Detail of the “Pale Blue Dot” photo, showing Earth as seen from Voyager 1. NASA, via Wikimedia Commons
You’ve heard the claim from Christians—that atheism strips life of its meaning. No divine plan, no eternity, only the finality of death. How could you find joy in such a pointless existence? Why even get out of bed in the morning? This is a subjective question, but let me explain how I look at it. An analogy came to me while I was looking down from an upper-story window onto a snow-covered lawn.
Someone had trampled a message into the snow, “I [heart] U,” and I realized that while you probably couldn’t read the words from the sidewalk, you could see them perfectly from a fifth floor window. In fact, I realized the whole lawn could best be read from here. I saw neat lines of crisscrossing footprints and could tell where each walker was heading, and with what stride. I saw clumps of ornamental grass bent down under the weight of the snow… a feral cat disappearing leisurely into the bushes… a squirrel racing up a tree… a young woman talking animatedly on her phone, holding it with one hand and gesturing with the other, smiling, and then hanging up and walking on quietly, hands stilled… another squirrel racing up that same tree. Continue reading
- Do you ever feel that you’re a small part of something much larger than yourself, something big and wonderful?
- Are you ever swept with a sense of awe and wonder?
- Does injustice trouble you? Do you feel a responsibility for your fellow human beings? Do you experience a sense of moral outrage when people are mistreated?
- Do you ever bask in the knowledge that you are loved?
Notice I didn’t ask if you believe in God. You could answer an emphatic yes to all these questions and still not be religious. None of these things has any necessary connection to the supernatural. And yet they get to the heart of what seems to bother many believers about atheists. Continue reading
You. You are the Pretentious Ape, you silly human, you.
OK, me too. All of us.
In naming this blog, I was partly inspired by John Janovy, a biologist at the University of Nebraska, who wrote:
A human being is, in the final analysis, an ape that tells stories, only a fraction of which are true, then acts on the lessons of those stories regardless of their veracity. (Pieces of the Plains, 2009, p. 158)
But I thought a blog called “The Storytelling Ape” might lead to disappointed parents and children coming in from Google and expecting some virtual gorilla to tell them stories. (What a blog that would be! What wonderful stories might an ape tell? So much better than, say, dog stories, which would mostly be about chewing things and getting toys stuck under the couch.) Continue reading