Darwin Didn't Kill God, He REALized God


Castaway smaller

Darwin didn’t kill God. To the contrary, he and Alfred Russel Wallace offered the first glimpse of the real creator behind and beyond the world’s myriad mythic portrayals of the divine.

The concepts of theism and atheism came into use long before we had an evidential understanding of how the world, in fact, came into being, and before we learned that the Universe itself is creative. Given what we now know about big history (the 14-billion-year epic of evolution), the theist-atheist dichotomy no longer makes sense. Both presuppose a trivial, unnatural God and a Cosmos that is not itself divinely creative. Thus, I am neither a theist, nor an atheist; I'm an evidentialist, an emergentist—a religious naturalist. (In my book I introduce the bridge-building term "creatheist", which can be pronounced "cree-uh-theist" or "cree-atheist").

An evidential approach starts with the fact that our brains are hardwired for relationships. An emergentist approach arises from the recognition that we evolved—and so have our ways of thinking and speaking about reality. Not only are we programmed for empathy and compassion toward those we identify as our "in-group", we also attribute agency to non-animate, non-conscious realities all the time. (Think of Tom Hanks and "Wilson," the soccer ball, in the movie Cast Away.) It’s what our brains do naturally, instinctually. People in every culture have relationalized or personified their world—especially those forces and aspects of their world that were obviously more powerful than they were. We know of no culture in the world that has not personified reality as a whole or certain significant aspects of reality.

"God" is a personification, not a person. If we miss this, we miss everything.

(Given the fact that most religious people do not realize this, however, the New Atheists can hardly be faulted for failing to appreciate it as well.)

Evidence from a wide range of disciplines, from cognitive neuroscience to anthropology to cross-cultural study of the world’s myths and religions, all support the claim that God is a divine personification, not a person. More, there is no counter-evidence. (This fact alone makes sense of the hundreds of competing stories around the world with respect to what God supposedly said or did.) "God" is a mythic name for Reality in all it's sublime fullness. Any so-called God that is imagined as less than this (it's impossible to be more than this) is unworthy of our devotion and deserves to be mocked, as the New Atheists do so brilliantly. (See here, here, herehere, here, and here.)

Contrary to the picture painted in the Bible and Qur'an, God is not a supernatural terrorist ("Do/believe as I say or you will be tortured forever.") Whenever any story, any culture, or any scriptural passage claims "God said this" or "God did that," what follows is always, necessarily, an interpretation. It's an interpretation of what some person or group of people thought or felt or sensed or wished reality was saying or doing, and almost always as justification after the fact or to make a theological point. Such subjectively meaningful claims are never objective, measurable truth. In other words, had CNN or ABC News been there to record the moment of "divine revelation," there would have been nothing out of the ordinary (nothing miraculous) to report 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 grasp this, not only will we trivialize the divine but, more tragically still, we will surely miss what God (reality) is saying and doing today.

Ours is a time of space telescopes, electron microscopes, supercomputers, and the worldwide web. It is also a time of smart bombs, collapsing economies, and exploding oil platforms. This is not a time for parsing the lessons given to a few goatherds, tentmakers, and camel drivers.

In the 21st century, our most dependable guidance are facts interpreted meaningfully. Historical, scientific, and cross-cultural evidence is the main way that reality (God) is communicating to humanity today. Recognizing and celebrating this will transform religion and culture. Failing to do so will lead to our demise.

We're all in this together. So let's roll up our sleeves and get to it. There's lots of good work to be done!

