It is this writer’s opinion that most people have given little thought to the magnitude of the universe in which their lives play out, so—if I may be forgiven a small exercise in pedantry—I would like to start by simply trying to get a grasp of what the number one trillion actually represents: If you had a deck of a trillion playing cards instead of the usual fifty-two, do you have any idea how far it would reach? About the length of a football field? A block or two? A mile? Ten miles? Actually it would extend approximately 190,000 miles—close to four-fifths of the way to the moon.
Now, if you substituted a mile for each of those approximately 1/100-of-an-inch-thick playing cards and then multiplied by six, you would have the approximate distance of a light-year: six trillion miles—that’s six followed by twelve zeroes (6,000,000,000,000). Try to keep this reference in mind while considering the following.
The diameter of our galaxy (the Milky Way) is approximately 100,000 light-years. That’s 600 quadrillion miles—600 followed by fifteen zeroes (600,000,000,000,000,000). In other words, if you were traveling at the speed of light (186,000 miles per second), it would take you 100,000 years to traverse that diameter, or, if you were traveling at a speed a little more comprehensible to us, say, 2,000 mph, it would take close to 2.25 billion years to do so—both figures being a tad beyond the most optimistic projections of human longevity.
That’s just our galaxy—our wee cosmic neighborhood. Our galaxy is but one of hundreds of billions of others, along with a great diversity of other astrophysical phenomena in the observable universe, which extends some thirteen billion light-years! That’s approximately seventy-six sextillion miles—seventy-six followed by twenty-one zeroes (76,000,000,000,000,000,000,000) in all directions. And beyond????…
And each of those hundreds of billions of other galaxies, including our own, comprises hundreds of billions of stars—suns (many of which make our sun look like a BB compared to a beach ball) that are orbited by untold billions of planets and, in turn, are orbited by still more billions of moons and other material. Within all these, there is a little understood phenomenon known as “dark matter,” which is said to constitute vastly more mass than does visible matter!
Now, consider the dynamics—the unimaginable energy of all those suns, supernovae, pulsars, black holes, quasars, plus a counterpart to dark matter: dark energy, and on and on. Admittedly, distances, dimensions, and forces of this magnitude are damned hard to wrap one’s mind around, but even a nominal grasp will yield the inevitable conclusion that—bitter pill though it may be for the anthropocentric believer to swallow—the significance of Earth relative to the observable universe is magnitudes less than that of a grain of sand to Earth!
Now, if all this were the creation of, monitored by, and under the control of some supreme being, then one can only wonder at how the various fundamentalists of this world would have one believe that this supreme being would become so fixated on this pathetic mote of a planet. Furthermore, we can also wonder why this supreme being would bother itself with the trivial dogmas religionists so avidly embrace and for which they so readily and sanctimoniously visit murder and mayhem on others. If, for some inscrutable reason, these dogmas were that important to him, it’s one great mystery why this supposedly loving and compassionate deity does not simply imbue all his creatures at least with the knowledge and certitude of his existence, his nature, and exactly how he wished to be worshipped (hmm, a desire to be worshipped … smells a bit like a divine ego). That seems, under the circumstances, a reasonable expectation and something an omnipotent creator could accomplish without even breaking a sweat. Surely it would cut down on, or eliminate entirely, the aforementioned horror flowing from conflicting interpretations.
Now, oh believer, be so kind as to enlighten me, without engaging in evasive, nonsensical, self-indulgent, question-begging, tortuous rationalizations, why then the supreme being would not do that? Or could it be that it’s not actually omnipotent, loving, compassionate, or maybe even (God forbid a million times) … just not!?