Rev. Michael Dowd
Note: Rev. Michael Dowd was the 2nd speaker in Mayflower's summer "Distinguished Pulpit Series. Rev. Dowd is a leading voice in the Evolutionary Spirituality movement and the author of two outstanding books: "Earth Spirit" and "Thank God for Evolution
Date: Sunday, August 1, 2010
Sermon Title: "The New Atheists Are God's Prophets"
Scripture Reading: Exodus 21:17 and Psalms 137: 8-9, also included a reading from a book by Sam Harris
We should seek to live in accordance with reality. Our debate is how we should respond to reality. The message of prophets always is, "Align with reality or perish." Our problem is that we tend to take on a small part of reality and idolize it. That is one reason why Judaism forbade images of God or even the name of God to be spoken.
Just as in ancient Greece Apollo was not understood to be apart from the sun but a personification of the life giving force of the sun, God is a personification of reality and not a person apart from it.
Facts are God's native tongue.
According to P.Z. Meyers, "There is no better way to get someone to be an atheist than to get them to read the Bible." The message of the Old Testament is follow our God or die. The message of the New Testament is follow Jesus or fry.
This use of fear to compel belief is very close to terrorism. Terrorism is the use of fear to inculcate belief. One reason why so many people are leaving the evangelical church (one estimate has it at 1,000 people a day) is that many, particularly the young, no longer fear the Bad News of the evangelical faith. Hell is not bad news anymore. The Good News cannot be cosmic fire insurance.
To believe the God spoke once in ancient books and ever again is to "dis" or disrespect God. Some of those who are speaking for God, though they would deny it, are the "New Atheists", people like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens who warn against the affect organized religion and classic theological statements about God have had in our world. Their warning is about the effect ignorance and intolerance is having in our culture and politics.
Their call to recognize the reality of our situation is their prophetic message.
Prayer of Confession:
We confess that we have failed to think and take action against the harm we have done to the atmosphere, living waters, soil and landscape, and living creatures of the Creation. We have failed to become more energy efficient in our lifestyle, ignoring our spiritual and civic responsibilities on environmental and eco-justice issues thus allowing ourselves to become a non-sustainable, consuming culture. We confess that we continue to live well beyond our needs, catering to our wants, not conserving Creation's natural resources and not allowing them to be shared with others who do not have, but need. Our sin is separation from the universe interpreting dominion over earth as license rather than responsibility. Our salvation is recognition of our interdependence with the universe. Allow us to see rays of light to guide us in future roads we travel through creation. This we ask in the name of the great sage, Jesus of Nazareth. Amen.