Human evolution

Evolutionary Leaders: In Service to Conscious Evolution -  Don Beck, Michael Bernard Beckwith, Joan Borysenko, Gregg Braden, Patrick Brauckmann, Rinaldo Brutoco, Jack Canfield, Scott Carlin, Deepak Chopra, Andrew Cohen, Oran Cohen, Dale Colton, Wendy Craig-Purcell, Stephen Dinan, Michael Dowd, Gordon Dveirin, Duane Elgin, Barbara Fields, Ashok Gangadean, Kathleen Gardarian, Tom Gegax, David Gershon, Mark Gerzon, Charles Gibbs, Joshua Gorman, Craig Hamilton, Kathy Hearn, Jean Houston, Barbara Marx Hubbard, Ervin Laszlo, Bruce Lipton, Lynnaea Lumbard, Elza Maalouf, Howard Martin, Fred Matser, Rod McGrew, Steve McIntosh, Lynne McTaggart, Nipun Mehta, Nina Meyerhof, Deborah Moldow, James O’Dea, Terry Patten, Carter Phipps, Carolyn Rangel, Ocean Robbins, Peter Russell, Elisabet Sahtouris, Yuka Saionji, Gerard Senehi, Christian Sorensen, Emily Squires, Daniel Stone, Lynne Twist, Diane Williams, Katherine Woodward Thomas, Claire Zammit, Tom Zender www.evolutionaryleaders.net  On 11.1.11 (November 1, 2011) Evolutionary Leaders gathered in meditation to hold this intention: Our intention is to transcend superficial differences that divide us – race, religion, politics, beliefs, culture – to acknowledge, experience and honor the essential bond that unites us all as one interdependent organism. We also intend to evolve in both consciousness and action so that each of us learns to perceive the whole, relate to others in wholeness, widen our definition of ‘we’ to be all inclusive and become evolutionary leaders for a peaceful, holistic, sustainable world.

Envisioning Where We Want to Go: An Interview With Evolutionary Reconstructionist Gar Alperovitz By Leslie Thatcher, Truthout, August 22, 2014         a new website — Pluralist Commonwealth — about principles of democratic ownership and on building a sustainable and

Mil­lions of peo­ple around the world find them­selves search­ing for a more mean­ing­ful, rel­e­vant, and pro­found way to engage with life. Not only do they want to become more con­scious as indi­vid­u­als, they want to per­son­ally par­tic­i­pate in the cre­ation of a bet­ter world….The fourteen-billion-year project that is our evolv­ing uni­verse has reached a crit­i­cal junc­ture where it needs con­scious, cre­ative human beings to help build the next step, together.  Con­scious evo­lu­tion for think­ing peo­ple by Andrew Cohen, Enlighten­Next magazine

…we must under­stand the fun­da­men­tal and often widely dif­fer­ing ways in which both indi­vid­ual human beings and entire cul­tures think about things and pri­or­i­tize their val­ues. Only then can we address the root causes of social frag­men­ta­tion and con­flict and cre­ate a form of global gov­er­nance that will guide the emer­gence of a new soci­ety in the twenty-first century.…There are now six bil­lion of us, and while we are more cul­tur­ally frag­mented than ever before, we are also more inter­con­nected. Every­thing is both global and local—everywhere.…our prob­lems of exis­tence have become more com­plex than the solu­tions we have avail­able to deal with them. While on the sur­face it often appears that con­flicts are tribal or involve com­pet­ing empires, or ide­olo­gies, or even national inter­ests, the real issues are in the under­ly­ing worldviews—the deeper human dynam­ics that can dra­mat­i­cally dif­fer from one cul­ture to another. It is these under­ly­ing cul­tural dynam­ics that shape the actions and choices we make, that deter­mine how we live our lives, how cul­tures sub­se­quently form, and why they often collide. …what we’re try­ing to do is cre­ate bet­ter ways for six bil­lion earth­lings to sur­vive. That is the ulti­mate bot­tom line—the health of the whole, based upon an under­stand­ing of human com­plex­ity and emergence…I real­ize this endeavor has a grand scope, but such is the nature of major par­a­digm shifts in our culture. A New Con­scious­ness For a World In Cri­sis by Jes­sica Roemis­cher from Enlighten­Next magazine

