This was the bit that jumped out at me:
One other word I must criticize in all these defenses of religion: imagination. I often hear that religion is all about using the imagination to see something beyond the literal and mundane, and imagination becomes a virtue in itself that is presented as something special to religion. It is not. It is also overrated. Imagination is essential, don’t get me wrong; we need this kind of cognitive randomizer that pushes our thoughts beyond what we already know. However, one thing science has taught us is that our imagination is pathetic. The universe is more vast, more complex, and more surprising than anything our minds can conjure up. Imagination is not enough.
I hadn’t thought about it this way before. But PZ is absolutely right. The things we’ve discovered about the world through science… they’re mind-blowing. They completely eclipse anything our puny human imagination could have come up with on its own.
For just one example: Take atomic physics. Take the fact that everything around us, all the material world, is mostly empty space, a huge yawning gap between the nucleus of the atoms and the electrons whizzing around it. Everything — not just air, but iron, wood, flesh, bone, the very Earth under our feet — it’s overwhelmingly empty space. This is an idea that we would never in our wildest imaginings have come up with just with our brains. We needed to take a close look at reality to even consider the possibility.
Take biology. Take the fact that every living thing is directly related to every other living thing. We’re all cousins: you, me, pandas, tangerines, slime molds, squid, cactus, algae, the bacteria that laid Ingrid up with a head cold a couple of weeks ago — all of it. Every living thing shares a common ancestor. Every living thing has the same great- great- great- to- the- 10,000th grandmother. What a weird idea. Who would have thought of it if we hadn’t found a mountain of evidence telling us that that’s how it is?
Or take astronomy. Take the fact that we, living our boring little lives and paying our bills and watching The Simpsons, are doing all this while we’re sitting on a round rock that’s whizzing around a gigantic ball of nuclear fire at 90 miles a second — a ball of fire that is itself whizzing around at 40,000 miles an hour in a spiral mass of billions of other nuclear fireballs. (In a universe, I might add, comprised of billions and billions of other masses of fireballs.) And we act as if this is normal. It is, of course. But it’s also profoundly weird. There is no way we would have imagined it if we hadn’t discovered that it was true.
Even in the more modern, abstract conceptions of God, God is still an invisible collection of essentially human qualities: goodness, knowledge, the ability to make stuff happen. Sort of like Mary Poppins. Practically perfect in every way.
I’m not sure where I’m going with this. I’m not sure if I have a point. I think I just want to say this, something I’ve said before: Reality is more interesting than anything we could make up. And when religious believers critique scientists for being mundane, close-minded, unable to imagine anything beyond the puny reality of the physical world, then they need to shut the hell up. The reality of the physical world is wilder and weirder than anything in their religion, and science has come up with many more things, in the skies and on the earth, than they ever dreamt of in their philosophy.