Michael Dowd explains what it means to be truly religious

There is no question about it—religions are in conflict and have been for millennia. Michael Dowd, author of the book “Thank God for Evolution,” takes on the issue of what it means to be truly religious in his lecture. He has a lot to say on the subject, but his primary theme for the lecture is that God is Reality and Reality is God; there is no difference between the two concepts.

Dowd is a pastor who has spoken to many people about his “Christian Naturalism,” though he says it is possible to be a “Jewish Naturalist,” a “Muslim Naturalist,” a “Buddhist Naturalist,” a “Hindu Naturalist,” an “Atheist Naturalist,” etc. “We have spoken to over 1700 groups over the past 11 years,” he said. Dowd has even given TED talks. He is a very religious man, but believes that religious people who follow the Bible, Quran, etc. to the letter are blinding themselves to reality. That reality is long gone and has been replaced with another reality many, many times over. He also believes that reality is just a secular name for God and uses the two words interchangeably. The rest of the lecture follows this theme.

Dowd first commented on the audience. “We got a really mixed audience [religious, anti-religious, non-religious, or in-between],” he said. He asked the audience to ask him questions so he could gauge what beliefs they had and what concerned them. He then said “We believe that there is nothing more important to find the right relationship to reality.” To truly be “saved” spiritually, this is absolutely essential. However, Dowd argues that people cannot rely on a book or a group of men to accomplish this. Their reality is no more; it is in the past, it no longer applies. As a result, Dowd says “Most religious people are blind and deaf to reality” because they depend on that reality to guide them.

Dowd says the most important questions we must ask ourselves are “What is real?” and “What is important?” This cannot be defined in a book or by a group of men. (Dowd constantly reinforces this outlook.) Dowd notes that religious texts were oral before they were written down. These stories were allowed to evolve until they were declared rigid and unchanging. Dowd regards this as a mistake as there could be no further proof of reality to be considered. Religious people blind themselves to new evidence—facts, discoveries, etc.—of reality because it does not conform to their texts. They do not establish a good relationship with reality.

As evidence, Dowd discusses the unanimously held belief that there is a “Nested Nature of Creativity.” There exists the subatomic, then the atomic, then the molecular, then the cells, then the organism, and it goes on and on seemingly without end. Ultimately, we are a part discovering the whole.

Dowd listed three things people need: the best understanding of our outer nature (history, etc.), the best understanding of our inner nature (thoughts, etc.), and death. Science-based understanding helps us come to terms with this.

Dowd then started accepting questions from the audience. One was, “How can we be moral without religion?” Dowd explained that it is from group nature, empathy, and compassion that people build their moral code and he even defined good and evil into simple terms: good helps the tribe, evil harms the tribe. Another question was on beliefs and how people could live without beliefs. Dowd argued that that is not possible, everyone believes in something. Still, he said “If you want to live a great life… you don’t have to have otherworldly beliefs. You just need great relationships and great accomplishment.” Another question was, “Is religion bad?” Dowd explained that people are responsible for a negative perception of religion based on hatred of those who have different beliefs. Another question was if science should be followed, and Dowd said that it is important, while admitting that science can be arrogant and full of itself.

Dowd provided a lecture that dealt with many deep themes. He had much to say, but had well-defined major themes. God is reality and everyone must realize that. Nothing is supernatural. Reality is constantly changing and people need to be open to that, and that is not accomplished relying on old books and a group of men to determine what this reality is. To live a good life, one must make peace with reality. Once that is accomplished, one will have a good life and have a great relationship with reality.

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