Where is the wonder?

This question is often leveled at atheists by believers. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve personally heard these arguments. The claim is that once you take God out of the equation, what happens to beauty? Without God, the universe and everything in it (mostly life, though) looses an awe-inspiring quality. Indeed, how many times have you heard a believer say something about how “you can see God in the beauty of a sunrise,” or “God’s power is reflected in the enormity and complexity of the universe,” etc? Probably a fair amount.

But is that really true?

It seems to me that a universe with God is a universe devoid of wonder. It’s nothing to marvel at if it was all done with the snap of omnipotent fingers. There’s nothing awe-inspiring. How could the creation of a perfect being be anything less than perfect? It’s impossible, which makes the universe and the way it exists (according to believers) anything but precious or rare or beautiful.

It’s less awe-inspiring when you consider that to a lot of religions, like Christianity, this life and the entire universe don’t even matter. When you take the core beliefs and fundamental teachings as they are, that’s the conclusion that one is left with: the universe and everything in it, including your physical existence, is totally superfluous. None of it matters. What does matter to a lot of religions, though, is the afterlife. What happens to your immortal soul on another plane of existence. That’s the predominant central occupation of most religions. So under this scheme, by creating the universe God has essentially done nothing more than create the ultimate waiting room, a brief repository of some molecules that eventually serves as nothing more than a way-point on an eternal journey that doesn’t ultimately depend upon the universe we temporarily inhabit.

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Remind me, what’s so wondrous about that? What purpose do the hundreds of billions of galaxies in the universe serve as far as you getting into heaven goes? How does the force of gravity ensure that your eternal soul will make it to heaven? What exactly does the beauty of a sunrise have to do with accepting Jesus Christ as your personal savior? The God-inspired “awe” and “wonder” that a lot of believers claim exists in the universe isn’t really there, and it certainly doesn’t play a role in any of their beliefs. So why even make the claim?

Probably because it makes people feel special and serves to help people order and make sense of the world around them. And once those two things are accomplished, you achieve a super-convenient third thing: validating your own beliefs. The whole thing is very circular.

But it’s also very superficial. I don’t see how anyone can find awe or wonder or inspiration in anything in the universe if the ultimate explanation is simply, “God did it.” No mystery, nothing to marvel at. Nothing to figure out. Just “God did it.” Well since God can literally do anything, why should we be impressed by this? We shouldn’t. This entire argument that believers use is unimpressive. Contrary to what believers would say or think, a universe due to God is no more precious and unique than a planned suburban housing development.

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But consider a universe without God. What could we say about that universe? What could we say about your life? Well, we could say that in a universe where God created you specifically for a single purpose, the odds of you existing and of you being you are 100%. Not really that fantastical or awe inspiring. But in a universe without God? Think of everything that had to occur to lead up to your existence. And then think about all the different ways your existence could have been if just one minuscule thing had been different. Think about how your life exists despite all of the hostile things in this universe. In this scenario, your existence didn’t circumnavigate any of that thanks to God’s magic. Instead, you beat the odds!

That’s the real wonder, the real awe: the shear math behind your existence. Without God, life truly does become unique. Without God, life really does become precious because its existence is no longer guaranteed.

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24 thoughts on “Where is the wonder?

  1. Reblogged this on myatheistlife and commented:
    “…a universe with God is a universe devoid of wonder. It’s nothing to marvel at if it was all done with the snap of omnipotent fingers. There’s nothing awe-inspiring. How could the creation of a perfect being be anything less than perfect? It’s impossible, which makes the universe [created by a god] and the way it exists anything but precious or rare or beautiful.”

    Think about that for a minute. A universe created by an omnipotent being is infinitely reproducible including an infinite number of you. It’s nothing more than god playing SIMs.

    Read the whole post to get all the goodness out of it. I really liked this post and the thoughts behind it.

  2. I completely agree. There is such wonder in a Godless universe. And honestly, had some “God” actually created such a vast universe for no purpose, since only eternal life matters, it would be total overkill. No wonder in that. More like a bad joke.