…find­ing a path­way to a viable human future is the Great Work of our time…Our envi­ron­men­tal, social, and eco­nomic sys­tems are col­laps­ing around us….This is a defin­ing moment for the human species. We have a brief win­dow of oppor­tu­nity to nav­i­gate the pas­sage from a self-destructive Era of Empire, char­ac­ter­ized by 5,000 years of vio­lent dom­i­na­tion, to an Era of Earth Com­mu­nity char­ac­ter­ized by peace­ful part­ner­ship.…This is arguably the most excit­ing time to be alive in the whole of the human expe­ri­ence. Cre­ation is call­ing us to rein­vent our cul­tures, our insti­tu­tions and our­selves. It is in our hands. We have the power. We are the one’s we’ve been waiting for. The Great Turn­ing: The End of Empire and the Rise of Earth Com­mu­nity by David Kor­ten, Jan­u­ary 27, 2008

Spirituality is a universal phenomenon. It doesn’t matter where in the world you live or what “tribe” you are a part of; you can be assured that spirituality will be a part of the psychological and social fabric of your immediate world. Why? Humans have a strong will toward meaning…spirituality provides us with a sense of morality and ethics and allows us to find a sense of peace in the face of life’s trials and tribulations. In fact, spirituality is central to being and becoming a healthy and well-adjusted human being. Spirituality also plays a role in enabling the evolution of individual and collective consciousness…
A person’s way of thinking and being is influenced by their worldview – the unique combination of attitudes, perceptions, and assumptions that inform how they personally understand and make sense of their place in the world…
3) The belief in fostering wholeness and interconnectedness, which means a universal spiritual belief that all life is interconnected and that it is your bond to all humanity that provides a sense of wholeness… Toward a “Common Spirituality”: Scaffolding for Evolving Consciousness by Richard Harmer, PhD, Noetic, December 2010

Spiral Dynamics is a powerful model and predictive theory of human development and cultural evolution…a powerful tool for understanding the complexity of human behavior. SD has been successfully employed around the globe for conceiving and implementing real-world integral solutions to social conflicts and for catalyzing individual evolutionary transformation.…this evolutionary theory and model for human development can help you understand the complex world we live in and to navigate the challenges of life in the twenty-first century.…how we think is so much more important than what we think!  Spiral Dynamics was introduced in the 1996 book Spiral Dynamics by Don Beck and Chris Cowan.… Spiral Dynamics suggests ways to move more quickly in the direction of deep dialogue and comprehensive, integral solutions…. As our world is now moving into the next stage of cultural pluralism and diversity programs, Spiral Dynamics offers a point of view that looks at the evolutionary dynamic of the deep underlying values systems….Spiral Dynamics connects everything to everything else…discover and reveal the mechanisms and stages that have characterized our long, evolutionary ascent from an animal-like existence.  EnlightenNext.org

Exploring The Religious Naturalist Option

By Ursula Goodenough, NPR, November 23, 2014  

Adam [Frank] recently wrote a nice piece on the “spiritual but not religious” distinction being made these days. He noted that “religious” is commonly used to connote being affiliated with a traditional religion and “spiritual” to connote some larger sense of awe and wonder.

I’m offering another take on these matters — one that incorporates the science-based understandings of nature that lie at the heart of 13.7 — by answering some questions here:

What is the standard understanding of being religious?

Most traditional religions have a core narrative (a mythos, a large story), usually recorded in texts or oral accounts. Interpretations of each account are embedded in the mythos and elaborated by clergy, spiritual responses to the account are elicited via art and ceremonies, and moral/ethical edicts are built into the fabric of the narrative.

