The New Ten Commandments and the Coming Apocaloptimism
Michael Dowd and his wife and mission partner, Connie Barlow, have traveled North America for the last 14 years, spreading the sacred side of science and a prophetic call to service on behalf of the future, grounded in what they call “the great news of the Great Story.”
During most of this time, Michael has held a view he now calls naive “techno-optimism.” He has always been committed to preaching and teaching “the gospel of right relationship to reality,” as revealed through global collective intelligence.
However, over the last three years, this quest to hear the voice of Reality speaking through evidence and scientific trends has led Michael and Connie to a very sober view of what lies ahead for the human species. He calls it “apocaloptimism.”
As you know, I have long been fundamentally optimistic, but also mindful of our powerful tendencies toward denial of what’s most disturbing. So I’ve recently been holding conversations that dare to “walk on the dark side.” Peter Russell and I asked “what then if it’s too late?” Stephen Jenkinson and I examined our death phobia and grief illiteracy.
I’ll be taking this investigation into new territory, focused more on the evidence of science in what I expect will be a deeply clarifying and invigorating dialogue with Michael Dowd.
His work is an elaboration of a single theme, the proposition that science and religion are not enemies, that in fact they must work together if humanity is to survive the 21st century.
He summarizes the essence of what he believes lies ahead by using religious language – language of reverence and language of condemnation. Michael claims that the evidence is telling us that: “We can’t avoid purgatory, but we can avoid hell.” Given our impact on Earth’s climate, the seas, and other species, it’s too late to prevent dramatic changes in human lifestyles, values and identities. Our future will be far from painless.
A Great Reckoning is upon us. So he’s asking, “how can this also be a Great Homecoming?” Perhaps the prodigal species is now going to have a chance to come back to a right relationship to reality.
Connie Barlow recently helped Michael create a powerful YouTube video, “Reality’s Rules: Ten Commandments to Avoid Extinction” where he lays out what he (and a growing number of ecologists and systems theorists) suggest is what Reality telling us, through evidence, about how we must now collectively think and act if we hope to spare our grandchildren from hell and spare ourselves their condemnation.
This is a conversation from which I tend to instinctively recoil. Every age has had many Cassandras, and they’ve almost always been proven wrong. Life is amazingly resilient. Evolutionary emergence is uncannily creative. “Yes” is more powerful than “no.” And, like many others, I sometimes fear that the facts are so bleak that we will be plunged into depression if we face them squarely. But I’m increasingly convinced that our time is unique—on many levels. And that the road to authentic resilience may require us to face exactly what we most fear to face.
That’s Michael Dowd’s assertion. I’m interested to dig in to engage with him, to ask my own deep questions, to discover the sources of his joy and inspiration, and to move deeper into the personal and planetary authenticity that’s clearly being called forward in us all right now.
I hope you’ll join us on Sunday.
About Michael Dowd
The Reverend Michael Dowd is an evolutionary theologian, bestselling author, and evangelist for Big History and an honorable relationship to the future. His 2009 book, Thank God for Evolution, was endorsed by 6 Nobel Prize-winning scientists, noted skeptics, and by religious leaders across the spectrum. His work has been featured in The New York Times, LA Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Newsweek, Discover, Wired, Skeptic, and on CBC, CNN, ABC News, and Fox News.
Michael and his wife, Connie Barlow, an acclaimed science writer and evolutionary educator (both climate hawks), permanently travel North America promoting the inspiring side of science, religious naturalism, and one-story spirituality. They’ve addressed more than 2,000 religious and secular audiences since 2002 — from Catholic, Protestant, and Evangelical Christian churches, to Unitarians and freethinkers, to secular grade school, high school, and university students, to New Thought, Integral, and Eastern Spirituality groups.
Michael shares the same bridge-building ideas in all these contexts. They can be summarized as follows:
- Reality is my God.
- Evidence is my scripture.
- Big History is my creation story.
- Ecology is my theology.
- Integrity is my spiritual path.
- Fostering a healthy future is my mission.
Michael Dowd grew up Roman Catholic and attended Catholic school for eight years. At the age of 20, he had a ‘born-again’ experience. Over the following years he became an evangelical protestant minister. Inspired by the work of Thomas Berry and Brian Swimme he began to work with religious leaders on social and environmental issues. Over the next decades, he helped pioneer a new evolutionary spirituality grounded in scientific evidence. Michael’s great joy in life is telling the history of everyone and everything in ways that inspire and empower people of all ages and theological orientations to know real freedom, to live in integrity, and to fulfill their evolutionary mission, or “calling”.
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The Beyond Awakening Team