________________________

ALSO SEE:

The Salvation of Religion: From Beliefs to Knowledge

Religion Is About Right Relationship With Reality, Not the Supernatural

Idolotry of the Written Word

Evolutionary Spirituality: Coming Home to Reality

God Is a Divine Personification, Not a Person

The Big Integrity Movement

Thank God for the New Atheists

Evolutionary Christianity

Supernatural Is Unnatural Is Uninspiring (When You Think About It) - blog post

Supernatural Is Unnatural Is Uninspiring (When You Think About It) - podcast

"What Reality in Human Experience Do We Point to with the Word, 'God'?", a pdf of a short essay by evolutionary theologian and bioregionalist, Gene Marshall. This chapter from one of Gene's books is foundational to an evidential understanding of the divine. (The pdf shows up sideways, so you'll need to open it with Adobe Reader and, under the "View" menu, rotate it clockwise. Otherwise you'll need to print it out. It's only 10 pages and well worth it!)


Imprinting Is NOT Indoctrination


Swanlets at Snug Harbor - really biggest pix

My wife Connie Barlow, an acclaimed science writer, just wrote and posted on our Great Story website what is to-date the most provocative—indeed, prophetic—essay of her life.  The title: "Imprinting Is Not Indoctrination: An invitation to parents and religious educators to present a coherent cosmology to our children".  Composed as a critique of Dale McGowan's invited lecture at the annual gathering of Unitarian Universalists nationwide (in June), Connie calls for a reassessment of the way kids in religiously moderate and liberal families and institutions are taught "religion".  Our postmodern celebration of diversity and advocacy of free choice actually means we deny our children a basic human requirement: "a coherent cosmology (creation story / worldview) through which to enjoy and securely navigate the years of childhood wonder, learning, and innocence."

If you have children or grandchildren, or simply care about educating young people religiously in light of humanity's most up-to-date and inspiring understandings of how things are and which things matter, I cannot recommend this 9-page draft essay too highly!  Because it is so provocative (especially the appendix), Connie welcomes feedback, comments, and suggestions for improvement.

May a fresh and exciting new conversation about how to best educate our children religiously commence!


With Liberty and Connectivity For All - Robert Wright


Global intelligence - bigger

NOTE: Following up on his "Buliding One Big Brain" NY Times Opinionator blog post of last week, which I reposted here with an introduction and links to other books on the subject, Robert Wright further explores the implications of an emerging planetary superorganism comprised of nature, humanity, and technology. (For those interested in this subject, I highly recommend Wright's book, Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny and Joel deRosnay's, The Symbiotic Man: A New Understanding of the Organization of Life and a Vision of the Future.)

July 13, 2010
NY Times Opinionator Blog Post - original link here
With Liberty and Connectivity for All
By ROBERT WRIGHT

When you write a column suggesting that maybe the Internet is weaving the human race into a giant superorganism, you naturally wonder whether readers will think you’re crazy. So last week, having written that column, I checked out the comments section.  “Yes,” wrote someone from Minnesota known as Greenpa, “the superorganism is quite real. As I’ve been saying for 40 years, to anyone I thought would not instantly run for the men in white with the big butterfly nets.”

Thanks for the reassurance, Greenpa. Happily, few commenters issued a call for butterfly nets. Indeed, some took the column seriously enough to get spooked by it. Thinking of us as mere cells whose needs are trumped by the survival imperatives of a global techno-organism “gives me shivers,” said the commenter DA06488.

Many others, far from thinking I’d gone off the deep end, encouraged me to venture beyond the shallows. Several recommended that I read the mystical Catholic theologian Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, who in the mid-20th century built a theology around the superorganism idea. He saw the emergence of a global brain (the “noosphere”) as part of God’s plan to lead humanity toward “Point Omega” — which, as best as I can make out from Teilhard’s dense, poetic writing, will be a kind of worldwide organic love blob. (Count me in!)



One commenter — the theologian Philip Hefner, who once wrote a pithy little book on Teilhard — suggested that a Teilhardian view could allay the fears of the DA06488s of the world, showing that we cells needn’t be enslaved or diminished by the superorganism. Teilhard, wrote Hefner, “saw that the evolution toward the interconnected brain is one pole of the dialectic, while the enhancement of the ‘cell’ is a co-equal pole… . One needs to have a metaphysic (or theology) that recognizes both elements of this dialectic. Perhaps you can write your next piece on this balancing of the two poles.”

