Tag Archives: christianity

Universe thrilled to find its purpose in life

“Optimism and pessimism, as cosmic philosophies, show the same naive humanism; the great world, so far as we know it from the philosophy of nature, is neither good nor bad, and is not concerned to make us happy or unhappy. All such philosophies spring from self-importance and are best corrected by a little astronomy.” – Bertrand Russell

Astronomy magazine published one of the coolest graphics ever this month:

Galaxies poster

The large center oval shows the distribution of 150 million or so galaxies in the local universe.  Every dot represents a galaxy of millions to billions of stars.  The smaller ovals are slices of the universe at various distances, and thus various times, from the Milky Way.  I love it because it takes the unimaginably large, unimaginably numerous, and displays it on a single page in a comprehensible way.  Sort of puts our smallness into perspective, no?

Well, apparently not if you’re Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life and recent Colbert Report guest.  Here’s what he had to say about our place in the universe.

In case you’re having trouble with the video, here’s what Warren said near the beginning of the interview:

Well, God is the creator, and He created the entire universe just so He could create this galaxy, just so He could create this planet, just so He could tilt it at the right axis so it wouldn’t burn up or freeze up, to sustain human life because he wanted to create human beings, he wanted to create you to love you.

That’s right — the entire universe, all those millions of galaxies pictured in Astronomy, were put here just so God could create humans.  Wow.  Just wow.

Let’s put the existence of humans in a little historical context.  Current estimates place the age of the universe at 13.7 billion years, plus or minus a couple hundred million years.  The Milky Way formed not long after (in astronomical terms), probably more than 13 billion years ago.  The earth formed around 4.55 billion years ago.  The first life arose somewhere between 4.4 billion and 2.7 billion years ago.  Modern homo sapiens, the species to which all existing humans belong, didn’t arise until approximtely 120,000 years ago.  (Rick Warren, incidentally, was born in 1954.)

Riddle me this, Pastor Rick.  If God created the universe so he could create this galaxy, so he could create this planet and tilt it at just the right axis, just so he could create human beings and love them, why did he wait 13,699,880,000 years to get down to the lovin’?

The simple and correct answer is that humans are a product of the universe’s natural processes, not its intended beneficiaries.  We are tiny, impotent creatures, crawling across a tiny planet (even for our own solar system), circling around a middling yellow star, revolving on an outer spiral arm of what must be admitted is a pretty cool galaxy (yea us!).  And that’s an extraordinary place to be and appreciate on its own merits, if only one is humble enough to accept the truth.

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But do they “lighten up”? Get it?!

Chill Out

I saw this in Danville, MD on my way home from a business trip yesterday.  Makes me think the pastor’s kid got mouthy one too many times.

A Good Life With No Regrets

My grandmother is dying.  Fifteen years after suffering two heart attacks, congestive heart failure is finally going to take her life.  It’s a matter of days at this point, perhaps a few weeks at most.  Sooner rather than later the fluid collecting around her heart and in her lungs will overwhelm her, and she will die.

This is the first family death I’ve confronted in a very long time, and the first ever since I concluded that god does not exist.  At first I thought this would be a test of my convictions, a time when I would feel that “god-shaped hole” in my heart that Christians speak of and long for the comfort of a supernatural counselor.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Although certainly sad, I am more at peace with my grandmother’s imminent passing than I possibly could have been when religion twisted my perception of death and dying.

Two weeks ago, I flew back to my hometown to have an early Christmas with Grandma and my extended family, one last time.  The night before everyone got together, Grandma and I sat and talked for a couple of hours, just the two of us.  Our conversation ranged far and wide, touching on the presidential race, various developments in my hometown, the impending birth of my wife’s and my first child.  In the course of talking, Grandma declared to me that she was ready to die, that “I’ve had a good life and I have no regrets.” 

That struck me as the best possible statement and frame of mind any of us mortal mammals could have when facing death.  It says and contains so much – so many births, weddings, childhoods, family meals, holidays, times tending the garden, hot summers swimming in the lake.  It encompasses all of our lovers, friends, relatives, coworkers, acquaintances, even strangers with whom we had one memorable conversation.  Nights under the stars, days on the porch swing, exciting trips to new places, the comfort of returning home.  A good life with no regrets.  What a wonderful way to spend 82 years.

I contrast this with the torment religion inflicted on me in connection with my grandfather’s death 17 years ago.  Shortly after his death, I became heavily involved in a fundamentalist evangelical church.  Hellfire and damnation haunted my consciousness, as I struggled vainly to fight every “evil” impulse of my hormone-soaked teenage body.  I trembled that I might die in sin, some fleeting thought or passionate moment with a girlfriend dooming me to an eternity of torment.  The lure of paradise was never so potent to me as the fear of perdition.

My grandparents having never been overtly religious people, I realized with horror that I had no idea what Grandpa believed before he died.  I remember broaching the subject with my mother, telling her of my conversion to that cult and questioning whether she knew what Grandpa believed.  In her continuing grief, she lashed out at me, demanding, “So what, you think your Grandpa’s in hell?!”  I was devastated, and the torture of being unable to answer her with an emphatic “NO!” remained with me for years.  This was the supposed “comfort” of religion – death as an object of profoundest fear, even reluctant judgment on a loved one.

If someone should attempt to comfort me regarding my grandmother’s death with words promising peace in god’s presence, I believe I’ll politely answer, “thank you, but she deserved much better than that.  And she had it.”