Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Don't hold your breath

This time it's Richard Dawkins and Francis Collins debating in the pages of Time magazine, atheist and believer, both scientists. They get nowhere, of course. Collins essentially agrees with everything Dawkins says, but...but his faith in the supernatural is impermeable to dilution. Meanwhile, Dawkins is his usual acerbic self and will surely turn off more Time readers than he convinces.

By now you know where I stand on this contentious issue, and it is not with Dawkins or Collins. Let me simply add this to the discussion: Any religion worthy of humankind's future will have three characteristics:

1) It will be ecumenical. It will not imagine itself "truer" than other religions. It will be open and welcoming to the best of all faith traditions.

2) It will be ecological. It will take the planet and all creatures into its commandment of love.

3) It will embrace the scientific story of the world as the most reliable cosmology. It will look for the signature of divinity in the extravagant wonder of creation itself, not in supposed miracles or exceptions to nature's laws.

Within these parameters there is room for many faith traditions, modes of celebration, and sacramental practices. The most vibrant embrace of these principles that I have personally encountered is within communities of Roman Catholic nuns. There are similar communities within all faith traditions -- including atheists and agnostics -- who understand that what unites us takes precedence over what divides us, and that spiritually and morally we are more often hindered than helped by sectarian dogma.