Well, it’s been a slow news week, so why not? I mean, I can’t come up with a whole theology. But I can highlight a sense in which the emerging superorganism challenges us cells to reach greater moral and spiritual heights — and, in the process, to preserve our hard-earned freedom, thus leaving DA06488 little cause to get the shivers.

Teilhard’s milieu made him sensitive to the shivers problem. Back when he was writing, the superorganism metaphor was lovingly invoked by fascists, totalitarians and other undesirables, so he was attuned to its creepy vibes — in particular, the sense that to be a cell is to be enslaved by the powers that be. He insisted there was no cause for worry so long as people drew on their spiritual resources: “There need be no fear of enslavement or atrophy in a world so richly charged with charity.” Or, as he more aphoristically put it: “To say ‘love’ is to say ‘liberty.’”

Maybe we have something to say about the exact shape the superorganism takes, and how comfortable an abode it is.

I can’t honestly say I know what he meant by that. But there’s an interpretation of it that makes sense to me, whether or not it’s the kind of sense he had in mind. Indeed, as mushily optimistic as his equation of love and liberty sounds, I think that, recast in more modest form, it’s eminently defensible and crucially important. Here’s the way I’d put it: The less hatred there is, the more freedom there will be.


Evidence: The Decline of Christianity in America


Sunset Michael arms raised

NOTE:  Davidson Loehr, who recently contributed a guest post, titled, Secular Religion, and I have been in communication re the decline of traditional religion and rise of secularism in America, as revealed by these USA Today charts and graphs. What follows was written by Davidson. It's an excellent summary of some of the data on this unmistakable trend. Also see the sermon of James A. Haught's that I posted a week ago, titled, America's Religious Decline & Secular Boom, as well as the late Michael Spencer's insider piece (Spencer was an evangelical) in the Christian Science Monitar titled, The Coming Evangelical Collapse (or his expanded version on the Internet Monk website). UPDATE: I also highly recommend the December 2010 article in Slate magazine: "Walking Santa, Talking Christ: Why do Americans claim to be more religious that then are?" and this post on a fundamentalist Christian website: "The Decline of Christianity in America."

Only about 18% of Americans attend any church regularly – 82% don’t.

From 2000 to 2005, overall church attendance declined in all fifty states.  Even when broken down into subsets of “mainline,” “Catholic” and “Evangelical,” declines overwhelmed the infrequent small gains.

Growth or decline in percentage of population attending a church on any given weekend from 2000-2005[1]

