Site logo

The EVOLUTIONARY TIMES | Common Knowledge • Emerging Wisdom

facebook--twitter--youtube








GreatStorybox

eyl-header

MichaelDowdMP3IconFinal

thankgod4evolution

http://thankgodforevolution.com/store



Categories






free-online-class

How Doctors Die: An ICU Nurse Responds

Note by Michael Dowd: A week ago a colleague sent me a link to an obscure blog that had “gone viral”:

“How Doctors Die — It’s Not Like the Rest of Us, But It Should Be"

Tremendously moved, I decided to do my part in spreading this sobering news and vital perspective. One of those who received my email was a young nurse, newly certified for working in the Intensive Care Unit. Below is her response (slightly modified for confidentiality).

Her story brought me to tears of joy and gratitude when I first read it. May there be ever more nurses with the training, the courage, and above all the heart exemplified by this unheralded young hero.

_____

Response by a young “Intensive Care Unit (ICU)” nurse:

Thank you so much for this timely article. Only two months ago I participated in an "End of Life and Palliative Care in the ICU" class, where I was genuinely moved/tormented by the suffering my fellow nurses and I are surrounded with in the ICU.

A peaceful, gentle death is so valuable — and so rare.

I recently cared for a young adult cancer patient at the end of her life.  She came to the ICU after having a bone marrow transplant to deal with the "pre-leukemia" she had developed, owing to an aggressive chemo regimen initiated several years earlier for her breast cancer.

By now, her whole body had deteriorated to such an extent that she required a mask that forced air into her lungs in order to oxygenate.  She spent two weeks in our hospital’s ICU, with her lungs progressively worsening.

All the nurses knew she was not going to leave our unit. But her oncologist kept telling her to “fight it out!”

Finally, and this was on my shift, with her parents at her side, “Gloria” (the name I'll use) finally said that she just wanted the pain to go away.

Suddenly, everything changed.

I had just brought into her room her evening meds — literally thousands of dollars worth of antibiotics and anti-rejection medications.  None of it mattered anymore.

I took down all the unnecessary tubing, started a morphine drip and administered Glycopyrrolate (which dries secretions and softens the "death rattle").

This felt massive to me. I remember this mix of emotions: sadness, relief, and an overwhelming sense that I was a part of something huge.  I still cannot wrap my head around it.

I was able to help transition one profoundly suffering human being from a regimen of “Come on! Power through! Endure, endure, endure!” to, “It’s okay, Gloria. You fought so, so hard. Now close your eyes, let your pain fade, and rest.”

It was beautiful.

Gloria died the following day — not on my shift, but I felt so happy that I had been able to share the transition with her and her parents.

To think of everything we had put this woman through in hopes of an inaccessible cure is just ... sickening.

Medicine has gotten to the point where we've gone as far and as invasive as we can go. I wish people — both we professionals and the public at large — would begin to prioritize a dignified death above all.

Family members need to know that there is far more beauty in spending quality time (rather than simply a quantity of time in the hospital) with their unalterably disabled and ultimately incurable loved ones.

Sadly, when family members must make medical decisions, too often those decisions are influenced by a subconscious need to palliate our own emotional suffering. As well, an irrational fear that we will otherwise be guilty (or at least will feel guilty) spurs good people to say “yes” to absolutely every intervention that forestalls death.

Though I wish everyone could die at home surrounded by love and comfort, I know it is the nature of those battling cancer to often push themselves far past their ability to survive the journey home.

It is my duty to honor this incredible fight and allow them to pass peacefully, without pain — and to let them know that accepting death is the greatest victory.  

~ by an ICU nurse, posted by...
Comments (2)

The Evidential Reformation: Humanity Comes of Age

by Michael Dowd

“We will never achieve a just and sustainably lifegiving future on the resources of the existing religious traditions, and we can’t get there without them.”
~ Thomas Berry

The 21st century will be seen historically as humanity’s rite of passage. We’re growing up as a species, going through the very same process we’ve all gone through as we mature. As children we’re guided by beliefs and we think the world was made for us. As adults, we’re guided by knowledge and we live our lives (at least in part) as a contribution to others and the world. Indeed, for healthy adults, self-giving is actually one of life’s greatest satisfactions. As well, most of us needed no special training or incentives to begin questioning the beliefs we were spoon-fed as children – just the usual dose of hormones and peer focus that signals adolescence.

