Archive for the 'Religion and Science' Category

Take That, Richard Dawkins!

Sunday, October 7th, 2007

Like Richard Dawkins, I don’t “believe in” the JudeoChristian God. Unlike Richard Dawkins, however, I do recognize the JudeoChristian God as a powerful psychological reality – for 2000 years, the most potent shaper of the worldview we have come to know as “western.” Like Richard Dawkins, I am no longer a devotee of any religion as conventionally understood; but unlike Richard Dawkins, I recognize religion, too, as a reality, as a real behavior performed by real human beings. Unlike Richard Dawkins, I have taken the time to study God the Symbol and the religion which has grown up around him. Not surprisingly, I have come to very different conclusions about religion – beginning with its definition. (more…)

The Perils of Transcendent Patriarachal Monotheism

Monday, April 30th, 2007

This essay was delivered as a talk to the Unitarian Universalist Church of Tallahassee on April 29, 2007.

Not to be too Henny Pennyish, but I think the end times are upon us – not the end of all times, but the end of western civilization as we have come to know and love it – and, from my point of view, it’s about time. If we don’t accept and promote this end – and look for a new beginning, a radically new way of being in the world, we or our grandchildren may be facing the end of the human species altogether.

From my point of view, the place to start in changing our ways is with the way we think about religion in general and Christianity in particular. One of the ways we liberals think about Christianity is that it is a collection of silly stories and superstitious beliefs which only complete fools could believe in. Another way we think about religion is that the stories are not meant to be taken literally, for it is the morals of the stories, not the stories themselves, which form the kernel of religious belief.

Perversely, I find myself agreeing and disagreeing with both approaches: I do not dismiss the Bible or Christian doctrine as being fundamentally silly or superstitious; but, along with the Richard Dawkins’s of this world, I do believe that anyone who takes the stories literally is more than a little off base. Like the liberal Christians of this world, I do believe it is the moral of the story, not the story itself which is where the message is; however, I no longer believe in the message, having come to the conclusion that, due to unintended consequences, the moral itself has become immoral – promoting death and destruction rather than life and the well being of all.

So if I believe in neither the story nor the moral, why don’t I just get on with my life and abandon religion altogether? Because I believe that Christianity is too powerful and dangerous a force in our culture to be cavalierly dismissed. To me, religion is not just one aspect of culture, it is the essential shaper of culture and cultural institutions. Religions, when they are functioning properly, have an evolutionary purpose: religious symbols are the carriers of cultural value systems which in turn generate cultural worldviews which ultimately promote social stability and individual survival.

The JudeoChristian God is the symbol which carries the value system of western culture. From my perspective, Genesis is not the story of the creation of the world, but the story of the creation of our worldview. God The Symbol is the creator of our psychological reality, the shaper of human consciousness within JC society, signaling what is important, what is not important, what is good and what is bad, what has value and what has no value.

The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins

Sunday, October 22nd, 2006

Dear Richard Dawkins,

I have just read Jim Holt’s review of your new book The God Delusion in The New York Times (October 22), and I have a few comments. First and foremost, I would like to apologize for what I am about to say, because my comments are based only on a review. Although I have not yet read the book, I would like to address some of the issues brought up by Holt while they are fresh in my mind. (more…)

The Survival Value of Religion: The Good News and the Bad News

Sunday, September 10th, 2006

According to New Scientist (January 28-February 3, 2006), “The study of belief in all its forms has become a very hot topic” (page 29). That statement alone is not remarkable; but the fact that New Scientist is making it is. Because science, as New Scientist acknowledges, has been reluctant to take religion seriously as a topic worthy of study. In that issue, Robin Dunbar, Alison Motluck, and Clare Wilson provide three different approaches to the topic in the articles “We Believe,” page 30, “Particles of Faith,” page 34, and “Glad to be Gullible,” page 37. The Atlantic got in on the act in the December 2005 issue with their cover story “Is God An Accident?” by Paul Bloom. And just yesterday (February 19, 2006), The New York Times reviewed Daniel Dennett”s book Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon.

I guess this scientific interest should not be surprising, but it is, given science’s perverse resistance to taking religion seriously in a world which is being torn apart by religion. It is like the Bush administration’s denial of global warming. Given the very dangerous state of the world right now resulting from a sharp right turn toward religious fundamentalism (both Christian and Islamic), however, even scientists are beginning to realize that religion when it is radicalized is a force which is as real, as powerful, and as potentially dangerous as a hurricane. At any rate, I am glad the discussion is happening and this essay is my contribution to the conversation. It addresses the origins of religion, the relationship between religion and survival, the power of religion, and the difficulties of letting go ” even when religion has become a destructive force.


Intelligent Design: On the Absurdity of the Premise

Wednesday, September 7th, 2005

In a desperate move to circumvent the doctrine of the separation of church and state and get creationism taught in public schools, Intelligent Design theorists are claiming a scientific proof for both the existence and nature of a Supernatural Intelligent Designer (SID) who bears a suspicious resemblance to the Christian God — i.e, a Heavenly Father (sun deity) made in the image of a transcendent human male. There hasn’t been such an uproar over evolution since the Scopes trial. And, the fervor of the religious right surrounding this debate is reminiscent of Catholicism’s rejection of heliocentrism 500 years ago. Let’s hope Richard Dawkins, one of the best evolutionary biologists of our day, doesn’t end up under house arrest like Gallileo.