Carl Sagan, the famous astronomer and author, once wrote:
“How is it that hardly any major religion has looked at science and concluded, ‘This is better than we thought! The Universe is much bigger than our prophets said, grander, more subtle, more elegant’? Instead they say, ‘No, no, no! My god is a little god, and I want him to stay that’. A religion, old or new, that stressed the magnificence of the Universe as revealed by modern science might be able to draw forth reserves of reverence and awe hardly tapped by the conventional faiths.”
Our conventional faiths, as he notes – meaning Christianity, Islam and Judaism – are stuck, for many of their adherents, in a small world. This world, this Earth, though, is part of an incredibly vast galaxy, amid millions of other galaxies in the universe, that demand religion to open up its arms and eyes and embrace the reality of this cosmos we live in and are part of.
Hundreds of millions of people in this world are convinced, on the basis of their sacred books, that the Earth and everything on it is only several thousand years old, and many of them are ready to battle or even die to defend this view.
Eastern religions – Hinduism and Buddhism – on the other hand, conceived thousands of years ago a vastly different universe, one whose parameters were immense, barely imaginable. It was a cosmos so vast of space and time that modern science and physics is only now beginning to approximate its conception.
What’s more, Hinduism and Buddhism believed that this universe and everything in it that we see through our powerful telescopes was in actuality within each human being. The single human being was the universe.
Science is validating this also. Take holograms:
Holograms are three-dimensional light images illuminated by lasers. You remember the cute little robot in the film Star Wars, U2D2. U2D2 carried within its memory a picture of Princess Leia, which the robot would beam out in a plea for help. This is a hologram.
There is a curious property of holograms. If you take a hologram – say a picture of an apple – and cut the light image in half, each half stills shows a picture of the whole. The whole apple is still there. No matter how many times you slice up the hologram, the picture of the entire whole apple still appears. The part, no matter how small, always contains the whole.
Holograms and science are telling us something about our lives. In some strange way, each of us contains the entire universe. Our life is separate, and yet it is the whole.
It’s time for a bigger-thinking religion, one which explores and gives credence to the fabulous universe we live in, or which we are a living part.
James Hilgendorf is the author of nine non-fiction books, including “Maybe We Need A New Religion”. His other titles include “Forever Here”; “Handbook for Youth in a Muddied Age”; “The Buddha and the Dream of America”; “The Great New Emerging Civilization”; “Life & Death: A Buddhist Perspective”; “A New Myth for America”; “Poems of Death: Time for Eternity”, and “The New Superpower”. His books are available in paperback or e-book format through bookstores, Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Smashwords, Scribd, Oyster, and other online booksellers.
Contact the author directly to arrange talks.