I guess I should preface this article with the disclaimer that I am now an atheist. Or at least an agnostic, I’m not really sure to be honest with you. For the record, I was raised in a very conservative Catholic environment and dealt with some of the most incredibly insane religious people, including those who actually taught their children from textbooks that claimed man and dinosaur walked together or that Noah’s flood was responsible for the extinction of Tyrannosaurus Rex.
Over and over again, we were told that the world was created in 6 days and that questioning the inconsistencies and flawed logic in the Bible that even a young child could see was a sin. How dare some child with a basic understanding of science and math point out that the rate at which a river carved itself through a mountain valley couldn’t happen in just a few thousand years? Or how about the fact that there was no possible way that all the current species on this planet could have ever fit, let alone coexisted, on Noah’s Ark?
I’m not going blame people for wanting to believe in an almighty being that is conveniently responsible for helping them find their car keys, helping them score game-winning touchdowns or somehow managing to just miss a traffic jam. That’s their right and this is America where you can believe in anything you want, and it is protected by the 1st Amendment – even if it is rather dumb and egotistical.
What I do have a problem with is the people who want to stick their head in the sand and scream that science is a liberal plot to destroy their god and religious beliefs, all while trying to force those same things on others. Over and over again, science has proven that our world and the universe itself is far larger and far older than any religious text has ever admitted to. Yet, instead of embracing the vastness of space and time and possibly being awed at their deity being far greater and more powerful than their ancient texts could have ever imagined, these religious people rush to shove their god into a little box that makes sense to them. Carl Sagan said it best in Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space:
In some respects, science has far surpassed religion in delivering awe. How is it that hardly any major religion has looked at science and concluded, “This is better than we thought! The Universe is much bigger than our prophets said, grander, more subtle, more elegant. God must be even greater than we dreamed”? Instead they say, “No, no, no! My god is a little god, and I want him to stay that way.”
Our understanding of the universe has increased dramatically over the past few centuries and we now know that the sun doesn’t rotate around the earth, that the earth is not flat and that there are an infinite number of planets in the known universe that could support intelligent life. We’ve learned through science how to prevent and even eliminate diseases that were almost 100% fatal just a century or two ago.
Yet, religion has failed to keep up with science and has tried over and over again to discredit science instead of embracing it. Whether it was the Catholic Church trying to silence Galileo or Ken Ham repeating his ludicrous claims over and over again while debating Bill Nye, religion and science have gone together like cats and dogs for centuries, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
As science has shown our world and universe to be far more complex than the shepherds and fishermen of biblical times could have ever imagined, religion – and most of the people who believe in it – have failed to keep up. It is possible to accept science AND also believe in some sort of force that perhaps created all of this, that set all of this vast universe in motion billions of years ago. How much more incredible would that being be instead of the petty, vindictive, jealous deity of the Judeo-Christian tradition? And if such an almighty being does exist, it is that, almighty and far beyond our human understanding. It is not a god that demanded a father sacrifice his only son to prove his utter obedience and it is certainly not a god that would ever side with Pat Robertson or care what adult humans do with each others’ reproductive organs.
I am an atheist because I believe that if all that we know was created by a supernatural being, it is much bigger and more wonderful than the god of Christians, Jews and Muslims. I am an atheist for a lack of evidence but I’ll be more than happy to change my mind if and when that evidence is proven by science. As for the believers, perhaps you should embrace scientific findings instead of repeating the same old “but the Bible says!” line over and over again. It might make people start taking you – and your religion – a little more seriously.
The size and age of the Cosmos are beyond ordinary human understanding. Lost somewhere between immensity and eternity is our tiny planetary home. In a cosmic perspective, most human concerns seem insignificant, even petty. And yet our species is young and curious and brave and shows much promise. In the last few millennia we have made the most astonishing and unexpected discoveries about the Cosmos and our place within it, explorations that are exhilarating to consider. They remind us that humans have evolved to wonder, that understanding is a joy, that knowledge is prerequisite to survival. I believe our future depends powerfully on how well we understand this Cosmos in which we float like a mote of dust in the morning sky. – Carl Sagan
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