A person adopting a traditional religion elects to believe in the mythos and its embedded interpretive, spiritual and moral/ethical parameters — and usually participates in a community of fellow believers.

Who is a naturalist?

Scientific inquiry has provisioned us with a mind-boggling new core narrative — the epic of evolution, the epic of creation, the universe story, big history, everybody’s story — where humans and human cultures are understood to be emergent from and, hence, a part of nature.

Naturalists adopt this account as their core narrative, with full recognition that these understandings will certainly deepen and may shift with further scientific inquiry. They adopt the story currently on offer and do not simply select features of the story that support preferred theories of nature.

Who is a religious naturalist?

A religious naturalist is a naturalist who has adopted the epic as a core narrative and goes on to explore its religious potential, developing interpretive, spiritual and moral/ethical responses to the story.

Importantly, these responses are not front-loaded into the story as they are in the traditions. Therefore, the religious naturalist engages in a process, both individually and in the company of fellow explorers, to discover and experience them. These explorations are informed and guided by the mindful understandings inherent in our human traditions, including art, literature, philosophy and the religions of the world.

What is meant by interpretive, spiritual and moral?

The interpretive axis entails asking the big questions along philosophical/existential axes. How do our science-based understandings inform our experience of self? What do they tell us about free will? Death? Love? The search for the meaning of life? Why there is anything at all rather than nothing?

The spiritual axis entails exploring inward religious responses to the epic, including awe and wonder, gratitude, assent, commitment, humility, reverence, joy and the astonishment of being alive at all.

The moral axis entails outward communal responses to the epic, where our deepening understandings of the animal/primate antecedents of our social sensibilities offer important resources for furthering social justice and human cooperation.

It also entails an orientation that can be called “ecomorality,” seeking right relations between the earth and its creatures, absorbing our interrelatedness, interdependence and responsibilities.

What is religious naturalism?

Religious naturalists seek to develop coherent and satisfying meta-versions of their interpretive, spiritual and moral responses to the natural world. Some may go on to produce books, articles, blog postings, films, art, music and poetry that offer these syntheses for others to consider and learn from. A given synthesis can be called that person’s version of religious naturalism, and many such offerings are available. (An analogy: There are many versions of environmentalism on offer, each written by an environmentalist.)

Importantly, all of these projects are proposals. At this stage in the journey, our core text is nature.

What about God?

The concept of a God who actively alters the course of natural events is not a naturalist view; persons for whom this concept is important will presumably prefer another religious home. At the other pole, naturalists who find the concept of being religious to be an anathema will presumably eschew the term.

Most religious naturalists do not elect to use God language, but some use the word as a personification of reality, or to connote the unknown and perhaps unknowable substrate of order (e.g., “God as the ground of being”), or to connote a large and important concept within the natural world (e.g., “God is love” or “God is creativity”).

Adam notes in his blog that a recent Pew Foundation survey on religion found that almost 20 percent of Americans placed themselves in the “unaffiliated” category.

Persons who consider themselves religious naturalists now have an affiliation option — to join (free) an organization called the Religious Naturalist Association, or RNA (pun intended). You can check it out here. The drop-down menu called “Varieties of Religious Naturalism” links to books and other websites that consider this perspective and the link to the RNA Advisors introduces some of the folks who are onboard — including our own Stu Kauffman!


Ursula Goodenough is a professor of biology at Washington University, where she teaches cell biology and molecular evolution. Ursula ended her run as a regular contributor to the blog in July 2011. She remains, however, a valuable member of the 13.7 community.

http://www.npr.org/blogs/13.7/2014/11/23/366104014/exploring-the-religious-naturalist-option?utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=npr&utm_term=nprnews&utm_content=2048

