Michael Dowd, the self-proclaimed "evangelist of evolution," wants religious people to discard their beliefs while keeping their religious language, which he would like to redefine to refer to concepts from the scientific theory of evolution and speculations of evolutionary psychology.
This is a pretty big horse pill to swallow. Dowd knows this, so he markets his ideas with his Seven Reasons for the Gospel of Evolution. And here they are, seven reasons Dowd thinks people of faith should come around to his way of thinking:
- The gospel of evolution would give us a common creation myth. Since Christians and Jews already share a common creation myth, I assume Dowd must mean to use the gospel of evolution for a sort of universal ecumenism, in which all religions — Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, Judaism, and Christianity among them — acknowledge one and only one story of origins: naturalistic evolution.
- It validates both scientific and religious ways of speaking. Of course, religious ways of speaking are already "validated" in the religious community. Dowd must mean therefore that religious ways of speaking will be validated among the atheistic community. Indeed, throughout his interviews, Dowd comes across as desperate for the approval of atheists.
- It is a key to understanding and alleviating suffering, which comes from not living "integrously" with the flow of evolution. History, with its lessons on the eugenics movement and on Nazi genocide, teaches a far different lesson on what happens when humans try to base their ethics on the theory of evolution.
- Religious language can be interpreted in a way that's universally true. By this, Dowd means it can be interpreted naturalistically. He says, "I don't have to wait to die to go to a place called heaven. When I'm in a place, integrity, love, compassion, generosity, care, consideration, I'm in heaven now, and so are you. It's true for everybody." But obviously, it's not true for those whose earthly lives are full of suffering, whether from loneliness, physical or mental illness, drug addiction, or other causes of grief. It seems cruel of Dowd to be so eager to steal the hope of a happy afterlife from people who are far from experiencing "heaven" on earth.
- Only by knowing how we really got here and the trajectory we're on can we respond to problems like terrorism without making things worse. "It is impossible to know how to move into a healthy sustainable future" without understanding evolution, says Dowd. I agree that understanding evolution is important, but there is no reason religious beliefs should be discarded at the same time.
- It unmasks the powers of manipulations. "We are so easily led around like a nose-ring (sic)." Here I assume Dowd is giving in to the frequent atheistic criticism of religion, that organized religion exists to manipulate the masses. Yet people of faith like myself believe we are more free in many ways than are people without faith.
- "It gives us the tools for understanding how to have a great life and thriving relationships no matter what hand life deals us." That's funny; my Catholic faith also gives me those tools, and much more explicitly. I imagine that the Gospel of Religion has no sacraments, for example.
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