Because human experience is the the only thing we know, most religions often place humanity as the reason for all existence. This idea manifests itself in monotheistic theology. We are claimed to be God’s ultimate creation, and are at the focal point of the universe. If this isn’t true, then how do we explain the church’s tendency to deny scientific discoveries that take away this self-proclaimed importance? Such discoveries as heliocentrism (sun-centered instead of earth-centered solar system), elliptical planetary orbits (instead of perfect circles), sunspots on the sun (instead of a flawless, life-giving orb), the age of the universe and of the Earth, the big bang, and evolution have all been met with fierce and passionate opposition by the church and their followers. Notice that like evolution, heliocentrism at its time was thought to be an idea that made humans seem worthless. But today it is an accepted fact, one that doesn’t detract from how great humanity is. Why can’t evolution and the big bang be the same?
When looking at the universe, there is nothing that suggests that it was all made for us to live in. We are literally a speck on a speck on a speck, and there are vast forces and immense objects out there that push our world to the sideline. Even the events on our planet are enough to make the same point. The forces of nature that are out of our control (earthquakes, weather, melting polar ice) don’t care whether we live our die (unless you believe that God is the one that intentionally kills hundreds of thousands of innocent people per year with natural disasters).
The randomness of genes is another example of how the universe wasn’t made for us. Uncontrollable birth defects produce disturbingly deformed newborns (Google-image it if you dare). This is easily explained by the randomness of genetics, but very difficult to explain with a god that personally creates and shapes each living thing. Some humans are born with debilitating or painful genetic defects that make life much more difficult to bear. The idea that the people affected by these unfortunate circumstances are being taught a lesson by God is a poor excuse for the pain and suffering that they go through. What specific lesson would they be learning that someone without these horrible experiences couldn’t also learn? The randomness and naturalism of the universe is much more accommodating to what we see than a planned universe that was built for us to live in.
Today’s population believes in both heliocentrism and the worth and meaningfulness of human life. Because of the underlying theme of their theology, the church believed that heliocentrism made humanity seem worthless; they believed it kicked humans off to the side. I think the same thing is happening today with naturalism. Just like heliocentrism, naturalism doesn’t detract from the specialness of humanity and human experience, it’s just a belief that reflects reality more accurately.