The Life and Times of Michael C. McGoodwin
On Religion and Morality

For it is in our lives, and not from our words, that our religion must be judged.
Thomas Jefferson, 1816, letter to Mrs. H. Harrison Smith

The Universe is much bigger than our prophets said, grander, more subtle, more elegant.
(Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot, 1994)



Galaxies depicted in Hubble Space Telescope Ultra Deep Field visible light image
Detail from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope Ultra Deep Field image depicting about 10,000 galaxies,
 encompassing a width of 3 arc-minutes (1/10 the diameter of the moon) in the constellation Fornax,  
and composited from visible light images taken between Sept. 24, 2003 and Jan. 16, 2004.


Topics Discussed On This Page

I am not so arrogant as to think that I can compete with the erudition and convictions of the great historical and modern theologians, philosophers, historians, ethicists, and humanists on the subjects of religion and morality.  This page simply represents a statement of my own personal experiences, beliefs, and feelings, such as I am able to offer, plus some limited historical observations.  It relates primarily to three of the major monotheistic religions—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—which for brevity I will refer to as the Abrahamic religions.  (These three religions of course all trace their heritage to the patriarch Abraham.  Certain other smaller religions also consider Abraham as a patriarch and can be termed "Abrahamic".)  As a result of ignorance, I cannot make any useful comments about any of the other Abrahamic religions, nor about other major religions of the world, such as Hinduism, Buddhism, and the religious traditions of China and Japan.  This omission in no way implies any assumption about the unimportance or inferiority of these other belief systems.

If you feel secure, comfortable, and serene in your own religious faith, you would probably benefit little from reading what follows.  My views are often expressed as questions rather than as answers—in fact, I am offering only one answer.

Early Exposure to Christianity

During my childhood, my mother, though probably always rather liberal minded and free-thinking herself, was the more determined of my parents to see her sons exposed to a proper Christian moral upbringing.  My father also appeared to profess a belief in at least some Christian precepts, and undoubtedly went along with the practical value of this.  Presumably they were in agreement when I was baptized—according to my Baptismal certificate, on February 20, 1949 in St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Alamo Heights (San Antonio), with the Rev. S. H. Lindsay, Rector, presiding.  It is my impression that this nearby neighborhood church was an inviting destination for my family in the following respects: 

The St. Luke's church or parish we attended was located on Cloverleaf Avenue in Alamo Heights and was founded in 1943 (as part of the Diocese of West Texas) only a few years before we moved to Alamo Heights in 1947.  In 1954, when I was ten, it moved to a magnificent new building located on a hill near the Olmos Basin Park, so that the edifice and especially its steeple became a prominent landmark gracing the skyline.  (Scott reminded me of the heavy cross elegantly suspended in mid-air over the altar by thin piano wires—it seemed that at any moment they could break with catastrophic results.)  The ministers at St. Luke's during my attendance there (according to my mother's recollection including estimated dates) were Smythe Lindsay (1947 – 49), Jim Knapp (1949 – 53), Joe Brown (c. 1953 – 55), and Ed Bush (1955 – 60).  

I have only the dimmest recollections of going to church as a kid, though this was very much a part of the fabric of Alamo Heights WASP society in the conservative 1950s.  My parents did not wear religion on their sleeves—perhaps following Jesus' admonition (Matthew 6:5)—and religious topics were rarely discussed outside of church attendance, nor do I recall my parents making many spontaneous references to any specific passages in the Bible.  It seemed that the kind of Christianity practiced in such middle class American Protestant church settings that Becky and I were exposed to in those days was typically a fairly comfortable and reassuring one, lacking much emphasis on fire and brimstone, sin or guilt, intolerance or rigid theology, personal sacrifice, or trekking on bug-infested ministries in foreign lands.  (Becky's church upbringing occurred in Katy Methodist Church, the church which has nurtured several generations of Cardiffs, and in which we were married and Christie was baptized.)  My good friend and distant relative Robert Waite—probably a true believer and a faithful congregant but also a wise philosopher—described his Episcopal church as "putting on a good show", and this was my impression from my own childhood as well.  He reminded me (as the 16th Century Anglican theologian Richard Hooker originally argued) that the Anglican (and therefore the Episcopalian) faith was grounded in scripture, tradition, and (most remarkably) reason, and that, like a three-legged stool, all three legs were needed for stability.  Hooker argued for the value of experience, and for interpreting the Bible in its particular historical context rather than in absolute terms, thus advocating tolerance of dissent, inclusiveness, and a broad-minded approach to Anglican faith.  (This could certainly explain some of the Episcopalian appeal to my broad-minded parents.)  It is my understanding—through my mother and their website—that my old church St. Luke's has favored in recent decades the "High Church" practices of the 19th Century Oxford Movement (thereby seeking a middle ground, or via media, between non-Roman Catholicism and Protestantism, and emphasizing the wonders and mystery of spiritual truth), rather than the more strictly rational and Protestant, even Puritanical, "Low Church" practices.

