For the past few years, loggersbrat and I have been organizing the Sunday morning interfaith service at Netroots Nation. The service is open to everyone, of all faiths and of no faith. Some of us find it a centering after such a full conference, some use it to fix their resolve to work for change, some for a sense of communal meditation and affirmation. Each year we have chosen a theme and asked the community for their thoughts and inspiration on that theme. This year I sent this e-mail to loggersbrat and linkage, who is also helping:
I have been thinking about a theme for the NN13 Sunday Service, and I wondered about doing something about belief and nature, belief and science.It's a (fairly loose) starting point.
As far as I can tell, science and religion began as our attempt to learn about and have some effect on our world; for a long time they were the same thing. The divergence came only a few hundred years ago for the west; I don't know enough about eastern religions. But in this country the religious right (and perhaps other fundamentalist versions of faith) lead to a general feeling that religion is opposed to science, and this perhaps has encouraged the fundamentalist version of atheism.
In any event, the idea of learning about the world and the universe, to understand as much as we can about them, and to take better care of them, are deeply felt by some to be religious values. So I was thinking about asking people for ideas from their belief systems about our relation to nature, and our duty to nature, both in terms of understanding and conserving. Scientists like Newton and Darwin were deeply religious, and Einstein was spiritual in his ideas about harmony in the universe.
Another side of the issue is ethics. Technology in these days tends to develop faster than we are able to consider its ethical application, which leads to such things as atomic weapons, genetically modified foods, lots of other genetic concerns, matters like biological and chemical weapons, etc.
This is kind of free associating, but I would like to hear what everyone working on the service thinks about the general theme, other suggestions, and your own associations if we take this theme and ask for contributions from others.
Now I am asking all of you for your thoughts. What does your belief system say about our relationship to nature? For example, was everything created for our benefit? are we custodians of the earth? are we simply a small part of creation?
How does your belief system reconcile belief with scientific discovery, or is such reconciliation not considered necessary? How does your faith deal with the ethics of scientific advances, or does it not do this at all? Are your spiritual beliefs kept completely separate from scientific knowledge, or are they uneasy neighbors, or are they integrated in your mind?
These questions are just a few that occur to me as I write this - you can probably think of more.
Contributions can be your personal thoughts, or quotes from religious writings or leaders, or your or others' interpretations of such writings relating to any aspect of the subject.
I can start with a couple of personal examples.
At one point in my life I was engaged and beginning to look into infertility treatments. I remember thinking that since I believe in evolutionary theory, how could I reconcile that belief with my obvious wish to counter nature's decision that I not have children? This was quite a moral issue for me. It's not just religious beliefs that lead to moral quandaries.
I am Jewish, and care for the earth is part of our beliefs. For example, we are told to let our fields lie fallow every seven years to let the soil revive, which turns out to be good science as well. (We are also told not to profit from what grows on its own during that year, but to leave it for the poor.)Please leave your contributions in the comments, or you can send them in a message to me or to loggersbrat. You do not have to be attending either the conference or the service to contribute.