The sacred will be with you, always
I was really struck by a phrase in Chet Raymo's blog post "A Saturday Reprise." He begins by quoting Bilhah in The Red Tent
who responds to Zilpah's expression of fear at leaving a place where
customs and gods are known and moving to the unknown by saying "Every
place has its holy names, its trees and high places. There will be gods
where we go." Then he applies the thought to new scientific discoveries,
and writes: "We are no less fearful than were Jacob's wives of leaving
the familiar. But, as Bilhah says, every place has its sacred meaning.
Whatever Mystery we meet in the land of the genomes will not greet us
with a human face, but, if we are receptive, it cannot fail to drop us
to our knees with awe and reverence, fear and trembling, thanksgiving
While some fear the potential impact of new scientific discoveries, progress in our understanding of astronomy or evolution,
others welcome the new information, confident that as our knowledge of
the natural world improves, our understanding of God, of the sacred, of
the transcendence, surely is unlikely to get any worse.
We have to rethink our ideas about God and the relationship of the divine to phenomena like weather. We need to rethink other religious concepts, such as the soul and the afterlife, in light of new discoveries and information. But as Carl Sagan put it in his book Pale Blue Dot,
"In some respects, science has far surpassed religion in delivering
awe. How is it that hardly any major religion has looked at science and
concluded, "This is better than we thought! The Universe is much bigger
than our prophets said, grander, more subtle, more elegant. God must be
even greater than we dreamed"? Instead they say, "No, no, no! My god is a
little god, and I want him to stay that way" (p.50).
And so while some fight conservative battles to maintain traditional
doctrines - and at the same time keep their gods small - others of us
look at science convinced that it is providing us with a great deal of
accurate, useful and important information that must be not only
incorporated into our thinking about God, but allowed to shape and
transform our thinking about God. And we do so confident that whoever
and whatever is truly transcendent and ultimate not only can withstand
such scrutiny, but that discovering more about the universe is an aid to
eliminating false gods and idols and replacing them with a more
accurate sense of the divine.
In exploring our matrix, the universe that we inhabit, in spite of what
many proponents of pseudoscience claim, there is no risk of genuine
science removing our sense of awe and wonder or eliminating
transcendence. Those who think otherwise have either a mistaken notion
of science, or a concept of the divine that probably deserves to perish,
and apparently is prone to do so quite easily. And that brings us back
to the point I made earlier: investigating the universe seems to have
the potential to help us eliminate and dispense with inadequate concepts
of the divine, while surely posing no threat whatsoever to any divinity that truly exists.
Originally posted at Exploring Our Matrix.