State           All Christian Churches          Mainline          Catholic          Evangelical
1. Alabama              -0.6%                            -3.3%              +9.0%               -0.9%
2. Alaska                 -7.9%                           -16.9%            -13.7%               -3.8%
3. Arizona                -7.3%                           -17.6%            -14.4%              +1.5%
4. Arkansas             -0.6%                            -7.1%              +9.6%               -0.4%
5. California            -5.3%                           -13.2%              -7.0%               -1.8%
6. Colorado             -3.3%                          -13.5%              -9.2%               +3.9%
7. Connecticut       -13.4%                         -14.8%             -17.4%              +0.4%
8. Delaware             -2.8%                           -6.4%               +1.2%              -4.1%
9. Florida                -8.6%                          -13.8%              -19.5%              -2.5%
10. Georgia             -4.8%                         -10.3%                -8.8%               -3.1%
11. Hawaii              -0.0%                           -10.2%              +0.3%              +2.8%
12. Idaho                -5.4%                         -16.9%                -8.2%               -0.5%
13. Illinois               -7.2%                         -10.4%               -11.4%              -1.2%
14. Indiana             -4.3%                          -10.3%               -12.2%            +1.6%
15. Iowa                 -6.1%                         -10.0%                -10.6%             +2.7%
16. Kansas             -3.4%                          -8.5%                -10.1%              +3.8%
17. Kentucky          -1.7%                          -4.0%                -10.8%              +1.2%
18. Louisiana          -5.8%                          -6.0%                -12.1%              -0.6%
19. Maine             -11.9%                         -10.6%               -19.2%              +0.2%
20. Maryland            -4.5%                         -9.7%                -9.5%               +0.9%
21. Massachusetts -13.7%                         -9.7%              -19.7%              +4.8%
22. Michigan             -5.4%                        -9.3%                -9.3%               -0.6%
23. Minnesota           -6.1%                      -10.4%               -11.8%              +4.7%
24. Mississippi         -3.3%                         -9.9%                 -0.5%              -2.3%
25. Missouri             -4.8%                         -8.3%               -13.2%             +0.1%
26. Montana            -3.7%                       -15.3%                 -2.3%              +0.9%
27. Nebraska           -6.1%                       -10.3%                 -4.9%              -4.1%
28. Nevada              -2.6%                        -21.8%                 -4.2%              +4.5%
29. New Hampshire -17.5%                     -17.4%                -22.9%             +1.1%
30. New Jersey       -10.9%                       -7.8%                  -17.2%            +2.3%
31. New Mexico      -11.4%                      -17.1%                -13.2%             -8.0%
32. New York           -10.7%                     -10.5%                -17.1%             +1.5%
33. North Carolina    -3.8%                        -8.1%                 +9.4%             -4.0%
34. North Dakota    -6.6%                       -10.1%                -6.3%              -1.8%       
35. Ohio                    -6.1%                      -10.1%                -12.3%            +1.4%
36. Oklahoma           -0.2%                         -8.6%                  -1.7%            +1.7%
37. Oregon               -9.5%                       -14.1%                 -23.6%            -2.9%
38. Pennsylvania     -7.4%                       -10.5%                -12.4%             +3.4%
39. Rhode Island    -14.1%                        -9.8%                -17.1%             +9.4%
40. South Carolina  -2.5%                         -7.4%                 +1.2%               -1.4%
41. South Dakota   -10.3%                       -10.7%                -20.4%              -0.1%
42. Tennessee         -1.9%                         -5.6%                   -5.0%              -0.9%
43. Texas                 -5.6%                       -12.1%                   -8.3%              -2.6%
44. Utah                 -3.1%                       -19.8%                   -0.5%              +3.8%
45. Vermont            -9.8%                        -8.9%                 -15.8%              +12.7%
46. Virginia             -3.0%                       -10.2%                   -3.4%               +0.3%
47. Washington      -3.4%                      -14.7%                   -6.3%               +1.6%
48. West Virginia    -7.9%                      -11.0%                  -27.9%               +0.9%
49. Wisconsin       -13.3%                       -8.4%                  -22.6%              -1.1%
50. Wyoming             -8.5%                   -19.3%                   -8.2%               -3.3%

No religion in America has kept up with population growth for the past hundred years.  And while about 25% of Americans are routinely reported to be Catholics, far fewer actually attend church regularly.  Besides, American Catholics now account for only about 7% of Catholics in the world: Roman Catholicism has become primarily a Third World religion, which will bring out its more conservative theological strains.

Christine Wicker (a former evangelical) reports that Evangelical Christianity in America -- supposedly Christianity’s cutting edge -- is dying.  She says the idea that evangelicals are taking over America is one of the greatest publicity scams in history, a perfect coup accomplished by savvy politicos and religious leaders, who understand how the media work and exploit them brilliantly.[2]

The facts are that about a thousand evangelicals walk away from their churches every day and most don’t come back.[3] As a whole, American Christians lose six thousand members a day – more than two million a year,[4] while the U.S. population increases by 1.2% -- currently 3.3 million people a year. The real figures are that fewer than seven percent of the country are really evangelicals – only about one in fourteen, not one out of four as they have claimed.  Southern Baptist growth isn’t keeping up with population growth, and it hasn’t for years.[5]  Baptisms are going down in every age group except children under five.  And in the critical group of young adults ages eighteen to thirty-four, Southern Baptist baptisms fell 40 percent, from 100,000 in 1980 to 60,000 in 2005.[6]  During these 25 years, the U.S. population grew from about 226,545,805[7] to 296,000,000,[8] a growth of over 30%.  The Baptists would have had to baptize over 130,000 in 2005 just to stay even with population growth; they baptized fewer than half that number.