These two transformations, from beliefs to knowledge and from self-focus to contribution, are precisely what we’re now collectively experiencing. I call this species-wide rite of passage the “Evidential Reformation,” and I believe it is destined to transform not only the science-and-religion debate and how religious traditions relate to one another, but, even more importantly, how humans relate to the larger body of life of which we are part and upon which we depend.

A Big History Perspective on Religion Through Time

Big history, also known as the epic of evolution, is our common creation narrative. It is the first origin story in the history of humanity that is globally produced, derived entirely from evidence, and will soon be taught to high school students around the world (see here, here, and the YouTube clip at the end of this post).

In our “childhood” as a species – as tribes, then villages, then chiefdoms and kingdoms, then city-states and early nations – our main source of guidance came from religious beliefs. Shared allegiance to a particular religion that bridged even ethnic and linguistic differences was a crucial factor in the rise of civilizations across the globe. Consider: our instinctual heritage as social mammals will suffice for fostering cooperation at the scale of a clan. (Biologists call these instinctive forms of cooperation kin selection and reciprocal altruism.) Mutually advantageous trade then facilitated greater circles of cooperation. But for 10,000 or more human beings to be induced to cooperate: for that, you need religion – a singular, shared, unquestioned religion, and probably one that doles out harsh consequences (including ostracism) for apostates.

A multitude of religions arose independently of course, because in any bioregion where fierce competition for territory or resources arose, there would have been a survival advantage to groups that could forge cross-clan alliances for mutual defense. As well, there are two functional issues that all cultures need to address: what’s real and what’s important. (In a six-minute YouTube video based on his book, Religion Is Not About God, philosopher of religion Loyal Rue refers to these two functions as “how things are” and “which things matter.”) These two functional issues will be answered differently based upon where and when you live and upon the happenstance of interpretive imagination of one’s ancestors. Each “wisdom tradition” thus reflects regional collective intelligence encoded mythically. That is, the regional collective intelligence is encoded in pre-scientific language that reflects a people’s daytime and nighttime experience. (See here for a discussion of “Day and Night Language,” which was a central concept in my book, Thank God for Evolution.)

In our “adolescence” as a species (which was a threshold crossed as the modern era swept the globe), we began to question the beliefs, interpretations, and meanings we had inherited. The birth of this new form of collective intelligence, global collective intelligence, occurred when access to powerful new technologies (beginning with the telescope) ramped up our ability to discern how things are. We then faced the frightening truth that ancient understandings were not, in fact, the best maps of what is real. This challenging process is still facing much of the world, as traditional religious beliefs are increasingly found to be obsolete and simply no longer credible when interpreted literally.

Some individuals thrilled to the prospect of participating in this threshold event: of valuing measurable observation, rationality, and collectively encouraged skepticism and testing as the preferred means for discerning what’s real and what’s important. In the 19th century these “natural philosophers” became known as “scientists.”

The two institutions responsible for ensuring that the self-interest of individuals and groups are aligned – namely, governance and religion – were impacted differently by the rise of modern science. Democratic forms of governance were the first to embrace evidence as authoritative. Religions are only now beginning to catch up and to not only experience the terror but also taste the thrill of what the Evidential Reformation offers.

Like any rite of passage, once one voluntarily steps through the threshold there is no integrous and healthy way of going back. So of course there are shrill voices of protest and deep institutional inertia.

But ultimately, this shift will happen. One by one, segment by segment, the great religions of the world will pass through the threshold – else they will wither and the new generations will leave them entirely behind.

“Idolatry of the Written Word” as Today’s Greatest Impediment

What the Evidential Reformation offers for religion is centrally this: Science reveals “God’s word” for humanity today – that is, what’s real and what’s important, or how things are and which things matter – far more accurately than the Bible or Qur’an could ever hope to. And Moses, Jesus, the Apostle Paul, and the Prophet Mohammad would surely be among the first to applaud this trend were they alive today.