At the appropriate age (described on St. Luke's current website as grades 5 - 12, and for me perhaps around the age of 10), I served as an acolyte "to serve at God's Altar" (as I recall, Russ did this as well).  I have mentioned elsewhere my limited but generally pleasing exposure to singing in this church's youth choir under director Eric Harker.  This church also followed the practice of encouraging Confirmation classes, which I duly attended at about the age of 12 – 13.  (According to their website, these are done in eighth grade and above and are held for several months in the spring.)  Thus by the time I entered my freshman year of high school at the age of 13 (in 1957), I was a fully credentialed Episcopalian Christian.  

St. Luke's was where my childhood belief in Christianity reached its highest though never particularly fervent level, and also the church in which my gradual backsliding began.  By the time I entered high school, I had begun to have serious doubts about the fundamentals.  My drift away from the church was not the fault of the probably outstanding clergy and choirmaster that we had at St. Luke's—I never had any complaints about them, and they undoubtedly provided much excellent guidance and moral instruction along with indoctrination into their mystical rituals and beliefs.  (In the 1980s I was asked by a kindly but puzzled Methodist minister in Katy Texas: Where had the church failed me?—but I have never had any sense that any church official or religious body failed to properly instruct me in Christian thought.)  Moreover, I recall no one in my formative years ever explicitly teaching me to doubt or cast off Christian theology.  Somehow, I just developed a creeping conviction that, however glorious and useful the church might be in practice, it was increasingly difficult to possess the faith in a personal divinity that was expected, however gently, of true Christians.  With my father's long absences while I was in high school, and the growing disinterest at least in me and my older brother, and perhaps other factors, our family's church attendance declined.  (But apparently it did not cease entirely: my brother Scott reminded me that he also went through the confirmation process at St. Luke's.)

On the Existence of a God

By my junior year in high school, when I briefly dated a good Baptist girl named Kay, I was sufficiently apostate ("standing away") from Christian theology that she expressed fear for the damnation of my soul and did not wish to date me further.  (This was not a great loss to me, as I was surely hoping to meet someone who might feel more tolerant of my religious skepticism, regardless of her own religious views.)  I was more or less calling myself an atheist by the end of high school, though I never waged any kind of vocal campaign to win over converts to my minority belief system, based as it was more on a negative disillusionment rather than a positive affirmation.  In the summer after my freshman year of college, I ran into trouble while staying in Denver as a house guest with a Roman Catholic family.  I lacked the good sense or tact to keep my religious beliefs to myself, and after expressing my doubts to their son, who was somewhat younger than I, the father angrily denounced me for my corrupting views and demanded that I leave.

My highly secular college experience and scientific-medical career did little to rekindle my faith, despite for instance having a Catholic professor for a college philosophy course, or working at Catholic hospitals for most of my career.  But at some point, I began to see myself more as an agnostic than a dogmatic atheist, since I was neither able to know that the God envisioned by monotheists exists, nor was I able to be certain of His non-existence.  With some refinements (see below), this is pretty much how I have left the debate during my adult life—I simply went about quietly trying to be a pragmatic and compassionate secular humanist while having little interest in studying the wide range of different religious traditions, leaving others to their own spiritual beliefs, and hoping that they would leave me alone and not attempt to coerce my beliefs.