The fastest growing faith groups in the country are atheists and nonbelievers.  In just the eleven years from 1990 to 2001, they more than doubled, from 14 million to 29 million, from 8% of the country to 14 percent. There are more than twice as many nonbelievers and atheists as there are evangelicals.[9]   Since it’s hard to believe everyone would have the nerve to tell a pollster they were an atheist or nonbeliever, the real figures are almost certainly higher. You don’t read this in the media because there are no savvy or powerful groups pushing the story.

When asked to rate eleven groups in terms of respect, non-Christians rated evangelicals tenth. Only prostitutes ranked lower. In an almost comic side note, Wicker wonders how the prostitutes feel about that.


"God" in 400 words or less - by Bruce Sanguin


Bruce Sanguin

NOTE: Bruce Sanguin is a dear friend and colleague. He serves Canadian Memorial United Church of Canada in Vancouver, British Columbia, where he leads his congregation in a progressive form of Christianity in their mission of "exploring the Christian tradition through an evolutionary model." Rev. Sanguin meshes his evolutionary perspective with Integral Spirituality (following Ken Wilber) and with Spiral Dynamics (following Don Beck). His three books are: Summoning the Whirlwind: Unconventional Sermons for a Relevant Christian Faith (2006);  Darwin, Divinity, and the Dance of the Cosmos: An Ecological Christianity (2007) and; The Emerging Church: A Model for Change and a Map for Renewal (2008). He is the coauthor of a curriculum, "Experiencing Ecological Christianity" (2008). I recently interviewed Bruce for my Evolutionary Faith podcast series. It was excellent! Check it out here. He was asked by his denominational magazine, The Observer, to write up his understanding of God in 400 words or less. What follows is his response.

In the song Lord of the Starfields Bruce Cockburn’s prays to his God: “O Love that fires the sun, keep me burning”.  After 13.7 billion years, the love that fired the universe into being is still firing through an evolutionary process infused by the radiance of the divine. There was a time when I imagined myself over here looking out upon the universe outside of me. Today, this objective relationship to the cosmos is supplemented by a more mystical appreciation of a uni-verse.

I am also the presence of the universe in human form – the conscious face of evolution. When I choose to live as a manifestation of this fire, I feel most alive. My big self is as large as a cosmos and still expanding. This I call my soul.

The two fundamental characteristics of God are creativity and love. These can be distinguished, but not separated. Each is folded into the other. Divine creativity is expressed primarily in, through, and as the evolutionary history of the universe. The evolving cosmos, including life on our planet, is the incarnation of God’s deep creative desire for love to find its fullest expression. The story of evolution, then, is itself a sacred text, revealing God’s heart and intention. This implies a non-coercive bias to the evolutionary trajectory of the cosmos – toward an increase in love.

My core spiritual practice as a Christian is to situate myself in the same stream of divine/cosmic yearning that animated and took flesh in Jesus of Nazareth- and to do so until I become one with this impulse. When I am in this yearning, this blessed unrest to be the incarnational presence of God’s love and creativity, I experience the joy of deep purpose.

This is Christian discipleship, then, to be a student of the process by which the divine yearning allures us to incarnate this desire in the affairs of our life. To be in this divine desire is to be anointed (christified) with the same vocational arousal that animated Jesus of Nazareth. It is to undergo a fundamental identity shift, through the realization that we are occasions of the divine creativity and love coursing through the cosmos imbued with the purpose of birthing the “new thing” God is doing. Anointed and called to be the new thing that is eternally springing forth from the heart of God, we proclaim and enact the Kin-dom of God.


