One of my favorite photographs ever, in fact one that I even use on my Facebook timeline page as a background image, was taken by a certain Bill Anders when he was flying almost 400,000 km from the Earth. Anders was one of the first three members of our species who flew to another celestial body (albeit without landing on its surface; that came a bit later.)
Yesterday, I read a very interesting article about Anders, both his trip on board Apollo 8 and his life afterwards. The article also touched upon the topic of religion.
The message radioed back by the crew of Apollo 8 is probably the most memorable Christmas message ever uttered by humans. (Or maybe I am biased.) And yes, it starts with the words from Genesis, but I always viewed it the way it was presumably intended: as an expression of awe, not as religious propaganda.
The curious thing, as mentioned in the article, is that it was this trip around the Moon that changed the traditional Christian viewpoint of Anders about Earthlings created by a God in his own image.
“When I looked back and saw that tiny Earth, it snapped my world view,” Anders is quoted as saying. “Are we really that special? I don’t think so.”
Well, this pretty much sums up why I am an atheist. I’d like to believe that it’s not hubris; it’s humility.