Ursula Goodenough is one of the best-known voices in religious naturalism. She is author of the best-selling book, “The Sacred Depths of Nature” which, in examining cosmology, evolution, cell biology, and aspects of life, celebrates the mystery and wonder of being alive and suggests that religious naturalism can serve as the basis for “planetary ethic” that draws from both science and religion
Ursula is a Professor of Biology at Washington University. She has discussed religious naturalism in essays, college classes, and as part of blogs and television and radio productions. She participated in conversations with the Dalai Lama sponsored by the Mind and Life Institute. Her work has been discussed in “Religious Naturalism Today” by Jerome Stone and “The Promise of Religious Naturalism” by Michael Hogue.
Some examples of her thoughts and writing can be seen at the following links.
A brief excerpt from “The Sacred Depths of Nature” is shown below.
Pages xiv-xv: After discussing the range of religious practices . . .
“In the end, each of these religions addresses two fundamental human concerns: How Things Are and Which Things Matter. How Things Are becomes formulated as a Cosmology or Cosmos: How the universe came to be, how humans came to be, what happens after we die, the origins of evil and tragedy and natural disaster. Which Things Matter becomes codified as a Morality or Ethos: the Judaic Ten Commandments, the Christian Sermon on the Mount, the Five Pillars of Islam, the Buddhist Vinaya, the Confucian Five Relations. The role of religion is to integrate the Cosmology and the Morality, to render the cosmological narrative so rich and compelling that it elicits our allegiance and our commitment to its emergent moral understandings. As each culture evolves, a unique Cosmos and Ethos appear in its co-evolving religion. For billions of us, back to the first humans, the stories, ceremonies, and art associated with our religions-of origin are central to our matrix.
“I stand in awe of these religions. I am deeply emeshed in one of them myself. I have no need to take on the contradictions or imiscibilities between them, any more than I would quarrel with the fact that Scottish bagpipes coexist with Japanese tea ceremonies . . .”
Ursula is the mother of 5 children. She is a long-term member and served as President of the Institute on Religion in an Age of Science (IRAS). She wrote three editions of a widely adopted textbook, Genetics, served as president of The American Society for Cell Biology, and was elected to the Academy of Arts and Science.