Evolutionary Christianity

Posted: December 1, 2014 at 9:47 am


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God is a personification, not a person an undeniable interpretation, not an otherworldly tyrant. If we fail to grasp this, we cannot possibly understand religion or religious differences.

Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesnt go away. ~ Philip K. Dick

Birth, life, death, the cycles and rhythms of Nature, the elemental forces of the Universe: these are inescapably real. Like it or not, we have always found ourselves in relationship with a Reality we could neither predict nor control. And given the nature of the human brain, there is one thing that people in every culture and throughout history have instinctively done: Weve used metaphors and analogies to refer and relate to that which is unavoidably, undeniably real and/or mysterious. Indeed, it seems that we cantnot do this. Consciously or unconsciously, we regularly interpret our life and our world using relational metaphors.

AsStewart Guthrie shows in his acclaimed book, Faces in the Clouds (Oxford University Press),all images and concepts of God are meaning-rich interpretations and personifications. Images and concepts that evoke trust and the courage to forge ahead no matter what the obstacles are immensely useful.Practical realism in this way trumpsfactual realism if the mindset induced leads to greater evolutionary fitness.

Factual Truth vs. Practical Truth

In his 2003 book, Darwins Cathedral: Evolution, Religion, and the Nature of Society,David Sloan Wilson (Distinguished Professor of Biology and Anthropology at Binghamton University) draws a crucial distinction between practical realism and factual realism. Practical realism, also known as practical truth, is that which reliably produces personal wholeness and social coherence by motivating people to think and behave in ways that benefit themselves and the larger community. Factual realism (factual truth) is that which is evidentially real. Wilson writes,

What do I mean by factual and practical realism? A belief is factually realistic when it accurately describes whats really out there (e.g., there are no people up there sitting on clouds). A belief is practically realistic when it causes the believer to behave adaptively in the real world.

An example of why practical realism historically has trumped factual realism is this: In group-to-group conflicts, any culture that offers the promise of an afterlife to those who heroically martyr themselves will likely triumph over an army of atheists who have the rational belief that death marks the absolute end of individual existence. Over the eons of human evolution, such selective processes would tend to favor the maintenance of beliefs in that which was felt experientially as real, whether or not those beliefs had any basis in measurable, factual reality. David Sloan Wilson also writes,

If there is a trade-off between the two forms of realism, such that our beliefs can become more adaptive only by becoming factually less true, then factual realism will be the loser every time. Factual realists detached from practical reality were not among our ancestors. It is the person who elevates factual truth above practical truth who must be accused of mental weakness from an evolutionary perspective.

Religion Is About Right Relationship to Reality, Not the Supernatural

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Written by grays |

December 1st, 2014 at 9:47 am