The Evidential Reformation: Humanity Comes of Age

galaxy worship

“We'll never achieve a just and sustainably lifegiving future on the resources of the existing religious traditions, and we can’t get there without them.” ~ Thomas Berry

The 21st century will be seen historically as humanity’s rite of passage. We’re growing up as a species, going through the very same process we’ve all gone through as we mature. As children we’re guided by beliefs and we think the world was made for us. As adults, we’re guided by knowledge and we live our lives (at least in part) as a contribution to others and the world. Indeed, for healthy adults, self-giving is actually one of life’s greatest satisfactions. As well, most of us needed no special training or incentives to begin questioning the beliefs we were spoon-fed as children – just the usual dose of hormones and peer focus that signals adolescence.

These two transformations, from beliefs to knowledge and from self-focus to contribution, are precisely what we’re now collectively experiencing. I call this species-wide rite of passage the “Evidential Reformation,” and I believe it is destined to transform not only the science-and-religion debate and how religious traditions relate to one another, but, even more importantly, how humans relate to the larger body of life of which we are part and upon which we depend.

A Big History Perspective on Religion Through Time

Big history, also known as the epic of evolution, is our common creation narrative. It is the first origin story in the history of humanity that is globally produced, derived entirely from evidence, and will soon be taught to high school students around the world (see here and here and this YouTube clip).

In our “childhood” as a species – as tribes, then villages, then chiefdoms and kingdoms, then city-states and early nations – our main source of guidance came from religious beliefs. Shared allegiance to a particular religion that bridged even ethnic and linguistic differences was a crucial factor in the rise of civilizations across the globe. Consider: our instinctual heritage as social mammals will suffice for fostering cooperation at the scale of a clan. (Biologists call these instinctive forms of cooperation kin selection and reciprocal altruism.) Mutually advantageous trade then facilitated greater circles of cooperation. But for 10,000 or more human beings to be induced to cooperate: for that, you need religion – a singular, shared, unquestioned religion, and probably one that doles out harsh consequences (including ostracism) for apostates.

A multitude of religions arose independently of course, because in any bioregion where fierce competition for territory or resources arose, there would have been a survival advantage to groups that could forge cross-clan alliances for mutual defense. As well, there are two functional issues that all cultures need to address: what’s real and what’s important. (In a six-minute YouTube video based on his book, Religion Is Not About God, philosopher of religion Loyal Rue refers to these two functions as “how things are” and “which things matter.”) These two functional issues will be answered differently based upon where and when you live and upon the happenstance of interpretive imagination of one’s ancestors. Each “wisdom tradition” thus reflects regional collective intelligence encoded mythically. That is, the regional collective intelligence is encoded in pre-scientific language that reflects a people’s daytime and nighttime experience. (See here for a discussion of “Day and Night Language,” which was a central concept in my book, Thank God for Evolution.)

In our “adolescence” as a species (which was a threshold crossed as the modern era swept the globe), we began to question the beliefs, interpretations, and meanings we had inherited. The birth of this new form of collective intelligence, global collective intelligence, occurred when access to powerful new technologies (beginning with the telescope) ramped up our ability to discern how things are. We then faced the frightening truth that ancient understandings were not, in fact, the best maps of what is real. This challening process is still facing much of the world, as traditional religous beliefs are increasingly found to be obsolete when interpreted literally.

Some individuals were thrilled at the prospect of participating in this threshold event: of valuing measurable observation, rationality, and collectively encouraged skepticism and testing as the preferred means for discerning what’s real and what’s important. In the 19th century these “natural philosophers” became known as “scientists.”

The two institutions responsible for ensuring that the self-interest of individuals and groups are aligned – namely, governance and religion – were impacted differently by the rise of modern science. Democratic forms of governance were the first to embrace evidence as authoritative. Religions are only now beginning to catch up and to not only experience the terror but also taste the thrill of what the Evidential Reformation offers.

Like any rite of passage, once one voluntarily steps through the threshold there is no integrous and healthy way of going back. So of course there are shrill voices of protest and deep institutional inertia.

But ultimately, this shift will happen. One by one, segment by segment, the great religions of the world will pass through the threshold – else they will wither and the new generations will leave them entirely behind.

