How (Not for Whom) I'm Voting on November 4


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Yesterday I received a short essay in my email inbox that perfectly spoke my mind and heart regarding the upcoming American presidential election. It was written by a friend and colleague, Rev. Jim Burklo, a United Church of Christ minister, leading voice within Progressive Christanity, and author of Open Christianity: Home by Another Road and the recently released, Birdlike and Barnless: Meditations, Prayers, and Songs for Progressive Christians. Jim has graciously allowed me to re-post his inspiring, prophetic piece below. If you like what you read, pease visit Jim's blog, Musings, as well as the website for The Center for Progressive Christianity. You'll find lots of great stuff in both places!

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I'm voting on November 4 not just for myself, but for my friends Jenny and Peter and their children in Sweden, my friend Angel and his family in Mexico City, and for many people around the world whose names I don't know - hundreds of millions of them with a strong opinion of whom they want to be president of the United States. Their hopes and fears hinge on how I choose to vote. I'm voting to restore America's severely damaged reputation, and renew our nation's much-needed leadership for progress, decency, and freedom around the world.

I'm voting to preserve the new-found right of same-sex couples to marry. As a pastor, I have seen the tears of joy of two men as they stood before me and made their wedding vows. It is hard for me to imagine anyone voting to deny such couples the legal right to marry, after having witnessed such a blessed event.

I'm voting for a strong, sensibly-managed, sparingly-used military. I'm voting for carrots now and sticks later. I'm voting for going many extra miles to let aggrieved nations and their leaders feel respected, even if we don't like them, even if it requires America to eat some humble pie, if it can advance the cause of peace.

I'm voting for an end to the "war" on terror...


Waking Up to the Evolutionary Message of Our Times


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The following is a guest blog post written by my dear friend and colleague, Tom Atlee, author of The Tao of Democracy and founder and research director of the non-profit Co-Intelligence Institute.

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We are clearly in crisis mode. How many times have you thought, we're on new ground?  Things are not working the way they used to. We need to radically change the way we do things.  We need to consciously evolve ourselves and our social systems.

The current crisis in our financial and governance systems is clearly revealing how these systems we've created now tie us all into invisible but extremely dense webs of interdependence.  We are now fully bound to each other, by virtue of our own creations.  This interdependence is both the problem and the solution to the crises we face.  Furthermore, within the unfolding crises are the very energies we need to make the change.  We just need to wake up to that fact.

Here are four vital truths to help us do that -- truths that are vividly obvious from a sacred, participatory evolutionary perspective.


Evolve or Perish


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We are at a turning point in human history. The quality of this century and beyond will be determined largely by how how quickly we are able to come into integrity -- that is, how well we learn from and align with Life's One Great Law: evolve or perish.

It's no coincidence that we are facing what many commentators suggest is a Perfect Storm of crises: the global economy, climate change, terrorism, health care, the collapse of biodiversity and fisheries around the world, and a host of other educational, social, political, environmental, moral, and ethical challenges. Simply put, we are confronted by Reality. The future of civilization depends on if, and how quickly, our personal worldviews and the structure of our institutions come into alignment with this Reality.

Integrity (coming into right relationship with Reality at all nested levels – what religious people call 'getting right with God') truly is everything. It's the only thing that ultimately matters. The main reason I am so evangelistic about evolution is this: Without a deep-time, developmental worldview, it is simply impossible to understand what integrity is – much less know how to live it.

Consider: Our current systems of governance, economics, education, and religion all came into being long before a natural, measurable way of understanding the nature of reality was available—that is, before any human group could possibly answer life's biggest questions in scientifically compatible ways. Who are we? Where did we come from? Why are we here? Where are we going? How are we to live?

Of course, each of the world's enduring religious traditions provides subjectively meaningful answers to these questions. But prior to telescopes, microscopes,computers, and global communications, subjectively meaningful answers would not have been objectively aligned with the way things really are.  


"I'm a Human With Mismatched Instincts"


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 UPDATE: In August 2009, Michael Dowd's wife, Connie Barlow, posted a half-hour PODCAST on this topic, titled "Your Brain's Creation Story"

A few days ago, for my evening workshop at Renaissance Unity, I decided to add several more slides on evolutionary psychology into my standard evening program. One of the new slides had this as its only text. "Hi, my name is Michael and I'm a human with mismatched instincts."