Any monotheistic religion, including Christianity, must base its ultimate validity on the claimed existence of its God.  Without its God's existence, a religion is clearly a man-made institution—however beneficial it might prove in practice—one for which the words of prophets and of the recorded scriptures are purely products of the human imagination and brilliance rather than of divinely inspired human thought.   There have been many arguments through the millennia to prove God's existence, to compel such a belief, or to persuade us to hold such a belief, and I won't try to present in any detail the many more learned and extensive discussions that are readily available, including on the Web.  However, I have reflected on each of the following arguments at various times as I have struggled to explore and define my own views about religion, so it is fitting to include passing mention of them in these memoirs:

For me, while I acknowledge that there might be a God of some sort underlying the creation or workings of the universe (perhaps a highly abstract force of some type, such as an entity defining the laws of physics), the ultimate arguments against His playing a personal role in my own life are these:

Violence Associated with Abrahamic Religions

I have already alluded above to some of the atrocities and persecutions that have arisen throughout history as a result of conflicting religious beliefs and religious imperialism.  (Of course, I am aware that there are many causes of human violence, and that religious conflict can explain only a fraction of human atrocities, wars, ethnic cleansing, colonialism, and oppression.  And religious violence has certainly not been confined to the Abrahamic religions currently under discussion.)  I lack the historian's skills and background to review this broad subject in any detail, and in any event a lengthy discussion would be out of place in these personal memoirs.  However, a brief summary is appropriate because my attitudes toward the Abrahamic religions are strongly influenced by their long and bloody histories.  Probably no one of the three Abrahamic religions under discussion can be said to have a special claim on either atrocities or on peacemaking, at least as judged solely by reading their scriptures.  (I refer specifically to the Hebrew Bible or Tanakh, which is roughly equivalent to the Old Testament of most Protestant Bibles, the New Testament, and the Koran, all of which I have read in translation.  I have not read other sacred works related to these faiths such as the Talmud, the Deuterocanonical Apocrypha, Hadith, etc., or the quasi-religious works commonly considered non-canonical and often termed pseudepigrapha.)  It is my general impression that every major religion claims to be a religion of peace (though I confess to having some bias in favor of Christianity on this subject).  But devout adherents of every faith, while carrying out efforts to spread their beliefs, have committed atrocities and waged wars in the name of their religions.  While I would not automatically claim to be a conscientious objector, and am not categorically opposed to all wars or to defending myself and my family from attack, I oppose violence and warfare initiated and sustained in order to promote a particular religion.

Magen David (Star of David), graphic by MCM after en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_of_David

In the Hebrew Bible, we delight at the tender sentiments expressed in the Song of Songs, and are comforted by the Psalms, such as the magnificent Psalms 23 and 130, yet we find in Psalm 137, not just the plaintive weeping of the exiles by the rivers of Babylon, but also this appeal: "O Daughter of Babylon, doomed to destruction, happy is he who repays you for what you have done to us—he who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks."  And Deuteronomy 20:16 advises the Israelites: "However, in the cities of the nations the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance  [i.e., in Canaan], do not leave alive anything that breathes.  Completely destroy them—the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Preizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites—as the Lord your God has commanded you."  The Hebrew Bible is in fact full of violence—especially in Joshua, Judges, I and II Samuel, and some of the other historical books—all of which can be rationalized and justified by its apologists in a variety of ways (primitive times, understandable responses to persecution, the necessity to violently overthrow pagan and therefore false religions, the manifest destiny of the Israelites to conquer Canaan according to God's Covenant, the helping of a wrathful God in pursuing His need for vengeance, etc.)  Yet I do not find these justifications particularly convincing, and they often seem suspiciously self-serving.

Chi-Rho-Alpha-Omega graphic by MCM

Jesus Christ, as presented in the Gospels, was a Jew who taught a new version of faith and behavior which drew on and respected the Hebrew Bible while, in my opinion, improving considerably upon it.  I deeply appreciate and admire that Jesus taught that His followers would not be confined to a particular and exclusive ethnic group or place of worship or geographical region, but that any person anywhere in the world could be a Christian simply by accepting His divinity and commandments and undergoing baptism (Matthew 28:19).  At times, His views appear surprisingly radical, such as when He says to a disciple who wishes to bury his dead father, "Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead" (Matthew 8:22).  Moreover, the standards He sets for moral behavior seem to me to be set impossibly high.  Thankfully, He seems to focus mainly on teaching us to improve our own behaviors rather than on spending time judging others (Matthew 7:1).  However, He recognized that His teachings would bring conflict, even within families: "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the Earth.  I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.  For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother ... " (Matthew 10:34, drawing on Micah 7:6).  Jesus commanded His followers to "go and make disciples of all nations" (Matthew 28:19), and while His teachings were generally peaceful, the zealous methods of His followers have often been decidedly war-like and have inflicted great human suffering over the intervening centuries.