“Idolatry of the Written Word” as Today’s Greatest Impediment

What the Evidential Reformation offers for religion is centrally this: Science reveals “God’s word” for humanity today – that is, what’s real and what’s important, or how things are and which things matter – far more accurately than the Bible or Qur’an could ever hope to. And  Moses, Jesus, the Apostle Paul, and the Prophet Mohammad would surely be among the first to applaud this trend were they alive today.

Yet, until faith leaders become a whole lot bolder in proclaiming to their flocks the goodness and necessity of this shift, religious people will remain blind and deaf to what God (Reality personified) is revealing today through scientific, historic, and cross-cultural evidence. And that means that God/Reality will continue using the New Atheists to mock unchanging religious beliefs and those who espouse such beliefs.

The main hindrance to religious people wholeheartedly embracing evidence as divine communication – divine guidance (i.e., how Reality reveals itself) – has been what I have long been characterizing as idolatry of the written word (also here). Idolatry of the written word occurred anywhere in the world where ancient oral stories (which surely evolved for millennia as conditions and needs changed) became frozen into unchanging scripture – scripture that was then deemed as the foundational (even the sole) locus for discerning priorities, values, right thinking, and right behavior.

This shift from oral storytelling to unchanging scripture as the way wisdom, morality, and a sense of the sacred (supreme value) is generationally passed forward set the stage (albeit centuries later) for a profound and now exponentially expanding mismatch. This mismatch is between globally shared and empirically tested updates of (once-again) evolving wisdom versus what religious people still preference as “God’s Word”.

Idolatry of the written word has thus led to what could be considered “demonic beliefs.” I do not hesitate to use such harsh language because any and all beliefs that lead good people to do bad things and to vote in evil ways (ways that are shortsighted, self-centered, and harmful to future generations) are demonic. And who among us does not see where such beliefs have led to a kind of collective insanity? The only cure, as far as I can tell, is for religious leaders to accept – indeed, to celebrate – that scientific, historic, and cross-cultural evidence are the actual venues through which Reality/God is speaking and guiding humanity today. Fortunately, this shift is happening rapidly…and seems likely to be fleshed out in just another generation or two.

I do not decry or disvalue this aspect of religious history. Indeed, I accept that idolatry of the written word could not have been avoided. Without the shift to literacy, humanity would never have been able to access the fruits of modernity: the rule of law, exponentially growing knowledge, cumulative technological and medical advances, and a widening sense of one’s “in-group” and compassionate treatment thereof.

Nonetheless, the negative social consequences of this form of idolatry have been quite severe – and threaten to become even more terrifying and destructive as deadly weapons come in ever smaller packages. It is thus time to prophetically speak out against continued favoring of ancient scriptural ‘authority’ over our best collective understandings of facts and values today. Said another way, the Church, currently shipwrecked (also here) on the immovable rock of “biblical authority”, can still be saved, but only by embracing “the authority of evidence”. Reality would have it no other way.

Our Way Forward: Aligning Self-Interest with Species-Wide & Global Interests

One of the most significant and hopeful insights to emerge from the early days of the Evidential Reformation is a re-envisioning of what “self-interest” really is. Self-interest actually exists at all biological and cultural levels – not just at the obvious, individual level. Indeed, the key to ever-increasing social complexity in the human realm over the past 10,000 years has been the aligning of self-interest at multiple levels. It could even be argued that nothing is more important for ensuring a just and thriving future than aligning the natural self-interest of individuals, corporations, and nation-states with the wellbeing of the body of life as a whole. The outcome of this shift would be to make competition co-operative, self-interest nontoxic, and society wise.

One could thus conclude that humanity’s “Great Work” in the 21st century is to co-create global and bioregional governance such that individuals and groups that benefit the common good benefit themselves, while individuals and groups that disregard or harm the common good are taxed, penalized, or face moral strictures.

By organizing and managing ourselves so that the impact of parts on the whole, for good or ill, are reflected back to the parts, we shall create a system through which individuals, corporations, and nations are incentivized to do what is just and ecological – while simultaneously being incentivized to not do what is unjust or un-ecological. This aligning of self-interest at multiple scales would ensure that what is perceived as the cheaper, easier, more convenient thing to do is also the right thing to do, rather than the harmful thing, as it is now. This re-incentivizing
of societal goods and services to comport with human nature (as it really is, not as we wish it would be) would also help all elements of society to access and make decisions based on humanity’s collective intelligence (also here and here).

