Today, on “The Blogger Takes Things More Seriously Than They Were Probably Intended”: let’s talk about when people make reference to the universe as some kind of sentient, powerful entity with a will of its own and the ability to make choices.
Since I failed to do this last time, I’ll consider the possibility that these phrases could be said as a joke/with sarcasm; and that possibility could still be true even if the response never includes laughter and the speaker never seems to pause in anticipation of a laugh. People can say things lightly or without sincerity without the conscious intent to be funny. However, as bad as I am at understanding human interaction and reading people, these phrases still seem to roll off the tongue in a way that suggests that not all the people who use them are trying to be flippant. In some cases, I have to assume they’re either very unskilled at satire or they simply haven’t thought through the implications of what they’re saying.
But before we get into it, I should establish what it is exactly that I’m talking about. I’m talking about casual offhand remarks — or sometimes even an expression of wishes for the future — that allude to “the universe” as a omnipotent being that can choose to punish or provide. This is distinguished from mere hopes that incidents will happen to fall into place in a convenient way. This style of speech deliberately characterizes the universe as an intelligent agent of deliberate choices. Phrases like “as nature intended” are similar, in that they imply Nature is a being that can have intentions, that it can intend things. This nature/universe entity, apparently, is capable of some level of discernment and judgement.
Setting aside the mystics who clearly mean to incorporate this language into a larger spiritual ideology, the primary users of this style of speech are, as far as I can tell, people who I presume or know to be atheists or agnostics. If they were definitively and devoutly theistic, one would expect them to replace “the universe” with “God”, or, in case of polytheists, some specific name for the relevant deity. They do not. It’s always “the universe”, while attributing to the universe some degree of godlike power and godlike sapience. Under the characterization of this style of speech, the universe is, for all practical purposes, a kind of deity.
Since plenty of atheists like to joke about theism, it could well be that this is just meant as another comedic jab at theism, except if that were the joke, I’d expect the speaker to outright use a word like “god” rather than a relatively secular word like “the universe”, which has plenty of nontheistic applications. Granted, you could also point out that it’s just as weird for me to sit over here and be like “Hey! Your jokes about theism aren’t funny enough. Do better.”
(Seriously though. My religion jokes are better than your religion jokes.)
It could also be that there are more people who use “the universe” to seriously refer to a spiritual godlike being than I had previously realized. If you’re a person whose ideology incorporates something like this, what are your thoughts on people pretending to share the same beliefs insincerely?
And if you don’t believe all those things about the universe, but you use these phrases anyway, well, I just want you to know that you’re confusing me.