Dear Mr Addyman,
Thank you for your interesting letter. I hope the promptness of this reply may compensate for its brevity.
Your question is ‘what is the meaning of life, the universe and everything?’ Noting that you describe yourself as an ‘atheist’ I am that the following answer is one you will reject; yet it is the one I believe to be true. The universe of things, events, properties and processes, material and immaterial, concrete and abstract, is the product of an all-knowing almighty, all-loving Deity that created human beings in order that they should know and love it now and for eternity.
If you are tempted to consider this answer further, particularly as it relates to contemporary philosophy you may care to look at the following which contain my own elaborations of the reasons for believing it to be true:
ATHEISM AND THEISM, 2nd Edition by J.J.C. Smart and J.J. Haldane (Oxford: Blackwell, 2003)
AN INTELLIGENT PERSON’s GUIDE TO RELIGION (London: Duckworth, 2003)
I am sure whether my saying so will bring comfort or disappointment but I do not regard your letter as cranky or lunatic and I hope that you receive an interesting set of replies.
(Incidently, letters from lunatics are usually written in green biro or typed in small font running close to the margins. Also, the contents often continue on the outside of the envelope.)
Professor John Haldane,
University of Saint Andrews