Michael Dowd, the author of Thank God for Evolution, is a proponent of a non-supernatural, science-based appreciation of the natural world, one that comes across as a sort of pantheism when expressed in religious language. He and others describes it as religious naturalism, which imagines humanity as "star stuff...the universe made manifest trying to figure itself out."
In eSkeptic last week there was an interesting paper examining how a modern scientific world view is sandwiched between traditional religious faith and new age religion. "Wiccans v. Creationists: An Empirical Study of How Two Systems of Belief Differ" by Raymond A. Eve, is a little dry, but it touches on an idea I've been musing on lately.
Imagine a continuum that runs from a "we used to burn people at the stake for that" religious conservatism to a New Age "whatever floats your boat" inclusiveness. Most conservative, Bible-believing Christian churches are inclined to accept nothing that contradicts their interpretation of their version of scripture (all the while enjoying the fruits of the scientifice method on daily basis). Liberal churches seem pleased to dispense with any sort of scripture that conflicts with their pursuit of modernity, but are also prone to indulge a new age credulity and intellectual relativism that comes across as all too post-modern. The current crop of atheists take great pride in their skepticism, critical thinking, and the scientific method; so much so that most sound as though they are prepared to dispense with poetry, myth, and aesthetics altogether. In doing so, all three groups skip over the incredible story the best of modern science has to offer.
Now I've listened to Dowd's sermon "The New Atheists as God's Prophets" and find it compelling in a way that I suspect the strongly religious, the fuzzily spiritual, or the new atheists are not going to grok. Dowd, and his wife, Connie Barlow, seem to be standing at edges of a progressive scientific world view, inviting the conservative Christian, the New Age "spiritual but not religious," and the angry atheist alike to adopt a new poetic, if not religious, perspective.
The approach is not without its limitations. Like most preachers, Dowd likes to hear himself talk. There is no sin in that I suppose (said the blogger), but the man can be cloyingly self-referential. Maybe I only notice because I'm listening to all his podcasts back to back to catch up. I wonder if a little editorial rigor would allow them to save some time and energy by publishing one website instead of four and producing one podcast instead of a scarcely differentiated three. Maybe Michael Dowd is just really excited about his message and he's simplifying it to repeatedly drive home the key points. Maybe it's just the woo-colored, evangelical-flavor of his presentation rubs me the wrong way.
I will keep trying.