"Any woman who chooses to behave like a full human being should be warned that the armies of the status quo will treat her as something of a dirty joke. That's their natural and first weapon." ~ Gloria Steinem

Monday, May 25, 2009

If you aren't in awe, you aren't paying attention

Atheists garner a lot of criticism for “abandoning the wonder” in life. The assumption is that without supernatural belief, humans lack something to inspire awe, to marvel over; there is no imagination or room for creativity in a life without religion.

This, as you may have guessed, is something I believe to be composed entirely of bullshit. I believe in some things for which I have very few reasons; these bring me no end of mystery to ponder, no end of enjoyment. Some of my crazy theories are backed by [albeit slight] evidence; some are merely fancy. But none of them are harmful—and that’s what makes them ok.

Sometimes I believe the spirits of my dead relatives are awash across the universe in the form of stardust. Sometimes I believe fairies live in flowers, water sprites in creeks, and dryads in trees. Sometimes I believe in an unseen collective of consciousness made up of the energy of all living things, communicating constantly regardless of time and distance.

I have reasons for believing these things; they’re not necessarily excellent reasons, but they exist. I believe in the first because I “feel” them occasionally around me; plus it’s a pleasant thought, thinking of your cousin who died from a gunshot wound to the head flitting through galaxies, pure energy swarming through stars and space debris. It’s entirely possible that his matter will become star material someday, but it’s unlikely he has any awareness of it. Still, it’s a harmless belief. Silly—but harmless.

Religious beliefs are anything but harmless. I’m ok with pretending that fairies live in flowers because it doesn’t affect my behavior—except in a good way, if it spurs me to protect the Earth. I’m not trying to throw children in jail for picking flowers because it infringes on the rights of fairies, or going around college campuses passing out free copies of The Fairy Manifesto, or telling my high school significant other that he or she is going to burn in hell for not worshipping the Fairy Queen.

My third irrational belief is not as irrational as it may seem at first. Quantum physicists have demonstrated that particles can communicate instantaneously across vast distances; I’ve merely extrapolated from those experiments. Since we are made up of particles, and particles communicate regardless of space and time, something like my theory is possible. According to quantum physics, these particles communicate instantaneously because they are actually the same particle. (think about that for a minute. i dare you to tell me your mind isn’t blown.) 

Think about how that idea could affect the entire human population, and then tell me how your belief has equal ramifications.

Believing in God is not harmless, even if you throw out all the wars and disagreements and policies and all of that. See, if you subscribe to Intelligent Design, if you just content yourself with “Oh, God did it,” there is no room for further inquiry. Why bother? God did it. God started it all. Sure, there might be a single being who started the universe rolling (emphasis on MIGHT), but there’s no evidence for it, so what good is that opinion?

“No good at all” is the answer you’re looking for. A hole in our knowledge is inspiration for intellectual growth; plugging that hole with an idea just because that idea has been handed down to you (the number of generations is irrelevant) stymies any hope you may have of finding what’s actually in the hole. And the more people who believe they’ve already filled the hole, the less likely we are to find what’s really in there.

I acknowledge my flights of fancy as such—but they also have the added benefit of not prematurely plugging holes. My flights of fancy feed my imagination as well as my essence; I enjoy them, and they sustain me. However, they're ideas that admit to being so; they allow for further exploration, and not the false exploration of evolution confined to the cage of religion.

My flights of fancy could be true. They could be utter hogwash. Either way, I'm good.

Now try these on for size:
  • If you condense the history of the universe to a single year, humans would appear on December 31st at 10:30 pm. 99.98% of the history of the universe happened before humans even existed.
  • We are star material that knows it exists.
  • Through the wonder of DNA, you are literally half your mom and half your dad.
  • The faster you go, the slower time moves.
  • All life on Earth is directly related by descent. You are a cousin not just of apes, but of the sequoia and the amoeba, of mosses and butterflies and blue whales.
Now that, my friends, is wonder.

~ From "Teaching Kids to Yawn at Counterfeit Wonder" by Dale McGowan; excerpt from Parenting Beyond Belief

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