Friday, June 6, 2014

Man's Place in the Universe

At the core of most theistic beliefs seems to be the assumption that the universe was created for the benefit of man. That may be overstating things a bit with regard to the wide variety of religions in the world, but it’s certainly the case with religions based on the Bible.

Now, it certainly made sense to think this way when the entire known universe consisted of the small amount of land you and/or members of your tribe had personally visited together with a bunch of lights in the sky that appeared to be just out of your reach. And that’s basically where human knowledge stood at the time the Bible was written.

Well, that was then and this is now, as the saying goes. Modern cosmology has shown us just how vast the universe actually is. Not only is the Earth much larger than was imagined back in Old Testament times, we now know we are just one (relatively small) planet in an entire solar system of planets. And our solar system is just one of billions in our galaxy. And our galaxy is just one of billions in the observable universe that extends for billions of light years in every direction. A universe chock full of weird phenomena like black holes and distant quasars and galactic nebulae – most of which mankind was completely unaware of until extremely recently.

I understand that many people take comfort in the thought that God created it all just for us and that he cares about each and every one of us as individuals because we are so special to him. To think that Earth is just a random speck of dust in a vast universe can be a bit depressing. I look at it another way, however. To me, the thought that in the entire vast universe there is only being exactly like me is awe-inspiring. I am wholly unique, and when I am gone there will never be anything just like me. And the same goes for every single person who has ever lived or who ever will live. It gives my life a purpose to know this, since I have the chance to improve the world in my own unique way and cause ripples that will potentially continue on throughout eternity.

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