      1. Your question is actually a straw man argument because the Bible never says that humanity is the only life in the universe. It is God’s revelation to the human race and naturally that is why it doesn’t say anything about other intelligent life or even tell us if such life exists.

  3. This is well written. I used to make that precise argument that the universe is too fragile, yet stable, for there not to be a God and how purposeless it would be for such a one not to exist, however, my perspective has taken a turn. Given unimaginable time in a boundless space filled with galaxies we cannot preceive and wonders which cannot be grasped, anything is possible. We may think our Earth is in the right conditions to sustain life but that it only because we do not perceive other galaxies that may sustain life and thrive even better than us, if so, where would God and purpose fit into this equation?

    1. I think time is the thing missing in most religions, and it’s primarily why science and religion find themselves at odds so often. Religion cannot embrace principles like evolution and the big bang theory–even though those two things don’t outright exclude the possibility of a god–because the major religions think the universe is only 6,000-10,000 years old.

  4. Life is in fact a wonder. Even more if you can appreciate it in its chemical, biological, ecological, and evolutive complexity. When religion reduces life to magic, it destroys all this beauty. Religion turns wine into water.

  5. My thoughts exactly! The universe is awesome when looking at it from a natural perspective. Imagine how much better a universe created by an omnipotent deity could be!

  6. Very good stuff Ryan. Great post that hits like a hammer.

    On the few nights that I get to setup a scope (due to weather and time constraints) and enjoy some time under the stars, seeking out galaxies, planets, nebulas, clusters of all sorts, those experiences really drive home how small and insignificant our little world is. It is my Zen.

    For those who see no beauty without gods, you aren’t looking in the right places. To those that see all beauty as a god’s design, your delusion is showing.

  7. I had to share this on Facebook. It’s an interesting take on the mysteries of life regardless of what beliefs you hold to be true, be it Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu or none of the above. Have an enlightened 2015 my friends

  8. I am sure this article makes a lot of sense for those who do not believe in God. It justifies their unbelief, and in my opinion does not make the universe more awesome, but as the saying goes ” It is what it is ” Believers have experienced the presence and the power of a super natural being in the universe which we refer to as ” God “. There is so much wonder and awe when we develop a personal relationship with this being and have experienced him working in your life. This allows us to appreciate even more the beauty all around us.
    To believe or not to believe in God is a choice, and I expect that those who have never looked for or experienced his power, love and glory will not believe.

    The truth is that no one will know for sure until they die, and then that

    is if there is an afterlife. I however believe that the quality of life lived as a believer is far richer than the non-believer.

    1. While I agree that nobody will really know until they die, I’m left with one question.

      If the awe and wonder is found in the personal relationship you have with a deity, where does the Andromeda galaxy fit into that? Where does the number of electrons in strontium fit into that? Where does the Eagle nebula or Haley’s comet fit into that person relationship?

      From a skeptic’s or a scientist’s perspective, how does the immensity and beauty and complexity of the entire universe enrich a personal relationship? How does literally anything that occurs anywhere else in the universe besides what happens on earth affect your relationship with a deity, or your afterlife?

      I guess I could sum up the problem with these kinds of claims with a thought experiment: If the universe only consisted of the earth and the sun and the moon–and absolutely nothing else–would your relationship with God somehow change? And if so, how?

  9. The universe derives its importance from the fact that is was created by God and reveals something about him. Psalm 19:1 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” The Bible does reveal how we can be saved and receive eternal life but our personal salvation isn’t the most important thing. Both the Bible and creation are primarily revelations about what God is like and what he has done.

    1. Then what IS the most important thing? Again, a lot of Christians would disagree with you on that. We even have another comment on this very post about how the important thing is the personal relationship you have with God. Your statement would seem to contradict that.

      1. Part of having a personal relationship with God is recognizing the fact that he created the universe and the ultimate purpose of everything, even our salvation, is his glory.

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