The promise of the Evidential Reformation, as I see it, is this: As the world’s great religious traditions come to honor and celebrate evidence as divine guidance, and big history as our common creation story, they will begin to wield their moral authority in ways that assist, rather than resist, the passage of our species out of the desert of destructive and unsustainable adolescence and into the promised land of contributing and fulfilled maturity.

Evolution: An Enlightenment View, by John White

John White book

The following was written and emailed to me by John White, author of The Meeting of Science and Spirit (see end of post for contact information). It will appeal to some liberal Christians and many New Age and New Thought folk, especially those with an affinity for Integral philosophy and/or Eastern forms of evolutionary spirituality. 

"Science without religion is lame; religion without science is blind," said Albert Einstein. Can science which attributes human origin to evolution and religion which attributes human origin to special creation ever agree on the subject of humanity's genesis? They can if they recognize a transcendent perspective which reconciles them. It is found in enlightenment traditions.

Human evolution is characterized primarily by our ascent in consciousness to ever-greater degrees of intelligence and noetic power. Cro-Magnon, for instance, are distinguished from Neanderthal not so much by physical body design as by their greater intelligence which resulted in the world's first art, statuary, engravings, music, personal ornamentation and starcharts. Their superior tool-making ability gave us the bow and arrow. They were the first to domesticate animals, invent fishing as a food supply, create calendars and bury their dead with funary objects. (Neanderthal were the first to simply bury their dead.) Anthropologists also infer that Cro-Magnon had more highly developed social systems. Altogether, they showed a superior degree of consciousness and qualify to be called a newer species.

Homo sapiens succeeded Cro-Magnon. But evolution has not stopped with us, enlightenment traditions say. Higher forms of humanity await future emergence. Our race is evolving to a godlike state, marked by states of consciousness which include the rationality and intellect of Homo sapiens but go beyond that with new faculties and depth of intelligence.

In the strict scientific sense, evolution means a process by which life arose from nonliving matter and subsequently developed as a succession of types, entirely by natural means—i.e., no supernatural factor was involved.

On the basis of my reason, research and personal experience with enlightenment traditions, I reject the part which prohibits supernaturalism. From the perspective of enlightenment, all is divine and everything in the cosmos is the work or play of God the Creator-Spirit—what America's founders, in the Declaration of Independence, called "nature's God." Nature is God in material form; God or what might be called Supernature infuses and pervades all of nature.

"A Dying Breath on a Bloody Battlefield": A Civil War Ancestor Meditation, by Jon Host

Jon Host

The following is a guest post written by my dear friend and colleague Jon Cleland Host...

Hundreds dead on July 21st, with hundreds of thousands to follow.  That day, just around the corner, will be the 150thanniversary of the first major battle of the War Between the States (or the American Civil War).  Being a Northerner, somehow I missed the emphasis on the enormity of this conflict when growing up, and so I was shocked to learn that well over a half million brave men died in that war.  No other war, (not even World War II at 400,000 American casualties, and certainly not Vietnam with less than 60,000) comes close.

Some of us have a personal connection to those soldiers by knowing of an Ancestor who fought in the American Civil War, perhaps great-great-great-grandpa Jim.  Reflecting on that person can change the American Civil War from a note in a history book into a stunning chapter in the family history that got you here today – a part of who you are.  That person lived a very hard life, without which you wouldn’t exist.  Imagine if you were someone with such an Ancestor, and didn’t know it – that you lived day to day ignoring that brave part of yourself.  Don’t you want to know if you are descended from a Civil War soldier?

But without finding a Civil War soldier in our family tree, it’s pretty unlikely you are the great-great-great-grandchild of Johnny Reb or Billy Yank, right?  Can we make a reasonable estimate of the odds?

Let’s try.  First, consider how many Civil War era Ancestors you have.  You’ve got two parents, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents, etc.  Let’s put approximate dates on those (or use your actual, correct dates if you have them).  That gives two parents - born around 1950, and using 25 years for a generation, we end up with 32 Ancestors born ~1850, and 64 born ~ 1825.  Also, remember that in a group that large, you’ll have plenty of cases where both father and son fall into the eligible age (18 to 45 years old), and plenty of cases where a boy at 16 lied about his age so as to fight.  So for most of us, you have between ~40 and ~80 Ancestors who were between the ages of 18 and 45 in the year 1860, giving 20 to 40 male Ancestors – potential Civil War soldiers.  I’ll call them Male Civil War Ancestors, or MCWAs.