Islamic crescent moon and star, graphic by MCM after flag of Turkey and other states

We find in the Koran (in sura 29, "The Spider") the reassuring words: "Be courteous when you argue with the People of the Book [i.e., Jews and Christians], except with those among them who do evil.  Say: 'We believe in that which has been revealed to us and which was revealed to you. Our God and your God is one. To Him we submit.' "  Yet we also read (in sura 4, "Women"): "You [i.e., Jews and Christians] to whom the Scriptures were given!  Believe in that which We have revealed, confirming your own scriptures, before We obliterate your faces and turn them backward, or lay Our curse on you as We laid it on the Sabbath-breakers."  And in sura 2, "The Cow" we are told:  "Fight for the sake of God those that fight against you, but do not attack them first.  God does not love aggressors.  Slay them wherever you find them.  Drive them out of the places from which they drove you.  Idolatry is more grievous than bloodshed...  Fight against them until idolatry is no more and God's religion reigns supreme."  In sura 47, "Muhammad", we find, "When you meet the unbelievers in the battlefield strike off their heads and, when you have laid them low, bind your captives firmly. Then grant them their freedom or take a ransom from them, until War shall lay down her burdens. Thus shall you do.  Had God willed, He could Himself have punished them."  Of course, I am not entirely immune to the heavenly enticements offered to martyred warriors: the lovely dark-eyed houris of modest gaze, the cool waters, honey, nectar, wine that will not take away the reason, silken cushions, carpets, etc.  But I cannot pretend to have much affinity for this faith, so that idle though pleasant day-dreaming is pointless for me.  In any event, history has also given us too many examples of bloody wars of religious conquest and acts of modern terrorism perpetrated ostensibly in the name of Allah.

The following list summarizes some of the major times which involve religious persecution and coercive conversions, imperialism, or warfare relating to the Abrahamic religions (some of which of course involve secular as well as religious conflicts):

Mankind's innately violent nature will probably continue to lead to the eruption of wars from time to time, often based on secular competition over scarce resources such as water or oil, territoriality, ideological disputes ("isms"), or distractions generated by insecure or megalomaniacal dictators, etc., whether or not there is also a religious justification.  But we should do all that we can to encourage religious tolerance in all faiths and to prevent violence resulting primarily from conflicting religious beliefs or dispute about "sacred" ground (including Jerusalem).  We should strive to preserve religious freedoms for all persons—and this means that the right to practice and impose one's faith ends, as with the smoke of smokers, at the tips of other's noses.

I have often mused in a Darwinian sort of way (partly inspired by E. O. Wilson) that the most successful religions—the ones that continue to prosper rather than wither away—are quite analogous to successfully enduring species of animals or plants.  (I'll have the good sense not to compare religions to any specific organisms, since the lowly bacteria may prove to be the greatest biological winners here on Earth.)  Successful organisms have evolved to have what it takes to ensure their reproduction, propagation, and dominance over other organisms that are competing for similar ecological niches.  In the same way, a successful religion must have appealing, or at least compelling, beliefs (regardless of the specifics of these beliefs), and it must incorporate into its teaching of these beliefs the practices of indoctrination of younger family members and proselytizing friends and strangers in order to win new converts.  It will also typically have a doctrine and customs that discourage or prevent apostasy in existing members (ideally through inspiring a sense of spiritual communion or providing other positive benefits listed below, rather than through threats of punishment, damnation, social isolation, material failure, etc.)  Thus, the best long-term survivors among the world's religions are likely to be the most vigorously effective competitors having the highest "reproductive potential", rather than the more mellow, contemplative, passive, and laid-back ones.  The sad conclusion from this Darwinian analogy is that, fighting it out at the top of the heap, we are likely to always have the Clash of the Titans among the greatest of the world's major religions as they compete to win our souls, and there may very well be no quarter which can be given in this conflict.