Yet, until faith leaders become a whole lot bolder in proclaiming to their flocks the goodness and necessity of this shift, religious people will remain blind and deaf to what God (Reality personified) is revealing today through scientific, historic, and cross-cultural evidence. And that means that God/Reality will continue using the New Atheists to mock unchanging religious beliefs and those who espouse such beliefs.

The main hindrance to religious people wholeheartedly embracing evidence as divine communication – divine guidance (i.e., how Reality reveals itself) – has been what I have long been characterizing as idolatry of the written word (also here). Idolatry of the written word occurred anywhere in the world where ancient oral stories (which surely evolved for millennia as conditions and needs changed) became frozen into unchanging scripture – scripture that was then deemed as the foundational (even the sole) locus for discerning priorities, values, right thinking, and right behavior.

This shift from oral storytelling to unchanging scripture as the way wisdom, morality, and a sense of the sacred (supreme value) is generationally passed forward set the stage (albeit centuries later) for a profound and now exponentially expanding mismatch. This mismatch is between globally shared and empirically tested updates of (once-again) evolving wisdom versus what religious people still preference as “God’s Word”.

Idolatry of the written word has thus led to what could be considered “demonic beliefs.” I do not hesitate to use such harsh language because any and all beliefs that cause good people to do bad things and to vote in evil ways (ways that are shortsighted, self-centered, and harmful to future generations) are demonic. And who among us does not see where such beliefs have led to a kind of collective insanity? The only cure, as far as I can tell, is for religious leaders to accept – indeed, to celebrate – that scientific, historic, and cross-cultural evidence are the actual venues through which Reality/God is speaking and guiding humanity today. Fortunately, this shift is happening rapidly…and seems likely to be fleshed out in just another generation or two.

I do not decry or disvalue this aspect of religious history. Indeed, I accept that idolatry of the written word could not have been avoided. Without the shift to literacy, humanity would never have been able to access the fruits of modernity: the rule of law, exponentially growing knowledge, cumulative technological and medical advances, and a widening sense of one’s “in-group” and compassionate treatment thereof.

Nonetheless, the negative social consequences of this form of idolatry have been quite severe – and threaten to become even more terrifying and destructive as deadly weapons come in ever smaller packages. It is thus time to prophetically speak out against continued favoring of ancient scriptural ‘authority’ over our best collective understandings of facts and values today. Said another way, the Church, currently shipwrecked (also here) on the immovable rock of “biblical authority”, can still be saved, but only by embracing “the authority of evidence”. Reality would have it no other way.

Our Way Forward: Aligning Self-Interest with Species-Wide & Global Interests

One of the most significant and hopeful insights to emerge from the early days of the Evidential Reformation is a re-envisioning of what “self-interest” really is. Self-interest actually exists at all biological and cultural levels – not just at the obvious, individual level. Indeed, the key to ever-increasing social complexity in the human realm over the past 10,000 years has been the aligning of self-interest at multiple levels. It could even be argued that nothing is more important for ensuring a just and thriving future than aligning the natural self-interest of individuals, corporations, and nation-states with the wellbeing of the body of life as a whole. The outcome of this shift would be to make competition co-operative, self-interest nontoxic, and society wise.

One could thus conclude that humanity’s “Great Work” in the 21st century is to co-create global and bioregional governance such that individuals and groups that benefit the common good benefit themselves, while individuals and groups that disregard or harm the common good are taxed, penalized, or face moral strictures.

By organizing and managing ourselves so that the impact of parts on the whole, for good or ill, are reflected back to the parts, we shall create a system through which individuals, corporations, and nations are incentivized to do what is just and ecological – while simultaneously being incentivized to not do what is unjust or un-ecological. This aligning of self-interest at multiple scales would ensure that what is perceived as the cheaper, easier, more convenient thing to do is also the right thing to do, rather than the harmful thing, as it is now. This re-incentivizing of societal goods and services to comport with human nature (as it really is, not as we wish it would be) would also help all elements of society to access and make decisions based on humanity’s collective intelligence (also here and here).

The promise of the Evidential Reformation, as I see it, is this: As the world’s great religious traditions come to honor and celebrate evidence as divine guidance, and big history as our common creation story, they will begin to wield their moral authority in ways that assist, rather than resist, the passage of our species out of the desert of destructive and unsustainable adolescence and into the promised land of contributing and fulfilled maturity.

