About this “god” thing…

I work near the top of one of the tallest buildings in Boston, next to a wall of westward-facing windows. I have seen a positively unfair number of breathtaking sunsets through those windows. Sunsets to drive a landscape painter to break his brushes over his knee, renounce his profession, and take up drinking. No one, ever, has lived a righteous enough life to deserve to witness sunsets like these.

I’ve just now read an article about a white dwarf star that explodes every twenty years or so, within the atmosphere of a red giant. It draws in material from the red giant, until it builds up enough mass to go nova again. What’s more, “The most recent eruption of RS Oph,” the article says, “which sits 5,000 light-years away toward constellation Ophiuchi, made it visible to the unaided eye from Earth on Feb. 12.” The “most recent eruption,” that is, being one that happened five thousand years ago, literally an unimaginable distance from our own little planet. And last month, you could look up and see it in the sky.

I’m a pretty ecumenical guy. I usually understand the human need for religion, and even respect it as a tool for self-understanding. If I could’ve swallowed a handful of peyote and spent a week in the woods alone with my soul when I was nineteen in order to make the passage into adulthood, it would’ve been way preferable to the rather slower and more painful path I ended up on. We atheists don’t get the vision quests (nor, for that matter, do we Episcopalians).

What we atheists do get, though, is the pleasure of experiencing the world as it is. To look at a sunset, or a star going nova right there in the night sky, and have to believe that it was made, that there’s a mind like people have, in quality if not scope, behind it all, strikes me as criminally parochial. Like I said, I usually respect religion. Not when I’m looking at a sunset, though.

Gods make the world tiny. I would hate to live in such a tiny world.

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8 thoughts on “About this “god” thing…

  1. Tom

    Talk like that is totally going to get you left behind when the rapture comes Siwy. Personally, I have a mood-based system of faith in which it is imprecise to call me an agnostic, because it’s not like I don’t know, it just depends on the day, and I’m ok with that. I’m passionately ambivalent.

    The problem with your statement Steve, is that only a notion of a tiny God makes a tiny world. On my godlier days, I think much less throne-like visions of God, and look to shit like this that occurs in unrelated models of seemingly random and chaotic events:

    http://astronomy.swin.edu.au/~pbourke/fractals/lorenz/

    By what system of logic would any ordering principle apply to all of the events that produce that shape?

    Jesus totally lives inside the Lorenz Attractor. And he’s totally pissed at you.

  2. Steve

    Talk like that is totally going to get you left behind when the rapture comes Siwy.

    One of the running jokes at the message board at which I used to spend my time was that all we athier-than-thou types would be rich after the Rapture, running used-car dealerships full of all those cars with the “In case of Rapture, this car will be unmanned” bumper stickers.

    Honestly, I welcome the Rapture, if that’s what it’ll take to make all the pre-millennial dispensationalists fuck off and leave me alone.

    By what system of logic would any ordering principle apply to all of the events that produce that shape?

    Uh, by one we haven’t figured out yet? Wait, are you arguing god-of-the-gaps at me, you lazy bastard?

  3. Tom

    “Uh, by one we haven’t figured out yet? Wait, are you arguing god-of-the-gaps at me, you lazy bastard?”

    Steve, it would be small-minded of us to believe that a human being could have designed all those t-shirts and khakis to be so form-flattering, and so stylish.

  4. Steve

    I see how it is. Start off with the “Jesus is just all right with me” Lorenz attractor business, and then when I remain unmoved, continue on to the threats of violence. How very Republican of you, Tom.

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