Another Word on “God and the Twenty-First Century”

by Michael Benedikt, Tikkun, March 5, 2011

Excerpt

It is no longer necessary to invoke the name of God to explain or promote compassionate action. Today we understand we have evolved that capacity…what are commandments? Ways of bringing goodness to life through actions, through deeds…These are the words of three champions of monotheism [Judaism, Christianity, Islam]…But what should followers of these theist traditions think of the good practiced by nonbelievers — people who would say it’s quite unnecessary, and even counterproductive, to bring “God” into ordinary morality, who would offer that morality can and should be understood from an entirely scientific, evolutionary, and historical point of view thus: the capacity for empathy, fairness, and altruism is wired into human beings and even other higher mammals from birth, thanks to millions of generations of reproduction-with-variation under the constraints of natural selection. Similarly, the laws of civility — from the Eightfold Way and the Ten Commandments to the Magna Carta, the Geneva Convention, and the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights — are the culturally transmitted legacy of thousands of years of human social evolution overlaid upon older, natural reproductive-selective processes. Whereas laws of civility may once have needed the rhetorical force of God-talk to establish themselves, today they can be embraced rationally in the service of peace and prosperity.

Full text

It is no longer necessary to invoke the name of God to explain or promote compassionate action. Today we understand we have evolved that capacity and can choose to exercise it.

There’s the story of a young atheist arguing with his Orthodox Jewish father about the existence of God. It’s late Friday afternoon. After an hour or so, the father looks at his watch and concedes, “Well, my son, God might or might not exist, but it’s time for evening prayers.”

Mitzvot are what matter. And what are mitzvot — what are commandments? Ways of bringing goodness to life through actions, through deeds. Said Rabbi Shimeon: “Not learning but doing is the chief thing.” Said Jesus: “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord! Lord!’ shall enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but he who does the will of God” (Matthew 7:21). Said Muhammad: “If you derive pleasure from the good you do, and are grieved by the evil you commit, you are a true believer.”

These are the words of three champions of monotheism. Their pragmatism is bracing. But what should followers of these theist traditions think of the good practiced by nonbelievers — people who would say it’s quite unnecessary, and even counterproductive, to bring “God” into ordinary morality, who would offer that morality can and should be understood from an entirely scientific, evolutionary, and historical point of view thus: the capacity for empathy, fairness, and altruism is wired into human beings and even other higher mammals from birth, thanks to millions of generations of reproduction-with-variation under the constraints of natural selection. Similarly, the laws of civility — from the Eightfold Way and the Ten Commandments to the Magna Carta, the Geneva Convention, and the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights — are the culturally transmitted legacy of thousands of years of human social evolution overlaid upon older, natural reproductive-selective processes. Whereas laws of civility may once have needed the rhetorical force of God-talk to establish themselves, today they can be embraced rationally in the service of peace and prosperity.

In short, the nonbeliever holds that arriving at the enlightened understanding that good actions are good-for-us, that better ones are good-for-us-all, and the best are good-for-all-living-things requires neither God nor religion. God (in their view) is actually “God,” a useful fiction at best, a mental catalyst, rather like the square root of minus one: put into the equation only to be taken out later.

This dismissal of God and “his” goodness — in favor of evolution and its goodness — leaves modern, science-educated theists (and deists) unsatisfied. They believe that centuries of religious architecture, literature, and music ought not be treated only aesthetically and/or anthropologically, bracketed from real life, and considered to be about what was once picturesquely believed — but rather as capable, still, of transporting the self and transforming the world for the good. They believe, likewise, that ceremonies calmly asking for God’s blessing in progressive churches and synagogues the world over may not be worship in the traditions of self-abjection or irrational ecstasy, but they do more than “improve group fitness.” There’s a reason that the seal impressed upon births, marriages, and deaths by the invocation of the deity is so poorly replaced by secular language.

For modern, science-educated theists, the theory of evolution and the way it accounts for the origins of ethics and aesthetics is not wrong, then, just inadequate. Arthur Green’s excellent essay in “God and the Twenty-First Century,” the March/April 2010 Tikkun, represents one response, one solution. It is to divinize evolution, to understand evolution as God’s only mode of operation. Evolution has a direction, which is the attainment of ever higher levels of complexity and organization — of ever greater “intensifications of beauty,” as Alfred North Whitehead put it — in the arrangement of matter and energy in the universe, culminating in human consciousness. This passage from dust to mindfulness, this many-billion-year saga, is sacred in its entirety. It is the new “Greatest Story Ever Told.”

