age of secularism is upon us. Swelling its ranks are, by and
large, the devotees of consumption and self-gratification, convinced
that the production and pleasure templates -- and not the temple
-- are the best guarantors of a meaningful life.
a life-style or world view, secularism doesn't pretend to be
an alternative to or protest against religion. From Wiki:
Secularism seeks to interpret life based on principles derived
solely from the material world, without recourse to religion.
It shifts the focus from religion towards temporal and material
to sociologists Ariela Keysar and Juhem Navarro-Rivera's review
of numerous global studies on atheism, there are 450 to 500
million positive atheists and agnostics worldwide, which represents
7% of the world's population. If you include secularists, that
figure jumps to 14% or roughly one billion people.
to many but promising to others, the growing number of the religiously
jaded or disaffected begs the question: why are more and more
people turning away from religion? Why has secularism, an informal,
non-belief system, gained significant foothold everywhere in
secularism’s growing popularity force the conclusion that
the world's current religions, despite their remarkable diversity,
no longer satisfy the spiritual aspirations of hundreds of millions
of people, and that in order to supply the deficit left in the
wake of the deficiencies of all religions, perhaps the time
has come to consider the birthing of a new one?
we settle into 21st century, we observe that the praxis of prayer
and the practice of astrophysics now seem separated by light
years, and the ever widening gap is being rapidly filled by
a global community of non-believers, who, if only in desultory
fashion, are looking for answers, for reasons to believe that
life is not an accident. Like broken off satellite parts drifting
aimlessly in space, these self-declared non-believers find themselves
unfulfilled by the purely materialistic interpretation of life.
The new religion that their spiritual hunger is begging to come
into being will therefore require a new set of axioms and presuppositions,
and will represent a revolutionary attitudinal shift in the
conception of deity or godhead. Once run through the gauntlets
of science and logic, deity will be reconfigured as a prime-mover
or creative cosmic intelligence (CCI). If the conventional judgmental
deity calls for adoration, worship and obedience, the CCI will
designate the vastness of everything that is that constitutes
the universe, including itself, as that which is most worthy
of human contemplation. Secularists, atheists and agnostics,
at the behest of their spiritual indices, will concern themselves
with the task or challenge of attempting to grasp something,
however minuscule or incomplete, of the nature of CCI -- its
purpose and place in the cosmic chain of cause and effect.
seeker, challenging the limits of human intelligence, will attempt
to articulate and refine the following sine qua non questions.
What are the origins of the universe as well as the origins
of life on the planet earth? Does a CCI inhere in all of that
or is it separate? And of the unceasing macro-events or effects
that are taking place in the cosmos -- the Big Bang, the collapsing
of galaxies -- is it possible to isolate a CCI as the cause?
astronomy breaks one galactic glass ceiling after another, as
the laws and principles that describe the operations of the
universe are made more explicit, the proposition that it is
all fortuitous becomes less and less tenable, which implies
a first cause. Is there a design or shape that forms the basis
of the universe? Was there a state of being before the universe,
before CCI? Both cosmologist and metaphysician (theologian),
each in his own manner, will attempt to bring into the effective
range of human intelligence the idea or pre-supposition that
the universe subsumes a creative cosmic intelligence.
anything to be regarded as qua intelligent it must be capable
of manipulating its environment. Not trees but humans can manipulate
their surroundings which is why the latter are deemed intelligent
and the former are not. The creative intelligence that inheres
in the universe is therefore deemed intelligent because it is
capable of manipulating its environment, which is the universe.
During the past century, astronomy and astrophysics have discovered
that 'big' things are happening out there -- super novas, collapsing
stars, black holes -- and according to the either/or binary,
the events are either purposeful or random, just as here on
earth there are land masses that are left to the whims of nature
while on other occasions subject to the manipulation of human
the founding of all new religions has in common is that their
alternatarianism arises out of lack or deficiency in the religion(s)
against which it presents itself as a more credible alternative.
As such, every new religion is a critique of the old. The challenge
of all religions, especially since the industrial revolution,
has been to maintain their credibility vis-à-vis the
on-going discoveries in science, and closer to the present,
in astronomy and astrophysics. For all but the anachronistically
challenged, The Big Bang theory has rendered null and void Creationism,
the notion that God created the world in a week. Darwin or evolutionary
biology put to bed the fiction that man, the most evolved of
the primates, began with Adam and Eve. Our understanding of
disease at the microscopic level is at odds with the dietary
laws practiced by most religions. Genomic analysis is undermining
religion’s consensus hostility towards homosexuality.
