Prologue: The book’s title comes from the idea that we are creatures that have evolved within a universe which we are driven to understand. Interpreting the universe requires as much creativity as its original production … This book proposes that religion is a special form of art, that scripture is a special form of poetry, and that science is an endeavor that requires the same imaginative processes as art. We must create through both religion and science an understanding of the universe that created us.
Chapter I: In a way, we make our own God, or at least form our own understanding of God. We then attribute to him the best of our thoughts and intentions: God of righteousness, God of justice. … [S]cripture gives insight into what we think is right, what we can convince our fellows ought to be done, and what we understand as God’s revelation to us. Scripture teaches us how to think about important things. Scripture does not tell us what to do, but makes us consider whether what we do is right.
Chapter II: Physics has often been suspicious of poetry. In Göttingen in 1927, on finding out that his friend J. Robert Oppenheimer was writing poetry, Paul Dirac joked that “In science, you want to say something nobody knew before, in words everyone can understand. In poetry, you are bound to say something that everybody knows already in words that nobody can understand.”
Chapter III: Those who believe in God’s existence often say that they directly experience God through a sense of the “numinous”. The word comes from the magical “nodding” (Greek neuein) of a divine idol when it approves of being worshipped or grants a wish … This concept goes back to Rudolf Otto’s 1917 book Das Heilige. The perception of the numinous or the mysterium tremendum can be considered “creature-feeling,” the sense of being in the presence of one’s creator. The numinous is difficult to describe but intense to experience. Otto describes five basic components of the perception: awefulness, majesty (overpoweringness), energy, mystery (wholly other), and fascination.
Chapter IV: Human morality has no hard and fast rules. We follow some general principles but we need to work out how they should be applied in particular situations. We perceive the good in much the same way we perceive the real. We determine the laws that fit what we perceive, test them out and then reconsider them if they do not always work.
Chapter V: Love of God is to be with Him whenever possible. … Attaining union with the divinity might require too great a loss of self. Though ultimately we may dissolve in God as a drop of water in the sea, perhaps now we might just content ourselves with his occasional epiphanies.
Epilogue: Where are we going? Our fate is to die. There is probably no escape from this in terms of individual immortality. There likely is no God in the sense of one who is particularly concerned with us. We might better consider life in terms of the survival of humanity, or of some transcendent consciousness evolving through the universe. Though life be bounded, yet is it beautiful. We should enjoy the sticky little leaves in the spring, the wind upon the water, and the clouds it trails between the sky and the earth. It is a good life.