God Rays

19 March, 2008

I am always surprised at what brings memories to the surface (and sometimes the memories are surprising (did I do that?)).  For the last couple two t’ree days at work, I’ve been working on a slide show for National Park Week.  Actually, I’m working on three.  Well, I’m also helping three other co-workers with their presentation.  Luckily, I can do it as a power point (still works like an old fashioned slide show, and I use black for the background so it LOOKS like an old fashioned slide show (though I do put in titles stating where the photo was taken)), which makes life much easier, plus I can access agency digital collections (some of which are quite good).

Anyway, I pulled up a photo from another park in Utah.  The image was captioned ‘God Rays.’  It took me a moment to match the title and the image:  it showed the classic western rock spires with a few dark clouds, and the individual rays of the sun coming through holes in the clouds (they are called Crepescular Rays (Wikipedia has a good writeup on them)).

It reminded me of a theist encounter from back in high school. 

I was working summers as a raft guide on the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers by Harpers Ferry (Class I-III  water), and it was late August (or maybe September).  There had been a few thunder storms roaming through the area that day, and late in the afternoon, there were some incredible crepuscular rays off to the west.

One of the men in my raft looked at them and said, “Oh, look, God is happy. He’s sending God rays to us.” 

I looked back, saw the rays, and in the innocence of youth said, “Yeah, the sun rays are nice.”

“They are God rays,” he countered.

I said I had never heard that term, but could see the root of that view.  He looked at me and asked, “Have you been born again?”


“So you probably believe in evolution, right?”

I said it was a valid theory for explaining the world.

“Okay, smart ass, how do God Rays form?”

I explained about the holes in the clouds, but said I wasn’t sure why they appeared as such distinct rays. 

“So you admit you don’t know?  Then I’ve proven it really IS God, and He is giving you a sign that you should be  . . . .  yadda, yadda, yadda, blah, blah, blah,”

I did not get a tip.

So, just because I do not have a full understanding of a natural phenomena, that proves it is God and I must surrender to him?  So if a Christian does not have a full understanding of all of the dogma surrounding every single passage in the Bible, would that be a sign that they need to abandon God and embrace reason?



  1. He sounds rather uneducated. I know lots of Christians who would be into the science of it.

  2. Rumex: welcome to my blog. I agree. There are many theists of all faiths who are open to some science. Unfortunately, I don’t meet too many.

    My wife (I read her the post) said: “We’ve been married twenty years and you haven’t even figured out women, let alone figuring out science!” I guess that’s why I majored in history.

  3. That guy was a Class-V+ jerk.

  4. To be an atheist, one needs to be a biologist, a cosmologist, a physicist, a historian, a theologian, and a philosopher. Sometimes I want to go to Christianity, so I can just say “God did it”.

  5. Unfortunately America is well known internationally for its large supply of conservative Christian fundamentalists. I’m guessing that’s why you meet so many people like him. (I’m in the UK)

    I’m completely respecting your atheism as your choice, so this is just me ruminating out loud. A lot of the atheist blogs I come across are written by Americans. Am I right in that impression and do you think what you are all doing is an inevitable reaction to Christian fundamentalism?

  6. Rumex: For me, personally (I can’t speak for others), its a couple of different things. First, blogging helps me think through who I am. Second, it is (and here you are partially correct) a reaction to the attempted (and partially successful) takeover of American politics by a group of people who think that God is telling them what to tell other people they can or cannot do. Third, its a good writing exercise. I try to write daily, which means, even when I don’t want to write, I do.

    I also think, in a general way, the reason that there are many atheospheric blogs from America, is that, among developed nations, America is one of the few places where discriminating against, and demonizing, atheists is still okay. If a Christian shoots up a church, its the fault of atheists. If an animist shoots up a school, ditto. If anybody does ANYTHING that is bad, inevitably some asshat is going to go on radio or TV and explain that this is a result of allowing atheists to exist (or some variation on the theme).

  7. I too sometimes wish I could be christian, it would be so much easier to just say goddidit. But I refuse to allow the stupid to creep in.

  8. Two things…

    I think it’s funny that the guy in your post basically believes that faith = ignorance. If you don’t understand something, then that means there’s a God. I mean, at least CONSIDER the possibility that you’re an idiot, right?

    Second, your wife’s comment reminds me of something Stephen Hawking said a few years ago. “We’re closer than ever to understanding the origins of the universe. Unfortunately, we have yet to come any closer to understanding women.”

  9. Hi Billy,

    I don’t think people pick on atheists at all over in the UK. I’ve never met anyone who does. If anything everyone’s picking on the religious people. So perhaps it could be called the reverse situation.

  10. On one had we have to thank assholes like that because I probably know more about the christian bible, ancient history, the Golden Rule, scientific method, Evolution, and a great deal about logic and the art of argumentation because of encounters like you described. They’ve all prompted me to go do some research.

    Anyway, they come through as distinct rays because they’re shaped by the holes in the clouds.

  11. “So if a Christian does not have a full understanding of all of the dogma surrounding every single passage in the Bible, would that be a sign that they need to abandon God and embrace reason?”

    Of course not, silly. God’s a mystery. We’re not supposed to understand everything about him. If we did, then he wouldn’t be God. Not knowing is okay in Christianity. Look at what curiosity did to that poor old cat! 🙂

  12. Rumex: Unfortunately, here on my side of the pond, the conservative theists attack atheists, free-thinkers, and the non-religious constantly, and then complain that theists (especially Christians) are the ones being discriminated against.

    Chappie: Beautiful.

  13. As a Christian, I would have some major issues worshipping a god that I completely understand…hence why I don’t worship the chair in my living room. I really like science and I think it helps explain the complexities of this world and makes our lives much better.

    Billy, I really appreciate that you are open to dialogue and don’t just put folks down because they disagree…it’s why I check back every couple days.

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