Comments

Thank God for Death: Could Anything Be More Sacred, More Necessary, More Real?

by Michael Dowd
I want address the question of death because most people, religious and non-religious folk alike, are clueless regarding what has revealed about death in the past few hundred years, through science. And this ignorance has resulted in untold suffering — for families and for society as a whole, as well as for individuals.

I am regularly asked (more often since I was diagnosed with lymphoma), "Do you believe in an afterlife? What do you think happens to us when we die?" My typical response is to make one or more of the following points...

1. As I discuss in "The Gifts of Death" section of Chapter 5 of my book Thank God for Evolution, it is vitally important when thinking about death in the abstract, when contemplating the inevitability of our own demise, or when grieving the loss of a loved one, to have an accurate understanding of the positive role of death in the Universe. Widespread ignorance of the scientifically indisputable fact that death is natural and generative at all levels of reality, coupled with our culture's failure to interpret the science in ways that will help us to actually feel that death is no less sacred than life, result in not only distorted but outright disabling views. This does not, of course, take away the anguish and grief of death. Such intense feelings are normal and healthy. They should be honored and allowed time to dissipate naturally—which can often take a year or longer. But what this perspective does do is that it provides a reality-based container for death. We no longer need to think that death is a cosmic mistake or that humans are responsible for the existence of death in the universe.

(Here you can sample testimonials from our travels that demonstrate the emotional gifts of a science-based perspective, meaningfully interpreted. It's also important to remember that Moses, Jesus, the Apostle Paul, and Muhammad could not possibly have known what we know about death. This evidence-based understanding couldn't have been revealed in a way that we could have received it prior to telescopes, microscopes, and computers.)

2. Looking at reality through evolutionary, "deep-time eyes", my sense of "self" does not stop with my skin. Earth is my larger Self. The Universe is my even larger Self: my Great Self. So, yes, "I" (in this expanded sense) will continue to exist even after "I" (this particular body-mind) comes to a natural end. There is deep comfort in knowing that my larger Self will live on. More, I am powerfully motivated to be in action today precisely because I do not ignore or deny the inevitability of death. My small self has but a brief window of opportunity to delight in, and contribute to, the ongoing evolution of the body of life. Truly, this is it; now or never. I am immensely grateful for both the comfort and the compulsion born of this sacred evolutionary perspective.

3. From an evidential standpoint it seems clear that we go go to the same place we came from before we were conceived—the same "place" that trillions of other animals and plants have gone throughout Earth's history when they died. Some speak about it as "coming from God and returning to God". Others talk about it as "coming from mystery and returning to mystery". Still others as "coming from nothing and returning to nothing". All these I sense as legitimate and emotionally satisfying ways of thinking and talking about what happens at death. And as I sometimes humorously respond, when asked about the afterlife, "If where I go isn't the same place that all other plants, animals, and species throughout Earth's history have gone, I'm gonna be pissed!" :-)

4. A universal experience whether or not we can admit it, death is the sole companion to life. From the moment we take our first breath, the inevitable result is death. Thus, any so-called "faith" which doesn't include trusting that whatever happens on the other side of death is just fine is, in my view, really no faith at all. Fear of a terrifying, hellish after-death scenario, OR attachment to a blissful, heavenly after-death scenario are just that: fear or attachment; not faith, not trust. As legendary Griefwalker and "Angel of Death" Stephen Jenkinson puts it: "Not success. Not growth. Not happiness. The cradle of your love of life ... is death." (I highly recommend purchasing the DVD "Griefwalker". Once you watch it you'll probably just keep loaning it out.)

5. The idea of being "rewarded" (condemned?!) with experiencing even one year (much less millions or billions of years) of after-death existence free of struggle, challenge, or difficulty, would occur to me as hell, not heaven, were I to think of (or worse yet, witness from on high) the divinely decreed eternal torment and everlasting torture of others who had in some way missed the mark. Adding to the repugnance would be an after-death future in which those relegated to never-ending suffering included not only perpetrators of outright evil but also those condemned for nothing more than holding wrong beliefs—that is, beliefs different from mine.

