As I awoke to the light, my face winced. I turned from the window. The sunlight burned and blinded my sight, even through my closed eyelids on this summer morning. I rubbed my face as I tried to bring the world into focus. As I opened my eyes, my blurred vision slowly shifted into clarity. The picture outside my bedroom window became bright and beautiful. I sat up in my bed and pressed my face up to the glass. I could not stop the smile from forming on my face even if I tried. The world outside was just that amazing.
What really caught my attention this day was the trees. Maples, Oaks, Poplars and Pines. They were so full of life this morning. Even at 12, my heart pounded with awe and wonder as the wind ruffled the leaves and caused these giants to dance in the breeze. Wow. How can something as simple and abundant as a tree be so undeniably beautiful? How could these things that are everywhere in nature cause my mind to spark to life with such a surge of electricity? Why was I watching them for so long? They’re just trees, right? No. They can’t be.
Trees are such ordinary things, I thought. They are not doing anything special. They are just doing what trees do. But I cannot take my eyes off of them. Why? What could be the reason? Ah, I know. Yes! I’ve got it! If these simple trees are filling up my mind with wonder, then what about more complex things? What about the entire universe? If the simple and ordinary is so amazing, then there must be a reason. A cause. A beginning. A sculptor of this masterpiece. A creator. A god.
This is an example of something that many believers of god use as a way to try to “prove” the divine exists. Things that are so beautiful and fill us with wonder must have come from a creator of some kind. If we are simply animals with nothing else but this life to experience, then why do we focus on such simple things like trees? What is the evolutionary benefit to wasting our time on watching the trees move with the wind? There is no benefit as far as our survival goes. It has no benefit beyond our enjoyment. Therefore God, right? No. Things that exist that fill us with wonder do not point to a god. All it shows is that we are capable of finding beauty, enjoyment, awe and wonder in the world around us. It shows that we are capable of doing more than just surviving . It shows that we are able to find beauty, meaning and purpose in this life. And you know what? That’s enough. Not only is it enough, but it’s incredibly rewarding to find such beauty in a world that gives us so much pain, worry and hardship…seemingly without reprieve. We can find good in a world filled with bad, all on our own.
I’ve had many conversations with theists (Christians mostly) that say that the fact we have such wonder is an obvious sign that God exists. The complexity of the universe. The variety and complexity of animals. Our own consciousness. “These all absolutely point to a god or a creator of some sort.” I used to believe this myself. The story of trees above is actually a true story. I truly recall a moment in my youth where I stared at trees in the wind outside of my bedroom window and thought that a god must be real. But there’s a problem with that line of thinking. I won’t get into too many details or else this post will turn into another “rambler” and not everyone has the attention span to read my stories. But here are a few thoughts…
Complexity does not equal God. It simply doesn’t. I’m not saying that it excludes a god either. However, in order to make a claim that a god was involved, one would have to show evidence of that. Simply saying that complexity equals god shows a lack of understanding of the word “evidence.” The complexity of cells, and the complexity of the organisms they make up, does not mean anything supernatural has occurred. There is complexity in nature. Why is that? Why is there complexity in nature instead of nothing at all? Why have things evolved into more complex things over time instead of not existing at all? I don’t know. And neither does anyone else. Christians and other theists will tell you that a god was involved. How else could it have happened? Again, I don’t know. The facts lie with the evidence. What does the evidence show? Does it show a god? A creator? No. All it shows is that there is something rather than nothing. Does that mean God? No? If it did, then it should be easy to prove. As of right now, no one has come even remotely close to proving any god exists, let alone a specific god such as Yahweh, Allah or any other god.
Anyone who is arguing for a god needs to stop. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read someone’s blog or had someone write on mine who claims that a god is real without a shred of evidence. It happens all the time. Why am I saying they should stop? I am saying that they should stop because asserting something rather than proving it is waste of time for all who are involved. I am well aware that some people believe in God. I used to believe in one myself. However, I am also aware that I had no good reason to believe in such a being. I had questions that I didn’t have answers for and so a god filled in so many blanks. I also am aware that my upbringing influenced what I thought. Many people like to try to convince me that a god exists. Not just any god, but their specific brand of God. Their evidence? Intuition. Sorry, that’s not going to cut it with me.
Emotion, personal experience and good feelings are not something to base a foundation of belief on. Facts and evidence should be the bedrock of our belief systems. Sadly, some don’t like to do so as the truth conflicts with what they really want to be true. Some people really want to be reunited with lost loved ones and so they create a belief system where that happens. Some want to live forever and so create a scenario where that is the case. Others are simply afraid that there is no ultimate purpose to their existence and so create a story where a supernatural being is involved with our every action, guiding us along the way. Again, there is no evidence that is the case. Replacing reality with our wish lists and comfortable scenarios is fine if we keep it to ourselves. Trying to say that others should believe the same thing is beyond frustrating. Made-up religions, rules and regulations regarding different gods are all wastes of time. These things are based on feelings, not truth.
If we are going to move forward as a people, a society, we need to come to an understanding of what evidence is. It is not opinion. It is not intuition. It is certainly not an ancient book written by ancient anonymous writers. The facts that we can observe and examine should shape our view of life and our purpose. If there is no evidence of a god, then there is no evidence of preordained purpose either. We are free to make our own purpose and follow our own paths. There is no evidence that is true for one and not another. There is simply evidence to present or there isn’t. Whether someone accepts it as true or not is a different story. Denial will always exist. In fact, it gets stronger when influenced by our environment. If we surround ourselves with people who scoff at evidence and instead rely on faith, it is likely we will as well.
Belief is fine. I have no issues with personal beliefs. I have issues when someone’s personal beliefs intrude on my life or the lives of others. Telling someone else what they should do, say or think based solely on your own feelings is wrong and dangerous. Facts matter. Facts should matter anyway. To the people who say that facts should take a backseat to faith, you are wrong. Pushing opinions on others is how racism, bigotry, homophobia, misogyny and other prejudices are spread. Facts matter.
If you want to watch the trees swaying as the wind passes through them, go for it. In fact, I highly recommend it. It is quite soothing. The peacefulness of nature is a wondrous thing. Just understand what you are witnessing. It is nature and nature alone. To call it more than that requires a lot of effort on your part. You will have to do the impossible. You will have to do what no one has ever been able to do in the history of the world; provide evidence to the contrary. Good luck.