Thank God for the New Atheists!


Bright flower red

I've been thinking, writing, and speaking quite a bit lately about my gratitude for the New Atheists.  I see them as playing an indispensible role in helping the religions of the world evolve so that each can bless humanity and the larger body of life, now and into the future.  Prophets historically were those who issued a word of warning to their people: "Come into right relationship with Reality—or perish!"  Right relationship with reality today requires our species to grow from belief-based to evidence-based guidance and inspiration.  To be clear, I thank God for the New Atheists not because I want everyone to be like them or think like them, nor because I consider them perfect vessels of divine wishom. Rather, I'm grateful to them because of how they are helping religious people (like me!) get real about God, guidance, and good news, and also because of how they are prodding religion and humanity to mature in two absolutely essential ways. (For those interested, I discuss these two ways briefly on this 3 minute YouTube clip, and more thoroughly in this 20 minute sermon.)

Re how I see the New Atheists playing a vital role in the evolution of religion, the resources I particularly recommend are the following text of my sermon on the subject, two online audio recordings (which bookend my nine month cancer saga), and a video of my sermon delivered on August 1, 2010 in Oklahoma City:

SERMON TEXT: Thank God for the New Atheists! (I deliver my sermons extemporaneously, so this is a template, not a  word-for-word transcript. I suggest reading this sermon first, before expriencing any of the other resources that follow.)

PODCAST: "The New Atheists As God's Prophets" [September 6, 2009] - 25 minute podcast that I recorded just two hours after I learned that I had an especially aggressive form of cancer.  I asked myself, 'If I have only one message left to deliver to the world, what would it be?'  The answer that came: "Show people how the New Atheists are God's prophets."

SERMON AUDIO: "The New Atheists As God's Prophets?!" [June 6, 2010] - 20 minute recording of a sermon I delivered at People's Church in Ludington, Michigan, just days before learning that my cancer was in remission (after 6 rounds of R-CHOP chemotherapy last fall and having my spleen with large tumor attached surgically removed in February).

SERMON VIDEO: The New Atheists Are God's Prophets: [delivered 8-1-10 at Mayflower UCC in Okhlahoma City, OK]

________________________________________________________________________

For those wishing to explore this subject beyond the sermon text and audio/video resources above...

-------------- SERMONS --------------

Three of My Best Sermons [descriptions and audio links to my May 30, June 6, and June 13 sermons] 

Evolutionize Your Life: Heaven Is Coming Home to Reality [June 13, 2010]

December 2010 issue Australasian Science Magazine: Thank God for the New Atheists

February 2011: Skeptic, Vol 16, No. 2, Thank God for the New Atheists 

-------------- PODCASTS --------------

Supernatural Is Unnatural Is Uninspiring (When You Think About It)  [June 8, 2010]

Idolatry of the Written Word [April 26, 2010]

------------- BLOG POSTS -------------

Giving Heresy a Bad Name!

Getting REAL About God, Guidance, & Good News

The New Atheists Are God's Prophets (cross-posted on RichardDawkins.net, with lively discussion, here) [June 4, 2010]

Religion Is About Right Relationship with Reality, Not the Supernatural [May 31, 2010]

Supernatural Is Unnatural Is Uninspiring (When You Think About It) [June 7, 2010]

God Is a Divine Personification, Not a Person [May 28, 2010]

Idolatry of the Written Word [April 24, 2010] 

Atheists Promote Bible Reading?! [January 27, 2010]

The Salvation of Religion: From Beliefs to Knowledge [January 28, 2010]

------------- INTERVIEW -------------

The New Atheists as Divine Prophets - interviewed by Mike Jarsulic on "The Infidel Guy" podcast


America's Religious Decline & Secular Boom - James A. Haught


Fading Faith cover issue of Free Inquiry

Much has been written and countless discussions have ensued in recent years about the seemingly inevitable decline of Christianity and rise of secularism in America in the 21st century along the lines of what happened in Europe in the mid 20th century. (For starters, see here, here, here, herehere, here, here, here, here, here, and here.)

