Chris, at Highly Allochthonous, a geological blog I link to on the side bar has been reflecting on his Evangelical friend's comment as they walked together among the mountains of the Vanoise National Park:
"Don’t these mountains make you think of God?”
For Chris, the mountains do not remind him of God and he goes on to say:
...the problem for many people (is that) they don’t like to feel small and insignificant, and they certainly don’t like the theological implications of being such a tiny part of a universe so mind-bogglingly old and large and alien: namely, that if there is a God that set the whole thing in motion, it is just as mind-bogglingly vast and alien – and it may not consider us to be particularly important...
I'm not sure about these arguments. Firstly, I'm not convinced that Chris' friend necessarily feels further away from God because he equates the mountains with God. Actually, many religions record prophets and visionaries who go into the mountains to be closer to God.
Nor do I think that people feel further from God because they feel insignificant in the Universe. It's not a common teaching of Religions that we should build up our egos after all. Their teachings are more often to do with coming to terms with who we are, following laws that will help us to become better people and being strong in our meekness.
On the other hand I have met numerous scientists with enormous egos.
However, I agree with Chris that the presence of mountains is not necessarily evidence of the existence of God.
But nor is the geological evidence that shows how mountains form evidence of the non-existence of God. It only shows that our concept of how God might have created the earth and the universe (if he did - I'm not saying he did) is strictly limited both in a biblical and scientific sense.
The deep mystery of the creation of the universe and our place in it persists. I think Chris' friend is lucky in a sense to be able to trust his instinct and connect his own sense of wonder at the mountains to a belief in universal supernatural order.
There is, after all, an important difference between observing and feeling.
Strange, the effect of mountains - I love them so much I hate being away from them. When I am somewhere flat a depression hits me immediately. Mountains, I think, are magnificent - but my mother hates them. She is a religious person, but she never mentions God in this at all - she just says that she feels insignificant.
Thank you Clare. What a shame for your mother not to like mountains. There really is not much better than to be sitting on top of a mountain, especially when the sun is shining.
Thanks for your comments on my post. I think you misunderstood me slightly, though - this conversation struck me because my friend and I were equally in awe of the scenery, even though it seemed that both of us felt the other was missing something from our particular viewpoints. Meditating on the fact that the mountains reminded my friend of God, but did not inspire that response in me, led me to understand (some) Christians' suspicion of science a little better. So I got some enlightenment from the mountains, if not perhaps the ability to express it...
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