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The Nature of Existence

2010 ,    »  -   84 Comments
Ratings: 6.49/10 from 68 users.

What are the answers to the great questions of life, and who is certain they know the truth others have been struggling to find for centuries?

For The Nature of Existence, Nygard prepared a questionnaire with 85 weighty philosophical questions, ranging from Why do we exist? and Do we have free will? to Who created God? and Is there a moral yardstick that applies to all cultures?

Nygard then set out to interview as many people who might have something to say about his list of imponderables as possible, ranging from biologist and author Richard Dawkins, physicist and String Theory creator Leonard Susskind, and Indian spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar to a born-again Christian wrestler, the director of The Empire Strikes Back, a pair of self-proclaimed druids, and a pizza cook.

The result is a witty, thought-provoking, and often surprising study in the greatest mysteries of life.

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84 Comments / User Reviews

  1. IndustryOfBlame

    I was about to turn this off and never look back at 5 minutes in, but that's where he starts interviewing some really interesting characters. Good stuff.

  2. dewflirt

    Every time we sin, a fairy gets the clap.

  3. oQ

    I should get you to send me a phrase a morning to start my day with a smile.

  4. wald0

    "Being human is being religious...."

    That's a h3ll of a note, I would have sworn I was human. Anyway, I can't believe they called Julia Sweeney a "monologist", I mean technically she is one, I Guess all stand-up comedians are, but its just odd to call her that. Why not "comedian" Julia Sweeney, I guess it just doesn't sound as authoritative as "monologist", especially when we are discussing god's existence. It sounds like someone who studies monotheism, a "monologist". I had to look it up to find out what it really meant.


    A dude in a volvo going around the world asking people ..."WHY DO WE EXIST ,WHAT IS OUR PURPOSE? " ,well I found that boredom set in rather quickly on this one and all of a sudden the bird on my window was answering all those so important questions. Why we humans think that "WE ARE SOOO SPECIAL" ? That may be we don't have a purpose ,oh dear can you imagine that one ?! The possibility of humanity being a failed experiment(one of many) is rather big don't you think? But yet we are in our own heads so entangled in our self importance that forget that we are just another species in a environment which can wipe us out in a instant ....and we wont be even missed! WELL THINK ABOUT THAT , YOU ARE NOT IMPORTANT AND YOU DONT REALLY HAVE ANY PURPOSE, YOU ARE JUST A NUMBER A DIGIT AND THERE IS NOTHING THAT SPECIAL ABOUT YOU !HOW THIS MAKE YOUR MILKSHAKE FELL?

  6. CXBBF

    The fastest growing religion in the world is Islam and you leave out the muslims.. how arrogant!!.. i say!!

  7. Pysmythe

    Bwhahahahaha! I knew those little fairies were kinda sexy for a reason. Nothing like watching Tinkerbell scratch her crotch at about 9000 mph.

  8. Pysmythe

    Weighty philosophical questions, eh? That reminds me of a joke I heard on a String Theory forum just last night: If you laid all the philosophers in the world end to end, they'd never reach....................a conclusion.
    But this one looks kind of interesting, I guess. I'll give it a shot for a while, why not?

  9. Sev

    is there a real reason to make that sort of videos than just to realize again that we know nothing? From simple people to an experts interviews with less or more sophisticated language we ended up with nothing.

  10. Viktor Klou?ek

    Love it, love everything about it. Finaly somebody that takes existance as it is. No resistance, only being. No carring about anything. Love it, wish you were a girl :D

  11. Pysmythe

    1:27:03 > Hilarious!
    (Pothead Jesus)

  12. Bob Trees

    Man the only ones that made sense to me was the little girl with the beanie on at the kitchen table and Richard Dawkins. The rest were just talking in circles for the most part.

    Entertaining but not a video I could recommend. I would have liked to have seen a video on how many people have been killed due to religious beliefs or in the name of religion through humankind. Something that people might have learned something. Yeah it wouldn't have been as entertaining, but we would have learned.

  13. Don Dubray

    What a great documentry on LIFE,Thanks

  14. dewflirt

    Long but full of smiles, can't be bad :)

  15. dewflirt

    All that bell ringing, no wonder she can't speak ;)

  16. Pysmythe

    I hear that, lol.

