Christians sometimes ask how anyone can gaze into the heavens, at the incredible vastness of space and the innumerable stars and galaxies, and not see a Creator.
To me, it’s just the opposite. My question is, “how can anyone look upon all that and see behind it a god who throws tantrums over whether or not humans eat bacon and love whomever they wish.”
Or a god who is supposedly all knowing, all loving, and all powerful, yet who allowed a talking snake to wreck his most prized creation.
Or a little a deity who solved the conundrum of what to do with misbehaving children by sentencing them to an eternity of fiery torture. A “father” whose plan to save his children was so send his son (or was it himself?) to “die” for them*, requiring them to acknowledge this sacrifice in order to be forgiven — rather then just forgiving them. (And all this while failing miserably to get out this urgent message to more than a few of them, by the way.) Or how about a malevolent king who once sent a bear to maul children to death for calling an old guy “bald”?
Are you getting the picture?
So you’re telling me that this is the guy who made trillions of stars and planets and who laid down the laws of nature that led to everything from black holes to blue whales, from galaxies to intelligent beings? Why would such a grand creator behave more like a human — and not a particularly smart or competent one at that? And why should anyone worship such a being?
No thank you. I’ll take natural explanations and leave open the possibility of whether or not any intelligent agent was behind it all until I see evidence for such a being worthy of such an astonishing creation.
So what do I think of when I gaze at the wonders of nature? I think to myself, “what a wonderful world.” Sorry — got carried away there.
But I do. The universe is unfathomably large and gloriously amazing. And what makes it even more so are the revelations that science has given us about the origins and workings of this astonishing cosmos, and our deep connections to it. This is the kind of stuff that the human imagination never dreamed up in all its creation myths, but it infinitely more awe-inspiring:
- In the same way that you are related to your siblings and cousins — by means of common ancestors — you are also related by the same means to chimpanzees, dolphins, amoebas, mushrooms, and oak trees. As far as we know, every single living organism on this vast planet, from whales and sequoia trees to snails and viruses, share a common ancestor and are therefore (very!) distant cousins.
- The scale of the cosmos is impossibly unfathomable. You think you have a general feel for the very small and the very large? Not likely! There are life forms so tiny they are measured in nanometers. (A nanometer is a billionth of a meter; it would take only ten helium nuclei to span one nanometer.) We’re talking really, really small. At the other end of the spectrum, there are galaxies so vast that light itself takes hundreds of millions of years to traverse them. And there a trillions of those impossibly huge galaxies out there!
- Every single bit of matter we see around us was forged in the cores of stars billions of years ago. Or from their spectacular death throes — explosions so immense we cannot begin to comprehend the size and power of them. That includes the atoms that make up the carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, and all the other elements in our own bodies. Furthermore, it’s quite likely that the various atoms that make up your body were created in hundreds of different stars! Just ponder that for a few moments.
- This is one of my favorite things to meditate on: when you gaze into the heavens, you are in a very real sense self-reflecting! Think about it. The universe, which started from virtually nothing, eventually formed matter which eventually formed elements which eventually combined in ways that led to self-aware creatures equipped with the means to detect the sights and sounds of the universe itself. We are quite literally the eyes and the ears of the cosmos!
I find information like this to be infinitely more awe-inspiring and amazing than ancient tales of gods and demons. I realize that not everyone will agree. Some will choose to even disbelieve much of what science has taught us and choose instead to believe the myths and fables of iron age herders. That’s okay, I guess.
But if it turns out that this wonderful cosmos of ours did in fact have an intelligent designer, then I believe he, or she, or it, will be much grander and more magnificent than the puny gods thought up by our ancient ancestors. I would expect such a being to be utterly incomprehensible to us. I can’t possibly imagine that it would give one quark about whether or not we believed in it.
I doubt we would even recognize it as a sentient being if it were right before us.
In fact, it may very well be.
* I put the word “die” in quotes because having a really bad weekend and then getting back up and returning to paradise as if nothing had happened does not qualify as a death sacrifice.