By Maria Cory and Kathryn Ozyurt
Class began with discussion on the evolutionary stages of religion, beginning with the Archaic and Tribal stages of kings and elders (~10,000 BCE); to the Magic and Mythic stage of fundamentalists (~1000 BCE); to the Modern stage, beginning with Descartes' "Discourse on Method” (~1637). The Postmodern stage, marked by broad skepticism, subjectivism, or relativism (~World War II and the Holocaust), was followed by the present Integral age, in which globalization has brought us in contact with many cultures and beliefs. This interaction and integration has popularized a belief in an amorphous spiritual “Something,” rather than the more defined approaches of tradition. The evolutionary stage to follow will be Non-Duality, comprising a rejection of an “either/or” logic of truth and a recognition that an Ultimate Reality exists throughout and connects all of Creation.
Distinguishing between physical reality and cultural understanding of physical reality was an important part of our dialogue. What one perceives as “real” may change over time according to one’s acquired knowledge and experience. Contextualizing “facts” by identifying when, by whom and in what context the facts were disseminated helps each of us relate to various perceptions of reality.
The class viewed the video "The Journey of the Universe"—a vivid exposé by educator Brian Swimme emphasizing the magnificence of the Universe—active, changing, supporting life. Throughout history, every culture has been astonished by stars, with the ancients viewing them as alive, even divine. The stars are our ancestors, out of which everything comes forth. Life is now seen not as an accident, but as inevitable. The intrinsic patterns in matter suggest an energy, which is aware and directs the self-organizing dynamic of the Universe. This can be analyzed in terms of science and engineering—but it can also be a new metaphor and poetic explanation of our existence and our destiny. Our calling is to communicate to future generations that life does not only exist on the surface of the earth; life is a partner with and woven into the entire universe.
This visionary states that divine revelation is evidential. Evidence is how God or Reality is speaking to us today. Evidence (scientific, historic and cross-cultural) is our modern-day scripture, our main source of divine guidance. How cultures label or personify certain concepts changes over time. Words like “God” and “Evolution” point to the same divine, creative process. Both answer the question how did we—and everything else—get here. “One uses the inspirational or mythic language of religion; the other uses the literal language of science.”
As the class addressed how scientific evidence influences moral decisions, they considered Dowd’s view of science: “Humanity’s global collective intelligence contributes to our common understanding of what’s real and what’s important.” Dowd notes that there are consequences to and suffering from ignoring evidential revelation. These include: 1) [previously] religious youth abandoning faith in record numbers; 2) increased rates of teen pregnancy, obesity, spouse abuse, and porn addiction; and 3) Evangelicals’ denial of “God’s factual word” regarding Big History, Evolution and Climate.
Finally, Dowd relates that “being faithful to God” means honoring the past and the future. In living out all of our Unitarian Universalist Principles—especially that of respect for the interdependent web of all existence—may we humbly remember our ultimate origin and recognize the struggles of our ancestors that brought us to this moment in time. May we embrace a commitment to a healthy future for generations to come!