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.
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.
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.