In a recent debate on the motion, “We’d be better off without religion,” Richard Dawkins said (my transcription):
I’ve always found the inspiration [of religion]—’the heavens declare the glory of God’, ‘all things bright and beautiful’, and so on—to be paltry, parochial, small-minded, compared to the inspiration that you can get by looking at the world of science. Deep space; deep time, as the late Carl Sagan showed us; deep complexity in the study of life—the scientific study of these profound, beautiful, elegant mysteries is one of the greatest achievements of the human spirit.
I take issue with this statement. You certainly don’t need religion to see the glory of life on planet Earth and the whole universe around it. But you don’t need “science” either, unless the word refers to just opening your eyes. You only need to open your eyes. Take a look around. Trees. Birds. People. Fruits dripping with juice. The very ground you are standing on. Your own eyes and skin and the love in your heart. Anchor Steam. This place is so improbable, so astonishing, if you look and hear and feel with a decent amount of attention you will be terrified. You don’t need anything. Feel your breath move inside you, adding invisible molecules of oxygen to invisible cells in your blood so you can stay alive. It doesn’t get any more intense, any more real than this. There is no other world, but this one will do. Enjoy it—or at least take a look at it!—during your brief existence here. You will have no other. Pay attention. You don’t need religion, or science, or anything. That you exist is already beyond imagining, and I mean this literally. Just try to imagine that you exist. It makes no sense. It can’t be done. Nor is it necessary, of course. The existing happens by itself, out of nowhere, and back to nowhere. It’s the most peculiar damn thing you ever saw. Science is good; life is beyond good. It is all there is.