These pages poke into issues and perspectives
related to questions of who we are, how we got here,
and what it’s
all about, Alfie.
Plenty of people, and most of them
much smarter than I, have kicked these things around for centuries, even
millennia. This section of the website just helps me keep track, in probably
way too much mind-numbing detail, of how I got where I am.
(For an admittedly oversimplified presentation
of some key positions argued here, see an article published online in Campus
The fundamental change in my spiritual
and practical world view came
about not from my traditional Christianity’s
perceived "enemies" such
as humanism, secularism, evolution, etc., but from my own diligently
studying the Biblical scriptures themselves over many
years, reflecting on the traditions and assumptions of my own personal
heritage, and applying to them the same
scrutiny that I was taught to apply to formal dogmas and
other supposedly "false" beliefs. In my upbringing that meant
not only any religions outside Christianity. It meant most other Christian
denominations as well.
This site describes my frustrating struggle
within that framework to find the best in both
empiricism and supernaturalism,
nature and spirit.
I tried like crazy to hold on to my
intellectual and moral integrity. That wasn't easy, especially as
I kept confronting mounting evidence of one central, exasperating
realization: all the world’s
religions, with all their external tools of sacred books,
customs, traditions, creeds, superstitions, and dogmas, emerged and evolved
as a result of blending
greed, ignorance, male chauvinism,
superstition, dogmatism, manipulation,
and murderous, warmongering invasions
dignity, justice, benevolence,
idealism, hope, peace,
forgiveness, and love.
That still goes on today, in varying
degrees, in varying places and political climates. These essays detail
my efforts to put this all together. It all led to one basic conclusion:
I could no longer, with any intellectual
integrity, affirm any literalist theism.
For that matter, theism itself became
For a while upon reaching that point,
I couldn't stomach dealing with "church."
I had to drop
formal religion altogether. But gradually I began realizing that (gasp!)
systematic, institutional religions—in
even their most militantly, bureaucratically externalized forms—can
still do much good in the world, even with their most egregious
flaws. Many of the ancient stories and moral teachings can still
provide some valid and meaningful reference points. Persons of like mind
and spirit can use these tools to focus their energies and actions
toward making this world a better place. I admire, appreciate, and endorse
all sincere and earnest efforts in that direction even while I roll my
eyes at most mainstream beliefs and assumptions.
I began recognizing consciously a
range of views that I learned often converge in religious
For me, religious naturalism means that devout
reverence doesn't need to wait for any heaven
after I die. We have plenty of it in this world, this cosmos, to
delight and challenge us. We find it in a hike in the forest, playing
with a baby, sitting by the window to watch a sunset, offering food to
a homeless man. Heaven unfolds as we listen quietly to a friend who needs
to vent over his divorce, or as we catch a clear view of that rare bird.
We feel it pedaling a bike across the finish line of a hundred-miler,
gazing out across the light-years on a clear night, embracing a lover
in erotic passion, cleaning up litter from a beach. Heaven becomes real
when we weep during the adagio of a favorite symphony, or bring water
to a family who lost their house in whatever
natural disaster. The majesty of nature makes us stare transfixed as
we watch a predator running down its prey, as we sing gently to comfort
the woman in the hospital bed, as we pull over to the side of the road
to watch, smell, feel, hear, and taste the approach of an exquisitely
horrendous thunderstorm. Nature makes us laugh as we pet a humongous,
hilarious, gregarious St. Bernard who keeps trying to lick our face with
that huge, slobbery tongue.
Likewise we don't need to fear any afterlife
of hell. It surrounds us today as well. Multi-million- and -billionaire
executives tell all kinds of lies to add another zero to the
left of the decimal in their checking accounts. All brand names of religionists
butcher each other in an apparently never-ending cycle of theological
insanity, each one damning the other. A major religious corporation shuffles
sex-criminal priests around, desperately trying to pretend it gives a
damn about anything other than its shallow pretense of holiness. Politicians
insinuate their religious mythology into public education. A president
invades a sovereign nation to satisfy his petty, personal vendetta. Tribes
attack each other, raping and murdering, forcing children into war. Theological
pundits promote cultural ignorance that should have died out centuries
ago, if not millennia.
We don't need any gods or goddesses to
hear our prayers. We don't need to listen for any divine guidance. It
lives inside us as we try to make whatever sense we can of right and
wrong in each moment, each decision, each action.
To whatever extent
a "religion" promotes the hope of heaven or the fear of hell, it's
an empty superstition, a delusion. The natural world is so astounding
that we need nothing supernatural. Life is all right here, right now.
all images and text © chuck
unless otherwise noted