6. Here is the way I discuss the subject of "the afterlife/what happens when we die" on pages 116-117 of my book, Thank God for Evolution:

My formal training for becoming a United Church of Christ minister culminated in an ordination paper that I wrote and then presented to a gathering of ministers and lay leaders. Titled “A Great Story Perspective on the UCC Statement of Faith” (available at TheGreatStory.org), my talk stimulated a host of comments and queries. A widely respected minister posed a question I shall never forget. “Michael,” he began, “I’m impressed with your presentation and with the evolutionary theology that you’ve shared with us. However, there’s a little boy who lives in me, and that little boy wants to know: Where is Emory?”

Emory Wallace, a well-known and beloved retired minister, had for nearly three years guided me through my ministerial training. He died suddenly, at the age of 85, just a few weeks before my ordination hearing.

“Where is Emory?” My mind went blank. I knew I needed to say something—after all, this was my ordination hearing—so I just opened my mouth and started speaking, trusting the Spirit to give me the words. My response went something like this:
Where is Emory? In order to answer that question I have to use both day language—the language of rational, everyday discourse—and night language—the language of dreams, myth, and poetry. Both languages are vital and necessary, just as both waking and dreaming states of consciousness are vital and necessary. Like all mammals, if we are deprived of a chance to dream, we die. Sleep is not enough; we must be permitted to dream.

We, of course, know that day experience and night experience are different. For example, if you were to ask me what I did for lunch today, and I told you that I turned myself into a crow and flew over to the neighborhood farm and goofed around with the cows for a little bit, then I flew to Dairy Queen and ordered a milkshake—and if I told you all that with a straight face—you might counsel me to visit a psychiatrist. However, if you had asked me to share a recent dream and I told the same story, you might be curious as to the meaning of that dream—but you wouldn’t think me delusional.

So in order to respond to your question, “Where is Emory?” I have to answer in two ways. First, in the day language of common discourse, I will say, Emory’s physical body is being consumed by bacteria. Eventually, only his skeleton and teeth will remain. His genes, contributions, and memory will live on through his family and through the countless people that he touched in person and through his writings—and that includes all of us.

But, you see, if I stop there—if that’s all I say—then I’ve told only half the story. In order to address the nonmaterial, meaningful dimensions of reality I must continue and say something like: “Emory is at the right hand of God the Father, worshipping and giving glory with all the saints.” Or I could say, “Emory is being held and nurtured by God the Mother.” Or I could use a Tibetan symbol system and say, “Emory has entered the bardo realm.” Any or all of these would also be truthful—true within the accepted logic and understanding of mythic night language.

My response was well received in that meeting of nineteen years ago, and it has shaped my theology ever since. Recently, I blended the core of that distinction into my Great Story talks and workshops. I am sure that my understanding of day and night language—language of reason and language of reverence—will continue to evolve and thus inform my preaching, my teaching, and my personal relationship God, the fullness of Reality.

ALSO SEE: Duane Elgin: "Can Death Become Your Ally?"

[Posted August 12, 2011]
Comments (1)

Successful 4th Evolution Weekend!

by Michael Zimmerman

The fourth annual Evolution Weekend was a resounding success by any measure used to evaluate it. Evolution Weekend is sponsored by The Clergy Letter Project and it is designed to provide an opportunity for individual congregations around the world to discuss the compatibility of religion and science while elevating the quality of the discussion on this important topic. Although each congregation acts independently and designs its own activities, each is connected thematically to every other participating congregation. In this way, congregations around the world are linked together and, collectively, all make a unified and powerful statement about the compatibility of religion and science.

This year 1,049 congregations representing each of the 50 United States as well as 15 separate countries participated. In this, the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin and the 150th anniversary of the publication of his seminal work, On the Origin of Species, participation soared by almost 30 percent over last year. Indeed, participation has increased every year by this impressive percentage!

Additionally, the media significantly increased its coverage of Evolution Weekend this year with reports, for example, both on NPR and on Fox News as well as in a host of other media outlets. You can scan some of the coverage on The Clergy Letter Project’s media page.