In Divinizing Evolution, What Becomes of the Problem of Evil?

If evolution itself is seen as wise and benevolent, even divine, how come it involves so much suffering? Or is there a better way to conceive of “evolutionary spirituality”? Creative Commons/William Li.

Reading Green brings to mind earlier attempts to divinize evolution: Whitehead’s process, Henri Bergson’s creative evolution, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s cosmogenesis, Samuel Alexander’s emergentism, as well as the “evolutionary spiritualities” (Andrew Cohen’s term) of Leibniz, Schelling, Hegel, and J. Huxley, for whom humankind was “nothing else but evolution become conscious of itself.” The danger with reconciling theism with science by sacralizing evolution, however, is the tendency to assign to evolution a wisdom equivalent to the God of Genesis. The resulting problem is an old one: the “problem of evil.” For just as it is difficult and even impossible to reconcile the existence of a single, absolutely powerful, knowledgeable, and beneficent Creator God with the innocent suffering that surrounds us, so one cannot hold to a good, evolution-devising, evolution-endorsing, or even evolution-constituted God for whom the agonies and early deaths of uncountable living creatures through history are justified by the result, since the vast majority of those agonies and deaths contributed nothing to evolution.

Evolution, overall, may be “good” in as much as it eventuated in our being here to read and write articles like this. But looked at with any precision, evolution is a slow and messy affair, tragic in most directions. Is God really that careless, that wasteful? The evolution of species may be “the greatest … drama of all time,” as Arthur Green says, but on the evidence, it would seem that only a small and recent chapter of it begins to be “sacred.” It’s the chapter that opens with Eve’s eating of the apple, the allegorical mark of the emergence of human conscience, and it’s a chapter that’s still being written.

What If God Emerges From and Evolves With Us?

I suggest that the only version of “evolutionary spirituality” that keeps God good and that makes spiritual as well as evolutionary sense, sees God him/her/itself as emerging from and evolving with us, and not existing before.

This is not so strange an idea, or so new. As talmudist Aryeh Cohen, coming from quite another direction, writes in his careful essay in the same issue of Tikkun: “It is in the practice of justice that God exists and that redemption may happen.” The next logical step multiplies implications: perhaps it is not only in the doing of good (in “the practice of justice”) that God exists, but as the doing of good (as the practice of justice) that God exists. “God” is not a noun but a verb, as David Cooper declares in his book about the Kabbalah; but more pointedly God is not a being, but a doing. If God is as God does, and God does only good by definition, then it follows, in so far as doing (over mere mechanical action or reaction) involves even a trace of foresight, creativity, and review, that God’s existence and continuance is in human hands, no less than our continuance, increasingly, is in God’s. The human species is new in cosmic history. Doing good is newer still. God is not everywhere always, therefore, and never was; God is — only where good is being done, and when. Humanity is “theogenic,” and God “ethicogenic.”

I understand that these declarations are under-supported in this short article. But consider this: seeing God as goodness performed, like music or dance, allows an educated believer to say “God” and to mean by “God” something viable, actual, and energizing that needs no apology or bracketing or empty hyperbole to promote. It encourages them — it encourages us — to understand that religious texts, and especially ancient religious texts, are not poor science or arcane readings suited only for ritual use, but recordings of the emergence of — and generators, still, of an openness to — that new, tenuous, and “vertical” dimension of human experience we call the ethical. This is the dimension into which we step, as out of a basement into fresh air, each time we volunteer ourselves into selflessness, or choose what is best for all, or welcome necessary complexity. One might call it elevation through submission — submission not to God Almighty (this is the old hyperbole), but to the gentle and persistent current of joy and care that runs through life: a charge coming to us from everywhere and nowhere to “choose life,” consciously, for all living things, in the freedom to do otherwise.

