A Humanist Hymn

As the sun sets, my twenty mile pilgrimage begins, out to the sanctity of dark skies, away from city lights. My favorite music prepares my mind as I pass the last yellow blinking light at a tiny community’s crossroad. To my right the last vestige of warm orange color is on the horizon, above it the atmosphere is deep blue; still visibly colored but translucent, blending to starlit black overhead. The ceiling of my sanctuary is studded with stars, my hymnal is my telescope. As I align the instrument, the silence here amplifies the sound of the cool night air gently rustling the leaves of a nearby tree, and I feel it waft across the fine hair on the back of my neck. A far away cricket’s song mingles with the fresh smells of the countryside. Now lined up for the Andromeda galaxy, I approach the eyepiece.

A converging cone of ancient photons ends its two million-year history of undisturbed flight as it impacts my retina. Here is direct, intimate contact with the Cosmos. The awesome disk spreads out before me, and I behold its five billion-star expanse. Captured in the stream, I imagine the nature of the civilizations which may well be navigating the stellar clouds of its spiral arms, and, inevitably, I wonder if any intelligent life survives the treacherous stage of growth we now traverse. 

Feeling small, I steer to the Great Nebula in Orion, where gravity is gathering the clouds of hydrogen gas together to form young stars and planets. A higher power eyepiece penetrates fifty quadrillion miles down into the heart of the glowing vapor and dust. A microscopist now, I scrutinize the newly forming solar systems and feel more mature.

On the way home with a three-hour dose of ultra-reality suffusing my mind, I contemplate the supernatural things I once believed in as I searched for transcendence, and I wonder at how we constrain our minds to miss the grandeur of the Cosmos. What deities that humans have dreamed up could ever compete with the awesomeness of Reality discovered? 

About Harvey H. Madison

Harvey Madison is a lifetime resident of West Texas, and was raised in the Southern Baptist Church. He has a B.A. in Psychology, and a Master of education. While earning his living as a photographer and photography educator, Madison is an activist in the areas of civil liberties and education. In 1989 he started the Center for Critical Thinking. He has served on the Texas state board of Common Cause, and has been on the chapter board of the American Civil Liberties Union, serving as its president for fourteen years. He attends and is past president of the Lubbock Unitarian Church. He loves everything about the sky, and flies his own plane, chases storms, uses an astronomical telescope, and has skydived.

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