Religion and science are not the same, but religion that ignores science or that is solely couched in a pre-scientific worldview is less able to address the spiritual and moral challenges of our time. The world’s religions offer humanity significant wisdom, but most of them were created in a time in which humanity had very little understanding of our connection with the rest of life and our place in the universe. A religion that opens our hearts and minds to a cosmos with at least billions of years of history as opposed to thousands and sees the place of our planetary home in a galaxy of 200 billion stars in a universe of 2 trillion galaxies and counting provides us with a spiritual perspective that is much more awe inspiring and humility provoking than the earth centered and human centered worldviews of our past.
We have been given the amazing opportunity of being one aspect of the universe becoming conscious of itself and being able to catch some glimpse of what brought us to have this remarkable perspective in relation to the rest of cosmos. This reality calls us to an attitude of awe and respect, and it also calls us to a deep responsibility to preserve the amazing planet which made our consciousness and community possible. Any use of our consciousness that divides us from each other or that brings unnecessary suffering to other persons or to other forms of life is a misuse of our gift and a rejection of our sacred responsibility as an expression of the consciousness of the cosmos.
Humanity finds ourselves in the precarious position in which the evolution of our knowledge and our ability to adapt and understand the world around us has given us the ability to come to a deeper understanding of ourselves, the rest of life on earth, and our place in cosmos while simultaneously giving us the ability to manipulate and destroy the very ecological community which makes our lives and consciousness a possibility. Our generation finds ourselves at a crossroads in which we must either find a way to live at peace with our ecological community or suffer the consequences of the hubris of thinking we are somehow greater than the rest of life or disconnected from it.
In a cosmos or two trillion galaxies and counting, one can imagine that there have been countless other civilizations of conscious life, many of which may have found the proper balance with their planet’s ecosystems to live and perhaps even flourish sustainably and relatively peacefully for extremely long periods of time, while others have likely failed to be able to grasp the responsibility that their conscious self-awareness entailed and thus became relatively momentary flashes of communities of consciousness before their demise. If humanity here on earth continues on our current path, we will soon find ourselves joining these fleeting communities of consciousness that were unable to find their way together in peace with one another and the rest of life.
When we become aware of the vastness of the universe and the likelihood of so many other communities of life in the cosmos, it may lead some of us to a feeling of almost infinitesimal smallness and insignificance, but it might just as well lead us to a sense of awe and wonder that we are the product of at least billions of years cosmic evolution that have led us to this moment in which we are an expression of the cosmos becoming aware of itself and in which we are experiencing lives of potentially deep and wondrous community if we could find ways of working together to express ourselves in love and live together in peace with one another and the rest of the community of life on earth.
Our religious aspirations ought to at least take into account the vastness of the cosmos and our scientific understanding of our place within it. Otherwise our religious expressions run the risk of being too narrow and too small as compared to the reality of the world and the universe in which we live. For example, think how narrow, small, and inadequate the adherence to Christian nationalism is if we were to truly see ourselves as expressions of consciousness of the entire cosmos with responsibility for caring for one another and all life on earth. A Christian nationalism that divides us from each other and diminishes our other human siblings who orient themselves differently to religion is a rejection of our sacred calling to love all persons and all life on earth, and it fails to see our human community and our world as just one small part of a vast and awe inspiring cosmos.
A religious perspective that fails to see that the universe and our planet existed for billions of years before us and will exist for billions of years after us is simply too narrow and too small to help us grasp the vast reality of the cosmos in which live and move and have our being. Such a narrow and small religious perspective fails to give us a proper understanding of our place within the whole and of the nature of our responsibility as conscious moral beings for the care of the world around us. Any religious perspective that expresses the hubris that the whole cosmos revolves solely around human history and that the world as we know it will end in a few years time is simply not capable of connecting us with reality in a responsible way.
One of the greatest failures of humankind has been our inability to recognize that our religious perspectives ought to evolve with our changing knowledge and experience of the world and the cosmos. For the sake of the well being of both our human community and ecological community of which we are all a part, we can no longer afford to be dividing ourselves and killing each other over differences in doctrines and interpretations of religious beliefs that we have inherited from a prescientific age.
For such a time as this, we need a religious vision that is broader, more inclusive, and more aware of our place in this universe of two trillion galaxies and counting. For such a time as this, we need a religious vision that will inspire us to work together as one humanity in all of our diversity and address the challenges that threaten our life on this precious planet that is our only home.
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