But were any of them soldiers?  How can we estimate that?  Luckily, we have data!  

7 Big Picture / Great Story Affirmations

IMG_0071 2.jpg

"Important as the struggle for existence has been and even still is, yet as far as the highest part of man's nature is concerned there are other agencies more important. For the moral qualities are advanced, either directly or indirectly, much more through the effects of habit, the reasoning powers, instruction, religion, etc., than through natural selection." —CHARLES DARWIN

Words create worlds. What we habitually tell ourselves and others about the nature of reality profoundly influences the quality of our lives and relationships. Replacing outmoded ways of thinking with inspiring, evidence-based concepts can be transformative. 

The following affirmations may assist you in integrating The Great Story into your life and habitual ways of being in the world. As you read or, better yet, read them aloud, I invite you to pause after each and notice if anything opens up for you. Consider the statement long enough to begin to feel it. Edit or adapt them however you'd like.

Memorized, even just one or two of these affirmations can influence how you habitually see your inner and outer world.

1.  I am an interdependent cell within the body of Life. Everything I see, hear, and feel is part of me—part of my larger Self, my true Nature.

2.  I am the sum total of 14 billion years of unbroken evolutionary development now reflecting on its immense journey. I am graced by a growing awareness of the awesome implications of my larger sacred story.

3.  I am one with the living face of evolution. I participate in, and as, the ongoing emergence of the Universe and planet Earth. I do so with courage, compassion, gratitude, and care-full action.

4.  I feel a deep connection to the whole of reality. I know that my breathing, seeing, hearing, and feeling are acts of communion. My senses are portals to the holy.

5.  I am grateful for the prehuman components of my evolved mind—and for my physical, social, and interpretive instincts.

6.  I know that I may not live to see the Sun rise again. I cherish this eternal moment.

7.  I trust that whatever happens on the other side of death is just fine. I can find comfort in mythic night language without clinging to any particular belief about the afterlife.

The Never-Ending Excitement of Scientific Discovery

Spotted salamander

Connie and I are in bliss staying in a cabin of a dear friend on Lookout Mountain in NE Alabama.  We are both hard at work (yes, that is bliss!) proofing the transcripts and creating study guides for the audio series we launched in December last year: "The Advent of Evolutionary Christianity: Conversations at the Leading Edge of Faith."  

But we take time every day to hike a trail that Connie brushed out last fall on the property here, and we look for signs of spring. Yesterday we discovered salamander eggs in the ephemeral pond.  They had been laid the night before, following a heavy rain. We knew the exact timing because we've been watching for them — and because Connie had tossed in a few fallen tree branches two days earlier, telling me, "Salamanders like to lay their eggs in clumps wrapped around branches." We know they are Spotted Salamanders, too, because the previous day we discovered several adults still ensconced under rotting logs.

Well, there they were!  Bluish-gray blobs of spotted jelly — grapefruit size — wrapped around some of the thinner branchlets.

Now here's where the excitement of science comes in. . .

Assisted Migration (Not Assisted Colonization) for Endangered Torreya, by Connie Barlow

Torrey Lee Barnes

Below are the key points that Torreya Guardian founder Connie Barlow makes whenever discussing the topic of "assisted colonization" or "assisted migration" as a management practice to help the survival prospects of threatened and endangered plants.  This blogpost is in response to the January 2011 flurry of interest in this issue, and in what she and the other Torreya Guardians have been doing for the endangered "Florida Torreya" tree since 2005.  Media interest lit up when Patrick Shirey and Gary Lambert published in the 27 January 2011 issue of the journal Nature, "Regulate Trade in Rare Plants."  For full-length treatments by Connie Barlow on this issue see links at the end of this post. 

A grassroots, single-species conservation group that I helped start is in the news again for moving an endangered so-called Florida species into the mountains of North Carolina.  We Torreya Guardians are branded as vigilantes, but helping Florida Torreya find its way northward into the mountains of North Carolina is pretty much like deciding where to go birdwatching to see Arctic Terns in January.  Every amateur birder knows that the place to find Arctic Terns when it is cold and dark in the Arctic is to take a cruise to the Antarctic waters of the Southern Hemisphere. You won't find a single "Arctic" Tern in the Arctic during the Northern Hemisphere winter.  They've all gone fishing in the south polar seas.