According to numerous studies, "brains
of homosexual men are structurally different from those of heterosexual
men in a region thought to influence male sexual behaviour."
Denis Prager, from his essay in Crisis,
forcefully reminds us that religiously imposed restrictions
on human sexuality run counter to practice.
Human sexuality, especially male sexuality, is polymorphous,
or utterly wild (far more so than animal sexuality). Men have
had sex with women and with men; with little girls and young
boys; with a single partner and in large groups; with total
strangers and immediate family members; and with a variety
of domesticated animals. They have achieved orgasm with inanimate
objects such as leather, shoes, and other pieces of clothing,
through urinating and defecating on each other (interested
readers can see a photograph of the former at select art museums
exhibiting the works of the photographer Robert
Mapplethorpe) ; by dressing in women’s garments;
by watching other human beings being tortured; by fondling
children of either sex; by listening to a woman’s disembodied
voice (e.g., “phone sex”); and, of course, by
looking at pictures of bodies or parts of bodies. There is
little, animate or inanimate, that has not excited some men
to orgasm. Of course, not all of these practices have been
condoned by societies—parent-child incest and seducing
another’s man’s wife have rarely been countenanced—but
many have, and all illustrate what the unchanneled, or in
Freudian terms, the “un-sublimated,” sex drive
can lead to.
to the practical birth of any religion, is the idea or concept
of it which is born in a single consciousness. For a religion
to blossom, that is to evolve from an idea into something concrete,
tangible, it must take hold, or nest as a significant operating
principle in the consciousnesses of a large number of people.
There was a time when Islam was merely an idea, the brain child
of a single individual. In a mere 1,700 years, Islam has grown
to include more than two billion followers. By any accounting
in respect to its numbers and influence, it is a successful
religion that, nonetheless, like all the world's religions,
is losing agency.
If in the glaring light of science, all the world's religions
are demonstratively superannuated, what will the new religion
look like, what will it offer? Will it require the equivalent
of the Ten Commandments? What will its position be on human
nature, mostly frowned upon by conventional religion? Can there
be a religion without a founding myth, without rites, without
prayer, without a location (temple, shrine, Church, Mosque)?
Will its leaders be strictly philosophers, astrophysicians --
the new theologians?
a private email, friend and retired pastor Robert
What do we mean by “religion”? It comes from the
Latin verb religere, to bind; so I suppose one's religion
is what one feels bound to. What one holds most important
is, by definition, what one worships. Doesn’t the word
“islam” have the same connotation as “religere”?
But to what might one be bound? to a set of values and ethical
behaviors, such as the 10 Commandments? to a set of rituals
. . . or such to a person as the formerly divine emperor of
Japan? One could, I suppose, formulate an ethical system on
which most of us would more or less agree, and try to justify
it against anarchy on grounds of expediency, but one is still
faced with the question of the “meaning” of our
existence. An ethic can’t provide that by itself. The
other thing an ethic can’t do is give assurance that
wrongs will be righted “in the end” and that justice,
not chaos, will prevail.
word-concept of ‘universe’ attempts to bring into
the grasp of human understanding the size of everything that
is -- an impossible asking without metaphor and analogy. To
try to better comprehend the enormity of all that which comprises
everything that is and is not (voids, anti-matter), consider
the dimensions of our Milky Way Galaxy, which is one of trillions
upon trillions of galaxies. To traverse our galaxy from one
end to the other, light, which travels at 186 miles/second,
requires 100,000 light years (don't forget to pack your lunch).
This same galaxy requires 225 million years to perform a single
rotation. Now imagine, which in Canada requires no imagination,
stepping outside on a winter day during a snowfall, and represent
to yourself that each snow flake is a galaxy, and that the snowfall
extends from one end of the country to the other, from Vancouver
to St. John's. And then we must remind ourselves that even that
breadth-taking, image-analogy falls exponentially short in capturing
the measure of that which is immeasurable. So with the snowflakes
as individual galaxies dancing before our eyes, does it make
any sense whatsoever that the creative intelligence that inheres
in all of this expects us to attend Church on Sunday at 10 am
and thinks less of us if we don't, or doesn't want us to consume
meat on Friday, or flick a light switch on Saturday? To conclude
that a God or a CCI expects anything of us is a conceit that
human intelligence should strike down before the thought has
intelligence, at this stage in its evolution, is incapable of
knowing anything of the operating principles or essence of a
CCI. Conventional religions adjure us to praise, revere and
love God, but how can we love what we don't know? How can we
worship or pray to an abstraction about which we know nothing?
