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What Has the Universe Done for You Lately?

What has the universe done for you lately?  I was listening to a podcast a few days ago.  They were talking about the plane that crashed into the Empire State Building one foggy Saturday morning in 1945.  A B-25 bomber lost its bearings in the thick fog and crashed some seventy floors up.  Tragically, fourteen people died.  But it could have been much worse.  Had it been a weekday, when the Empire State Building was full, there would have been thousands of casualties.

Among the fourteen who died were several nuns who worked in a charity that rented one of the floors the plane hit.  Miraculously, however, an elevator operator barely escaped dying.  Just a few seconds earlier, she stopped on the floor that was hit.  Ironically, it was her last day on the job.  Apparently, she went on to live a very long and happy life, getting married, having three children, and living into her seventies. 

As the hosts of the podcast talked about the serendipity of her story and the irony in the stories of several of those who died, it prompted one of them to say something to the effect of: “When the Universe decides your time is up, there’s nothing you can do about it!” 

If you pay attention to the way people are talking these days, you’ll notice that they’re referring to “the Universe” this way a lot more.  They say things like: “The Universe was watching over me”,  “The Universe is trying to tell me something”,  “The Universe gave me a sign”, or “The Universe decided I needed this”.

This is utter nonsense!  What most people are referring to when they talk about “the Universe” is some kind of abstract entity, force, or energy that governs what happens in the Universe proper—the material Universe physicists study.  So, by nature, “the Universe” everyone is referring to nowadays is just a thing.  It’s like gravity.  It just is.  It’s a force, a ruling principle, a law of nature that is completely impersonal.  And that’s why all this talk about the Universe doing things, as if it actually cares about and wills what happens in our lives, is crazy talk.

Only a person, someone who has a will and an intellect, who exercises agency, can will, and intend, and act.  Only a personal being can choose to intervene in our lives one way or another.  Only a personal being can care.  If the Universe people keep referring to is all there is, then it isn’t watching over you.  It isn’t trying to tell you something or giving you a sign.  It isn’t willing anything in your life or arranging your circumstances in some way.  Because, by nature, it isn’t capable of doing any of these things.  As some kind of entity, energy, or force, it just is.  Like Gravity, it’s a constant thing.  A perfectly predictable, controlling entity we must abide by.  What goes up must come down.

The most ridiculous thing about all this talk is that, like gravity, the Universe doesn’t care about you.  It’s absurd to think it does.  It’s incapable of caring.  It “the Universe” is all there is out there, then we are all alone in the Universe.  “The Universe” is completely indifferent to you and me and everything else.   

So why are we engaging in all this nonsensical talk?  All we’ve actually done is substitute the term “Universe” for “God”.  But a personal God can care, can watch over us, can will things and intervene in our lives.  A personal God can give our lives meaning and significance.  So why have we traded a personal God in for the Universe?  The answer isn’t all that crazy: We don’t like being accountable to anyone, especially a personal God. 

If the Universe is like gravity, a personal God is like a friend.  You have to respect gravity, abide by the force it applies in life.  But you don’t have to be personally, even morally, accountable to it.  You do have to be accountable to a friend.  While friendship is one of the great joys in life, at times it also demands sacrifice.  That’s the nature of relationships.

By looking at God as the Universe, an abstract entity, we’re trying to have the benefits of a relationship with God without having to be accountable to Him.  The problem is that the non-personal Universe can’t give our lives significance and meaning.  And we can’t get out of bed in the morning without some sense that our lives matter, that we matter.  We can’t live without some sense that our lives have some significance, some meaning in the grand scheme of things; that we aren’t just a fleeting blip on the cosmic radar screen.  So, not wanting to have to be accountable to a personal God, we substitute the Universe. 

We need to believe that Someone in the Universe is paying attention to us, assuring that we matter, ordering our lives in some way that makes sense.  We need to know that we aren’t all alone in the Universe.  But if the Universe, an abstract force or energy, is all there is; if “the Universe” is all there is behind the Universe, then we are all alone in the Universe.    

What has the Universe done for you lately?  Nothing.  It can’t do anything for you.  It can’t care about you. 

But a personal God can.  With a personal God, we do matter.  With a personal God, our lives do have significance and meaning.  With a personal God, are we never alone. 

Do you believe in “the Universe”?  What do you mean by that term if you do?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.  You can go to the “Contact E.J.” page of the Raising Jesus website and leave any comments, questions, or feedback you have there.  I look forward to hearing from you!

About Me

E.J. Sweeney is a true skeptic. He needs to see to believe. Hard Evidence. Compelling Proof. Solid Logic. This is what he believes in. In college, he encountered questions that the superficial faith he was raised on couldn’t handle. So he began a quest for Truth, a quest for the answers to life’s ultimate questions.

EJ Sweeney

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