Atheism and wonder

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The psalmist David wrote: "The heavens are telling of the glory of God. And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands." (Psalm 19:1 NASB)

The argument from beauty argues the existence of beauty in the natural world testifies to the existence of God who both designed natural beauty and who possesses a divine beauty. Objective beauty exists and beauty is not merely subjective in nature.[1]

Rabbi David Wolpe wrote:

I will go so far as to say that there is sometimes in the atheist a want of wonder. In a world in which so much is still not which we have not pierced the mystery of consciousness, to discount the supernatural is to lack the openness to mystery that should be a human hallmark. There is so much we do not know. Religious people too should acknowledge this truth. Epistemological humility -- the acknowledgment that we are at the very first baby steps of understanding -- is far wiser than arrogance on either side. After all, we comprehend with our brains, and who knows how limited are our only organs of understanding?

So please, feel free to vituperate, argue and belittle. But understand that the religious dialogue is not advanced by shaken fists and snide asides. To quote the prophet, "Come let us reason together (Isaiah 1:18)." All of us ought to be astonished by our miraculous ability to talk, think, dream and disagree. Our first response to life should be gratitude and wonder that we share this remarkable world so far beyond our poor power to grasp.

...There is an arrogant unwillingness to engage with religion's serious thinkers. Too many atheists assume that a couple of insults will substitute for argument.[2]

Many atheists became upset with Oprah Winfrey when she declared that you can’t be an atheist if you believe in the awe and wonder of the world.[3]

For more information, please see:

Urbanization and separation from nature as a causal factor for atheism

See also: Causes of atheism

Plutarch's bust at Chaeronea (his home town).

An Eastern Orthodox website indicates:

As a mass phenomenon, atheism has come to existence over the last two hundred years. It is the result of separation of humans from direct contact with nature, which occurred when significant amounts of population started to move from countryside to towns...In the past people used to be closer to nature, and an atheist was a rare bird. It is a common knowledge that since pre-historic times the idea of a supreme being has been widely spread among people at all stages of development. "Look at the face of the earth," wrote Plutarch (1st century AD), — and you will see townships without fortification, sciences or hierarchy, you will see people without permanent dwelling, not knowing money, having no idea of the fine arts, but you will not find any one human community without a belief in a Divinity."[4]

Professor Rabbi Justin Jaron Lewis at the University of Manitoba states:

Light pollution is the cause of the increase in atheism.

This is my conclusion after spending some time this summer at cottages and cabins far from city lights. The sight of the Milky Way and all the stars around, filling the sky with daubs of light, filled my heart with wonder – as they would anyone. That kind of wonder has often been expressed in religious feelings and prayers. The Bible tells us that in ancient times the stars themselves were worshipped. In Judaism, the common term for idolaters is ovdei kokhavim, “worshippers of the stars.” Even in Jewish tradition, the stars are seen as alive – as the bodies of angels.

They are the “hosts of heaven” – hosts meaning “armies” or “multitudes” – who praise the Creator and do God’s will. The Christian author C.S. Lewis embraced this vision as well. In one of his stories about the magical world Narnia, the children meet a majestic old man who is introduced to them as a star from the sky. A skeptical child says, “A star is a huge ball of flaming gas!” and the old man replies, “Even in your world, that is not what a star is but only what it is made of.”

Of course, it is possible to think of the stars strictly in accordance with modern science, and still be overwhelmed with awe and delight on seeing them.[5]

Rural Americans tend to be more religious. Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation indicates: "It’s still lonely being an atheist in rural America."[6] See also: Atheism and loneliness

Atheism and nature worship or neo-paganism

Creation Ministries International's article on atheism declares:

By “nature worship” and “neo-paganism” I refer to the atheist’s tendency to replace a sense of awe of God and seeking transcendence by relating to God with seeking awe and transcendence in nature. This natural high, as it were, is not merely enjoyed but it is enjoined and said to be holier than theism.

Referring to our ability to “step off the Earth and look back at ourselves,” as was done in Voyager 2, Carl Sagan stated,

“I find that a chilling, spine-tingling, exciting, perspective-raising, consciousness-raising experience. It’s said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience.

The very first episode of his televised series entitled Cosmos, began with Carl Sagan stating,

“The Cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be. Our feeblest contemplations of the Cosmos stir us—there is a tingling in the spine, a catch in the voice, a faint sensation, as of a distant memory, of falling from a height. We know we are approaching the greatest of mysteries.”

Presupposing a God-free reality, why atheists seek transcendent experiences remains unanswered.[7]

Pew Research reports about American atheists, "And roughly half of all atheists (54%) frequently feel a deep sense of wonder about the universe, up from 37% in 2007. In fact, atheists are more likely than U.S. Christians to say they often feel a sense of wonder about the universe (54% vs. 45%)."[8]

Atheist worldview, nature and futility

See: Atheist worldview, nature and futility and Atheism, agnosticism and pessimism

Although Bertrand Russell was an agnostic, he had favorable views towards atheism.[9] Bertrand Russell wrote in 1903 about entropy and the universe:

That man is the product of causes that had no prevision of the end they were achieving; that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve individual life beyond the grave; that all the labors of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of Man's achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins- all these things, if not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain that no philosophy which rejects them can hope to stand.

"Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding dispair, can the soul's habitation henceforth be safely built." [10]

See also: Hopelessness of atheism and Second law of thermodynamics and Fall of man

See also


  1. Is Beauty Objective? by Keith E. Buhler, posted October 24, 2007
  2. Why Are Atheists So Angry? by Rabbi David Wolpe Posted: 03/10/2011 11:06 am EST Updated: 05/25/2011 6:35 pm EDT
  3. Oprah: You Can’t Be an Atheist If You ‘Believe in the Awe and Wonder’ of the World by Josh Feldman, Mediaite, October 14th, 2013
  4. The cause and consequences of the atheism
  5. Light pollution cause of increased atheism by Professor Rabbi Justin Jaron Lewis
  6. Atheists in the Bible Belt: A survival guide, CNN
  7. Atheism
  8. 10 facts about atheists, Pew Research
  9. Russell, Bertrand (1947) "Am I An Atheist Or An Agnostic?"[1] Most online sources say "by which one prove," probably a mistake.
  10. Entropy and heat death