Many of the clergy members participating reported that attendance at their services was increased because of the topic. And the comments from congregants have been overwhelmingly positive. According to a report out of Maryland, “One woman came up to us afterwards and said, with tears in her eyes, that she’d been waiting 50 years to hear this message from her church.” A minister from Connecticut had a similar response, “This is the first year I have preached this, and in a church that sits enmeshed in Yale and has grad students and professors as members, the response was tremendous, with people saying they had waited many years to hear a pastor speak on this topic.” Another clergy member from Colorado commented about Evolution Weekend 2009 as follows, “The only complaint I received from the congregation was they wanted to make a bigger deal out of the event.  So in 2010 we’ll see what we can add to make it more of an event above and beyond just the worship service.”

Yet another clergy member, this one from Ohio, noted that “The response to our sermon was very positive.  As one of our members said to us today, ‘It's great to belong to a church where we are encouraged to think.’” And one from Oklahoma enthused, “My series on science and religion - and showing a movie on Darwin was a hit!  People thanked me for speaking out.  I guess I don't think of it as speaking ‘out’ rather it is what I passionately believe!  Make sure you put us on the list for next year!” A similar response was received from New Zealand, “We enjoyed hosting a special evening at which we showed the excellent movie Paradise Lost and had an invited speaker.  We drank some good wine together and enjoyed lively debate.  Some young people who attended were amazed that a church would host such an evening.”

In one Texas congregation where science education at the state level is under attack by religious fundamentalists, Evolution Weekend sparked quite a flurry of activity. “Friday night, we had a guest speaker, a young assistant professor from the University of Texas who helped everyone understand the issues of science, Darwin, creationism and intelligent design.  Sunday morning, we watched the video “Kansas v. Darwin” and then had an hour with our local member of the State Board of Education (who happens to be on the correct side of our state-wide debates).  That, in turn, led to a campaign to get members of the congregation to write their friends in districts where other members of the SBOE are iffy and to ask doctors, scientists and others to push these people to keep their votes in favor of high-quality science and not to give in to pressure from the rightwing.”

The Clergy Letter Project has become fully enmeshed in the battle for high quality science education and broad respect for religion in Texas.


Along with The Center for Inquiry, The Clergy Letter Project has sponsored an informative web page presenting a wealth of information about the controversy. The site has received rave reviews from many sources. Not everyone is so positive, however! Don McLeroy, chair of the Texas State Board of Education and the person most responsible for undermining the science standards proposed by a group empanelled by the Board, has recently endorsed a self-published book entitled Sowing Atheism: The National Academy of Sciences’ Sinister Scheme to Teach Our Children They’re Descended from Reptiles by Robert Bowie Johnson. In his book, Johnson attacks members of the clergy who have signed The Christian Clergy Letter and makes the following outlandish statement, “In my judgment, only morons—more than 11,500 morons in this case—could sign a letter maintaining that the ‘timeless truths of the Bible’ are compatible with the billions of unpredictable aberrations of evo-atheism. What do these apostate morons celebrate at their Sunday services, the lies about humanity’s origins told by Moses, Jesus, and Paul?”

How utterly appalling that supposedly reputable people would take a serious issue and devolve it into name-calling that would be out of place on an elementary school playground.  It is clear that the more than 12,000 clergy who have signed the Clergy Letters (there are now three such Letters: The Christian Clergy Letter; a Rabbi Letter; and a Unitarian Universalist Clergy Letter) are beginning to scare those whose world view demands that their narrow view of religion be considered the norm.  These folks seem to be lashing out out of fear and insecurity.  The members of The Clergy Letter Project obviously have far more respect for various religious traditions and proponents of those traditions than do those extremists who view their beliefs as the only appropriate beliefs.

If you would like to join this growing movement – a movement characterized by high quality dialogue, respect for science and respect for various religious traditions – and if you might be proud to be called a “moron” for your deeply held beliefs, please visit The Clergy Letter Project on the web or on Facebook. If you’re a clergy member who is either a US citizen or working within the United States and if you would like to add your name to one of The Clergy Letters, send a note to Michael Zimmerman and you’ll be added immediately. Similarly, if you and your congregation would like to participate in Evolution Weekend 2010, drop Michael Zimmerman a note and you’ll be added to that list.

Finally, The Clergy Letter Project has a list of more than 640 scientific consultants from 29 countries ready to help clergy members deal with scientific issues that might arise when discussions of the compatibility of religion and science. If you’re a scientist and if you would like to be added to that list, please contact Michael Zimmerman.