James A. Haught began an essay titled “Fading Faith”, published in the February/March 2010 issue (Volume 30, Number 2) of Free Inquiry, this way:

“A historic transition is occurring, barely noticed. Slowly, quietly, imperceptibly, religion is shriveling in America, as it already has in Europe, Canada, Australia, Japan—across the developed world. The first world is entering the long-predicted Secular Age, when science and knowledge dominate.”

The following is a sermon presented by Jim Haught to the Unitarian Universalist Church of Lexington, KY, on July 11, 2010. It is an excellent summary of some of the main points he makes in his essay. If you like what follows, you'll love "Fading Faith" (which is 3x as long as this sermon). Back issues of Free Inquiry can be obtained here. I highly recommend getting this issue and reading Haught's essay in its entirety. I also recommend subscribing to Free Inquiry.

Preliminary reading: Dover Beach, by Matthew Arnold, 1867 (abridged)

The sea is calm tonight,
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits; on the French coast the light
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand,
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
Come to the window, sweet is the night air….

The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth's shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

_____________________________________________

Philosopher-historian Will Durant called it "the basic event of modern times."  He didn't mean the end of colonialism, or the world wars, or the rise of electronics.  He was talking about the decline of religion in Western democracies.

The great mentor saw subsiding faith as the most profound occurrence of the past century -- a shift of Western civilization, rather like former transitions away from the age of kings, the era of slavery and such epochs.

Since World War II, worship has dwindled starkly in Europe, Canada, Australia, Japan and other advanced democracies.  In those modern places today, only 5 or 10 percent of adults still attend church.  Secular society mostly ignores religion.

Pope Benedict XVI protested: “Europe has developed a culture that, in a manner unknown before now to humanity, excludes God from the public conscience.”  Columnist George Will called the Vatican “109 acres of faith in a European sea of unbelief.”

America seems an exception, with booming megachurches, fundamentalist attacks on evolution, hundred-million-dollar TV ministries, talking-in-tongues Pentecostals, gigantic sales of "Rapture" books, the white evangelical "religious right" attached to the Republican Party, and the like.  But much of America quietly is following the secular path previously taken by Europe.  Here's the evidence:


Buliding One Big Brain - Robert Wright


Bob Wright smaller

NOTE: Robert Wright is one of my favorite authors. His 1994 book, The Moral Animal, is still one of the best introductions to evolutionary psychology. His 2001 book, Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny, is one of the "top ten" most significant books I've ever read. And his latest, The Evolution of God, is a gem too. I highly recommend them all. Bob writes an Opinionator blog post for The New York Times every Wednesday. In this brilliant and very funny one, he mentions Kevin Kelly's soon-to-be published book, What Technology Wants, which I too read a few months ago (Kevin sent me a draft). I agree with Bob; it's both timely and excellent. If you're not already familar with the idea of what Joel de Rosnay calls "The Symbiotic Man" and what Gregory Stock calls "Metaman" (nature, humanity, and technology becoming a planetary superorganism), be prepared for a paradigm shift.

BUILDING ONE BIG BRAIN
By ROBERT WRIGHT
New York Times Opinionator Blogger - Original Link (read comments here)
July 6, 2010

For your own sake, focus on this column. Don’t think about your Facebook feed or your inbox. Don’t click on the ad above or the links to the right. Don’t even click on links within the column.

Failing to focus — succumbing to digital distraction — can make you lose your mind, fears Nicholas Carr, author of the much-discussed book “The Shallows.” At least, it can make you lose little parts of your mind. The Internet, Carr suspects, “is chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation.”

