I have come to understand that the self, my self, is inherently sacred. By virtue of its own improbability, its own miracle, its own emergence. And so I lift up my head, and I bear my own witness, with affection and tenderness and respect. And in so doing, I sanctify myself with my own grace.
Perhaps we should all settle down and think about what’s good in the world and what we want to do here. If we find this planet and its history and its story to be sacred, let’s preserve and nourish it, and then we can go home at night and say whatever prayers we choose.
The religious naturalist is provisioned with tales of natural emergence that are, to my mind, far more magical than traditional miracles. Emergence is inherent in everything that is alive, allowing our yearning for supernatural miracles to be subsumed by our joy in the countless miracles that surround us.
The biochemistry and biophysics are the notes required for life; they conspire, collectively, to generate the real unit of life, the organism. The intermediate level, the chords and tempos, has to do with how the biochemistry and biophysics are organized, arranged, played out in space and time to produce a creature who grows and divides and is.
We are embedded in the great evolutionary story of planet Earth, the spare, elegant process of mutation and selection and bricolage. And this means that we are anything but alone.
The Big Bang, the formation of sars and planets, the origin and evolution of life on this planet, the advent of human consciousness and the resultant evolution of cultures – this is the story, the one story, that has the potential to unite us, because it happens to be true.
Reverence is the sense that there is something larger than the self, larger even than the human, to which one accords respect and awe and assent.
The evolution of the cosmos invokes in me a sense of mystery; the increase in biodiversity invokes the response of humility; and an understanding of the evolution of death offers me helpful ways to think about my own death.
The most reliable joy is to be out of doors, to be a creature among other creatures. I find it very restful.
Human consensus does not generate reality. Were it able to do so, the Sun would have taken to orbiting the Earth some time ago.
Human memory, they say, is like a coat closet: The most enduring outcome of a formal education is that it creates rows of coat hooks so that later on, when you come upon a new piece of information, you have a hook to hang it on. Without a hook, the new information falls on the floor.
Life from nonlife, like wine from water, has long been considered a miracle wrought by gods or God. Now it is seen to be the near-inevitable consequence of our thermal and chemical circumstances.
The concept of an independent “spiritual realm” does not augment, for me, the magic of the mystical dimension, whereas to think of this dimension as emergent from our minds makes it all the more wondrous to be a human.
The Senegalese conservationist Baba Dioum can summarize: “In the end, we will conserve only what we love, we will love only what we understand, and we will understand only what we are taught.”
When the responses elicited by the Epic of Evolution are gathered together several religious principles emerge that I can believe, serve as a framework for a global Ethos.
It seems far simpler to go ahead and say that the epic is a fantastic myth, that happens to be true of the material Universe, that other myths are true in terms of their cultural meaning, and that there’s absolutely no problem with holding more than one story, just as there’s no problem with viewing the sunset in terms of planetary rotation and spectra and nuclear fusions one moment and as visual splendor the next.
It is as we respond to the understandings and feelings inherent in . . . art that we acquire much of our truth, much of our nobility and grace, and much of our pleasure.
Early humans, bursting with questions about Nature but with limited understanding of its dynamics, explained things in terms of supernatural persons and person-animals who delivered the droughts and floods and plagues. . . .