I’ve spent years describing myself as an atheist, or agnostic, although I was raised as a Quaker. God was described to me as a never-ending spring of goodness. I was told that worshipping God was like tapping into a power that would immediately improve my life and help me see the world in new ways. I grew up religious, but not theist, because no one ever showed me a God that I could recognize.
To me, faith in God felt like willful ignorance. Science felt like the path to enlightenment. Why would a man in the sky care about our world? What proof was there that he existed? What purpose did faith have, when science already explained so many of the great mysteries of the world?
Everyone accepts some things they cannot prove. A distinction most people make is between faith in people and faith in God. We fly in airplanes because we have faith in other people, people that tell us they’ve mastered the laws of physics so completely that they can launch an impossibly heavy hunk of metal into the air, and land it safely hundreds or thousands of miles away.
This distinction is meaningful because in theory we could learn the mathematics that govern flight, get a set of tools and build our own flying machine. The fact that someone knows how, means that I could learn, which means that I can place the laws of flight squarely in the box we call science, not religion.
Albert Einstein said two things that I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about:
“Science without religion is lame, and religion without science is blind,”
“There are two ways to live: You can live as if nothing is a miracle; you can live as if everything is a miracle.”
Is it possible that flight could be explained by science, and still be a miracle? To me, the answer is yes.
I see miracles that science may never explain. I see a miracle in the way that a phrase or a story told at the right time can elicit tears, or inspire an epiphany.
Like flight, dark matter will be no less miraculous when scientists have discovered the forces that govern it. A cure for cancer would be a miracle regardless of its scientific basis.
Furthermore, if history is any indication, the pool of things we don’t know we don’t know easily dwarfs our current understandings. There might be thousands, or hundreds of thousands of new miracles to be experienced! But it’s not just new inventions or discoveries. Our ability to see, hear, smell, taste and touch are all miraculous. If you’re looking for it, there is something profound about waking up in the morning, having a conversation with another human being, and reading the morning paper.
I see God as miracle and mystery. God is the small voice inside your head that inspires words you didn’t know you had; the thoughts that you can’t ignore but don’t know where they come from. God is random attraction, creative spark, and coincidence.
I believe in spending time worshipping the mysteries of the world, and appreciating its miracles. This might look like silently sitting in a meetinghouse, examining samples in a university lab, kissing someone for first time, or screaming into an abyss during a downpour.
My God isn’t a force waiting to punish us for masturbating, or a jealous egomaniac demanding our attention. God exists whether or not it is worshipped or acknowledged.
It’s me that benefits from setting time aside to be with God. It reminds me that I am a tiny part of this universe, and that I’m immensely fortunate to be alive. It reminds me that the world is beautiful place.