Religious Naturalism
by Lillie Mae Henley

Since human creatures gained conscious thought and acquired imagination, they have created stories that answer that question, “How did we come to be?”

One story that is familiar is the Jewish creation story: In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth...

There is another creation story by Ursula Goodenough, a scientist, who shares her version of it in The Sacred Depths of Nature:

In the beginning, everything that is now that universe, including all of its space, was concentrated in a singularity, maybe the size of a pinhead, that was unimaginably hot (at least 100 plus 9 sets of three zeros behind it) and unimaginably dense… it expanded very rapidly, carrying everything

… along with it.

During the first three minutes of this expansion, all sorts of high-energy physics took place that yielded the current tally of subatomic particles in the universe, including protons, neutrons, and electrons. Some of the protons and neutrons fused to form helium, and random clumps developed in the expanding material so that it was not perfectly homogeneous…

A lot of physics took place and the Universe expanded and today it continues to expand. The stars and the planets eventually formed, and then chemistry occurred and the building blocks of life were produced. These building blocks …in Goodenough’s words are thought to have accumulated in the waters of the new Earth from the time it was formed, about 4.5 billion years ago, creating what is often called the “primal soup.”

In this soup were the small molecules … [that started] all forms of Earth life...

For our origins story, then two important points emerge. First, a system got thrown together, apparently quite by chance... that is not at all left to chance. And second ... this system acquired the ability to be copied and inherited. [L]ife emerged from nonlife.

Goodenough is part of a contemporary religious movement called Religious Naturalism. Religious Naturalists remind us that

—we are part of Nature, no more or no less important than the billions of stars above or the microbes in the soil beneath the leaves that blanket the forest floor beneath our feet.—we are a product – a creation – of an overwhelmingly profound, unimaginable, creative process of billions of years.

—we are interrelated to all other living species, we share common ancestors, and we share genetic similarities, not only to large mammals but to the yeast in our bread.

—we have been blessed by this mystery to have conscious thought, creative imagination, mobility, and abilities to protect ourselves in ways that other creatures cannot.

—we are as finite as any other creature

Religious Naturalists recognize that life is sacred because of the sheer improbabilities of existence. And they remind us that life is sacred because of the certainty of extinction.

Lillie Mae Henley is the Minister at the Universalist National Memorial Church and was Assistant Editor of the UNIVERSALIST HERALD.

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Reflections 4

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Is the Universalist Herald Christian?
by Steven Rowe        

Recently the question was asked concerning the orientation of this publication; is the Universalist Herald a Christian Publication? Speaking only for myself, merely  a recent subscriber , I would have to say:   Yes, of course. And a whole lot more.

Christianity has fallen on hard times in the past thirty years.  The beating of the drums and the clanging of the cymbals has muted the sounds of the words that used to echo throughout the land.  Words about Love, and Righteousness .   

Now, we are just as likely to hear that “God hates fags ” and that “God sent diseases and hurricanes to smite the wicked, and if innocents are hurt, well God knows His own” There is, among some who profess to Christianity, a smugness and disdain for those who don’t measure up.   

Let’s be honest: Who would want to be members of a religion like that?

Yet, the traditional Universalists were Christian And they had to work hard to protect their Christian faith . The WMCA forbid their individual membership, the World Council of Churches, denied their fellowship, the individual states who refused them to testify in court, still could not change the fact that the traditional Universalist based their beliefs on the Bible and what they saw as God’s love for all the people. They were indeed  Christians who deeply believed in the words of Jesus.

As time went on, the Universalists began to consider that if God loved us all, then he loved those who either weren’t Christian or didn’t know they were Christian as well. They began to see that there was even  good in non-Christian  religions that helped with the suffering of mankind and also led the way. That there was Truth in other worlds as well.  

And yes, there are still some pretty good words in the old black Book.  Words like “Love Your God with all Your heart”.   “Love your neighbor as much as you love yourself”. Do Good to those who do bad to you”. Stories about forgiveness and redemption. Indeed there are lots of good words there. And There are lots of good things in Christianity. Don’t let them run folks away from a powerful and righteous and wonderful thing.

Because there are indeed  Universalists,  who study Jesus and his way of living in attempt to be as much like him as possible; which includes  sincerity kindliness, cheerfulness, empathy, and the connection with the divine.     

They study other works as well :  

“Love is the doctrine of Universalism.  The quest for truth is its sacrament.  …”

Is the Universalist Herald a Buddhist publication?  Yes of course.

Is the Universalist Herald a Religious Humanist publication? Yes of course

Is the Universalist Herald a Christian publication?  Why, yes of course.

All of this, and a whole lot more!

Steven Rowe is a Mental Health Counselor and Webmaster of: A Southern "Universalist Church" History blog.


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More articals on Reflections

On Catapulting Lady Bugs

The Off-Centered Cross

Universalists and Feminists Saving Paradise

Manifestations of Universalism

In Defense of an Atheist

Ok To Push The Fat Man?

From Inside Katrina

Full Moons

Finding Calm in the Midst of the Storm

What’s in a Name?

Conscience and Unenforceable Obligations

The Universalist in Me


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