Other Failings of the Abrahamic Religions and of Humanism:
Environmental Catastrophes, Mass Extinctions, and the Necessity of Suprahumanism

In recent years, evidence has increasingly accumulated that can no longer be ignored: of global human overpopulation; of human overconsumption and depletion of the Earth's precious limited resources; of environmental degradation and habitat destruction from pollution, eutrophication, ocean acidification, etc.; of global warming; and—most lamentable and immoral of all—of a rapidly progressing and apparently irreversible mass extinction of many of the world's magnificent animal and plant species.  Many individual humans are of course themselves threatened by these widespread changes.  But humans are largely responsible for causing them—humans armed not just with ignorance and greed, but all too often with religious doctrines and rationalizations concerning global dominion, or entitlement, or the mandate to "go forth and multiply" without limits.  The "great" religions of the world have failed to place a primary emphasis on these important issues.  They have often cited overarching theological priorities, such as religious beliefs or rituals that focus on preparing for the afterlife.  When religious leaders have paid attention to the obligations of earthly life, the emphasis has been placed primarily on caring for our fellow humans, especially the poor, sick, or otherwise less fortunate.  As a physician and humanist, I of course find this humanistic concern meritorious.  Human caring and compassion are embodied in the Golden Rule and in the precepts of humanism (as well as in the practice of medicine), whether or not a divine belief stands behind these important guiding moral and ethical principles. 

But our great religions and religious leaders have rarely shown adequate concern about degradation of our environment or the destruction of non-human species.  I strongly believe that the Golden Rule—which deals of course with how we treat fellow humans—is no longer a sufficient operating goal.  It is a worthy goal, and a necessary goal, and it served us fairly well as an ideal for guiding earthly human conduct for several millennia, but it served us well only while the world was thinly populated with less than a billion people.  Now with a global population exceeding 7 billion humans (as of 2012), we need to go far beyond mere humanism and the treating well of fellow humans.  We must give prime and urgent consideration—not just as an afterthought or a fringe effort—to rapidly identifying what our adverse environmental impacts are, and what we must do to alleviate them.  We must take effective and immediate actions to protect our environment, and especially to protect other species from extinction.  The intrinsic value of other species should be emphasized, whether or not the motivations are expressed in religious or secular terms, and we must integrate this emphasis into our highest moral and ethical teachings.  We need to treat our biosphere and our non-human co-inhabitants of Earth far better than we have—this is an inescapable moral and ethical necessity.  (I am not suggesting that I am ready to stop eating all animals and plants!  My opposition is to human behaviors and practices which have led or will lead to extinction of whole species, not to the unequivocally sustainable exploitation of individual organisms.)  These are matters of immense, fervent, deeply felt and quasi-religious concern to me.  Lacking an existing and fully applicable term, I propose that we refer to this integrated broadening of moral human concern and emphasis as suprahumanism.  This term, which I believe I independently coined (see note), should be regarded as describing a superset of secular humanism.  In my view, what it adds to traditional humanism is a profound concern for all living species that should occupy the very apex of human endeavors.  This should not merely be a goal or concern of extremist factions, environmentalists, or specialized biologists, etc.  (I have provided a more substantial presentation on the necessity of suprahumanism in my Credo for the Third Millennium.)

Benefits of Christian Life, Spirituality, and Morality

I have chosen to list a number of negative aspects relating to the Abrahamic religions above, how they have failed humans through history as well as other co-inhabitants of planet Earth.  However, there are clearly powerful attractions of religion for many persons (and I will speak here mostly of the attractions of Protestant Christianity, with which I am most personally familiar).

It has been suggested in dubious scientific research by Dean Hamer (that I have not studied) that there is an intrinsic genetic tendency in some humans to believe in a greater spiritual force, and that the strength of this tendency might correlate to a small degree with the variant of a particular gene which the person carries.  Although a God gene has not been confirmed (as of 2012), religious inclinations may indeed have a genetic component.  Stay tuned for further developments on this fascinating topic.

