There's no reason, none at all, to look for divinity in a holy book, person, building, or icon. The Hubble space telescope's Ultra Deep Field photograph of the farthest reaches of space contains more authentic mystery and awe than any religious dogma.
And readers of the Sunday comics were exposed to it last weekend, thanks to Opus.
Berkeley Breathed, Opus' creator, points to the craziness of considering that we humans are the center of the cosmos. Science has revealed, in countless ways, that the Earth and everything on it is just a part of the whole called Universe.
A very small part. Very, very, very small.
Seeking humility? Embrace science, not religion. Religious believers hold that God looks with special fondness upon the members of Homo sapiens, that we are made in the image of the Creator, that we occupy a pinnacle at the top of creation.
Well, I doubt very much that this is so, since the universe is vastly over-designed if its purpose is to showcase you and me.
The Hubble telescope was trained on a minute speck of space for about a million seconds, 11.3 days of viewing time. As described in this 2004 news release, 800 exposures were taken of a seemingly almost empty small section of sky.
How small? The Opus comic describes it as the size of a grain of sand held at arm's length. Alternatively, science writer Chet Raymo explained it this way.
Take two pins or sewing needles and, at arm's length, cross them. The small square where the two pins overlap is approximately the visual area represented by the Hubble Ultra Deep Field photograph.
There are about ten thousand galaxies in the image. Ten thousand. An average galaxy has around 100 billion stars. Ten thousand times a hundred billion. That's a lot of stars. Many of which surely have planets. Of which some sustain life. Where, I bet, beings much more sentient than us ponder the nature of the universe in a much wiser fashion than we do.
For we humans are, by and large, completely clueless about our place in the grand scheme of things. Back in my health policy days, I used to give quite a few talks on health care rationing, death with dignity, and other subjects.
I remember going to the medical school in Portland to speak. I asked a class, "does anyone know how many galaxies there are in the universe?" I figured that these science students were good candidates to have an approximate answer. I figured wrong. No one even hazarded a guess.
It's at least 100 billion. Galaxies, not stars. Each of which, remember, has about a hundred billion stars. A hundred billion times a hundred billion. That's more than a lot. It's inconceivable.
Like how God is supposed to be. Except, the universe is really real. The whole sky is 12.7 million times larger than the tiny deep space speck of it photographed by the Hubble telescope. Yet that infinitesimal bit contains at least 10,000 galaxies.
And we're on a planet orbiting one of several hundred billion stars in the Milky Way Galaxy, which is 100,000 light years in diameter, another impossible-to-conceive-of number, but which pales in comparison to the 13.7 billion light year distance from us to the edge of the observable universe.
Observable. Not the whole thing.
So come on, religious true believers who consider that your faith knows What It Is All About. Get real. You don't. You haven't even got a glimmer of understanding of what It is, not to mention what It is About.
I'm deeply grateful to live in a time when humans can point a telescope at a minute speck of sky and reveal a hint of the universe's nature. I called it "divine."
That's just a word. But it's a fitting word. For if anything is going to fill us with a sense of divinity, of how marvelous it is to be existent, alive, and conscious, it's the Whole Thing – Universe.