  17. Guest

    Seems clear to me that we people are constantly bothered by the mystery of our existence and that in itself is a part of our misery. Just live your life, enjoy and appreciate it as much as you can. Nobody can give a definite answer, or at the least anyone can do is give you their version of what they think its all about.

  18. pwndecaf

    You don't get asked to go to parties much, I'll bet.

  19. John Sweevo


  20. Fabien L'Amour

    The meaning of life, the universe
    and everything is 42. No reason to do a documentary to get opinions that contradict that fact. :-)

  21. Pysmythe

    Terrific... Now all we have to figure out is the question. :)

  22. docoman

    Don't panic, it's mostly harmless...

  23. Pysmythe

    Have you seen my towel?!
    I do suspect there are a number of folks in this humorous little doc above that could in one way or the other essentially be summed up with the classic, "In the beginning, the universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and has been widely regarded as a bad move."

    I doubt you could ever get them to admit it, though! It's a very, very difficult thing to see, isn't it?

  24. Haya Rob

    Didn't elucidate a thing but to reiterate religion is a darn good business. Very entertaining and fun to watch though.

  25. Dean Edgington


  26. Dean Edgington

    Seems resonable to me. I'll try to remember that the next time I get distracted by a question ;-)

  27. DarkSpirit

    For me, one of the ways to be happy is to help others. Helping others can be a lot more complicated than it sounds. The first step is to understand what others REALLY need and how you can best help them and those may not be immediately obvious. So I am a life-long student of how to better help others.

  28. DarkSpirit

    It is easy to hate people who are different from us. You really don't need religion to teach us to hate, even atheists can easily hate. Hate is a part of our human nature. To really love those who hate you, however, is not.

  29. Ned Jibreen

    Yeah the only religion that punishes people who leave it by death. Not to mention in Muslim countries you are forced to become muslim at birth, they stick it right into your passport; and a man is allowed to marry 4.

    So its more like...fastest growing ignorance in the wold..

  30. DarkSpirit

    I suppose many feel a desire to see ourselves as part of a greater purpose or consciousness. That is natural, and in a way, we are all part of a greater consciousness since we are all interconnected like the individual cells in our body.

  31. Angel Rincon Rbe

    When I saw the question ''WHY! do we exist'' I was like NEXT! but then I saw the name Richard D. and Leonard S. and thought I'll give it a try.

  32. CXBBF

    Ow the ignoranceand prejudice is clearly apparent here.
    Still - we grow stronger by the day.
    Jibreen, the torah does allow polygamy you know?

  33. Suzy Spellcheck

    (generally speaking) children are forced here to be christian as no one chooses at birth to be so. they are given no choice. and if you leave you are condemned to death. (via hell). virtually no difference between one form of lion bait to another.

  34. brixmo

    Humanity as whole should ask them self one question - What is Universe? Difference between asking yourself about god , which is untill now not-confirmed illusion , and what is universe - which is confim space in our surrondings. But now , human as specie like storys and illusion - and fighting and blood , which is confirming , that the bigest illusion what we have is illusion about our "intelligence" - we are just little above abes , with difference that abes are more human than our selfs.

  35. Paul MacLeod

    I think I'll have a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster before watching this.
    Life! Don't talk to me about Life!

  36. Pysmythe

    That's the (ol' Janx) spirit!

  37. oQ

    A dudette in a Volvo wanting to go around the world...."WHILE SHE EXIST, THERE COULD BE A PURPOSE!", well that would send boredom rather quickly and all of a sudden like a bird behind a car window answer all those personal important questions. Why as a human "AM I SOOOO SPECIAL" ?

    I thought about that, i am important to me cause when i die, it's all gone....and then what?
    Is it ridiculous to think that as i was born i passed a thin reality wall from the previous one and that when i die i will pass a thin reality wall into the next one. Change of realities may be as thin as a hair fiber or thinner and the realities entered as big as the universe i am in or bigger.

  38. Psych3d

    oh and... marijuana

  39. ZarathustraSpeaks

    People are killed because people are human. That simple. Trying to change this by getting rid of our "symptoms"(religion...) is trying to deny what we are and make us deities which dont possess human "flaws". Eliminating our violent tendencies and our search for a shared meaning to our existence will only leave us with the cold meaningless realization of what we already suspect. To assert anything different is your own "belief system" like it or not. Truth is Truth whatever meaning we choose to ascribe to the reality.