Similarly, Florida Torreya is no more native to Florida in today's climate regime than an Arctic Tern is native to the Arctic in January.

That's why I keep using the original term for what we Torreya Guardians have been doing since 2005: assisted migration.  Many professionals, and especially the critics, have started to call what we do "assisted colonization."  This is a terrible,  woefully misleading description.  "Assisted colonization" suggests that we are doing something artificial, something unprecedented — like we're introducing alien species, and let's just hope they don't cause problems with the natives.  No wonder some professionals are so upset by what we have been doing!

But when you realize that the particular plant species we have been helping has actually been around for tens of millions of years, and that it has repeatedly had to move vast distances south and north as the continental glaciers waxed and waned, then you realize that what we Torreya Guardians are up to is assisting an ancient and lovely tree do what it has always done whenever things warm up: head north.  We're just helping the tree get around habitat obstacles that we humans have put in its way.  And we're helping Torreya do that a whole lot faster than its natural seed dispersers, mainly squirrels and possibly land tortoises, could otherwise do the job.

Overall, whenever Earth heats up, Florida Torreya has got to become Appalachian Torreya.  Remember that in previous warm periods much of Florida has been underwater — as it soon may be again.

What’s Real? What’s Important?—Evidence as "God's Word"

Saturn cassini

"The most profound insight in the history of humankind is that we should seek to live in accord with reality. Indeed, living in harmony with reality may be accepted as a formal definition of wisdom. If we live at odds with reality (foolishly), then we will be doomed, but if live in proper relationship with reality (wisely), then we shall be saved. Humans everywhere, and at all times, have had at least a tacit understanding of this fundamental principle. What we are less in agreement about is how we should think about reality and what we should do to bring ourselves into harmony with it."  —Loyal Rue, Religion Is Not About God

As humanity's collective intelligence embodied in the new academic discipline of big history shows, the Universe began 13.7 billion years ago and, at least with respect to its upper limit, has engaged in a creative process of increasing complexity ever since: from galaxies of stars that created atoms, to oceans of molecules that brought forth the first living cell, to ecosystems of interactions that created minds, to swirling societies of minds that created culture, technology, and probing subjectivity.

The major transitions in physical, biological, and human evolution can be seen as transformations in how information regarding what's real and what's important is stored and shared in increasingly complex and efficient ways. These two questions: "What's real?" and "What's important?" — or in the words of philosopher of evolution Loyal Rue, "how things are" and "which things matter" — are the fundamental ones that not only all cultures but all life-forms have concerned themselves with. It's easy to see why. Without an accurate sense of the nature of reality and how live in right relationship to reality, you or your culture, no less than amoebas, wouldn't survive. Extinction, after all, is the norm.

All religions are mythic maps of reality. Specifically, they are maps of what's real and what's important that f­acilitate individual and social wellbeing. There's not a religion anywhere in the world that isn't a map of how things are and which things matter, which, when followed, has traditionally led to personal wholeness and social coherence. If you don't get this, you don't get religion.

So how have human beings stored and shared information about these two vital questions during our quarter million year history as Homo sapiens? And how have we done so in ways that simultaneously aligned individual and group self-interest? Only by learning and honoring how this process occurred in the past might we navigate today's challenges with the wisdom commensurate with the full experience of our ancestry. And that wisdom is much deeper and wider than the biblical writers could possibly have accessed.

Many thinkers and writers have chronicled the profound shifts in consciousness and culture catalyzed by how information has been stored and shared in increasingly efficient and accurate ways over the millennia, from orality to literacy to mathematics to science to electronics to computers, and now the internet. Most notable among those who have helped us understand the significance this process are Jesuit historian and philosopher Walter J. Ong, media ecologist Robert K. Logan, and evolutionist John Stewart. Here I will focus primarily on oral and written modes of guidance essential for the wellbeing of individuals and societies.

"God's Word" for 98% of Human History

Why Evangelize Evolution?

Ayela Rene 2

I’m often asked, “Why do you evangelize evolution? What 'good news' does science offer?” The following response is my 2011 New Year’s gift to all.

