Humility, Awe and Wonder

Andrew Sullivan posted a comment from a reader yesterday who claimed that

Real atheists lack the humility to understand what they don’t understand

Adding irony to insult, he followed up with an implication that the trouble with atheists is that they presume to understand what non-atheists believe.

And that leads to the real and most important point, especially for those who think all religious souls are mindless followers

Another reader noticed this slight and let Sulivan know today:

You don’t tolerate mindless and derogatory comments about most, so why do so about atheists? Do you honestly believe that “real atheists lack humility…?” This humanist atheist is a scientist quite comfortable and humble knowing that I don’t understand most of existence. And yet, I have no problems seeing the universe in its sublime beauty – awe, devotion, and worship are possible, even without a god. The universe is too grandiose for any other reaction.

I’ll bet that most people with a scientific bent share both of these traits:

  1. The more we understand about the world, the more we realize how little we understand and
  2. The more we understand about the world, the more we stand in awe and wonder at its beauty

I’ll also bet that most people who look at science (and rationalism and atheism) from the outside would be surprised by that first trait.

Richard Dawkins explores the second trait in his book Unweaving the Rainbow.

My title is from Keats, who believed that Newton had destroyed all the poetry of the rainbow by reducing it to the prismatic colors. Keats could hardly have been more wrong, and my aim is to guide all who are tempted by a similar view, towards the opposite conclusion. Science is, or ought to be, the inspiration for great poetry.

Published by

Ragged Clown

Based in San Jose, California

2 thoughts on “Humility, Awe and Wonder”

  1. the other day, i was told “you don’t believe in god!? oh yeah, that’s right you’re catholic”. i wasn’t sure if i should laugh, cry, take the time to explain what a catholic and an atheist are, or what. – i opted for smiling and shutting up.

    this was a smart person too (a friend of yours also 😉 – given that, no misunderstanding of atheism will surprise me. “brights” is still silly though, and not helping (just thought i’d throw that one in)

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