude to include this simple yet complex truth. The INFINITE ONE or GREAT SPIRIT is US ! Have a good day.

  4. Jack Bear says:

    Robert has been reading Napoleon Hill again. :-) I can buy into the idea of 'universal awareness' maybe but all this business of an intelligent personal caring god etc. just won't jive with what I see and know.

    • Paul Anthony says:

      I should let Robert speak for himself, but I think he and I are on the same page.
      IMO, Universal Intelligence implies only that some intelligence (doesn't have to be a "being") created a universe that works by adhering to a set of rules. Science has discovered some of these, and calls them Laws of Physics. But Science merely discovered them. Something else created them.
      Believing in Universal Intelligence doesn't require believing in a "caring god".
      I can't know how or why the universe was created, so I have no reason to believe that the creator cares about any of us individually.
      The only way to come close to understanding the creator is to study its creations, just as the best way to understand an artist is to study his art. Evolution, something else created by Universal Intelligence, cares about the survival of life – but doesn't seem to care about individual life forms. Believing that the creator cares about each of us is an attempt by many to put the responsibility for their own decisions onto someone else. Personally, I don't think of myself as a victim of anyone else, not even of god.
      But, I'm not an atheist. I DO believe in God. I just don't believe in Religions. And I don't think god does, either.
      You might want to read "Creating Your New Life – One Thought at a Time".

      • Richard Lee Van says:

        Good distinction. I'm with you. I believe in something called God passionately, but fairly detest religions! No, you did not say that you DETEST them. I said that. LOL Yes, we humans are "limited knowers" and would do well to distinguish between knowing and believing. I live J. Krishnamurti's idea of "tentative belief". All my beliefs are held tentatively in case I find better replacements.

  5. Liz says:

    I suspect the sense that there is "something more" is part of the survival instinct, and as such, quite natural. Even atheists wish for good outcomes and hope for the best. I think religion is built on this natural instinct and did serve a good purpose for mankind — but I think that time has passed. While I am unable to believe the existence of a creator god, I don't really consider myself an atheist. It is easy to see the cohesion of the material world — add to that coincidence and serendipity and I have no problem understanding the possibility of a universal intelligence or a metaphysical dimension to existence.

  6. brady says:

    I refer you all to apologetics from Phd. scientists.Higher level disquisition.

  7. larajf says:

    A really great movie analyzing how current science discriminates against those who look into theological reasons for answers was _Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed_ by Ben Stein (yes, that Ben Stein). Some of the scientists were able to get to the point where they know there's something else at work that they don't understand, and they're not willing to write off The Universe as a possibility because they're real scientists. But the Scientific Community insist that true scientists must be atheists otherwise they're not real scientists. I was shocked watching it at how badly some cool new theories were buried because it didn't match what the "leaders" wanted.
    Honestly it's no different then the middle ages when science had to be hidden if it went against the religious leaders. But I have no doubt the "experts" would miss that delicious irony.

    • Murray Suid says:

      I know quite a few scientists, including one who won a Nobel prize in physics. I have never heard a scientist say that scientists must be atheists to be "real scientists." Given the history of science–with so many leading scientists proclaiming their faith in God–I find it difficult to believe that the "Scientific Community" insists on atheism as a requirement to practice science. Not trusting my limited experience, I just visited the National Academy of Sciences website and could not find anything declaring that religious believers couldn't be real scientists. (I wonder when Ben Stein became an authority on this subject.)

  8. Gary says:

    I agree with Robert Ringer. The universe is a living, conscious presence, and we are one with it. I particularly like the writings of Carl Jung, who believed that one can determine much spiritual truth through his own efforts. I have abandoned organized religion as a result. I have had the "mystical experience," as described in the book "Cosmic Consciousness," a book Robert once recommended in one of his books. Through it, I lost fear of death and am optimistic about spiritual matters. I felt one with the universe.

  9. moosie says:

    Yo Rob in "looking out for #1" you were noncommittal,agnostic.. seems as we get closer to leaving this earth we are reluctant to admit our existence doesn't matter, humans are vain in general, the Tao is interesting in the philosophy it puts forth, religion is just a belief and beliefs are hypothesis , squirrels are smarter than people they think express emotion survive,but they never HATE or Kill , the Hubris of homo Sapiens is odd, I worship Chelsea Clinton because her parents are honorable people who only lived to benefit others like Elizabeth Warren, you don't like stupid people do you ? they are the majority as intelligence is a "recessive " trait… oops time for "The Twilight Zone"