*  *  *

I used to be confused by many aspects of the world, including my inner world. Thanks to an embrace of big history as my creation story, I no longer am. I now have a depth of understanding that saints and sages down through the ages, including the biblical writers themselves, never imagined possible.

I used to struggle with temptations and what I considered “sinful habits” of thought and behavior, which often left me feeling guilty, resentful, or resigned. But since coming to appreciate the challenges of living with mismatched instincts in a world of supernormal stimuli, today I enjoy a freedom and peace and lightness of being that is unspeakably divine. For me, heaven isn’t something I’m holding out hope for after I die. It’s where you’ll find me 98% of the time, even in the midst of whatever happen to be the disruptions of the day.

When I was an idolater of the written word, I was filled with fear for family and friends—fear that they’d be tortured forever by an allegedly loving God for having the wrong beliefs. Later, my fear shifted to concern for the kind of world my grandchildren would inherit. Today, a joyful passion for life and a compulsion to leave a positive legacy have replaced fear. I’m now filled with easy acceptance and trust when I think about loved ones, expectant curiosity when I look to the future,
and deep gratitude and peace when I think about my inevitable death and the death of those care about.

When I was a Bible-centered Christian, I knew I had the right answers. If other people suffered, well…it was kind of their own fault. Today I feel compassion for those who struggle, and I am committed to doing everything I can to help bring about a just and healthy future for all. More, I’m motivated to do this not from a place of fear; but, rather, from a place of possibility and gladness that I’m related to everyone and everything and that I’m part of something emerging that is of planetary and cosmic significance.

All of this—gratitude, trust, and inspiration (replacing guilt, resentment, and fear)—all of this was made possible mostly just by having the eyes to see and ears to hear what God is revealing through science. It’s come from embracing the science-based history of physical evolution, biological evolution, and cultural evolution as my creation story, my sacred story—as The Great Story.

So the reason I evangelize evolution is twofold. I want others who are now confused or feeling guilt, resentment, resignation, or fear, to have for themselves the joy, peace, love, trust, and gratitude that comes from growing in right relationship to Reality, or “getting right with God.” And I want to spread the good news that billions of years of patterned cosmic and biological evolution (and cultural evolution) are on our side: propelling our species to move through this crisis of adolescence into maturity.

How inspiring to think that right now, through scientific and historical evidence, God is speaking volumes and is thereby intimately guiding humanity!


VIDEO: Evolutionize Your Life: Heaven Is Coming Home to Reality – This is the essence of the gospel I preach in all religious and non-religious settings. I delivered an early version of this program at the United Nations in April 2009. If you experience only one thing on this page beyond the above post, I recommend watching this 75-minute program when you can do so uninterrupted and without multitasking. :-)

Evolution Isn’t About Darwin—It’s About Salvation Before You Die

What Happens When We Die?

Evolutionary Spirituality: Coming Home to Reality

NHPTV Documentary: “One-on-one with Michael Dowd”

The Salvation of Religion: From Beliefs to Knowledge

The Trajectory of Human History: Ever-Expanding Cooperation and Compassion

Big History: The Teaching Company course by David Christian

The Empathic Civilization & Age of Empathy

Evolution and the Revival of the Human Spirit

Thank God for the New Atheists!

Your Brain’s Creation Story – podcast

Idolatry of the Written Word – podcast

A Deep-Time Model of Transformation – podcast

Three of My Best Sermons

Good and Bad Reasons for Believing – by Richard Dawkins

Doomsayers Beware, a Bright Future Beckons (I highly recommend Matt Ridley’s latest book, The Rational Optimist, which John Tierney writes about in this NY Times column.)

The Symbiotic Man: A New Understanding of the Organization of Life and a Vision of the Future – by Joel DeRosnay (One of the top 10 books I’ve ever read)

Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny – by Robert Wright (Another one of the top 10 books I’ve ever read)

Evolution’s Arrow: The Direction of Evolution and the Future of Humanity – by John Stewart (Still another “top 10″ book)

Is This The Meaning of Life? – John Stewart (make sure you see resources listed at the end of this post)

Sr. Miriam MacGillis’s 1986 “Fate of the Earth” presentation – This program has awakened thousands to a sacred view of cosmic, Earth, biological, and human history as humanity’s common creation story. Even today, 25 years later, this talk by Sr. Miriam, along with Brian Swimme’s slender volumeThe Universe Is a Green Dragon, are considered by many to be the best introductions to “The Great Story” and the significance of Thomas Berry’s work.

