When God is Gone Everything is Holy

I just finished reading Chet Raymo‘s new book When God is Gone Everything is Holy, and I couldn’t recommend it more highly.


Noted writer, naturalist, and Professor Emeritus of Physics at Stonehill College, Raymo is first and foremost a man of science. But unlike Richard Dawkins and those of his New Atheist ilk, Raymo has a soft spot for religion, specifically in the sensuous rituals of his own Catholic upbringing.  (I quoted a passage from this book in an earlier post that dealt with Raymo’s position relative to the New Atheists.)

This book is a brief, humble manifesto on what it means to be a religious naturalist. Raymo does not believe in miracles or the supernatural. He believes, rather, that we should stop looking for God in exceptions to the laws of nature and start noticing how amazing and mysterious the natural world really is.  He cites studies indicating that the human desire to seek to identify with our source is hard-wired into our genes. It is not that the religious impulse should, or even could be eradicated as some would wish. But the archaic cultural institutions that seek to deny the efficacy of scientific inquiry or set themselves up as the “one true faith”?  Those obviously have to go.  We’ve simply outgrown them.

The Latin root of the word religion is ligare, “to fasten or bind” + re-, “again.”  The refastening that needs to happen is between the two largely non-overlapping spheres of our reality: an objective, phenomenological world and subjective experience.  Being a religious naturalist means dispatching with the idea that these two apparently separate spheres of experience imply a Descartian mind-body dualism. There is no ghost in the machine. Self-awareness is an emergent property of the machine itself. The implications are electrifying, mysterious, and, in Raymo’s opinion, worthy of awe and reverence.

In closing, another resounding endorsement for Raymo from De Novo:

I have much to learn from this wise old man, a veteran of scientific practice, a laughing saint and mystic of the highest order.  Searching scientists, scrutinizing people of faith, take note.


~ by emilypothast on November 17, 2008.

One Response to “When God is Gone Everything is Holy”

  1. Thank you for reviewing this book, it is the next book on my reading list.

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