  10. Richard Lee Van says:

    What a wonderful, MEANINGFUL, essay! "Right on!" as the hippies used to say. I loved the story of the doctor, his wife and the mystery woman. Upon reading I experienced "the chill of truth". Thrill and chill. Mr. Ringer opens with the key to the problem he brilliantly addresses.: "civilized" and later "civilized and rational". these are relative terms in regard to humans, as I have observed during all my many years. My constant true joke is that we humans are not very evolved. And the irrational makes matters worse. But, as suggested by Mr. Ringer, the extra-rational is wonderful, and promising for humanity, IF we can counter the current anti-life humans and continue to exist at our current level. All humans are "equal"? In a sense maybe. Similar at best, I would say… And, SHOULD humanity continue to exist here on Planet Dirt? And WILL it? Here is NOT the only place where sentient life exists, is my bet. And then the idea of REINCARNATION comes to mind… I so look forward to every commentary Mr. Ringer writes and publishes. He is a rare light in a too often dreary dim world.

  11. Todd says:

    John 1:3 (KJV): All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.

    Acts 17:28 (KJV): "For in him we live, and move, and have our being…"

    • John E. Gabor says:


    • Richard Lee Van says:

      Yes, understanding "in Him" makes all the difference. Most Christians are so confused they cannot understand the difference between Jesus and God, the Father. Jesus purportedly said, " Of myself I can do nothing. The Father doeth the work THROUGH me". yes. Jesus was NOT a Christian. Maybe the Avatar of the Age? Maybe? So, above, we are never not (of and in) God, the unknowable (by human mind). So what about the Great Sinners, eg Hitler and others? Karma sez they will get theirs! Built in the unknowable System. And all the unknown everyday saints? The same. Personal evolution is why we incarnated here on Plant Dirt, I like to believe… tentatively. Thinking, I believe, deepens us, and may help our personal evolution, which in turn maybe evolves an ever-expanding God? Reality: No beginning and no end? Ponder on that! amgos and amigas.

    • Ali says:

      I'm right there with you, Todd.

  12. Gene says:

    Very good point and great essay! One thing I think you should clarify though is that 99.9 % of the "religious fanatics" who cause most of the murder and mayhem are Muslim. Last time I checked I haven't noticed any Catholic, Mormon, Protestant, Buddhist, Hindu, New Agers or even atheists beheading, blowing up, driving airplanes into buildings, terrorizing and murdering innocent people. Plus how about the fanaticism of Marxists Communists who have murdered well over fifty million people in the twentieth century? I don't think the Crusades or the Spanish Inquisition comes even close in comparison. Seems to me if we can end Islam and Communism, we would be a much happier and safer world.

  13. LindaLou says:

    I was at a doctor's office and the nurse and doctor were having a discussion that it appeared they had had over and over again. The doctor was saying there is no God and what the nurse said has stuck with me for many years. She said the basic question remains how did this all start. There is never an explanation that answers that question.

    • Common Sense says:

      Faith is a gift; unearned. The mystery is why some people were given that gift who did nothing to deserve it, and why others were NOT gifted who did nothing to deserve THAT.

  14. Tom says:

    Anyone who honestly checks out Scientology will find out some pretty amazing things. Just saying.

  15. Gary says:

    Based on the near death experience of many, a pleasant afterlife awaits us all. One of the after effects of the NDE is no longer believing in "sin" or strict religious dogma. I am not an atheist by any means, but dogmatic religions seem suffocating to me, like putting your mind in a confined cage, never allowing it to wander beyond strict dogma. There is no need to seek higher truth, because you already have it (allegedly), and questioning ancient religious texts is (horrors) apostasy!

    • Common Sense says:

      "…dogmatic religions seem suffocating to me…"

      The dogma of religion (if followed religiously) is to set us free. Following it is a "sacrifice" (exchanging lower values for higher ones.) This results in doing what we should do, which in addition to indescribable joy in the next life, will make this life on earth more successful.

      Sin leads to slavery. License is different from freedom, i.e., if you're free, why can't you steal a car of your choice or rob a bank?

      Regarding slavery, think porn addiction, alcoholism, all kinds of vices. Not hurting anyone else, so it must be OK? You'd be hurting the most important person in your life, you.

  16. Philosophizer says:

    Science actually is on the path to proving the existence of a "Creator". With every discovery they get closer to identifying creative design. Atheists are the blindest of the blind. It's a mystery to me how folks can't see this creation. In order to be an atheist, you would have to believe that your computer came out of the mud and designed itself and put itself together with no help whatsoever. Huh?

    There are no "coincidences or accidents". You may not like your "accident" that just happened, and you might not like the result, so you blame an event on "not my fault, I didn't want this to happen". It's always your fault because you were there! You brought yourself to the point of accident or coincidence by the fact that in this 3D world you put yourself in the position for it to happen – either for good or bad.