  40. Jack1952

    That's ridiculous. I was born into a fundamentalist Christian home. That was the way life was. When I became older I left the church because I never really believed the beliefs. The church didn't condemn me to hell. They thought God was sending me there and warned of the consequences of my decision. In a Muslim country they may have had me killed...dead, for the crime of leaving the faith. It is not just a part of Islam, it is the law. Then Allah would send me to hell to boot. It is one thing to be metaphorically killed and another to actually have it done.

  41. Suzy Spellcheck

    many brands of christianity condemn those that leave. 7th day adventist, mormons,assemblies of god, any holy roller church and the catlicks.
    I'm multi-doomed myself then i'm really doomed being an atheist. many so called men of god call for atheists deaths virtually daily and prefer it to be law.
    all the big 3 are murderous women hating pedophiles and con-men and others complicit to their crimes.

  42. bringmeredwine

    Really? I never knew the Torah allows polygamy!

  43. Jack1952

    Alex Aan, Indonesia: 30 year old atheist, in prison for blasphemy for saying there is no god on Facebook.

    Abdul Aziz Mohammed Al-Baz (also known as Ben Baz), Kuwait: Blogger and atheist charged with blasphemy.

    Turki Al Hamad, Saudi Arabia: Novelist in prison for Tweets critical of Islam and Islamism.

    Asia Bibi, Pakistan: 45 year old Christian mother of five, sentenced to death for blasphemy for ‘insulting Mohammad’.

    Saeed Malekpour, Iran: Sentenced to death for ‘insulting and desecrating Islam’.

    Alber Saber, Egypt: The atheist blogger has been sentenced to three years in prison for blasphemy.

    These people are facing real threats against their lives and freedoms, not some imaginary hell that the Christians believe you are going to end up in. You can write your angry post and not ever have to worry that the police are going to show up and arrest you for blasphemy. Can you see the difference now or are you that bitter that nothing anyone says will allow you to recognize this distinction.

  44. Jack1952

    Muslims are just the most prolific breeders in the world. A child born to a Muslim family in a Muslim country is automatically a Muslim. He can't leave the religion. It is against the law. A great way to pad the numbers.


    Can you feel the poetry in this ? Please tell me why are you so special ? Any of us mortals ,why are we so special ? Do you know what reality is ,is what is real to you ,real to me ? I think when you look at life without the "special" word in it ,you just might find that things just are what they are . We humans just love to complicate things , we cant leave things to just be ! We are just a mere speck of dust in the universe ,human civalisation is about 10.000 years old ,homo sapiens sapiens is 130.000 years old ,the earth is 4.6 billion years old ....and yet we are sooo special ! We live in a world of war ,famine ,we kill ,imprison innocent people, destroy the environment(which we are supposedly part of and its our mother earth),invade countries ,kill by the millions,take over whole countries for their resources and, and ,and. But yes we are so special ,in our own heads !

  46. Jack Dempsey

    Very enjoyable film. As usual the American South provides full comic relief. But can't believe the film completely skipped over GREECE and especially Crete, where Western civ, religion and philosophy began. Check out ALAN WATTS' talks on YouTube, too bad he didn't live to be part of this. His answer---PLAY, pure and simple, and even nothingness has its place in the game and the cycle.

  47. bumpercrop

    I just wanted to post that I love Top Documentary Films. I always learn something useful. I also enjoy the comments. I often learn useful information from the people who watch Top Documentary Films.

  48. Ed Denz

    Very nicely done

  49. Guest

    Can't believe the film completely skipped over GREECE and especially Crete, where Western civ, religion and philosophy began. To start in Israel is a big mistake.

  50. Norman Van Rooy

    Loved this flick. A fun diversion from serious enquiry into spirituality and religion, yet it uncovers a lot about human nature.

  51. Sieben Stern

    -We apologize for the inconvenience-


  52. Sieben Stern

    From touching to ridiculous this docu is hilarious.