He’s not alone in his fears. Since his book came out there have been lots of ruminations — including one or two or three in The Times alone — on whether online technology is friend or foe, good for our brains or bad.

But maybe the terms of the debate — good for us or bad for us? — are a sign that we’re missing the point. Maybe the essential thing about technological evolution is that it’s not about us. Maybe it’s about something bigger than us — maybe something big and wonderful, maybe something big and spooky, but in any event something really, really big.

Could it be that, in some sense, the point of evolution has been to create these social brains, and maybe even to weave them into a giant, loosely organized planetary brain?

Don’t get me wrong. I join other humans in considering human welfare — and the welfare of one human in particular — very important. But if we’re going to reconcile human flourishing with the march of technology, it might help to understand what technology is marching toward.

This autumn will see the publication of a book that promises to help us out here: “What Technology Wants,” by Kevin Kelly, a long-time tech-watcher who helped launch Wired magazine and was its executive editor back in its young, edgy days.

Don’t let the title of Kelly’s book terrify you. He assures us that he doesn’t think technology is conscious — at least, not “at this point.” For now, he says, technology’s “mechanical wants are not carefully considered deliberations but rather leanings.”

So relax; apparently we have a few years before Keanu Reeves gets stuffed into a gooey pod by robotic overlords who use people as batteries. Still, it’s notable that, before Reeves played that role in “The Matrix,” the movie’s directors gave him a copy of Kelly’s earlier book, “Out of Control,” as preparation. And Kelly does say in “What Technology Wants” that technology is increasingly like “a very complex organism that often follows its own urges.”


I'm Gonna Be a Grandpa (It's a Girl)!


Sheena and Jon on horses

My daughter Sheena Stevens and her husband Jon are both in the United States Marine Corps, stationed in Jacksonville, North Carolina. (The picture to the left is the two of them on their honeymoon in Jamaica last year.)

Sheena and Jon are both truly amazing. Among other things, they've both been wrestlers on the USMC wrestling team! (Yes, that's right, even though I'm 6' tall, 190 lbs, and in good shape, my "little girl" can kick my butt. More, I'd be willing to bet she can kick yours too. :-)

In any event, a couple months ago Sheena, a Staff Sergeant Osprey Helicoptor instructor, called and told me she was pregnant. Then just a few minutes ago she called and told me that the results of the ultrasound revealed that she's carrying a girl. (Her due date is November 22.)

I'm feeling an ecstatic emotion I've never quite felt before.

I like this!!


Three of My Best Sermons


Snug Harbor sunset smaller

Here are audio and/or video recordings of my three most recent sermons, all delivered on the west coast of Michigan and each very different. My publicist likes the first, most recent, one best. Connie's favorite is the one I delivered in Ludington on Memorial Day. I'm quite pleased with them all.

"Evolutionize Your Life: Heaven Is Coming Home to Reality" (June 13, 2010)
I say some very radical things (including introducing the idea of "the New Atheists as God's prophets" and saying "nothing is driving young people away from religion more quickly and surely than the Bible") to this rather large Christian congregation in conservative western Michigan. To my shock and amazement, I was applauded! I see this as a very good sign. :-)

"The New Atheists As God's Prophets?!" (June 6, 2010)
This was the first time that a church (People's Church in Ludington, Michigan) specifically requested that I preach on this topic — one I'm feeling especially called to speak and write about these days. It was very well received.

"Deep-Time Memory and Gratitude" (May 30, 1010)
Connie claims this is my best sermon ever (delivered on Memorial Day weekend). I'm not sure about that, but I would certainly agree that it's one of my better ones. Less heady and more heartful/emotional than many others I've delievered.

On a separate note, here's our itinerary for the rest of this year. And if you've not already done so, do check out our three separate podcasts: (1) America's Evolutionary Evangelists, (2) Inspiring Naturalism, and (3) Evolving Faith (the last two are fabulous interviews)!

As you can tell, we've been having entirely too much fun!