    Someone here asked why the creation – well it's because that's what God does, he creates – just like us, as he made us to be like himself, before our corruption. Why does Robert have to write? The myriad reasons why Robert writes are obvious and we all know them. But God doesn't care about his creation someone else said. How did you arrive at that conclusion? Just because you don't like the inequalities of life? Trust me, if God didn't stay out of your way and give you free reign, you would be complaining about that. God is freedom, but man is corrupted and tries to control us, while God gives us liberty. Also we can't know all the answers…

    Religions are an anathema. They are corrupted because we are. So if you realize this, then don't be a Christian for example, but be Christ-like. As Gene said above, if we could get rid of Islam and Communism the world would be a much better place. This is true of course, but it will never happen because of the innate nature of man to be evil. As for Robert's question, I do believe that man will try and "fix" this problem, but in doing so he will create an even larger problem, and that will be the complete loss of individual freedom to choose,and that will lead to a very tragic ending…

  17. Robby Bonfire says:

    Is coincidence, coincidence, or predestination come home to roost? Something that boggles my mind is all the people I have known in one part of this country, whom I have run into in another part of this country, or even abroad. Such as a man I worked with in NYC, eight years later becoming the first person I ran into on the beach (with his wife), my first day in Nice, France.

    Such as a fellow choir boy in PA, I ran into at the U.S. military base in Iceland, eight years later.

    Such as a girl in my H.S. chemistry class in San Francisco, I ran into at the airport in Jacksonville, Florida.

    Such as a man I worked with in an office in NY, I ran into in L.A.

    Such as a young man I was in H.S. with in SF, I ran into, six years later, in a bar in Oceanside, California.

    Such as a young woman I was in Jr. H.S. with in PA, I ran into on a bus in NYC, 12 years after last seeing her.

    Such as a cocktail waitress I worked with (as a bartender) in NYC, I ran into at an L.A. Kings – New York Rangers game at the old Forum.

    So many of these incidents, I can't remember them all? Just wish I knew the universal reason, if there is one, for all this "randomity" in my life? Others with similar experiences? Can't believe I am the only one with these experiences.

  18. Robby Bonfire says:

    One more comes to mind, another cocktail waitress I worked with in NYC, I ran into in Santa Monica, a few years later, and she had become an Eileen Ford model. Small world, yes.

  19. american real says:

    All atheists should look here:

  20. LearnedLady says:

    I was a Christian once. Happily went to church – many churches, actually: Baptist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Pentecostal, Universalist – and attended Summer Bible School as a kid – because I wanted to.

    But I am no longer a Christian, or a believer in any god, because I can no longer believe that there is anything out there that cares about people as individuals. I watched as my sister, my irreplaceable best friend, who prayed for healing – hell, her whole church prayed for her healing – breathe her last, and with that last breath went my religion.

    If there is a God, he's a bastard, and I hate him.

    • Philosophizer says:

      I lost my sister the same way. But it has no bearing on my faith. Read my post above. Religion and God are completely separate issues, and are not to be confused. Please try again…

      • John E. Gabor says:

        I wouldn’t say Churches are corrupt. But I would agree that Churches can be hard to take sometimes. That’s because Churches are obviously full of sinners – the puffed up, the gossips, the back-stabbers, the butt-kissers, the adulterers, etc, etc, and the sinners who eventually quit going to Church because they can’t put up with his or her fellow sinners. But going to Church doesn’t make you a Christian. Neither does being baptized. Neither does being Christ-like. One important service some Churches offer, though, is to provide an elder to train and guide new Christians. Some people need a guide like the Ethiopian in Acts needed Philip. For others The Wilmington’s Guide To The Bible is sufficient. God gives us free will and yet many blame God for any negative results of the things we choose to do. We all experience grief when we lose someone. And anger is one part of the grief process. Jesus said in John 10:28 “And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.” Fortunately, any man includes you and me.

    • Richard Lee Van says:

      This is an example of having an erroneous "God concept". We must learn to live with what is beyond human comprehension. Bitterness is counterproductive. Seeing to one's personal growth is productive.

  21. Heather says:

    Great blog, Robert. Universal Intelligence is undeniable – and not only are we a part of it and contribute to it, but so does every other being, life form, pocket of energy. It is vast and huge and way beyond our true comprehension, hard for use humans because our ego tell us it is all about "us". And here is even the greater thing: Surviving and thriving is the MO. If we could just get our of our little minds for just a moment we would see that everything around us has the DESIRE to live, that life is ingrained in everything. It is the ultimate gift of Universal Intelligence and we should not under-estimate it.

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