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Agnostics Anonymous

'We are all one consciousness experiencing itself subjectively, there is no such thing as death, life is only a dream, and we are the imagination of ourselves,' as Bill Hicks kindly pointed out. It's not easy in practice, to feel this mystic union with everyone. Other people can seem alien and threatening. 'We need strong borders; we need a wall,' as Donald Trump put it. But not everyone is prepared to go down the Trump route. Obama made his first Presidential visit to a mosque in February, to deliver an alternative message: 'We have to reaffirm that most fundamental of truths: we are all God's children'.

Of course, even this benign embrace of humankind has its limits. I was glad when they succeeded in assassinating his near-namesake Osama, but dismayed to learn the US had tracked bin Laden using Pakistan's vaccine programme.

Enough dark suspicions hover around vaccines without throwing in actual CIA conspiracies. It isn't worth harming vaccination rates just to kill a global criminal mastermind. Pick your battles. A fundamentalist caliphate ruling the world would be bad for most humans; but if a nasty pathogen gets loose, there won't be any humans left to wait for better days.

Compared to, say, Zika virus, Osama is you and me. It's rampant narcissism of small differences to imagine otherwise.

Then again, if you think on a bigger scale, Zika is kin to us too. Along with every lifeform on Earth, we're part of the same family. Zika too is one of 'God's children,' made of the same nucleic acids, trying to get on in the world just as we are. If it wasn't, it wouldn't be able to hijack our cells the way it so effectively does.

It's hard to feel fraternal about a virus, but almost the entire universe is much less humanoid than Zika is. In March, the asteroid 2013 TX68 will pass within about 11,000 miles of the Earth. That's about as close as the extra-terrestrial universe ever normally comes to us, and it's more than close enough. The asteroid is a fairly representative ambassador for the rest of creation: implacable, inert, random, oblivious of us, fatal to us if it comes anywhere near us. Most of the universe is really alien.

And yet, if you want to get all scientific about it, the whole universe is actually one. One unified energy that came into existence at one moment, expanded, separated, cooled into matter, and formed stars which exploded and gave rise to the elements that make up our bodies, minds and thoughts. So perhaps Obama's fundamental truth is actually true. But if we are all God's children, so are Osama, Isis, Satan, Zika, asteroids, and disasters in the sun. Fundamentally, everything alien is human to us. If we are all one, we are all the other.