All there is


Van Gogh – Starry Night

Someone once told me they went to church because they didn’t want to believe that the physical was all there is. I didn’t have the presence of mind at the time to say that you’re asking an awful lot for there to be more than the physical, since the physical world is actually mind-blowingly huge. I remember reading a book about the universe to my daughter when she was young, and somewhere on the page that described the billions of galaxies, I had almost a physical sensation that my brain could not possibly absorb any more. Yet there was more, so much more. How could all of this not be enough? And just in case it isn’t actually enough, there’s an equally mind-bogglingly tiny universe of things that we can’t possibly understand. And if the very large and the very small aren’t enough, then perhaps the parallel universes, black holes, multiple dimensions and, to misquote Donald Rumsfeld, the known and unknown unknowns, will satisfy the need for “more”.

One thing I’ve noticed about a lot of people who believe in God, is that they seem to believe that humans are special. That humans have souls, some ghosty appendage not shared by any other creatures, and which means we get to live forever. That we’re not just some species of primate, but a superior kind of thing altogether. The trouble with thinking that we’re better than animals and plants and rocks and not even subject to the laws of nature, is that we act as though we’re not subject to the laws of nature.  We destroy the homes of our fellow Earthlings to make way for waterparks and megachurches. We confine animals in appalling conditions to produce cheap meat. We pollute water in the business of extracting fossil fuels, which we burn to heat the atmosphere. All of which is making our beautiful and very special planet uninhabitable not just for us, but for all the soulless creatures made of exactly the same stardust as we are.

I certainly won’t be going to church to feel part of something bigger than myself.  I’ll just go outside and look around.


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