While I have contended that I never really believed in God as a kid, and still hold true to that, there was a book that really got to me when I was thinking about what it meant to believe in a deity. A lot of atheists have books by Richard Dawkins or Sam Harris or people like that, but to me there was one book that truly took my thoughts about a religious being and calcified them into a perfect blend of terror. That book is what I believe to be the best work by H.P. Lovecraft “The Shadow Over Innsmouth.” A story that tells of a man who goes into an isolated community and learns things that slowly distort his mind until he doesn’t know what’s real and what’s not anymore.
Can you think of a perfect metaphor for religion? A values system that those who follow it believe in whole-heartedly and never have even a moment’s worth of criticism. A belief structure that gets people so wrapped up in its narrative that they eventually cannot tell what is real unless it is the reality that they are told to believe in. And any threat to that reality is actively attacked by its members. Yup, religion in a nutshell.
But here’s the difference – in “The Shadow Over Innsmouth,” the narrator finds out that the deity that this cult believes in is real. He realizes that they are worshiping, communing, and even trying to cross-breed with being who are ancient and powerful. Beings who are massive and beyond comprehension. The Deep Ones are found to be real, but this knowledge destroy the minds of everyone who comes into contact with them. See, the gods of this story and the Cthulhu Mythos surrounding it are not beings who care about if you stick your dick in another man’s butt. They are creatures who are ageless, unknowable and see humans as so far beneath their concern that they act as they see fit without any input from those in the cult surrounding them.
When I think about a being that is capable of creating the entire universe, do you know what comes to mind – the Deep Ones. I mean, why on Earth would a God give five shits about us? What would be to it? In the span of time that this universe has existed, with all the countless civilizations in the stars who have risen and fallen in the billions of years that this cosmos has existed, this idea that a divine being actually created us and watches us close enough to the point that they care if a man has sex with another man just makes me laugh. It’s the pinnacle of absurd.
Something the book was very good at was portraying the narrators as small, and their lives as meaningless. In the scope of the universe, that’s true. We are insignificantly tiny. We aren’t even a pixel in the massive image of the cosmos. Given the size of the cosmos, we aren’t even an atom in it. We are a subatomic particle. If the size of the universe is our model, humanity isn’t even that. We are NOTHING in the face of reality. So when my religious friends tell me all about how God has our backs and cares deeply about us, it strikes me as complete hubris. After all, since there is no possible way that countless civilizations better than us haven’t risen and fallen, then how exactly is it that a being with the power to create all of this finds us so fascinating? What quality does humanity have that the rest of the universe does not?
And as the book points out, the answer to that question is – nothing. We are NOTHING in the face of that kind of power. The Deep Ones see us as meaningless, and so would any kind of god that could conceivably exist. That reality shook my young mind up when I read the book, but then it made a lot of sense.
Here’s the truth – God is a fairytale that is created because the universe is a scary place. It’s scary to think that we are so pathetic that we are one cosmic disaster away from not existing anymore. One asteroid away from letting the octopus have its chance at sentience and living in the world we leave behind. When people are faced with that kind of helplessness, it’s easy to just reach out to whatever source of moral comfort you can find in order to not feel so small and meaningless anymore.
Just like at the end of the book, however, we all must realize that religion is a delusion, and the God that you worship wouldn’t give a single fuck about you anymore than the Deep Ones did about that community. Unknowable, infinite. And when you think about the fact that infinite realities probably exist with infinite possibilities, then God would probably end up like Rick from Rick and Morty. The only reason he is so cold and cruel is because he realized how meaningless his own life is because of the sheer amount of existences that he has been able to see.
But that’s just me.
Until next time, a quote,
“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.” – H.P. Lovecraft