Friends, The sermon last week was from the Psalms, with its typical language that “My enemies will not defeat me – the Lord will protect me.” This got me wondering whether we religious naturalists have enemies, whether we need protection from them, and who or what will protect us.
My guess is that each of our 456 members will have a different approach to these questions (after all, we value diversity), but my thinking carried me in one direction where I suspect we’d find a lot of resonance. I tried on various words and concepts to describe where I sense danger, and where I think my sense of protection from that danger comes from.
Growing up without religious naturalism, surrounded by other belief systems, my discomfort (I’m not sure I’d call it “danger” at that point, since I had a basically secure life) came from an internal dissonance, a conviction that my various beliefs did not fit into a well-integrated understanding of the world or myself. My word for this is integrity, though “cohesive worldview” would also work.
Does that protect me? Does it “save” me? Well, I think it does, at least from the dangers of dissonance and/or sloppy thinking. Maybe a more humble way of saying it is that a religious naturalist worldview “orients” me. It gives me nature as the touchstone from which to live and breathe and have my being. Maybe thinking of it as an orientation rather than as salvation also avoids the offsetting danger of smugness. It allows what some religious thinkers call humility (and I always try to remember the common root of humility, human, and the humus I mix in my gardening soil – they all start with a search for earthy reality, with taking nature to heart).
As the sermon wound down, my mind-wandering had me musing that what really saves me is a gentle touch, a kind word, an apple, a song, friendship, a bike ride, an opportunity to serve, and a group like you to identify with. I am grateful for you all, and I thank you for being there and sharing my journey.
Let me end with an announcement I promised to forward. One of the best workplaces for the intersection of science and religion is “Zygon: Journal of Religion & Science.” It is currently in the hunt for a new Editor, and its Joint Publication Board (on which I once served) has asked us to spread the word far and wide. All of the recent editors have been friendly to religious naturalism, and it would be great if the next one is too. So
please let anyone know who might be interested in this challenging and meaningful task.
If you go to church, have fun re-interpreting the sermons!
Michael Cavanaugh, Secretary