Wednesday, November 12, 2008

8) Atheist prayer

In Richard Feynman's book "What Do You Care What Other People Think?" he mentions that an artist friend of his once asserted that Feynman couldn't possibly fully appreciate the beauty of a flower on the level that he does because Feynman, being a scientist, would allow the flower's beauty to be obscured by cold scientific facts about the flower while the artist has cultivated a nuanced appreciation of form. Feynman then tells us that he believes that in fact the opposite is true because knowing about all of those chemical reactions and biological processes all going on inside the tiny petals and leaves instill a sense of wonder about the flower. That so much goes on in so many things automatically and it results in things of such beauty.

A religious person asks how an atheist can find the universe to be so full of wonder if our existence is just some random insignificant blip in the universe, if we don't matter on a cosmic scale. The atheist says, it's the most liberating and terrifying thing in the world! Or maybe the atheist says "meh". We're all different, donchaknow. But it means there is no all-powerful being with the answers, that we can go on learning forever. Every thing has a why and nothing has a because. What could be more maddening? What could be more exciting? It means there's nobody watching out for us. We have to make our own way, we have to take care of ourselves and watch out for each other because we're all we have.

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