Michael Zimmerman is the founder and director of The Clergy Letter Project. Additionally, he is the Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and professor of biology at Butler University in Indianapolis.


Comments

God Is Not a Supernatural Terrorist

by Michael Dowd

(The following is cross-posted on Rev. Matt Tittle's Houston Chronicle "Keep the Faith" blog, where it has generated a lively discussion.)

Tragically and unnecessarily, millions are turning their backs on organized religion altogether because of what I call 'the supernatural terrorist fallacy'—the idea that God is an actual, unnatural Supreme Being with a vengeful human-like personality, and that the Bible accurately reflects God's thoughts, words, and deeds.  Ironically, such a literal reading of sacred scripture may be the single greatest factor fueling the epidemic of atheism sweeping America today.

The supernatural terrorist fallacy is the false belief that writings thousands of years old reveal God's unchanging character.  As the new atheists are all too happy to point out, if this is true then God must be considered the ultimate terrorist.  As Michael Earl painfully details in his "Bible Stories Your Parents Never Taught You" and "The Ultimate Terrorist" audio programs, in passage after passage in the Hebrew scriptures, in the early Christian scriptures, and in the Qur'an, God is said to employ “the calculated use of violence or the threat of violence to inculcate fear, intended to coerce or intimate...”, which is how the U.S. Department of Defense defines terrorism.  We all know this is not true, of course.  God is NOT a supernatural terrorist.  But because many passages in scripture clearly portray God in just such an unflattering light, I predict that the rising tide of atheism will continue unabated so long as we religious folk trivialize God by interpreting our religious texts literally.

When we read about "supernatural" utterances or acts in the Bible, we should always remember to apply the evening news test.

THE EVENING NEWS TEST


Whenever any story, any culture, or any scriptural passage claims "God said this" or "God did that," what follows is necessarily what some person or group of people felt or thought or wished or wanted God to say or do, often as justification after the fact.  These subjectively meaningful claims are never objective, measurable reality.  In other words, had CNN or ABC News been there to record the moment of revelation, there would have been nothing out of the ordinary (nothing miraculous) to show on the evening news—nothing other than what was coming out of someone's mouth, or pen, or whatever folks wrote with back then.  If we fail to understand this, we belittle God and will surely miss what God is revealing and doing today.  And we mock God if we argue that He communicated more clearly to goat hearders and fisherman in the distant past, through dreams and intuitions, than He does today through measurable, cumulative evidence.

IS THIS REALLY THE GOSPEL—GOD'S 'GREAT NEWS' FOR ALL OF HUMANITY?


What underlies the supernatural terrorist fallacy is the failure to recognize that the so-called supernatural language in scripture is actually pre-natural (before we could have possibly had a natural, factual understanding) and unnatural (in the same way that what we do in our dreams, if interpreted literally, would be unnatural).

Think about it . . . An unnatural father who occasionally engages in unnatural acts (supernatural interventions) sent his unnatural son to the world in an unnatural way, offering an unnatural salvation from an unnatural curse brought about by an unnatural snake.  Those who believe in all this unnatural activity get to enjoy an unnatural heaven and everyone else will suffer an unnatural hell, forever.

Is it any wonder that young people are leaving religion by the millions, if this is the "good news" they are offered?  Is it any wonder that the new atheists continue to ride bestseller lists if religion is equated with such "supernaturalism"?

As religious people the world over know in their hearts, God is infinitely more REAL than the above absurd characterization.  But without a sacred deep time worldview we'll lack the eyes to see and ears to hear how glorious the good news actually is—that is, in a this-world realistic way.  And. of course, we'll continue to be publicly (and rightfully!) mocked by the new atheists.

NOTE: Chapters 5-7 in my book, Thank God for Evolution outline an way of thinking about the divine that is undeniably real. In Chapter 18 (the last chapter) I quote several new atheists at length who show the limitations of traditional ways of viewing scripture.  I also show how God's word, God's will, and God's guidance are REALized by a meaningful evolutionary worldview. 