The step into the ethical dimension and its upward loft is not arduous. It is often a small one. Said Moses to the Israelites:

Surely this instruction which I enjoin upon you this day is not too baffling for you, nor is it beyond your reach. It is not in the heavens, that you should say, “Who among us can go up to the heavens and get it for us and impart it to us, that we may observe it?” Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, “Who among us can cross to the other side of the sea and get it for us and impart it to us, that we may observe it?” No, the thing is very close to you, in your mouth and in your hearts, to observe it … Choose life, that ye may live (Deut. 30:11-14, 20:19).

Look out of your window, then. Every animal not shot, every walker not carrying a gun, every car waiting patiently for a traffic light to change, every repairman writing up a job fairly, every person dying in a fresh hospital bed rather than on a battlefield or in a gutter, every street that is swept, every bush that is trimmed, every toddler studying a worm, is God evidenced and instanced. We should look upon these things and be glad, even reverent. We should rejoice at peace and simple decency, and not take them for granted. They are not the product of raw, biological evolution, but of the divine process of civilization, a process to which we contribute. Our “cup runneth over,” and by our ethical actions, that cup runs over for others. This is the wonder of good doing. “The wonder of [good] doing,” wrote Abraham Joshua Heschel,

is no less amazing than the marvel of being … and [it] may prompt us to discover “the divinity of deeds.” In doing sacred deeds, we may begin to realize that there is more in our doing than ourselves, that in our doing there is something — nay, someone — divine. [It is] “through the ecstasy of deeds” that we learn “to be certain of the hereness of God.”

How Should We De-Anthropomorphize God?

One perpetual challenge for thoughtful theists — a challenge almost as great as how to interpret evolution — is how to deal with theological anthropomorphism, which is the second entry point for atheists after the problem of evil.

As Stewart Guthrie points out in Faces in the Clouds, anthropomorphism takes two forms. The first is easy to detect and easy to suppress: seeing the man in the moon or thinking that snakes are reincarnated bad people, that volcanoes are angry, that the stock market “shakes off” bad news, and so on. It is the stuff of instinct, of children’s books, poetry, and colorful journalism.

The second form of anthropomorphism is not as easy to detect or neutralize. It is part of thinking itself. As Kant argued, space and time may or may not be “out there” apart from our thinking. More commonsensically, we know at some level that whereas we are born and die, the universe may not have had a beginning at all and may not end. Certainly, the universe is neither beautiful nor ugly nor safe nor dangerous, except to us. But neither, really, is it large or small or old or young. We might say that the universe “just is.” But metaphysical “being” too might be an indiscriminate extension of what our own persistence feels like to us. And so on. Like metaphor in language, this form of anthropomorphism is endemic to all human perception and thought, and we just have to live with it. We are, after all, part of the universe — even though we may be the only part evolved enough to ponder its form and meaning — and so can’t be totally wrong.

Where, then, should religious anthropomorphism lie on the spectrum between children’s-book animism on the one hand and Nature-article objectivity on the other? Choosing the first as inevitable, atheists will gleefully quote the pre-Socratic wit, Xenophanes, who reasoned: “If lions could think, their gods would have manes and roar,” or cite Ludwig Feuerbach, who more seriously portrayed God as the wishful projection of human virtues onto an indifferent cosmos — and regard both as evidence of God’s nonexistence.

In defense of this critique, serious theologians and philosophers have long sought to move to the other pole, devising ever less anthropomorphic descriptions of God. Among them are Spinoza’s Deus sive Natura (“God or Nature”), Hegel’s Absolute Spirit, Whitehead’s Process, Tillich’s Ground of Being, Hartshorne’s Eminent Self-Creation, Kaufman’s Creativity, and Green’s Sacred Evolution. Important to note is that while each helps de-anthropomorphize divinity (at the price of God’s addressability — but that’s another story), each also leaves God presiding over the Beginning and underlying all historical developments; each leaves God, though not human in any way, omnipresent, beyond understanding, and without end (Ein Sof), and thus, like the God of the Bible, the suitable object of awe. It would seem that the capacity to inspire awe, by size, beauty, power, and age, is the one capacity without which no God, in our estimation, could be considered God. Do you recall God’s answer to Job? Even a de-anthropomorphized God, it seems, would answer Job in essentially the same way.

