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Note: On this first anniversary of the death of my beloved mentor Thomas Berry, and a week before I undergo another CT scan to see if I'm still cancer free, I'd like to share what shapes my evolving sense of life purpose. I begin with several paragraphs of background observations . . .
Coming into right relationship with reality is the great challenge of our time because it encompasses all of humanity’s challenges. Traditionally, maps of reality—that is, maps of how things are and which things matter—were embedded in a people’s cosmology, or creation myth—their sacred story. This big picture perspective provided answers to life’s great questions and guidance regarding what was real and what was important. Vital aspects of reality, or reality as a whole, were personified in sacred ways, as gods or goddesses. Evidence suggests that such personifications were the norm throughout human history. All cultures interpreted reality in meaningful ways using metaphors and analogies appropriate to their experience of the world. While factually realistic maps would be unavailable until modern times, these practically realistic maps of what was real (ultimately) and what mattered (ultimately) embodied the collective intelligence of a culture and vitally contributed to its survival. Inspiring and motivating stories and legends were those that contributed to the evolutionary fitness not only of the individuals within a culture but also of the group as a whole. Group-level solidarity and sacrifice would have been essential for fending off invasions—and also launching same. They did so by nurturing what Loyal Rue, in his landmark book, Religion Is Not About God, calls personal wholeness and social coherence, the two essential aspects of aligning individual and group self-interest.
Cultural fitness is impeded today in large part because the map of reality that science (the collective intelligence of our species) provides, and which urges us to unite in our diversity, has not yet been interpreted in ways that most people around the world find inspiring. As I state in the preface of my book, Thank God for Evolution: How the Marriage of Science and Religion Will Transform Your Life and Our World,
Human beings do not live by truth alone. We require the sustenance of meaning—of beauty, goodness, relationship, and purpose. We require comfort in times of sorrow and suffering. We require a big picture that facilitates trust when we look to the future, gratitude when we look to the past, and inspiration to be in action in the present regardless of our challenges.
Until those feeling-states essential for human thriving can easily and consistently be obtained via meaningful interpretations of big history, our common creation story, it should not come as a surprise that billions of human beings who currently gain these states by way of mythic, belief-based stories will resist an evidential view of reality. And in a world of increasingly accessible weapons of mass destruction, a healthy future for our species and our planet seems unlikely if billions of us continue to be guided by competing, outdated, and inaccurate maps of how things are and which things matter. Thus, in addition to posting as a podcast series our occasional ruminations as "America's Evolutionary Evangelists", and in addition to teaching the epic of evolution as an inspiring modern-day creation story to kids and adults across North America, Connie and I are excited to have recently launched two new podcast series in which we interview and dialogue with leaders in science, education, and progressive religious initiatives: "Inspiring Naturalism" and "Evolving Faith".
Mission Statement: To share what I call "the gospel according to science" (i.e., this-world good news from an evidential perspective) with as many people as I can, to proclaim the heavenly joy, individually and collectively, in coming home to realty, and to do my part in furthering the world-wide movement of those passionately committed to a healthy future for humanity and the larger body of life.
Credo: Reality is my God and integrity (honoring reality) is my religion. Thus, living in right relationship with reality and assisting humanity in this process is my calling and deepest inspiration.
Life purpose: I serve the future by boldly (yet compassionately) evangelizing evolution, by celebrating our best collective intelligence about the nature of reality, and by offering deep-time eyes and a realistically hopeful vision of the future. I consistently affirm and invite others to update (naturalize/REALize) their maps of reality (including what they mean by "God") and to excitedly participate in bringing forth a mutually enhancing human-Earth relationship.
Actions: In every sermon, workshop, interaction, and creative project, I seek to inspire and motivate by:
1. Offering DEEP-TIME EYES (our current, most accurate map of reality) regarding,
- A. human nature (inherent meaning-makers, hardwired for sociality and empathy, with mismatched instincts)
- B. the necessary and creative role of death, disturbance, chaos, and chance
- C. our magnificent shared ancestry (which offers kinship, an expanded sense of self, and a glorious lineage)
- D. the flow of big history as the direction of increasing complexity, cooperation, and collective intelligence
- E. the evolutionary significance of competing belief-based maps of reality (what’s so and what’s important)
- F. the emergence of a globally produced evidential, knowledge-based map of reality
- G. inspiring and motivating ways to interpret the knowledge-based map of reality
2. Offering a vision of HUMANITY'S RITE OF PASSAGE (from mythic to evidential guidance):
- A. from beliefs to knowledge (updating/REALizing our maps of reality from unnatural to undeniable inspiration)
- B. from believing 'the world was made for us' to knowing that 'we are made for the world'
- C. multi-level aligning of self-interest with the wellbeing of the whole (wise incentives)
- D. progressive perspectives: biomimicry, collective intelligence, triple bottom line, true cost, etc.
- E. green initiatives: distributed energy, permaculture, bioregionalism, continental commonsense, etc.
3. Sharing my testimonial (heaven/bliss/enlightenment here, now) and how natural, evidential ways of evoking trust, gratitude, and inspiration can enrich all spiritual paths and philosophies.
