Here we stand, we human beings, nearly two decades into the third millennium. Yet as futuristic as that sounds, we are still such a superstitious lot.
We still seek certainty where there is none. We cling to stories that tame our fear of the vast unknown into which we were born. We continue to retell ancient myths that offer up decisive explanations for the great mysteries of existence.
How did time and space come into being from apparent nothingness? How did life arise from inanimate matter? What is conscious awareness, and how did it first dawn within the mind of a human being? What occurs once we have expelled our final breath? And what is the meaning of it all?
The uncomfortable truth is that no one knows. No one has ever known. Not the most brilliant scientist. Not the most enlightened theologian.
Perhaps, if we survive to evolve beyond our evolutionary infancy, we will access a higher state of Knowing. But as a collective experience, that remains a sweet dream.
And so we have crafted our stories to answer the unanswerable, and created religions that reinforce a faith in those stories as concrete truths.
I get it. The ineffable nature of the cosmos, the serendipity of life and death, and our lack of control over it all can be daunting to the human mind.
But in the twenty-first century, the old stories serve only to divide and endanger us. They are severely out of step with a world aching for equity among all its citizens, a world in which human misconduct can literally engulf our children in the flames of catastrophe.
Has the time not come to surrender mythical accounts of creation and instead embrace the wondrous mystery of it all? Has the time not come for a set of moral guidelines designed for the denizens of an advanced civilization capable of annihilating itself?
Has the time not come to ground our understanding of the world in evidence-based knowledge and to make peace with what cannot yet be explained?
Stated simply, we need new scriptures.
By we, I mean the Christian world in which I was raised, although I believe the ideas expressed here could be of equal value to the followers of any myth-based creed.
We need scriptures today that were not written from a pre-scientific understanding of the world, translated innumerable times over the centuries, and edited with political and economic pressure from popes and kings. And the need becomes more urgent every day.
Imagine, then, scriptures that no longer attempt to answer the unanswerable, but instead inspire us to honor the dazzling mystery of creation.
Imagine scriptures that embody the message of universal love that we, in fact, believe Jesus and other mystics, past and present, to have preached.
Imagine scriptures that compel us to behave as stewards of the earth, recognizing that our own survival here depends upon it.
Imagine scriptures that honor men and women as equal in value.
Imagine scriptures that empower us to be fearless. Fearless in a world of diverse colors, cultures and expressions of love. Fearless in accepting the inexplicability of our existence and the inevitability of death.
Imagine scriptures that recognize and celebrate the immeasurable contributions of science to our knowledge of the creation.
Imagine scriptures that no longer ask us to suspend our vitally needed rationality. In order to emulate the life of Jesus and his acts of kindness, for example, do we really need him to have been born of a virgin, or to have risen from the dead? In order to possess a moral compass to guide our actions, do we really need the literal existence of a heaven and hell?
I can imagine it, this testament for the third millennium. I invite you to share your thoughts in return.
And please check back for my next post, which will further explore the central idea expressed here as it applies to issues in our twenty-first century world.