What If God Is Young and Weak?

I think that these theologians and philosophers’ hyperbolic descriptions of God might be, if not a mistake, then an unexamined habit. For God may not be the oldest and strongest force in the universe, but the youngest and weakest one, neither celestial on a throne, nor embedded among subatomic events, but enacted in daily human encounters, choices, and deeds. This is a God to cherish, not to fear. Our tradition of depicting God with a human voice “and an outstretched arm” may not, then, be the result of naive anthropocentrism, but rather a reflection of the fact that voluntary goodness emerges from the matrix of human life in acts of love, duty, beauty, compassion, forbearance, and wisdom — it emerges from motherly, fatherly, brotherly, sisterly, and neighborly acts whose recently evolved, high-order complexity is essential not only to our happiness, but to our continuance and even to that of life on earth. Is it not miracle enough that a whole new level of being/doing is struggling to its feet on this planet? And if we are inclined to concede that the emotion of awe is necessary for any God to be God to us, may we not feel awe at a child’s first words? Or radical amazement at the flowering of the Torah on this speck of dust drifting among the mindless, wheeling stars?

Influenced variously by the Hasidic masters, Felix Adler, Martin Buber, Emanuel Levinas, and Abraham Joshua Heschel were among the pioneers of the line of Jewish, existential, “theo-humanistic” religious thinking that we find in practitioners today as different as Michael Lerner and Harold Schulweis (both Heschel students). This line of thinking is happy to see divinity at work in ethical human relationships — people with each other and with other living things. It speaks often of human partnership with God. It celebrates the godliness of certain human deeds. But that divinity, that partnership, that godliness is derivative still, and dependent upon the much greater godliness of God the Creator/Sustainer/Evolver of the Universe, who remains in place, as it were, at the alpha and omega points of existence. I propose that we can let go of this conception and, in holding God to be good only, consider seriously that our ethical actions are the very substance of God, and say dayenu. I have tried to describe this variant of humanistic Jewish theology in my book God Is the Good We Do.

In Conclusion

As every reader of Tikkun knows, the word “tikkun” means healing, repair, uplift. Healing, repairing, and lifting-up are deeds, not just doctrines; they are transformations of the world around, not just private adjustments of attitude. Tikkun, one might say, is the obligation that evolution bequeaths to the creatures it “blesses,” first with consciousness and then with conscience, to effect life’s further evolution without causing or countenancing involuntary suffering.

Let us resist the tradition of claiming that God is “that than which nothing greater can be conceived.” Let us stop competing with each other to compose dizzying encomiums to God’s cosmic creativity, eternity, wisdom, and might (shadows of kingship, all), and embrace instead the humbler truth at hand: that divinity is evidenced — indeed constituted — not by how the stars twirl or how life began, but by how graciously we step forward into the next moment.

Michael Benedikt holds the Hal Box Chair in Urbanism at the University of Texas at Austin. The son of two holocaust survivors, he is the author of God Is the Good We Do (Bottino Books, 2007).

http://www.tikkun.org/nextgen/another-word-on-god-and-the-twenty-first-century

The Real Values Voters Summit by Rev. Peter Morales, UUA

Rev. Peter Morales is President of the Unitarian Universalist Association

HuffingtonPost.com, 09/24/2012

Excerpt

…”Values Voter Summit” recently took place in Washington. I went to the web site and looked at the list of speakers. Of the 73 speakers listed, only 13 were women. Only a tiny handful could be described as people of color. Even more amazing in a political gathering in 2012, I found only one Hispanic surname. One. ¡Dios mío! Take a look for yourself: valuevotersummit.org.

