How many times has someone has asked you, as a non-believer (whatever it happens to be that you don't believe in), "Don't you believe in anything greater than yourself?" For me, the question most often comes up when I declare a naturalistic worldview. No god? No afterlife? Then what do you look to for hope and inspiration?
Today, I'm just going to offer a couple of items on one source of inspiration and hope from something greater than myself: the cosmos.
Even as a simple empirical matter, there are worlds beyond count, many grander than our own in their different ways. The image to the right is one example - click on it, enlarge it, try to get your head around the vast grandeur of everything that lies outside our little planetary cocoon (a cocoon that is itself much vaster and more beautiful than anything I or any human can claim credit for).
Or try this simple image. Some of you will recognize it. Some will know the phrase often associated with it: the Pale Blue Dot.
This is the last image of Earth taken by the Voyager probe, as it passed Saturn on its journey out of the Solar System.
Do I believe in anything greater than myself? Yes. In my boldest moments, I try to go beyond simply accepting the facts of astronomy as told in numbers. I try to take into the very centre of my self the understanding given by astronomers and scientists. To grasp the enormity of everything that exists, and to accept my humble place in this reality.
It is a difficult task for my limited, pragmatic ape brain. But I have the help of some great poet-scientists of yesterday and today. Here's one of them, Carl Sagan - the man we can thank for the Pale Blue Dot image - contemplating its meaning for us who live on that dot:
Scale of the stars - source unknown. Link given by a member of the Friendly Atheist forum.
Pale Blue Dot - public domain, created by NASA. Via Wikimedia.