In his book Consilience E.O. Wilson, respected scientist, master of ants, and father of sociobiology, has written that “Preferring a search for objective reality over revelation is another way of satisfying religious hunger.” (7) At the core of Wilson’s quest is the unification of knowledge across disciplines, all the way from particle physics to poetry, into one unified, religiously and existentially satisfying whole.
Wilson is hardly alone in this quest. In Skeptics and True Believers (where atheistic scientists=skeptics; anybody with traditional religious belief=true believers) Chet Raymo comes off at some points sounding less like a respected science writer and more like the latest eccentric Oprah guest. He writes:
“Let your soul go free for a moment into that scene outside your window, into the vistas of cosmic space and time revealed by your physics, and there encounter, gape-jawed and silent, the God of birds and birth defects, trees and cancer, quarks and galaxies, earthquakes and supernovas—awesome, edifying, dreadful and good, more beautiful and more terrible than is strictly necessary. Let it strike you dumb with worship and fear, beyond words, beyond logic. What is it? It is everything that is.”
Did ja get that? There is a God according to Raymo. And that God is, well, everything. No he’s not a pantheist. At least not a traditional sort. But like Wilson, Raymo is very interested in reenchanting the universe to satisfy that deep existential, religious hunger. He continues:
“A universe of 50 billion galaxies blowing like snowflakes in a cosmic storm is astonishing, but even more astonishing are those few pounds of meat—our brains—that are able to construct such a universe of faint light and hold it before the mind’s eye, live in it, revel in it, praise it, wonder what it means.”
Whoa, did he say praise it?
Praise (verb): (1) to express approval or affirmation; (2) to offer grateful homage to a deity.
Now I don’t think that Raymo intends here the milquetoast meaning of (1):
e.g. “Johnny’s mom praised him for going in the potty rather than in his pants.”
No, his invocation of praise more closely approximates (2):
e.g. “As Chet gazed at the images of the Hubble deep field, he fell to his knees and praised that which is.”
What sort of liturgy might one use when praising the universe? Read Henry David Thoreau? Or perhaps Stephen Jay Gould and Carl Sagan (and Chet Raymo)?
I suggest dusting off Psalm 19 in the “nature worship translation”. As you probably know, the psalm has two parts, exulting in the works and words of God. Thus, I’ll offer sample verses from both sections so you can get the gist of a nature worshipping liturgy:
Psalm 19 (NWT)
1 The heavens declare the glory of themselves;
the skies proclaim the work of their own hands.
2 Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they display knowledge.
7 The law of NATURE is perfect,
reviving the physical organism.
The statutes of NATURE are trustworthy,
making wise the simple.
From a Christian point of view, this worship of quasars and galaxies might appear a bit misdirected. But it could be worse I suppose, as with those who worship fame, wealth, or (shudder) Justin Bieber.