ALSO SEE:

The Unnaturalist Fallacy
Imaginary gods vs. Reality/God: Part 1 and Part 2
How and Why I'm a Pentecostal Evangelical
Traditional Religion's God Problem
Evolution as Meaningful, Inspiring Fact
The Great Blasphemy?
Best 2007-2008 Blog Posts and Interviews 

Comments

Above the Clouds

by Loren Acton, NASA Astronaut

One of the most frequent questions I’m asked after my “astronaut” talks is some version of the following, “How was your view of God and religion changed by your flight?” My boring response is that my reaction was basically neutral. I returned with pretty much the same views, beliefs, and hang-ups as I had at launch. My particular hang-up was a continuing and profound disconnect between, on the one hand, what I’d been taught about God at home, in church, and at Bible school and, on the other, my convictions about values like fairness, justice, and love — as well as my life-long learning and experience in the scientific way of thinking.

Looking at Planet Earth and out into the Universe from space is truly an awesome experience. It is fantastic to be there as a knowledgeable observer, to appreciate the origin of this world and its place in the universe. Looking down on the clouds at night, lightning storms provide a never-to-be-forgotten show while in the day the storm clouds trace the great weather systems that make life as we live it possible. As a child I was led to believe that Heaven was somewhere, somehow up there above the clouds. The actual above-the-clouds experience is a whole lot better than myths of harps and streets of gold!

It is neat to understand that the same laws of nature that keep the moon in orbit about the earth and the earth about the sun are maintaining our space shuttle in its orbit of the earth. Thanks to our remarkable brains and a gradual intensification of learning, humankind has breathtaking knowledge of how things fit together, understandings unavailable to our richest and smartest forebears. The scientific method and the technology that it has engendered provide new, testable, and verifiable answers to questions of, for example, evolution and cosmology — questions of profound interest and importance, which in our ancestors’ day were strictly the province of priests and shamans.

I’m grateful that, thanks to Thank GOD for EVOLUTION and the concept that God is the universe, I am at last able to reconcile in a sensible way my life experience with God as expressed in the “night language” of friends and loved ones of many faiths around the world. It is really a wonderful thing to be able to use the word “God” without an internal grimace. If you, also, experience a disconnect between your spiritual life and your experiential life, I encourage you to try thinking about God and the universe in this positive and helpful way.

Comments

Evolutionary Youth: the Great Story and the Next Generation

Generation Waking Up: Coming of Age at the Crossroads of Civilization 

by Joshua Gorman
 
"At the leading edge of our generation is a revolutionary new consciousness arising from the convergence of our deepest spiritual wisdom and cutting-edge scientific discoveries.  We are waking up to a breathtaking new cosmological vision revealing that Life is an unfolding evolutionary process of increasing complexity, creativity, and consciousness.  Wherein the past humans imagined that the world was born in one miraculous instance of creation, today we understand that Creation is a living and dynamic process that travels through the trail of Time, one that thus far has a 13 billion year history stretching from the Big Bang to our emerging 21st century Global Mind.
 
As we begin to fully comprehend this incredible new Story of Life and our human place within it, we are confronting the inescapable fact that we live in a participatory Universe, one that demands our active and conscious participation in bringing forth a positive future for all.  Never before has a generation had such a clear and compelling vision of where we have come from and where we are going.  As large numbers of our generation grasp onto this Big Picture of Life and are transformed by the greatest Story of all Time, we are being filled with a newfound passion for action and world-engagement."

Read this entire article in Kosmos journal...


Great Story Stuff for Kids!

created & compiled by Connie Barlow 
 
Learning the science-based STORY OF 14 BILLION YEARS of cosmic, planetary, life, and human evolution in fun and meaningful ways can be transformative for kids. Curriculum materials are available on a number of Great Story themes at TheGreatStory.org. All of the materials are intended for use by parents and teachers who wish to integrate a science-based understanding of the world and the cosmos with whatever spiritual or philosophical worldview the child is being raised within. These worldviews include liberal forms of Christianity and other religions of the Bible, humanism, paganism, religious naturalism, Buddhism, and more.

Learn more...


If you would like to contribute to this section or suggest a resource to be spotlighted, please contact joshua@thankgodforevolution.com.



Comments

facebook--twitter--youtube








GreatStorybox

eyl-header

MichaelDowdMP3IconFinal

thankgod4evolution

http://thankgodforevolution.com/store



Categories






© 2011 The EVOLUTIONARY TIMES