The Great Chain

The Great Chain

Monday, December 27, 2010

Theists Like Their Gods Small

Theists should be overjoyed at the scientific advances of the last 500 years.  They should be ecstatic at the wondrous ways in which science has enlarged the scope of our Universe, uncovered the marvelous complexity of the cosmos, revealed the mechanisms by which our atoms are forged, and detailed the fantastic intricacies of living organisms.  Science has given us an amazing understanding of the physical, chemical, geological, and biological wonders that fill our Universe, understandings that dramatically increase the size, scale and beauty of our world and the Cosmos.
Theists should be filled with awe at the vastness, scope, breadth and age of our Universe and the ways in which it vastly exceeds the wildest imaginings of our ancient ancestors.  Theists should be in love with science for so dramatically increasing the awe inspiring size, scope and nature of the Universe over which their god is supposedly sovereign.

Instead, theists despise science.  They despise what it has revealed about the size of the Universe, the age of the Universe, the age of our planet.  They actively fight against the majesty and age of the Universe.  The despise it because theists are desperate to keep god small, to keep god manageable.  Theists are FAR more comfortable with a petty god, a small god, a parochial god because such a deity allows US to feel important.  Special.  Chosen.

The ancients clearly believed that humans were special, were chosen.  They believed this because they had no understanding of the size and scope of the tiny planet they inhabited, let alone the Universe they lived in.  The ancients believed that Earth was the center of the Universe, that the sun orbited around it and that the stars were merely fixed scenery.  In that kind of Universe, the preeminence of humanity was clear, uncontested.  It was in that kind of Universe that the tiny gods of old were forged, gods who actively discriminated between groups and tribes based on petty liturgical or doctrinal distinctions.  In that kind of Universe, god is merely a few existential steps above humanity, god of the solar system.

Their Universe was painfully small, and as a result, the gods man made were painfully small as well.  They are petty, parochial, jealous entities.  Interplanetary Santa Clauses handing out punishments to those who are 'naughty' and rewards to those who are 'nice.'  Such a conception of divinity was appropriate when our conception of the Universe was a set of concentric spheres fixed about an unmoving Earth.  Such a conception of divinity is wholly misplaced now that humanity has seen what it has seen and knows what it knows.

Our Universe is incomprehensibly larger than the ancients ever dreamed of, so large that it makes the ancients' conceptions of god laughably quaint and ridiculously small.  Theists should be elated that their god is now sovereign over something so much vaster than we ever could have imagined - yet it fills them with dread instead.  Because in showing how vast the Universe truly is, in showing how life can form absent intervention, in unlocking the secrets of the origins of time, space, matter, atomic structures, science has shown how truly inconsequential humanity is, how irrelevant we are in any greater cosmic sense.

Scientific understanding of the size and scope of the Universe fills me with awe and joy, but it also makes me aware of my own insignificance.  Of our species' ultimate irrelevance in any cosmic sense.  It is this realization that theists cannot bear to contemplate.  Theists have become comfortable with a tiny god.  With a petty, shallow, small entity that only dwells a few levels of association above us.  Such a conception fits their shallow notions of a father god, a personal god, a Loving, anthropomorphic god.

While such conceptions certainly flatter the ego, such conceptions completely fall apart when we begin to realize that Earth is not only not the center of the Universe, but is not the center of our galaxy, nor even the center of our solar system, and that our entire solar system is but one of innumerable others.  Theists hate science because it has revealed a Universe that is vast and beautiful beyond imagining in which we play virtually no role whatsoever.  Theists cannot bear this truth because religion is fundamentally based on arrogance, narcissism and egocentrism and for such conceptions to remain, god and the Universe must remain small.


  1. Though Carl Sagan makes an exception for Hinduism:

  2. This is my favourite entry that I have read so far.

  3. @ Anonymous

    Hinduism does believe that the cosmos is far, far older than the traditional Sky Fairyists in the West. However, Hinduism does (by and large since talking about Hinduism is akin to herding cats) become "small" with the systematic enslavement of its people via the caste system. It's not like the caste system is a thing of the past either. People still get killed in India for marrying outside of their caste.
    Of course there was the atheist sect of Hinduism (the Charvakas), but that school died out.

  4. I have often pondered why Christians, who as you say should be happy to assign the wonders of this staggeringly vast universe to God, instead confine him to a 6,000 year old box. Even when I was a Christian I could never understand that attitude. Guess I wasn't a True Christian.