Naturlich I disagree. I find religion rather unpoetic; the thing that makes Greek tragedy so amazing, so enthralling and moving is that there is never a God that pops in and wipes away all of the guilt, all of the shame, all of the negativity and puts everything right. I do not find the “and then a sky daddy came along and made everything okay” narrative all that interesting. In Greek tragedy the human soul is on show warts and all; the beauty is in the struggle against Fate the struggle against circumstance. The beauty of Greek mythology is it’s humanity, for all it’s fantastical creatures and talk of Gods, it’s about people that we can relate to.
Religion is just the story of how we’re just sat here waiting to die so that we can be with our dad telling him how wonderful he is for eternity. Life is awaiting a celestial North Korea where the people who don’t want to be defined by telling daddy how wonderful he is will be burned forever. It’s love is highly conditional and the place it wants to guide you to is usually death and ignorance.
Occasionally on clear summer nights, actually on any clear night, I find myself gazing upwards into the cosmos. I’m lucky in that I have a father who pointed out all the constellations to me and so I can find my way around the night sky. I find myself looking at Mars and wondering what it will feel like for the first humans who set foot on it, I marvel at the journey that has led us from being just another animal out on the African savannah to one who has been to the moon, and now plans to go to Mars. I think of people like Tycho Brahe driven to spend night after night making observations out of nothing but a desire to understand, I think of Kepler pouring through all his data to formulate Kepler’s laws, of Newton building on this work to formulate his laws of motion. Beyond that I think of the generations upon generations of people who have gazed up at the night sky filled with that human longing to know and I feel humbled.
I think of the future generations who will go to Mars, I think of what they will build there, the struggles they will face, the disasters which will happen and which they will rise above and overcome because that’s what we as a species do.
Have you ever seen the milky way? I’m sure it was pretty fascinating to ancient people who didn’t know what it was beyond a blurry patch in the night sky, but how amazing is it to contemplate the billions of stars, to know that you’re looking right at the centre of our home galaxy, to know that there are billions of other galaxies out there in clusters and strings, all held together by gravity. How gripping is it to look up to Sirius and know that the light from it left nearly nine years ago and then to look at all the other stars and just contemplate the immensity of it all, to know that you’re standing in natures cathedral and staring back into time. I wonder what we’ll find out there, what yet to be written history awaits us.
This is all only possible because of science; without it stars are just specks of light, the milky way a cloud, the planets just moving lights to make stories up about. Science isn’t just dry explanations for things it is the story of human understanding, it is the thing that gives it all meaning, it places everything in it’s proper place and it allows us to transcend ourselves. We don’t need someone up there telling us that we’ve done our best because we can look at what we’ve achieved. We can see the diseases that we’ve defeated, we can see the struggle against famine being won, we can see ourselves reaching out into space and every last one of us, every one of the seven billion of us is part of that.
Science tells us our story, it tells of a species nearly wiped out by the lake Toba eruption, possibly only a few thousand ragged survivors in a world that was absolutely hostile. Without claws or particularly good senses, but by sheer will power and solidarity, the drive to look out for one another and stick together and with the curiosity that is innate to us we’ve battled on, we’ve overcome so many obstacles, we’ve built civilisations and gone to other worlds. We can look at each other and know that somewhere along the line that we’re related, we can literally say that we’re one family.
We can all look up into the night sky, point to a little red dot and say, “One day we will go there and one day we will go beyond it”. Religion can’t do that.