“Unsanctifying Human Life”: Wrestling with Peter Singer’s Ethics


Our human population has septupled (increased sevenfold) in a mere two centuries — from approximately 1 billion in 1800 to more than 7 billion today. The resulting environmental impact of our species is jeopardizing the entire planet’s climate. We have not, however, always been aware of our potential to have a cataclysmic effect on Earth. As Elizabeth Kolbert wrote about in her Pulitzer Prize winning book The Sixth Extinction, prior to fossil discoveries in the 1700s, we humans didn’t know that a … [Read more...]

Betting on Earth’s Future


Before the 16th-century Scientific Revolution, it used to be more reasonable to hold the worldview that we humans were at the center of “life, the universe, and everything.” According to the ancient Ptolemaic model of the universe, our planet was stationary, and the sun, moon, and stars revolved around us. But after Copernicus’s 1543 book On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres, our planet was shown to be merely the “third rock from the sun.”  And we have come to see in the centuries since — … [Read more...]

An Honest Heretic: Religion, Science, & Dr. Joseph Priestley


The future free-thinking minister-scientist Joseph Priestley was born in 1733 to a strict Calvinist family, but by his early twenties he was already experimenting boldly with both theology and science.  For the purposes of this post, I will be drawing from the an excellent, accessible, and lively introduction to Priestley, Steven Johnson’s 200-page book The Invention of Air. (If that book leaves you interested in learning more, there is also a recent two-volume biography by Robert Schofield from … [Read more...]

Ehrman’s “How Did Jesus Become God?” and What Does Resurrection Mean Today?


I suspect that some people might be surprised to learn that in many Unitarian Universalist congregations both Christmas Eve candlelight services and Easter Sunday services are some of the highest attendance Sundays of the year. Admittedly, Easter could seem like an odd time to attend a Unitarian Universalist congregation. After all, the Unitarian half of our heritage arises from the heretica" view of affirming the humanity of Jesus and rejecting his divinity — or saying that any way in which Jesu … [Read more...]

Aronofsky’s Noah: from “Hope in Heaven” to “Hope in Grandchildren”


You know the city Shurrupak, it stands on the banks of Euphrates? that city grew old and the gods that were in it were old.... In those days the world teemed, the people multiplied, the world bellowed like a wild bull, and the great god was aroused by the clamor. Enlil heard the clamor and he said to the gods in council, “The uproar of humankind is intolerable and sleep is no longer possible by reason of the babel.” So the gods agreed to exterminate humanity. Enlil did that, but Ea because of his … [Read more...]

Wendell Berry, Climate Change, and Earth Breathing


Wendell Berry is the author of more than fifty books of poetry, fiction, and essays, and for more than forty years, he has lived and farmed with his wife, Tanya Berry, in Kentucky. Berry is also a well-known environmental activist, and he will be present to participate this summer at the annual Unitarian Universalist General Assembly, which this year will be in Louisville, Kentucky. Berry will be joining thousands of Unitarian Universalists from around the continent on Thursday, June 20 at a … [Read more...]