Biblical Christianity Is Bankrupt - My public debate with Dr. Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, over the radical difference between traditional/biblical (belief-based) faith and evidential/evolutionary (knowledge-based) faith.

Evolution as Meaningful, Inspiring Fact – links to the best wiki pages and books – Leading Epic of Evolution educational website, managed by Connie Barlow

Epic of Evolution – Helpful educational website, managed by Cathy Russell

Cosmic Resources for Educators – Epic of Evolution resources, compiled by Ruth Rosenhek and John Seed

Evolution Isn't About Darwin—It’s About Salvation Before You Die

Worship on Whidbey Island

Evolution isn’t just about Darwin, dinosaurs, and DNA. It’s about whether you and your loved ones are going to settle for a precarious promise of paradise after you die, or whether you’ll experience real heavenly joy in this life. It’s about whether you and those you care most deeply about are going to actually experience “the peace that passes all understanding,” for real, or be resigned to struggling with your “sinful nature” (and/or judging others for doing so) till the day you die.

It should not be a surprise that alcoholism, drug dependence, domestic violence, porn addiction, and both abortion and suicide rates are highest in religiously conservative parts of the U.S. (1), and that the least religious countries report the highest levels of personal and social wellbeing (2). Not only shouldn’t this be a surprise, it should be expected—given that the majority of religious conservatives are trying to navigate their lives by the Bible alone. Trying to live your life according to a woefully outdated map of reality, rather than what God has been revealing for centuries through scientific and historical evidence and cross-cultural experience, is like trying to drive from St. Louis to Portland with a GPS that has the Oregon Trail as its pre-programmed map. Good luck!

Documentary: My Take on Evolutionary Christianity


A 27-minute documentary on the ‘evolutionary gospel’ I share with virtually all religious and secular audiences aired last week on New Hampshire Public Television. Connie and I both consider it to be a fabulous introduction to my particular (evangelical naturalist) flavor of Evolutionary Christianity. Many of my guests in this teleseries have a somewhat different view, I am quite sure. I see this as a good and healthy thing. There are many ways to be an evolutionary Christian, but what we all seem to share are deep-time eyes, a global heart, and minds that value evidence as divine revelation.

The documentary (also here) centers on an interview that was conducted by Phil Vaughn and the NHPTV film crew just before an evening program I delivered in late November at the Friends Meeting in Dover, NH. Interspersed are fragments of my actual presentation, along with excerpts of an Evolutionary Christianity dvd made years ago (an obviously younger me!) that is available here.

You can freely access online the entire, hour-long digital program used as the content for this presentation, with my voice overlayed, by clicking here.

The program is titled: Evolutionize Your Life: Heaven Is Coming Home to Reality (alt. title: “Deep-Time Wisdom: An Inspiring Vision of Humanity’s Future“). It has become the main presentation I’m now delivering in all religious and non-religious contexts. I get invited to speak in both settings quite often and, so far at least, these ideas have been well received wherever I’ve presented them.

I delivered an early version of the same at the United Nations in April 2009.

The best written articulation of how I see Christianity evolving is my recent public debate with Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, over what I see as the radical difference between evolutionary faith and literalist faith. (Connie thinks it’s the best thing I’ve written since TGFE):

Biblical Christianity Is Bankrupt

The NY Times iNewp service: “The People’s Press” even picked up on it and ran it as a series. Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. The most readable version, however, is this printable PDF.

Finally, just this morning I wrote the following blog post that speaks to why I'm so passionate about sharing with Christians and others, what I like to call, "the gospel according to science":

Evolution Isn't About Darwin; It's About REAL Salvation!

Please do let me know what you honestly think of any or all of the following in the comments section below: (1) documentary, (2) "Evolutionize Your Life" program, (3) "Biblical Christianity Is Bankrupt" article, or (4) "Evolution Isn't About Darwin..." blog post, even if you consider me a heretic! 

Please do not spare my feelings! After all, radically honest feedback may be the the most helpful tool of all in helping any of us to evolve, personally, professionally, or relationally.

If you prefer to offer your feedback privately, you can email me here: michael(AT)