In her new book, A God That Could Be Real: Spirituality, Science, and the Future of Our Planet, Nancy Ellen Abrams unravels the complexities of the universe and God.
1. In your book, you talk about finding a God of your own understanding. What caused this line of inquiry to begin?
Over the decades, when my astrophysicist husband was helping to create the modern scientific theory of our universe, he and I explored its human implications by coauthoring The View from the Center of the Universe and The New Universe and the Human Future. At the time, I was recovering from an eating disorder in a 12-step program. As an atheist, I was amazed that following this spiritual program to call on a higher power actually helped. Trying to understand how led to my new book.
2. How has this new understanding affected your personal life?
By simply opening my mind to the possibility of a higher power, my eating habits greatly improved; I stopped judging people and beating myself up in my mind; I was happier. As I developed my theory of God, the inner tensions that I had thought were simply me disappeared, and I experienced energy, optimism, and peace of mind.
3. How does the perspective that one either believes in God or in science get in the way of spirituality?
Children are taught that God has to be omniscient, in control of the whole universe, and able to cause miracles by breaking laws of nature. These notions are from a prescientific era and today create doubt, confusion, and intolerance. A real God is not mummified in ancient writings; it’s emerging from humanity. The scientific universe and emerging God are beautifully coherent.
4. Can you explain the idea of an “emerging God?”
I am a community of trillions of cells that do the work of keeping me alive. Yet, at the same time, I am a Self that thinks, loves, and feels—while completely unaware of the cellular activities inside me. A Self is what’s called an “emergent phenomenon”—a unified mind, personality, and identity that has emerged through the complex interactions of our cells. Similarly, God is an emergent phenomenon from all of humanity’s aspirations interacting with each other. Each of us is like a cell of God. God is as different from us as we are from one of our cells.
5. You say we have an opportunity to “take a creative, active role in the evolution of God.” How do we do this?
Our understanding of God must evolve as we learn. We need to use humankind’s best knowledge to consciously contribute to the ongoing evolution; otherwise, the most ignorant will be left to define supernatural, exclusive Gods that lead to conflict and possible extinction. A real God uniting spirituality and science can give humanity common ground based on truth.