Monday, June 22, 2009

Appreciating the glory of nature.

Today I find myself in Missoula Montana, on a business trip. I have to say the trip here was absolutely stunning. From the highway a person finds themselves confronted with one magnificent vista after another. Coming as I do from the most beautiful place on earth I had thought I was somewhat jaded about the beauty of nature. Northern California all along the coast down to the Bay area is magnificent, but I still found it no competition for Oregon. Washington particularly around the Sound is glorious, but I still prefer Oregon, Idaho, British Columbia, Nevada, all have amazing scenery but I was still faithful to my home as the pinnacle of what nature has to offer. I had not yet been to Montana. I would not go so far as to say Montana is more beautiful than my beloved Oregon, but I can't honestly say it isn't either. Oregon has a nicer climate and of course an ocean which are major advantages, but I do love mountains, and Montana is aptly named in that regard.

A very nice Christian lady recently invited me to appreciate the beauty of nature, and then try to not believe in God. I found this amusing because I have always felt the opposite. If I could think of the best way to convince someone that there is no God, it would be to show them the beautiiful things that inspire awe in me. Expansive mountain vistas, crystal clear streams tumbling over rocks, trees as tall as the sky, deep mountain lakes, rolling desert hills, the crash of the ocean on the rocks, the infinite expanse of the heavens. All of the Gods, myths and superstitions that people fill their lives with, are so small and petty by comparison.

How could a simple little tribal god like Yahwheh with his petty envy, and murderous temper tantrums and archaic taboos be the creator of such majesty. Religious people bandy about terms like omnipotent with no thought to what it implies. They apply the authorship of all the awesome complexity and power of the universe, to a character with less personal virtue, subtelty or intelligence than the average human.

Such a crude and vulgar entity is beneath even the most flawed of mankind, yet it is elevated to the status of all powerful and all knowing. If people would truly open their minds to the real wonder of the universe, they would see existence is greater than we are, and greater than the fantasies we construct to explain it.

I often hear the refrain that this or that law of physics or scientific theory could be wrong. I say, "so what?" Even if it is wrong, it is an act of learning. Through study we grow and advance and catch glimmers of the truth of the universe. Even if we are wrong nine times out of ten, every time we are right we gain a treasure more valuable than we could ever gain from the comforting and simple fiction of religion. Even if we are never correct, just the proccess of seeking is far more courageous and rewarding than, hiding behind the crude tribal myths of our ancestors.


Jen Phillips said...

A wonderfully eloquent post, Ryk. I've recently been ruminating on similar thoughts, namely the fundamental impasse between humanist/naturist types like us and believers. We who drink in the vast, incomprehensible wonder of the universe find it such heady brew that we cannot imagine the need to adulterate it with the synthetic flavor of theism. We inevitably pity the faithful for their inability to achieve this level of pure appreciation without superimposing god over everything.

The believers are almost a mirror image of this--imagining angels whispering over every blade of grass and an omniscient, benevolent creator who monitors all matter and thought. They see the handiwork of god in every vista, sunset, or starry night, and, as such, they shake their heads piteously in lament over the blindness of the atheist/materialist worldview.

Ryk said...

I really think it is amatter for psychologists, rather than sociologist or philosophers. There seems to be an almost tangible difference in how theists and atheist see the world.

rhiggs said...

Off topic:

Hi Ryk,

Sye is doing the presupp thing over on my blog. Drop in if you'd like. I'd like to see how he deals with your approach. He is very similar to scmike...