(Photos in this post were borrowed from smithtribesailing, the blog of a family of 5 cruising the world, now in New Zealand after spending time in the South Pacific) Their photography is beautiful and inspiring, thus, fitting illustrations for these musings. One day, hopefully, I’ll be able to use my own.
Perhaps, my sample is biased and does not accurately represent the majority of cruisers, but it seems to me that many of those people out there cruising the world in a sailboat (and blogging about it) identify themselves as atheists or agnostics. My sample consists of the cruising blogs I follow and the conversations I observe on cruising forums. (Perhaps, there are many others of which I am unaware.) If so, this saddens me for a number of reasons.
Of course, the primary reason this saddens me is because I think they are wrong (as much trouble as that can get into in this “tolerant” age). I am a Christian, first of all, because I think it is true: that is, I think that the fundamental Christian teachings about God, the world, mankind, ethics, and morality accurately represent the world as it is. It makes more sense out of the world than any other set of beliefs.
Secondly, I think that this magnificent orb we call earth is enjoyed more fully when viewed through a theistic lens. By this, I don’t mean to imply that the atheists and agnostics out there sailing the oceanic expanses and visiting idyllic locations are having a miserable time. Surely, all human beings can enjoy God’s gift of creation, even without recognizing Him as the source of our enjoyment. The wonders of the world are part of God’s common grace to all his creatures. They enjoy their adventures, and I enjoy reading their blogs about them.
What I do mean is that the atheist who marvels and wonders, deriving joy from nature is mistaken about it all if atheism is true. He is suffering from an illusion. He fails to see the true implications of his beliefs. In fact, if he lived a life consistent with his beliefs, he would be generally unhappy. There is nothing to be happy about if there is no God. A world without God is not a happy, glorious world, but a meaningless, hopeless one. A particularly honest (non-cruising) atheist recently blogged:
“We are Atheists. We believe that the Universe is a great uncaused, random accident. All life in the Universe past and future are the results of random chance acting on itself. While we acknowledge concepts like morality, politeness, civility seem to exist, we know they do not. Our highly evolved brains imagine that these things have a cause or a use, and they have in the past, they’ve allowed life to continue on this planet for a short blip of time. But make no mistake: all our dreams, loves, opinions, and desires are figments of our primordial imagination. They are fleeting electrical signals that fire across our synapses for a moment in time. They served some purpose in the past. They got us here. That’s it. All human achievement and plans for the future are the result of some ancient, evolved brain and accompanying chemical reactions that once served a survival purpose.”
Another atheist agreed: “Let me summarize my views on what modern evolutionary biology tells us loud and clear — and these are basically Darwin’s views. There are no gods, no purposes, and no goal-directed forces of any kind. There is no life after death. When I die, I am absolutely certain that I am going to be dead. That’s the end of me. There is no ultimate foundation for ethics, no ultimate meaning in life, and no free will for humans, either.”
If God does not exist, all the awe and wonder at the beauty of the universe is misplaced. The world is meaningless and purposeless. Loves and hopes and plans are simply random physical processes of dead, uncaring matter, and to think of them as anything more is but an illusion. If there is no God, doing good is a non-sensical idea, since their is no “good” or “evil”. Seeking solace in nature or seeking a retreat away from civilization is deceptive. There is no solace to be found anywhere.
But for a theist, the world is a wonderful place filled with meaning and purpose. The beauty of the ocean and exotic destinations is real. The beauty of dolphins playing in the wake of your sailboat is real. The acts of kindness displayed by strangers in distant lands are real. The struggles and challenges we endure as we enjoy this lifestyle have some lasting, eternal significance. This world was made by a loving God to be enjoyed and explored by His creation (including mankind) so that we might love and enjoy Him and learn more about Him through His created works. We might find and experience God in all of nature.
When we take off cruising in a few months, it will be with a sense of awe and wonder which is grounded in the reality of a world full of meaning, beauty, and goodness, which itself is grounded in the reality of a Being which is the source of all goodness, beauty and truth.