This statement is, of course, my evolutionary rewrite of the standard way of introducing oneself at a 12-step meeting. It evoked audience laughter, yet it also shows that the evolutionary sciences can indeed enrich not only the faith traditions but also the recovery movement. The evolutionary sciences thus offer a perspective through which those who need help might more readily be willing to receive it. As I like to say, "It's not your fault. But it is your responsibility." That is, the reason we can so can easily fall to addictions of all sorts is that our ancestors lived in very different environments than surround us today. What was there, after all, to become addicted to 10,000 years ago?  


Making Death Right


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 UPDATE: Michael Dowd and Connie Barlow riffed on the topic, "When Death Gets Personal" in their half-hour PODCAST in August 2009


Phil Clapp 1953-2008


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A beloved friend and colleague, Phil Clapp, died this week at the age of 54, from pneumonia while travelling abroad. I am grateful that just last month we shared breakfast together and talked for a couple of hours near his home in Washington, D.C..

Since 1994, Phil served as president and chief executive of the National Environmental Trust, a non-profit, non-partisan organization working on behalf of environmental legistlation and informing citizens about environmental problems and how they affect our health and quality of life. Last year his organization merged with The Pew Charitable Trusts and Phil became deputy managing director of the Pew Environment Group. The New York Times and The Washington Post both ran obituaries.

Jonathan Lash, president of World Resources Institute, said it well: "For his entire career, Phil was a tireless campaigner for the biggest environmental and human health issues of our time. 


The Unnaturalist Fallacy


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As with ‘The Way It Is' Fallacy, few things perpetuate the current science and religion war in America more than what I've begun calling "The Unnaturalist Fallacy"—the position taken by many atheists and fundamentalists alike that all or most of the unnatural-sounding (supernatural) language in religious scriptures, doctrines, and creeds cannot be known to be real in a physical, measurable way, but can only be believed to be real in an otherworldly, unnatural way. To say it another way, the unnaturalist fallacy is the mistaken belief that religious "truths" are not scientifically real at all, but only religiously so. This fallacy is so pernicious that I predict within the next fifty years it will come to be known as ‘The Unnaturalist Heresy'. A few examples:


'The Way It Is' Fallacy


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The science vs. religion wound in American society, and in public education, will, in my view, continue to fester so long as scientists and evolutionists keep writing and speaking in ways that perpetuate what I have come to call, "The Way It Is Fallacy." This is the wrongheaded yet nonetheless widely held notion that science necessarily yields a meaningless or depressing worldview—and "that's just the way it is."  In the words of one recent blogger: "One can only hold on to some higher ideals until you see what the world is actually made of." Or as another offered: "The news of science and evolution may be fascinating and mind-expanding, but it isn't precisely 'good news' or 'gospel'. Evolution is good in many ways, but it is also red in tooth and claw. If science provides us with anything it is not optimism but realism."


Evolution Now


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"Until the majority of churches in America preach evolution from the pulpit and teach evolution in inspiring ways to their children and youth, we will never see an end to the science versus religion war in America and the evolution controversy in public schools." My wife and mission partner, Connie Barlow, spoke these words in her guest sermon at the Cedar Lane Unitarian Universalist Church in Bethesda, Maryland, this past Sunday (August 31).  I applaud her courage in speaking those words in a sermon available in pdf online, which she titled Evolution Now: A Manifesto for Our Unitarian Universalist Congregations.


Teach Both Sides of What Controversy?


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Michael Zimmerman of the Clergy Letter Project alerted me yesterday to a newspaper article discussing John McCain's VP pick, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin’s, stance on the evolution/creation issue. The piece is from the Anchorage Daily News and ran during the last gubernatorial race.

I have previously written blog posts on the subject of intelligent design (ID) and young-earth creationism (YEC). The reason that well over 95% of the scientists of the world reject these approaches is because neither has offered a viable scientific theory to replace the evolutionary one. "Teach both sides of the controversy" is a rallying cry often heard in ID circles.  But among scientists. there simply is no controversy. And this is a demontrable fact (carefully look at and read the image above left. T-shirts with other humorous images on the subject of "Teach the Controversy" can be found HERE).

The following is excerpted from Chapter 4 of Thank God for Evolution...