There's been an explosion in our human self-knowledge about ourselves and how our minds and emotions 'tick'. This is the landscape — perhaps mindscape? — Tom McMahon is exploring today. What's the future for religion in this new landscape? What will our grandchildren think of our religious views and practises? How are our theological and religious views being shaped by the new knowledge we're acquiring in this new world saturated with knowledge and technology? Is the proverbial "Father McKenzie" still writing the sermons that no one will read?
One toe into future technology … maybe four toes ... or more?
Before I go into the development of this commentary I need state clearly my position as a believer that all universal existence, all life has a Creator as its source. I am privileged to share in the life of the Creator. All human kind/all life shares in the common sacredness of our Creator.
Tonight on Jeopardy I watched a repeat of the IBM technological brain Watson defeating two highly knowledgeable former big winners. As one who believes in evolution, throughout the program I had questions plus an observation about religion in the age of technology. Hereafter all questions and responses are Tom McMahon's.
As a human being I am today in transition. I have a past through memory, a present in reality, and a future in imagination. All are God-given gifts.
SET ONE OF TOM'S QUESTIONS:
TOM RESPONDS: again I repeat I am a person of faith — faith that a Creator is the origin and life energy of all existence. Just as we are discovering an expanding universe so too we continue to monitor the expansion of the human brain. Actually humans have two brains: one atop the reptilian controlling basic human processes and the other the "Cogito ergo sum", aka cerebral cortex. As Wikipedia explains:
The cerebral hemispheres form the largest part of the human brain and are situated above most other brain structures. They are covered with a cortical layer with a convoluted topography. Underneath the cerebrum lies the brainstem, resembling a stalk on which the cerebrum is attached. At the rear of the brain, beneath the cerebrum and behind the brainstem, is the cerebellum, a structure with a horizontally furrowed surface that makes it look different from any other brain area. The same structures are present in other mammals, although the cerebellum is not so large relative to the rest of the brain. As a rule, the smaller the cerebrum, the less convoluted the cortex. The cortex of a rat or mouse is almost completely smooth.
I sense the foregoing may apply to trees etc. etc. Recall Teilhard de Chardin got into trouble with the Ultramontane Church when he said rocks had life.
What does that famous quote from René Descartes mean today: Cogito ergo sum — I think, therefore I am? Wikipedia again provides this explanation of the phrase:
...a philosophical Latin statement proposed by René Descartes. The simple meaning of the phrase is that someone wondering whether or not he exists is, in and of itself, proof that he does exist — at the very least, there must be an "I" who does the thinking. Wikipedia LINK
Teilhard de Chardin speaks of a rock having life and inner movement. Does the peasant tilling the fields with an 11th century hand hoe think? Has he/she a brain? Today our Hubble-science brain-in-the-sky speaks of other galaxies; I learn in my 80's that the universe is evolving. What is the potential of my two-year-old grandchild, Audrey? When a University student in 2030, will Audrey push a button to access immediate data? Will Audrey develop the use of memory or will ready access to knowledge be available at her fingertips? Will being human be out of date? Will education become a mechanical process devoid of human feelings?
The Roman system called Sacraments has functioned without emotional content for 500 years, the Roman educational system spearheading a poor man's Catholic early "Watson". Don't think or question, merely listen and absorb. As Rome condemns homosexuality as an aberration thousands of once rejected gays line-up to re-up in the US military services. Is there anything in the Roman Catholic system that the adult Audrey will be able to use? Notice I did not ask about Jesus as I see a huge cleavage in the teachings of Rome and those of the Master Teacher from Nazareth.
The Sacraments were invented in their present day form during the Council of Trent, 1547 c.e. an era far removed from our world of sensitivity and feely-touchy human research. Fear and ignorance are their matrix. The brain of the 16th century religious person was under-developed through poor nutrition and lack of educational stimulation in centuries-long periods of war, black plague, and starvation. Some in monastic life like Thomas Aquinas survived intellectually, perhaps less humanly.
My very paternal grandfather who sires my father in 1881 in Virginia City, Nevada, USA, has fled the European ravages of The Little Ice Age and the destruction of the Irish potato crop. Both my grandfather and grandmother fled famine and had no formal schooling, while the Cardinal Archbishop of Dublin said it was a curse on the people from an avenging God. Their four grandchildren within a span of 50 years would possess advanced university degrees, teacher, engineer, lawyer and judge, priest and therapist. Before my father's death in 1931 he frequently encouraged my mother to see to it "that the kids knew more than he". The institutional church, led by males in funny pointy hats (12th century land owners hat), continues to talk down to the modern human. The people are no longer fooled by the god the bishops keep locked up in their back pockets.
Once science began to study the total human being, Rome threw up defensive walls, acting in ignorant defense of that phantom element called "soul". Old Roman Catholic theology is today offering nothing that pertains to the health of creation. I enjoyed, Dr Hermes Kreilkamp's commentary urging hopefulness amidst the gloom and to recall the dream of Bishop Geoff Robinson in his book "Confronting Power and Sex in the Catholic Church" and "reclaim the Vision of Jesus":
Dr Kreilkamp on Bishop Geoffrey Robinson: In the American edition (Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 2008) of Bishop Robinson's book, Father Donald Cozzens, in his Foreword, writes that what we now need and want in the Catholic Church are bishops who will be leaders who will treat the people of God as adults, not children. The logical conclusion from such a change in attitude would suggest that bishops will do more listening, as well as preaching. Bishops are called to shepherd, to oversee their flocks, but doing so means reflecting on the whole story of what Christ's mission was about. Pardon me, Donald, Geoffrey, and Hermes if Tom wonders about the educated adult people's reaction to being called a flock that needs to be overseen by the bishop. Seems to me the cart is before the horse.
SET TWO OF TOM'S QUESTIONS:
RESPONSE: Nature/Mother Earth/Gaia is our primary anchor. We need take time to study earth's patterns. Western culture's greed for money, power, and possessions is destroying our planet. I read in our newspaper of the tearing down of some dams in Northern California so as to restore nature's way and I recall Australia's fierce flooding of last year. In America over-flowing river banks have destroyed thousands of peoples' homes as water spills over asphalted streets and shopping malls unable to find soil that will absorb. Will we learn from earth's wisdom? Is the evolutionary anchor of conservation in the Creator's plan and hard wired in the human? Western religious leaders, academics, and theologians appear not to be grounded and are saying very little. Let us learn more from those who see nature as the Creator's gift to be protectively guarded.
'Tis late at night and Catholica's editor awaits this commentary. I need join the Von Trapp children in singing "So long, farewell, Au'voir, auf wiedersehen" – goodbye – for now! Let's ask the Third Set of Tom's Questions next week as well as getting into Brian Swimme, Thomas Berry, John Muir and this ecologically-grounded religion.
Tom McMahon, in San Jose, Ca: who is suffering limited depression around my aging. My mother used to say "don't get old Tommy" and I paid no attention! 19Sep2011
What are your thoughts on this commentary?