4. Inviting others to participate in something truly momentous (“Evolutionize Your Life”), by advocating this five-fold prescription for experiencing "the bliss of coming home to reality":
- A. Learn your history (strengthen deep-time perception; know thyself; adopt big history as your creation story)
- B. Interpret generously (make life right; trust what's real; REALize God and religion; honor science)
- C. Grow in integrity (let go of secrets, resentments, unfinished business; the DNA of relational spirituality)
- D. Follow your bliss-bless (do the joy/needs exercise in TGFE pp. 178-9; evolutionary activism; legacy)
- E. Become an evolutionary activist (work toward emergence of increasingly conscious social systems)
Bequest: If I die anytime soon (and even if I don't), I trust that others will stand on my shoulders and fulfill this vision or something like it. Whatever the future may bring, I give my permission for anyone and everyone to use my words and ideas without needing to credit or quote me, and to spread the memes that I've been spreading on my/our websites: MichaelDowd.org, TheGreatStory.org, ThankGodforEvolution.com, and EvolutionaryTimes.org as if they were your own. Because, in truth, from the perspective of the body of life as a whole, they are.
~ Michael Dowd
Forwarding address: The Great Story, 5246 Mutiny Bay Rd., Freeland, WA 98249
Our itinerary (where we're scheduled to speak in the next year or so)
GREAT STORY / EPIC OF EVOLUTION / INSPIRING NATURALISM / REALITY-HONORING WEB LINKS
Online free audios of our church sermons (Connie claims this is my best sermon ever, and I think I agree with her.)
4-hour DVD sets of our best and most popular programs (we give you the rights to burn copies of our DVDs!)
Our 3 Deep-Time PODCASTS: America's Evolutionary Evangelists / Inspiring Naturalism / Evolving Faith
Video clips / TV interviews / Radio interviews / Print media / Sermons (audio) / Full length presentations
TV, Print and Radio coverage
Connie's YouTube Channel: ghostsofevolution
Music Videos of Sacred Science for personal enjoyment or contemporary worship services
Songs and Hymns of the Universe Story
Stories of Awakening and Deep-Time Realization
Death as Natural, Generative, and No Less Sacred than Life
Great Story Parables (fun, playful, dramatic scripts)
Evolutionary Curricula for Children and Youth
North America's Sacred Story
Great Story Beads and Timeline
We Are Made Of Stardust!
Classic Great Story/Epic of Evolution Quotes
Meta-Religious Essays and Sermons
The River of Life (fun, playful educational programs based on Richard Dawkins' 2004 book, The Ancestor's Tale)
Rituals and Experiential Processes, for learning and celebrating the epic of evolution
Epic of Evolution - educational site
Religious Naturalism website
The Church of Reality website - while I can't say I endorse or agree with everything on this site, most of it is excellent!
Journey of the Universe - website for the 2011 educational movie and book by Brian Swimme and Mary Evelyn Tucker
TOP 25 MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED RESOURCES (in addition to TGFE), in no particular order:
Green Space Green Time: The Way of Science: Connie Barlow
Religion Is Not About God, and Everybody's Story: Wising Up to the Epic of Evolution: Loyal Rue
The Empathic Civilization: Jeremy Rifkin
Reflections on Evolutionary Activism, and The Tao of Democracy: Tom Atlee
The View from the Center of the Universe: Joel Primack and Nancy Abrams
The Universe Story: From the Primordial Flaring Forth to the Ecozoic Era: Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry
The Dream of the Earth, The Great Work, and Evening Thoughts: Thomas Berry
The Universe is a Green Dragon, and Canticle to the Cosmos DVDs: Brian Swimme
Evolution for Everyone: How Darwin's Theory Can Change the Way We Think About Our Lives: David Sloan Wilson
The Symbiotic Man: A New Understanding of the Organization of Life and a Vision of the Future: Joel de Rosnay
Humanity: The Chimpanzees Who Would Be Ants: Russell Genet
The Sacred Depths of Nature: Ursula Goodenough
Religious Naturalism Today: The Rebirth of a Forgotten Alternative: Jerome Stone
This Fleeting World: A Short History of Humanity, and Maps of Time: An Introduction to Big History: David Christian
Big History: The Big Bang, Life on Earth, and the Rise of Humanity: Teaching Company course taught by David Christian
Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny: Robert Wright
Evolution’s Arrow: The Direction of Evolution and The Future of Humanity: John Stewart
The Age of Empathy: Nature's Lessons for a Kinder Society: Frans de Waal
The Faith Instinct: How Religion Evolved and Why It Endures: Nicholas Wade
The Science of Good and Evil: Why People Cheat, Gossip, Care, Share, and Follow the Golden Rule: Michael Shermer
The Moral Animal: Why We Are the Way We Are: The New Science of Evolutionary Psychology: Robert Wright
The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom: Jonathan Haidt
The Female Brain, and The Male Brain: Louann Brizendine
- 1. How factual knowledge gained through the full range of evolutionary sciences can legitimately and easily be interpreted as religiously inspiring—and why, at this time in history, it is so urgent and fruitful to do so;
- 2. How the arrow of cosmic complexity upon which the vast majority of the world's scientists agree can be viewed in spiritually nourishing and deeply empowering ways (teleologically or non-teleologically);
3. Why it is wildly erroneous to believe that ancient mythic texts, an unnatural (so-called 'supernatural') judge, or otherworldly
carrots and sticks are necessary (or even helpful) for superior moral development and healthy societies.
[Posted June 1, 2010]