I have to tell a secret. I want to believe.
I cannot though.
I want there to be a guiding light that protects us all. If there is, it is utterly ineffectual. There’s just the cold, dark universe and we’re travelling on a tiny, little world, around a tiny, little sun in the back 40 of one galaxy out of the hundreds of billions in the known universe.
I want to run out into the street shouting “The Doctor saved us”. But that’s fiction. Where the good guys always win and, even when they are bad, they are still good.
I want aliens to come visit us and tell us the secrets of the universe. But if they aren’t here yet, they aren’t coming. We’re 65 million years behind the times, thanks to a chance encounter with an asteroid.
I want to think that people are good and smart and caring. A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it.*
I want to win the lottery. That’s tricky though… since I don’t play.
Why can’t I believe in the things that I so desperately want to be true?
Because. I’ve built my life on evidence. Some might say, “how sad”. To which I reply, “Which is sadder? To be sad because they things you want aren’t real or to be happy because you think the things you want are real when they really aren’t.”
The things that I want to be true have all failed. I’ve never won the lottery and the odds are highly against it. I’ve seen the depths of evil that men can sink to and still be praised by the sheep who follow them. I know that our universe is too vast and we are too tiny. Even if aliens could come here, why would they? Fiction is great to escape into for a while, but they never have people going to the bathroom (unless something bad is about to happen). There is no deity that has any actual power on this world. Doesn’t matter if it actually exists or not, it makes no difference here. The inescapable conclusion is that the holy books and the traditions of a thousand religion are just as much a fantasy as Amy Pond, Rory Williams, and River Song are.
And yet, that doesn’t make me sad.
Because I don’t have to believe in things that don’t exist to be happy.
I have a child, sleeping in his bed. He’s an amazing creature. Frustrating, nuts, and utterly and completely amazing every second of the day. I have an amazing wife who puts up with me (and that’s the one thing that supports evidence of divinity). I don’t believe that she loves me… I know it. And I know it not because I want it to be true, but because it’s been tested in the fires of a relationship that has lasted for over 18 years with no signs of stopping.
I marvel at the grace (or sometimes not) of cats. They are simply stunning organisms. Even my 17-year-old cat moves with grace and power. And his larger cousins are just amazing. Watching them tells the tale of millions of years of change into the ultimate land predator. Going to SeaWorld is a greater ‘religious’ experience than I’ve ever had in a church. Reaching to touch a creature that is nearly as sentient as I am is a powerful experience.
I see the heights to which humans have reached and I see that with just a little focus we could go so very much farther.
Why do I need to believe in something that may or may not exist when there is so much wonder here?
If you think about how this world “is evidence of god” or how the world “exemplifies god” then you forget to look at the world as it is. You see the greatness and don’t see the wrongness. By seeing god in everything, you don’t realize that it’s up to us to change the bad things and keep doing the good things. If you see only god’s morality, then you can’t even recognize what good and bad are anymore.
I want to believe…
but there’s no point in it.
Belief makes me less of a person and more of a puppet. Belief destroys the one thing that humans do have… a mind capable of critical thinking.
Everything that we enjoy in our first world culture is due, not to belief, but that critical thinking. That’s where true power lies, not in a moldy Babylonian deity, but in the ability of our minds to generate logical conclusions about the rest of the universe given limited data.
I don’t really want to believe after all…
* Men In Black