Beauty and ‘ungodliness’ in the world

Two examples of reasons why people believe in some sort of god don’t seem to jibe with each other so well. Let me put it this way; have you heard someone say that the world is so beautiful and awe-inspiring, so how could you not see their god’s presence? Later on someone else says that the ways of this world are so ugly and ungodly that they cannot wait to get to heaven?

OK, well, in any case I have. One runs into comments like these when you throw yourself into the asylums we call religious culture. In some ways I’m a masochist, but what really drives me to seek out such views is a genuine desire to understand what is going on inside the minds of believers. The two examples don’t seem to have much in common on the surface, but they are often derived from the same communities.

I, an agnostic-atheist metaphysical naturalist, do see beauty in the world. I do feel the awe that comes in the form of colorful sunsets, the stars at night, and the simple playfulness and curiosity of children. But I do not see a deity behind these things; rather, I see that our emotional states have been formed over millions of years of evolutionary forces and, for various reasons, some things cause emotions that we like to feel. That is, I see natural explanations for the existence and experience of beauty. Some will say, upon reading this, that to explain away the beauty of the world takes the mystery and miracle out of such things, but I disagree. To understand how things work does not make them less beautiful, it makes them more beautiful because there is natural beauty behind things as well.

And I also see the ugly—what some would call ungodly—in the world as well. But I don’t understand how it could be ungodly. After all, if god, the supposed creator of all things, is omniscient and omnipotent then all that exists is ultimately the responsibility of god, right? God would have had to know what would come to be and made it so anyway. And no matter what apologists will say about free will, there are still the ‘evil’ things in the world that are not the result of human decisions as well as the fact that god would have made us the way we are, knowing we would fall from grace.

Behind this is often an unwillingness to face the unpleasant in the world and to turn away and hope for a magical place where we will go when we die. That is, rather than actually work to make the world better (beginning with oneself, of course), many would rather pray that they be taken away now and not have to face the world. Don’t believe me? Check this out.

This is not to say that all religious persons react this way, but they will often attribute the beautiful to god’s while abhorring his creation. This especially Christian (but not exclusively so) concept of humanity being inherently sinful, which explains the ugly state of the world transfers the responsibility to humanity. The actual case is that some of the problems are our fault and others are simply blind nature at work (not for or against us). In any case, we need to stop hiding from the world and begin to re-create ourselves into something better. We need to transcend humanity as it exists and become better, starting with the stripping of old superstitious myths from our minds and replacing them with stories of hope for one-another, understanding based in reality,and towards actions that encourage beauty that starts from ourselves.

We must take a responsibility for the beauty and unpleasant in the world. We must start with ourselves, to identify our own insecurities, fears, and biases, in order to recognize how we can make improvements upon what we have the power to influence. Stop attributing beauty to something magic, and stop hiding from the unpleasant in hopes that this same magic will help you.