    Humans are truly ridiculous... chrisitan wrestling... i just about died of laughter! XD

  53. CapnCanard

    Something in this flick reminds me of Michael Woods' doc about India.The idea being that existence is transitory at best. The earlier parts regarding Christianity, Judaism and Islam are a bit weak(perhaps very appropriately so) ...but this is his first documentary.

  54. CapnCanard

    Ann Duryan... I know... I think it is a moment of weakness, but MJ is a good start down the road of psychological exploration.

  55. CapnCanard

    Okay, but the biggest illusion is the illusion of reality and self. Contrary to our experience, we have neither. We are without matter and substance, as we find that the more that we search the less substance we find.

  56. CapnCanard

    Problem: Once that Little Girl or Richard Dawkins become the standard bearer of accepted reality then they become the "religion" and then you have a whole new set of disasters to deconstruct and eliminate. BTW, good luck with that!

  57. Psych3d

    And then some ;) she's very right though... without wanting to advocate anything psycho-active. Right place, right time, right environment...

  58. Wayne Siemund

    An affirmation that we are all in this madness together in new and creative ways.

  59. rocketmahn

    Light and humorous. Not very profound or knowledge imparting.

  60. Samuel Andrew McIntyre

    Just who I want to hear. Julia Sweeney waxing philosophical. Next doc, please.

  61. Jack1952

    A guy I work with subscribes to a magazine called "Christian Bowhunters". I shake my head in amusement every time he brings in a new issue.

  62. thinkagainagain

    John Lennon ripped "Happiness Is A Warm Gun" from the cover of a gun magazine.

    Perhaps you could do the same from "Christian Bowhunters"

  63. Sarah Fillmore

    What I think is most fascinating about this hilarious and insightful documentary is just how sure each of these people seem to be about something that none of them are capable of knowing. The scientists are just as bad in this respect as the fervent believers. Human beings certainly are an arrogant species of monkey!

    Priceless, btw, to see Richard Dawkins accidentally slip up in his angry rant and say, "God knows"

  64. James Maxie

    im a militant atheist but i really enjoyed the doc in a good way be happy wile your alive and dont die with regret wile being good to every one all around you exept those who say your the devel for not beleaveing in what they beleave pretty simple thats the lesson i learned here i thing the guy in the doc learned that too

  65. Edward Wokhands

    The scientists admit that they don't know and don't know if they can know. That is in no way similar to the others. The arrogance is infuriating. It was a good documentary though.

  66. Sarah Fillmore

    Scientists are always telling us how much they (& we) know. The part about us not really being able to know many things is all too often a reluctant addendum, if it exists at all. There's as much arrogance in science as there is in religion. Bold proclamations & claims that "one day we will discover..." result in funding. Funding is the only way scientists can survive. Science is not as objective as you might think.

  67. KanuTo Peña

    Great docu!

  68. Guest

    Bottom line really knows for sure though we will never give up trying to find the answers to these timeless questions asked in the documentary. It really is mind boggling when one really thinks about all the mysteries about life and the universe and still begs the question, why is there something rather than nothing?

  69. Guest

    Bottom line one really knows for sure though we will never give up
    trying to find the answers to these timeless questions asked in the
    documentary. It really is mind boggling when one really thinks about all
    the mysteries about life and the universe and still, it begs the question,
    why is there something rather than nothing?

  70. PLOTCH

    Bottom line one really knows for sure though we will never give up
    trying to find the answers to these timeless questions asked in the
    documentary. It really is mind boggling when one really thinks about all
    the mysteries about life and the universe and yet it still begs the question,
    why is there something rather than nothing?

  71. sharpstuff

    Religion is a way of life dictated by controllers (originally Shamans) upon the those who wish to try to understand their existence and can be lured into a way of life.

    Belief in a god or gods is (or should be) a non-verbal 'reason' for trying to understand that existence and forms part of the 'security blanket' for those who require it.

    Beliefs are not open to question.

    Debating a god or gods is impossible using a verbal language upon which none can adequately explain non-verbal feelings.

    Whatever you say it is, it isn't.

    Evolution, like the Big Bang, or notions of pathogenic 'germs/viruses', are theories.

    A theory can never, ever be 'written in concrete'. Witness the ludicrous arguments we endure from those who should know better. Witness the lack of 'science' in Big Bang theory. Witness the death and destruction foisted upon us with the long discredited 'germ' theory.

