Note: On this first anniversary of the death of my beloved mentor Thomas Berry, and a week before I undergo another CT scan to see if I’m still cancer free, I’d like to share what shapes my evolving sense of life purpose. I begin with several paragraphs of background observations . . .
Coming into right relationship with reality is the great challenge of our time because it encompasses all of humanity’s challenges. Traditionally, maps of reality—that is, maps of how things are and which things matter—were embedded in a people’s cosmology, or creation myth—their sacred story. This big picture perspective provided answers to life’s great questions and guidance regarding what was real and what was important. Vital aspects of reality, or reality as a whole, were personified in sacred ways, as gods or goddesses. Evidence suggests that such personifications were the norm throughout human history. All cultures interpreted reality in meaningful ways using metaphors and analogies appropriate to their experience of the world. While factually realistic maps would be unavailable until modern times, these practically realistic maps of what was real (ultimately) and what mattered (ultimately) embodied the collective intelligence of a culture and vitally contributed to its survival. Inspiring and motivating stories and legends were those that contributed to the evolutionary fitness not only of the individuals within a culture but also of the group as a whole. Group-level solidarity and sacrifice would have been essential for fending off invasions—and also launching same. They did so by nurturing what Loyal Rue, in his landmark book, Religion Is Not About God, calls personal wholeness and social coherence, the two essential aspects of aligning individual and group self-interest.
Cultural fitness is impeded today in large part because the map of reality that science (the collective intelligence of our species) provides, and which urges us to unite in our diversity, has not yet been interpreted in ways that most people around the world find inspiring. As I state in the preface of my book, Thank God for Evolution: How the Marriage of Science and Religion Will Transform Your Life and Our World,
Human beings do not live by truth alone. We require the sustenance of meaning—of beauty, goodness, relationship, and purpose. We require comfort in times of sorrow and suffering. We require a big picture that facilitates trust when we look to the future, gratitude when we look to the past, and inspiration to be in action in the present regardless of our challenges.
Until those feeling-states essential for human thriving can easily and consistently be obtained via meaningful interpretations of big history, our common creation story, it should not come as a surprise that billions of human beings who currently gain these states by way of mythic, belief-based stories will resist an evidential view of reality. And in a world of increasingly accessible weapons of mass destruction, a healthy future for our species and our planet seems unlikely if billions of us continue to be guided by competing, outdated, and inaccurate maps of how things are and which things matter. Thus, in addition to posting as a podcast series our occasional ruminations as “America’s Evolutionary Evangelists”, and in addition to teaching the epic of evolution as an inspiring modern-day creation story to kids and adults across North America, Connie and I are excited to have recently launched two new podcast series in which we interview and dialogue with leaders in science, education, and progressive religious initiatives: “Inspiring Naturalism” and “Evolving Faith”.
Mission Statement: To share what I call “the gospel according to science” (i.e., this-world good news from an evidential perspective) with as many people as I can, to proclaim the heavenly joy, individually and collectively, in coming home to realty, and to do my part in furthering the world-wide movement of those passionately committed to a healthy future for humanity and the larger body of life.
Credo: Reality is my God and integrity (honoring reality) is my religion. Thus, living in right relationship with reality and assisting humanity in this process is my calling and deepest inspiration.
Life purpose: I serve the future by boldly (yet compassionately) evangelizing evolution, by celebrating our best collective intelligence about the nature of reality, and by offering deep-time eyes and a realistically hopeful vision of the future. I consistently affirm and invite others to update (naturalize/REALize) their maps of reality (including what they mean by “God”) and to excitedly participate in bringing forth a mutually enhancing human-Earth relationship.
Actions: In every sermon, workshop, interaction, and creative project, I seek to inspire and motivate by:
1. Offering DEEP-TIME EYES (our current, most accurate map of reality) regarding,
2. Offering a vision of HUMANITY’S RITE OF PASSAGE (from mythic to evidential guidance):
3. Sharing my testimonial (heaven/bliss/enlightenment here, now) and how natural, evidential ways of evoking trust, gratitude, and inspiration can enrich all spiritual paths and philosophies.
4. Inviting others to participate in something truly momentous (“Evolutionize Your Life”), by advocating this five-fold prescription for experiencing “the bliss of coming home to reality”:
Bequest: If I die anytime soon (and even if I don’t), I trust that others will stand on my shoulders and fulfill this vision or something like it. Whatever the future may bring, I give my permission for anyone and everyone to use my words and ideas without needing to credit or quote me, and to spread the memes that I’ve been spreading on my/our websites: MichaelDowd.org, TheGreatStory.org, ThankGodforEvolution.com, and EvolutionaryTimes.org as if they were your own. Because, in truth, from the perspective of the body of life as a whole, they are.
~ Michael Dowd
Forwarding address: The Great Story, 5246 Mutiny Bay Rd., Freeland, WA 98249