Beth was talking recently about how Neil deGrasse Tyson isn’t comfortable with being claimed by atheists, although his argument for it is basically that he doesn’t care for the term. I can understand where he’s coming from to a certain degree, because I think the word “atheist” has come to be associated with people who actively disbelieve in God, and carries a certain connotation of smugness. When you get down to it, though, “atheist” just means you don’t believe in God, and Tyson basically said that this is the case for him. Yes, he’s willing to change his mind if he sees evidence, but any open-minded person could say that about anything. In a way, to say, “I’m not an atheist because I don’t actively disbelieve” is like the people who say they aren’t feminists because they believe in equal rights. By saying, “I’m not an atheist, because atheists all actively promote anti-religious policies,” he’s kind of hurting the perception of those who DO define as atheists and AREN’T like that.
Anyway, that got me thinking about how I think it would be difficult for an astrophysicist, or anyone who studies the cosmos, to be an adherent of one of the Abrahamic religions. I’m not saying it’s impossible, just that these religions seem so centered on one tiny part of the vast universe.
So much of the Bible is about one particular Middle Eastern nation; and even when you get into the more inclusive New Testament, we’re still going with the idea that the most important person who ever lived operated solely in one tiny area for a mere few years.
How can Jerusalem be the center of the universe when the planet it’s on isn’t even the center of the galaxy? Even Jesus’ miracles, while certainly beyond anything I’ve ever experienced, seem rather small-time when compared with what he could have done. I think back to the Bill Nye/Ken Ham debate, and how Ham essentially said that the entire universe outside our own Earth is just there to proclaim the glory of God, even though we can’t even see a significant portion of it.
Now, I’m agnostic on the subject of life on other planets. We just don’t have enough evidence either way.
But even if Earth somehow is the only planet in a seemingly infinite universe that has life, I have a hard time believing that God just put everything else out there for a lark. If there’s no meaning to it beyond “it looks cool,” can we really hold to the idea that our own lives matter so much to the being who created it? Yes, I know God is supposed to be able to concentrate on the minute as well as the grand, watching the fall of sparrows and all that. It’s just that religion often seems so insular to me, when its whole basis has to do with our relationship with the infinite.