Hi, I’m Steve Saar, one of your friendly local astronomers. I mention this, because astronomy, and a love and awe of nature and its workings in general, plays a major role in my spiritual journey.
I was raised in a loving family in the suburbs of Chicago as a Lutheran, more specifically as a Missouri Synod Lutheran. Though my parents were, paradoxically, surprisingly liberal politically, what this meant was that we were taught that the Bible was literally, word-for-word true. We were good-hearted Fundamentalists.
From the very beginning though, I was interested in rockets and outer space. One of the very first memories was as a 3 year old, raptly watching John Glenn blastoff on TV. I drew comics of my favorite cartoon character the opera-singing superhero Mighty Mouse, flying to the frigid imaginary planets beyond Pluto: Ibeerland (which was covered with ice-cold Blatz beer for my dad) and Pineapple-eo (planted with chilled pineapple for me). Books I was devouring spoke of an amazingly vast multi-billion year old universe created in a super-cool pyrotechnic Big Bang explosion. This fired my imagination and stirred my soul; I wanted to understand it all! But big bangs a billion years ago contradicted Genesis, or at least the Missouri Synod version. So a literal belief in the Bible was a nagging problem for this budding proto-scientist, even early on.
In the end science won out. Being a dutiful and obedient son, I continued to go to church and mouthed the words that gradually became more and more unbelievable. But as soon as I reasonably could, once off to college, I let my church life drop. Unfortunately, I let my external spiritual life drop as well, since I thought any spiritual community would in the end insist that I believe something unbelievable. But there was still a spiritual ember burning in me… one still awestruck by the glory and majesty of the universe. So I made that my life’s work; the universe was my temple and I a humble astronomer monk studying one small corner of it.
This was quite acceptable until I met Andrea (the other friendly local astronomer you may know!), and we decided to explore spirituality and a lifetime, together. But what form of organized spirituality, if any, was suitable? She was agnostic, and I was… well, what was I? A nature lover, a humanist, philosophically a liberal Christian, but without the mythos… where can you go with that? Well, after a little searching and a lot of luck, we stumbled upon Thomas Mikelson (whose hymn we will sing later today) and the First Church UU in Cambridge. Their covenant says it all:
In covenant with one another
and all we hold sacred
We answer the call of love‚
Welcoming all people
into the celebration of life
Searching for truth and meaning
And striving for justice and compassion‚
To nourish and serve each other,
our community and our world.
This was perfect. Rational, inclusive, searching, humane. We were married there, our children were dedicated there. At last I found a spiritual home. After we moved to Belmont, it was natural to relocate here, another UU island of sanity.
So where am I now? I fluctuate. Some days Im a humanist, nature-loving agnostic. Other days I figure a god, if there is one, might reasonably be the Universe itself. There are certain fundamental constants of nature which need to be finely tuned for life, or even complex molecules, to exist at all. If the universe was god, it could tune itself to have all the right constants, willing itself into being an interesting universe that nurtures life. That would make us a part of god – not just Sagan’s star-stuff, but small pieces of god-stuff, and all linked to each other and all of nature. I like that. But of course, if there are cagillions of multiverses, each with randomly different fundamental constants, as some theories propose, a few might have life by accident. Messy, but then life is an incredibly rare and precious thing in the largest multiverse scheme of things, something to be nurtured and protected. That’s nice too, but no need for a god. So I go back and forth. But at least here, as a UU, that is OK too.