When I look at the world around me, I know that it could not have happened by chance or caprice. There is a divine order, a structure, a cosmic beauty underlying everything: from the awe I feel when I see the stars in the sky, to the beautiful scent of roses, to the sight of a burning sunset, to the love I feel for my friends and family. How could any of this have happened on a mere whim?
And that is why I am an atheist.
It has been said by Dostoyevsky that “if there is no God, everything is permitted.” In fact, as many atheists have pointed out over the years, the opposite is true: if there is a God, everything is permitted. The universe does not exhibit properties of design ex nihilo. It exhibits properties of deep, ubiquitous structure and law, which could not have been the result of an intervening consciousness. If there were a petty tyrant such as the gods of myth overseeing our world, no human achievement, no life would be possible due to the constant reversal of the order of things.
As human beings, we evolved within the strictures of these natural laws, to take advantage of them, and that is why even my sense of beauty, my thrill at having accomplished something in reality, are tiny proofs that there is no God: in a universe with a deity, these joys would be replaced by grovelling to the governing spirits, begging for the universe of God’s fancies to be transformed into one of comprehensibility.
Every time someone argues that there is a God, he or she is arguing that there is a limit to our understanding of the world, a status quo of ignorance that we should accept, lest we explain everything away into cold, hard rationality. My fear is the opposite of the theist’s: that someday we will be led back into a medieval state of perpetual terror, by those who want not to explain the universe, but to fall down and pray to its deaf ears for mercy.
We were made in and of the universe, for it and by it. This, all of existence and no fantasy realm beyond it, is all we need for all we want to be.