Humanity, the spoiled child of the universe.
We are all born onto this Earth as the product of a mother and a father in a more-or-less helpless state. From the moment of birth we depend upon those around us to feed us and protect us from the ravages of the outside world. Unlike most other species on the planet who are born or hatched into situations that warrant that they are already on the move, a newly born human comes into the world as a completely dependent being, requiring the parents and extended families to be there for him or her. Our first moments on earth are bonding moments with our mothers, a time when we create ties that we hold onto for life. For most of us, our mothers, and to a lesser extent our fathers, are a symbol in our own lives of safety, caring, knowledge and guidance. Even into adulthood, we hold onto these bonds, for they are our introduction into the world. We are born at the center of our known universe. Parents care deeply for their children, would do anything in fact to protect them, even risking their own lives for the children to be safe. In the perfect situation, every need was provided for by our mothers and fathers, and if we asked nicely, our simple wishes could be granted. Humans need their parents and protectors, and we crave the unconditional love of our protectors well past the time when they are needed for our immediate survival. Our parents and carers are our immortal figures, always right, always there for us, and all-powerful. And they are also the deliverers of discipline and rules and guidelines for our lives.
This kind of unconditional love is soft-wired into our brains, and evolutionary advantage, which allows the brain and mind of a person to develop the complex and needed skills in early life such as speech and speech recognition, facial recognition, communication, and later motor skills like crawling, walking and digital manipulation of objects. Our societies grant us this privilege by providing us with a relatively safe place to rear our children. Most of us are not born into situations where imminent death looms in the grasses, at least, not any more.
As we grow up, our bonds to our parents weaken slightly, as we become more independent and self-reliant, but there is a part of us that still craves to be the focus of everything. We realise that our parents are simply people like ourselves, mortal, fallible and fragile. Some would say we all desire, somewhere in our psyches, to return to the infantile and helpless state, one where we are looked after and safe, with not a care in the world. As we extend our boundaries and our knowledge, our needs and wants become more complex, and we have to balance out our days in our schools, jobs, home life, social responsibilities etc. so the immediate need for parent-figures diminishes. Eventually, we pass this on to children of our own, and we become the carers and protectors of the next generation.
We know at an early age about death, and realise that we will each face death one day. Even our own parents, the ones who seemed invincible will too, one day, die. Quite a daunting idea. And in a child’s naive voice we will ask “But what comes after?” No matter how we mature we never seem to truly leave behind this need for a parental figure. We want the protection of something larger than ourselves, stronger than us, wiser and more powerful. This position is vacant in our lives, our parents being more like ourselves than we first conceived, so we have a tendency to fill this position, in our minds, with exactly what we miss from our childhood.
A creator, who by its divine hand, brought us (and everything else) into existence for us. A protector, old and wise, who knows everything. A provider, who miraculously brings to us everything we could possibly need. A disciplinarian, who will bring punishment upon us if we disobey. A friend who can see our deepest thoughts, and tell us that we are indeed special. A hand that is always there to guide in life, and help when times are tough. God is the ultimate parent-figure.
By this logic, if we are special, and cared for from above, and all is provided for us here on Earth, the logic follows that it must have been put here for us, and us alone. We are so special that God made all things bright and beautiful for humanity to enjoy, use and benefit from. Because God chose to give us life, it is our birthright to take and have all that we might want from this earth, for it is ours to take. And if we don’t get what we want, we ask, pester and request of God that we get what we want.
Once upon a time, there was the belief that the god or gods looked over all of us, the same gods for everyone. But our human conceit and self-importance has grown to the point where many believe that God is personalised, like the license plates on a car, to suit the wants and needs of an individual, as if to say that a single life is so important that God will be what you want it to be. So often people say things like “My god isn’t like that” or “The god I know is against that,” to match the intended outcome of the person saying it, like matching the personal god to the shoes that person is wearing. God is the ultimate accessory that no Prada handbag can match.
It seems that despite all the personal maturation that each person does in a lifetime, we as a species still struggle with being alone. The formative moments of our lives, where each one of us is the center of the known universe, carries on into adulthood in the form of creator-gods and all-powerful beings. And this carries with it the unfortunate side-effect of thinking that, because the Earth suits us so nicely then it must have been made for us. We have to realise that the inverse is true, that it is precisely because the Earth suits us so nicely that we exist at all. Humanity is the spoiled child of the universe, and we need to grow up.
“We seem to crave privilege, merited not by our works, but by our birth; by the mere fact that, say, we’re humans, and born on Earth. We might call it the anthropocentric, the human centred conceit. This conceit is brought close to culmination in the notion that we are created in God’s image. The creator and ruler of the entire universe looks just like me.
My! What a coincidence! How convenient and satisfying!” – Carl Sagan