A funny thing’s happened now I’ve joined an atheist blog network: I rarely blog about atheism. There are reasons for that. My fellow FtBers usually have said all I need to say, better than I could have said it. That’s one of the main reasons.
But I think the main one is this: religion bores me. Atheism doesn’t, but as I said, my fellow atheists have that beat covered. I’d rather spend time with my rocks and my homicidal felid, who is currently leaning against my arm giving me looks of utter devotion. She’s either cold, or her food bowl is empty. From the charm she’s unleashing, possibly both.
See? I wandered away again. There’s so much more interesting stuff in the world than religion. There’s le chaton, warm and snuggly and impossibly adorable, a combination rare enough it must be savored while its brief moments last (oh, look, it’s over. Sigh). There’s Doctor Who. There are friends, with adventures in the making. There’s a Kindle full of books, so many and so varied I often have trouble deciding what to read next. There are cherry blossoms, which I’ll photograph against the sky when it stops raining.
And there’s science.
“The world,” Libby Anne wrote recently, “got so much bigger.” She’d discovered science. From a tiny span of less than ten thousand years to billions. From “God created them” to evolution. I loved reading her post about discovering the immensity of the world. I’ve learned to view several million years as an eyeblink, much less ten thousand. I never had time constrained to a fraction of human civilization – my parents weren’t young earth creationists. So stepping into her shoes, watching the universe expand from the size of small-minded dogma to an immensity of time and space, was a joy.
I have a hard time imagining the allure of the fundamentalist worldview. It’s so tiny. It feels chained, constrained, contrived and choked. It lacks imagination. It’s bloody boring.
Every other religion has achieved that status for me: boring. I’m bored. People talk about their faith, and I’m bored. Some religious stories (what Christians call “myths”) are mildly interesting. Some of them are quite a lot of fun, woven into stories. Some of them make great metaphors. But too many of those stories are painfully limited, dull, nonsensical. Nonsense can be immensely entertaining, mind, but not as employed by most religions. And when people try to elevate their nonsense and their myths to the status of a truth claim, what mild interest I may have felt flees.
Sorry, religious folks, but science makes the world much more interesting.
I spent too much time in my younger days looking for magic. A world without magic, I thought, would be boring. I wanted elves and faeries and mystic powers and possibly even gods. They just had to be real. Otherwise, what was the point? Science took all of the magic out of things. Sure, astronomy was pretty, and geology was fun, and physics could get pretty wild, but it wasn’t supernatural. It didn’t have elves in.
But as I got older, and could find no evidence for gods and elves and faeries and magic, I gradually stopped looking. Then I realized I’d need science in order to write better SF. Then I discovered science bloggers, and fell under a spell. Not a magic spell, a science spell, which is quite a lot more powerful.
I’d known space was enormous. Now I began feeling it. Every other cosmology pales in comparison to the Big Bang. You can keep your dude speaking the Word or a giant getting hacked in half or some dude masturbating the universe into existence. I’ll take the Planck Epoch and inflation and these mind-boggling speeds and energies that took the universe from a singularity to a nearly fourteen billion light-year behemoth, cooking elements and stars and eventually life along the way. That cosmology’s so huge I could spend a lifetime studying it, and still just barely grasp a corner.
If I want a mindtrip, I don’t need to drink some peyote and have psychedelic visions. I can just dip up a bit of quantum physics. There’s stuff in there even an acid trip can’t match for sheer weirdness.
No creation story ever told by a religion can even approach the elegance of evolution: simple chemical self-replicators exploding in diversity and complexity as the eons pass.
And as for how the world got to be the way it is, even gods working forges inside mountains can’t compete with geology. Worldwide floods laying down everything at once is just laughable. Give me stories of plate tectonics, of wind and weather and eruptions and earthquakes and shifting seas. Give me the language of a little brown rock, so I can hear its tales, and discover how very much it’s got to say.
Give me reality. Give me science. It’s all the magic I ever wanted. I just didn’t realize that, when I was haring off after the supernatural. The natural is as super as I’ll ever need. It’s more interesting because it’s real.
I still find fiction fun, of course. There’s a place for stories, stuff we just make up for various reasons and enjoy losing ourselves in for a time. I sometimes still do love to immerse myself in imagination and, just for a while, believe impossible things. But I spend most of my time these days delving into books on science, and scientific papers, and teasing out the details of the true history of the universe. Mystery and magic, awe and wonder, a sense of something immensely larger than myself, the delight that comes from knowing I’m part of that – I find it in science.
The world’s a far more interesting place without all those gods and so forth cluttering it up. I’ve discovered a universe far beyond our imagination, but the most amazing thing is, we’re figuring it out. Little old imperfect us. We’ve learned how to speak to the universe. We’re not fluent in all its languages yet, but we’re getting there. And now I’ve had discussions with even the smallest slivers of this wild, wonderful, real world, it’s impossible to even imagine religion. The world is far more than any of them ever dreamt.