I liked this letter in New Scientist a lot. It won't please religiously-minded people, because religions like to divide the world into parts -- like sacred and profane, godly and devilish, spiritual and material.
That sort of thing.
But as letter writer Howells says, the word universe starts with uni, one. Meaning, a whole.
Once we start making manmade divisions such as sacred and profane, we're moving away from reality and into unproductive abstractions.
Wisdom leads us to either think, everything is sacred or nothing is sacred. They really amount to the same thing. Read on to understand why.
Editor's pick: The trouble with the sacred
From Dave Howells
I agree with Mary-Jane Rubenstein that we do not need to choose between God and the multiverse and that we should think differently about what is sacred (19/26 December 2015, p 64).
The problem, it seems to me, is that to define what is sacred defines, by default, what is not sacred – what is profane or mundane. Surely, it is that which has contributed so largely to our sad, violent history, and given us a licence to exploit our world with no sense of respect; which in turn has led us to our current ecological crisis.
But whether we look at it from a scientific or Western religious perspective, it has never made sense to split up the universe in this way. Perhaps the most basic assumption of science is that the universe – everything – is one coherent whole. The body of scientific knowledge we have built sees any potential divergence from that as a problem.
Religion, too, holds that the universe is God's creation. So, logically then, everything is sacred, and it would be a travesty to deem anything as not sacred. (Mystics enthusiastically tell us this, and I must say that I see their point.)
The worst we can do is redefine the sacred – we should give up the whole idea. Which leads me to the question: why do some of us feel the need to deem anything sacred?
Magazine issue 3058 published 30 January 2016