White. Male. Politically ultra conservative. Religiously fundamentalist evangelical. This is a summit of angry white reactionary men. Is this what passes for “values” voting in America? Whose values are being advanced here? And whose values are being rejected?

These people attempt to portray themselves as representing values of religious people. The reality is that the opposite is true. Most religious people do not share the values of the extreme right. As a former parish minister and as the president of the Unitarian Universalist Association, I have worked closely with religious leaders of many religious groups. I have worked with Christians who belong to evangelical movements, with Protestants of the mainline denominations and with Catholics. My work brings me into regular collaboration with Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and Sikhs.

We are all values voters. Our values come from the core teachings of our various religious traditions…Here is a list of beliefs and values taught by all the great religious traditions:

Compassion

Everyone matters

Acceptance

Generosity

Peace

Stewardship of the earth

As I decide which candidates to vote for (and to support financially), I want to take my religious values to heart. These are decisions to be made prayerfully. As you and I prepare to vote, let us take our deepest religious values seriously. Let us ask which candidates are committed to building a world that is more compassionate. Which candidate will work to ensure that everyone is treated with respect and dignity? Which one will seek peace among all people? Which one is committed to protect our natural environment?…The real values voters summit takes place on Nov. 6.

Full text

I read that the “Values Voter Summit” recently took place in Washington. I went to the web site and looked at the list of speakers. Of the 73 speakers listed, only 13 were women. Only a tiny handful could be described as people of color. Even more amazing in a political gathering in 2012, I found only one Hispanic surname. One. ¡Dios mío! Take a look for yourself: valuevotersummit.org.

White. Male. Politically ultra conservative. Religiously fundamentalist evangelical. This is a summit of angry white reactionary men. Is this what passes for “values” voting inAmerica? Whose values are being advanced here? And whose values are being rejected?

These people attempt to portray themselves as representing values of religious people. The reality is that the opposite is true. Most religious people do not share the values of the extreme right. As a former parish minister and as the president of the Unitarian Universalist Association, I have worked closely with religious leaders of many religious groups. I have worked with Christians who belong to evangelical movements, with Protestants of the mainline denominations and with Catholics. My work brings me into regular collaboration with Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and Sikhs.

We are all values voters. Our values come from the core teachings of our various religious traditions. We — Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs (and others, too) — share a core set of religious beliefs and values that should guide our votes in this election and in every election.

Here is a list of beliefs and values taught by all the great religious traditions:

Compassion — Every religion I know teaches that we should treat one another with compassion. Literally, we should feel one another’s pain and seek to ease that pain.

Everyone matters — I think of Jesus telling his followers that to help the most humble person (“the least of these”) is the moral equivalent of helping Jesus himself.

Acceptance — If we are to be compassionate and if every person matters, then it follows that we should accept one another. For me, that means I need to accept you as you are, whether gay or straight, white or brown, male or female, smart or simple, able bodied or handicapped, Arab or Chinese or African or Indian.

Generosity — All religions teach that we should share. They also teach that avarice is bad.

Peace — If we all matter, then we should live together in peace. And this peace is a lot more than the absence of war. We only have peace when we have some level of mutual respect, understanding and acceptance.

Stewardship of the earth — The great religions teach responsibility across the generations. I have long wondered why many people who believe that every unfertilized human egg is precious are so indifferent to the destruction of the natural environment that sustains all our lives.

As I decide which candidates to vote for (and to support financially), I want to take my religious values to heart. These are decisions to be made prayerfully. As you and I prepare to vote, let us take our deepest religious values seriously. Let us ask which candidates are committed to building a world that is more compassionate. Which candidate will work to ensure that everyone is treated with respect and dignity? Which one will seek peace among all people? Which one is committed to protect our natural environment?

The real values voters summit takes place on Nov. 6. I plan to be there. I plan to vote my religious values. Join me.

 

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