I am re-reading "The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide" by Douglas Adams. If you like science fiction, parody, comedy and veiled commentary on religion all in one, I highly recommend it.
The part that inspired this little rant is where Zaphod Beeblebrox, one of the main characters, is on a quest to find the man who runs the Universe. Along the way he is captured and forced to enter the "Total Perspective Vortex." This ingenious device, when hooked up to its victims, forces them to comprehend the immensity of the universe in comparison to the microscopic proportion of the prisoner's life in his or her relationship to the universe. The complete understanding of how irrelevant the individual's life is in relation to everything else there is out there, is horrifically mind numbing. No one ever survives the "Total Perspective Vortex." Mr. Beeblebrox, much to everyone's surprise, does survive. In fact he quite enjoys the experience finding it euphoric. He discovers while in the "Vortex" that he is the most important thing in the universe and it really makes him feel good.
Christians have a similar perspective on their value to the universe. Oh sure, on the surface Christians are told they are sinners, deserving of eternal punishment. They are told that there is no one good, no not one. They are admonished that they should humble themselves, and warned against the sin of pride. Then, conversely, they are told that the Man who runs the Universe actually shrunk himself down into a human body, endured all the privations of being a regular guy and then made a sacrificial death of himself in order to save those who would later believe in him. So, in this incomprehensibly large universe, filled with innumerable galaxies, each of which contains nearly limitless possibilities, mankind becomes the central focal point of all. The planet earth on the outskirts of a rather small, remote, and unremarkable galaxy, along with the monkey like beings who crawl around on its surface, becomes more terribly important than can be humanly comprehended.
The possibility of life on other planets anywhere becomes a logical difficulty for the Christian. If an open minded Christian allows for the possibility of other creatures out there somewhere, do any of them have souls? If so do they need redemption? Did God send his son to die more than once? Since Satan was cast down to Earth, supposedly imprisoned here the question of whether there is another devil out there? To actually think that the "God" who is so massively creative as to design this magnificent universe should decide to restrict his attempt at producing sentient free willed beings to our small anonymous celestial ball appears unlikely. If there are other free willed things out there, then it logically follows that some alien race somewhere also has a need the blood of Christ, or whatever he would be called on that planet.
That idea presents real problems, because Christ's death and resurrection was done once for all. Does he have to die over and over on other planets? Are humans responsible for spreading the good news throughout the galaxy and beyond? Is God more than a Trinity, having many sons? The silly questions are potentially prolific.
Christianity is a religion based on a primitive world view where the entire universe is centered around the Earth. Above the Earth is the canopy of the sky. Embedded in that canopy are the lights of the sun, Moon and stars which move about while the Earth stands still below, immovable. Below the Earth is the fire of hell. Above, outside the dome of sky, is where God and Heaven are stationed. All of God's creative energies culminate in Adam being made a living soul. In this simplistic understanding of reality, Christianity makes perfect sense. Tribal humanity indeed occupies the major role in the ancient Biblical view of reality.
Back to Zaphod Beeblebrox and the "Total Perspective Vortex."
It turns out that our hero who believed he was the most important person in the whole entire universe was mistaken. Come to find out that he had his adventure with the "Vortex" while inhabiting a synthetic universe that greatly resembled, but was not, the real universe. It was fake universe designed specifically for him, so of course he was very, very important there. Unfortunately for Zaphod's ego, it was not real.
The universe occupied by the "on fire", "totally committed", and "zealous" Christian is likewise not real. The universe they think they are part of makes them more important than everything else. As the popular Christian contemporary song says, "God loves people more than anything."
When I was a still a Christian I started looking up at the sky at night, looking at the pictures from the Hubble telescope, looking at pictures sent back from our space probes, and asked myself if I could really accept the idea that I was the culmination of creation or even a major reason for it all to exist.
What is your perspective?
Online Reading List
- An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish by Bertrand Russell (1943)
- Bible Teaching and Religious Practice by Mark Twain
- God is Imaginary
- Is there an Artificial God? by Douglas Adams (1998)
- Skeptics Annotated Bible
- The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine (1795)
- Which Way? by Robert Ingersoll (1884).
- Why I Am Not A Christian by Bertrand Russell (1927)