Reverend brings outside the box ideas to town

The Pasadena Citizen

By Yvette Orozco

When the Rev. Michael Dowd travels throughout the United States, he has a simple message: keep an open mind.

Dowd, an ordained evangelical preacher, and his wife, Connie Barlow, an avowed atheist and science author, will be in Pasadena at 7 p.m. today, speaking at Yoga Rasa at 800R Spencer Highway.

The event is part of the couple's Gospel of Evolution Roadshow stop in the Houston area through February.

The stop in Houston coincides with the 200th birthday of Charles Darwin, who formulated the theory of evolution.

That anniversary backdrop is the perfect setting for Dowd's primary mission to merge evolutionary theory with spiritual belief.

Dowd's book, "Thank God for Evolution," has been praised by both religious leaders and Noble laureates and provides the thesis for his message.

"I think the core of the message is that evolution can be understood in an inspiring, sacred and meaningful way," said Dowd.

While many traditional fundamentalists - whether Christian, Jew or Muslim - view science and religion as mutually exclusive, Dowd speaks around the country on faith as married to scientific theory.

"I'm showing how the two can be mutually enriching," he said. "Science is enriched when it deals with questions of meaning and value, and religion is enriched when it is grounded to a religious understanding and our best collective understanding of the nature of reality."

Although Dowd admits that his message is often characterized by some traditionalists as "unorthodox," he maintains that at its core - it is about "expanding your world."

"It's not about getting people to believe a certain way, it's inviting people to see that science reveals divine truth, that science reveals truth inside us in healthy ways and that evolution can help us become more compassionate, understanding and generous," he said.

Dowd is a former fundamentalist who had rejected the idea of evolution, fought against its teaching in schools and generally regarded science as a cold system of data, devoid of any human or spiritual resonance.

His re-evaluation came as his own frame of references shifted and expanded.

"One man, a chaplain at a college, called himself a Buddhist/Christian and I thought, ‘What on earth is that?'" he said. "My theology at that time said he was going to hell. But my experience of him was that this was the most Christ-like person I had ever met - very thoughtful and generous. My world expanded."

Dowd preaches, and does so slightly outside the box, but his message remains, he said, a celebration of the sacred and the scientific, and the opening of spiritual dialogue.

"We are a universe becoming conscious of itself; we are that part of the universe that has begun to learn it own story," he said. "When we think that way, we can go back and find rich, deep appreciation for religious understanding."