    All flora and fauna have adapted to their environment and still do. Whether we call this evolution or not depends on agreeing on the definition of the terms of explanation. The fault with most of our theories is that terms are not adequately defined. Until this happens, we will never solve the problem of mis-communication.

    Trying to argue two entrenched polarities is not 'science' or indeed anything else.

    Everything is connected to everything else. The Universe is not and cannot be constructed of 'elementary' particles.

    Please explain:

    A short course in General Semantics should suffice.

  72. jaberwokky

    An entertaining and illuminating look into the multiplicity of religious and spiritual belief.

    The presenter brings a welcome sense of humour and some playfulness to the topic of spotlighting the inconsistencies and contradictions inherent in maintaining a predominantly non-inclusive faith-based world view and does so without the oft too prevalent intolerance, mockery or lack of empathy that can surmise to the faithful a sinister and corroding undertone in scientific argument. Not something often enough attempted IMO. (Whew)

    There's an aspect to this doc that highlights an often poorly understood and much needed bridge between theist and atheist, a bridge which people should be allowed cross, that I think lots of us would benefit from contemplating.

    Disclaimer: I'm an agnostic.

  73. awful_truth

    @jaberwokky. I enjoyed and respected your words regarding the documentary - 'nature of existance'. How ironic it is that a spiritualist (myself - non religious) and an agnostic (yourself) both understand the importance of open-mindedness, and the underlying value of bridging the gap between those who occupy extreme positions of thought. Perhaps it is because we focus more on what we all have in common, as opposed to our differences. Either way, keep up the good thoughts; I am sure there are many out there who can glean greater awareness from them! Take care, and best wishes.
    P.S I think it was a terrific documentary for all the reasons that you mentioned.

  74. oQ

    I am happy to sandwich myself between two such great posts.

  75. jaberwokky

    That's really nice of you to say, thanks very much :). To be honest though I'm still learning as I go. But then that's part of the beautiful truth isn't it, we all are.

  76. jaberwokky

    I like you :)

  77. coryn

    I've not found 'God' manifest in any of my experiences, and I sincerely searched as a youngster, I was indoctrinated and ready. But..... nada, niente, nothing, so I elected to inquire, using the scientific method. And I'll differ with you, I think scientific terms are well defined. But still nothing, no real evidence, no gods will show up, and I'm left only with questions...... What is 'God's' Being, what kind of stuff is a god made of? Existence requires substance, or being, to my mind, just as we humans are made of cells and fluids and such.

    Religions simply raise more questions than they can possibly answer...... For example, science has named over 350,000 species of beetles, and I understand that they've not found them all yet..... So tell me, how did they get all those beetles on the Ark? And biologists recently have estimated that there are over 5 million different species on this earth now.... Now that's really an ark full!

  78. norda

    what is our purpose?i believe Shakespeare said it best.the ouestion is "to be or not to be,weather it is better to suffer the outreagious fortunes of the slinges and arrows of time or to oppose them.

  79. Chaya

    Good vid, covers a lot of ground and brings some important concepts together

  80. Terry Chambers

    God is where you find it.

  81. Dean Unger

    Interesting notion that the human soul exists in the frontal lobe, regarding Professor David Wark's comment later in the doc... There is, however, no correlation between people who experience medium to severe brain injury in the frontal lobe and have incredibly accurate out-of-body perceptions or experiences (re; a well documented phenomena whereby people are able to relate facts and details of events or regarding people - most often close to them, despite being unconscious or even dead for relatively short periods of time) vs. injury in other areas of the brain, or severe injury in other areas of the body that ultimately bring them close to death.

  82. Dean Unger

    further regarding Wark's comment, all to often empirical science is far to rigid in its constructs. A solid tenet that metes out truth effectively, without leaving important stuff out, is that if there is something you believe to be truth, stand it up and do your best to knock it down via logic, reasoning and information. If it remains standing despite all efforts, there is a good chance it can be considered truthful.

  83. Dean Unger

    BCC: excellent commentary for the most part, esp. Jaberwokky (love Monty Python esp. The Meaning of Life), and Ugly_Truth.


  84. Veronica Hamel

    The statement regarding the nature of existence has nothing at all to do with why we exist. This documentary is dumb at best and certainly irrelevant.

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