Shouldn't our proper response be simply one of humility and
awe of a capacity, of a power before which all speech must turn
is founded on the notion that whatever anything is, it has an
opposite, or at a minimum something other than itself. As a
universal organizing principle, dualism knows no circumvention
or eclipse. It is the basis of everything that is—and
isn’t. Singularity cannot exist without plurality. It
is impossible for there to be one of anything. The one implies
the many. Hot cannot exist without cold. If there were only
a single unvarying temperature of 27 Celsius, the very concept
of temperature would disappear. In order to exist, 27 Celsius
requires other ‘unlike’ temperatures.
per the law of duality, there was no beginning to the universe,
there was no something that was begat or arose out of a nothing.
As a something, the universe has always existed because you
can't have a something without a nothing. Therefore, what will
distinguish this new religion from all others is that it will
not require a genesis or founding myth. The same applies to
the advent of intelligence, which has always existed as a counterpoint
to dumb nature.
respect of right and wrong, good and evil, they need not be
grounded in the religious impulse. Right and wrong are coeval
with choice, a uniquely human dispensation. When there are two
unlike choices, one will be better than the other. As to what
constitutes the better choice, we adduce Kant's categorical
imperative which asks if the decision we are about to make can
be turned into a universal principle, that is, would we want
it to apply to everyone? And the better choice will always be
at the service of Henri Bergson's concept of the 'élan
vital,' the life force within us all, a biological imperative
that compels us to prefer being alive than not.
new religion will not require a specific place where like-minded
people gather. One can contemplate the CCI anywhere, anytime,
in solitude or in a group. Furthermore, the new religion will
have no need of an all-informing holy text. The corpus of literature
dedicated to the task of unraveling the CCI will be an unceasing
work in progress that runs parallel to the evolution of human
to what human intelligence can grasp of a CCI, we only have
to examine our human attributes -- capacity to love, hate, lust
-- to know that if they are not fortuitous but an issue of the
CCI, we could not have been thus endowed by a CCI that wouldn't
itself know of them, and to a depth and degree that must confound
the mind. So if we are capable of love and compassion, and evil
and perversion, it is because the CCI knows of them and their
greater purpose in the cosmic scheme of cause and effect.
at the beginning of this essay, the argument being put forth
was that there is a demonstrable need of a new religion, I am
now forced to conclude that this religion has already been born.
There are already hundreds of millions of dispersed earthlings
who are united under one cosmic tent, who believe in a CCI,
for whom their common place of gathering is the good earth,
in a CCI is first and foremost a concession to the mystery of
the Being of everything, just as Being is the first asking of
metaphysics. And while we beg to know more of the CCI, and by
corollary the meaning and purpose of our lives as revealed in
the cosmos, we don't know if the CCI wants to be known by its
creation even though we are presently questioning it. And of
course we don't know if we are a separate issue of it or a part
of it, much like the cells in a human foot don't know that they
are part of the human body that is controlled by a central intelligence,
we do know is that, for example, if we eat well or poorly over
a life-time there are measurable physical consequences for our
health and well-being. We don't know if this same cause and
effect, Karma, holds true in respect to our moral conduct. Thousands
of positive chemical changes occur when we revert from the hating
to the loving mode: serotonin indices go up; our immune system
performs more optimally. Why is this so? Is it all an accident,
or is there a law, not yet discovered, that describes a more
comprehensive life principle? It could very well be, as the
philosopher Jean Beaudrillard poignantly suggests, that the
passage to contemplation and wonderment is the highest movement
granted the human species.
in a CCI may be nothing more than the belief that human intelligence
can do no more but no less than asking the question of the CCI,
an modest starting point that is predicated on the belief that
the remarkable diversity and complexity of all living things
is not an accident. Evolutionary biology cannot explain how
a monarch butterfly, with a brain no larger than a pinhead,
can find its way from Canada to Mexico (3000 miles), and that
subsequent generations find their way back to the exact same
address in Canada without ever having been there. There is no
evolutionary explanation of how and why life became self-conscious.
Life was doing fine before that, an observable fact that should
give us cause to pause -- and wonder, where the act of wondering,
a uniquely human attribute-privilege, already, for many, confirms
the existence of a creative cosmic intelligence.
new religion that has already been born is the bridge between
being and Being, and no one is excluded from the crossing. And
because we know next to nothing about all that is, and the CCI
that inheres in it -- the universe -- It shall remain unnamed.
We only know we want to know more about It, if only to better
assess what kind of relationship we should have with It.