However, it does seem likely to me that some persons are naturally more inclined than others to believe in spiritual and religious phenomena.  Perhaps these are the persons for whom taking religion on faith comes the easiest and has the greatest appeal.  Or perhaps they can decide pragmatically that the benefits of religion in this world are simply too great to pass up.  What are the potential benefits that accrue from practicing a religious tradition?  (I'll assume for now that such practitioners have either largely overcome or suppressed any major doubts as to the core belief in the God worshipped in that religion.)  Here is my own idiosyncratic list: 

This list of possibilities comes readily to mind because I deeply feel the desirability or at least the appeal of most of these items—though I view them somewhat like an impoverished child standing outside an enticing but inaccessible candy store.  Scientific knowledge of the origins and mechanisms of life and of the workings of the universe has attained a remarkably high level of development, yet it is still in its infancy.  My own level of understanding of scientific knowledge, though falling far short of the current attainments of science, nevertheless gives me some degree of intellectual satisfaction.  But such understanding, however elegant and stimulating, will probably always seem to me somewhat impersonal, mechanistic, and a little sterile.  Despite the genuine joys I have experienced from science, medicine, and humanism (or suprahumanism), I have also experienced in my life: (1) the deep loneliness that comes from not belonging to a religious community or sharing in any set of established foundational religious beliefs; (2) the emptiness that comes from the sense that there is no higher plane of existence, no life beyond death, and no real purpose in life (beyond the perpetuation of life itself); (3) the profound but, alas, only temporary feeling of inspiration that even I can experience from hearing great sacred music or visiting a magnificent cathedral or reading an inspired passage of scripture; (4) the longing for an afterlife in which I might see my father or mother and other absent loved ones again; (5) the need for a higher authority to mediate disputes that I have encountered in my own life and in my society; and (6) the vulnerability to despair and flagging courage that can arise from health crises or other life-threatening events.  

The secular alternative to a morality based on religious and divinely inspired belief systems is called rational morality or moral rationalism, which suggests that moral truths can be deduced by human reasoning.  As might be expected, this brand of morality appears to be a confusing and controversial subject.  Some relativists argue that there are simply no self-evident moral principles that are true for everyone.  One can find learned definitions and discussions on the Web, for instance at the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.  In constructing a rational morality, we must ask, Is morality intended for the benefit of individuals?  Or should it serve to ensure not just the survival of the individual, but also of the human species even in future generations (and I would argue, the survival of many other species as well), so that personal sacrifice will surely be required?

For those of us lacking a shared religious tradition to guide us, we are ultimately left to argue among ourselves as to what constitutes a moral approach to life.  (Of course, persons from differing religious traditions also engage in heated moral debates.)  Fortunately, there are international secular bodies which debate these things and have drawn up broad moral and ethical guidelines, such as the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations, and the various ethical policies promulgated by the World Medical Association, such as the International Code of Medical Ethics and the Declaration of Helsinki: Ethical Principles for Medical Research Involving Human Subjects.  Whether or not such pronouncements from these august bodies filter down to influence our everyday lives and conflicts is unclear.  And so far at least (in 2012), there is, in the major international organizations drawing up such guidelines, little if any emphasis on the needs of other species.

Conclusions

Regrettably, my personality, experiences, and convictions have prevented me from overcoming my objections to the divine beliefs of the religion in which I was raised—I might have otherwise embraced some form of broad-minded Protestant Christianity for its undeniable personal benefits.  And as I have discussed, I remain deeply troubled by the manifest failings of the current major world religions to serve effectively the needs not just of humankind but also of other living things on our planet. 

As for answering the question, "What are you religiously?", I am forced to say in the following honest if inescapably muddled way that I am:

A devout agnostic atheist (noting that these non-contradictory terms pertain respectively to knowledge versus belief); but also 

One who deeply respects and attempts to follow most of the moral and ethical teachings of Jesus Christ (at least as recounted in the Gospels), including the Golden Rule; but also 

A pragmatic secular humanist (or much better, a secular suprahumanist) who senses the sacredness of our nurturing though much abused Mother Earth, and of its diverse life forms; but also

A classicist with a fondness for Apollo (god of reason, medicine, healing, etc.); Asklepios (another god of medicine); Demeter (Earth mother and goddess of the harvest); the nine Muses (who inspire music, dance, poetry, astronomy, etc.); Orpheus (poet and father of songs); Athena (goddess of wisdom and the Rice Owls); Dionysos (god of theater and wine); and of course heavenly Aphrodite—for, when all is said and done, Love Is the Answer.

References and Notes

(1) The Episcopal Church: The Church of England formed as a distinct church as a result of the schism from papal authority led by Henry VIII (reigned 1509 – 1547), and was governed by him, beginning in 1534, as well as by other monarchs, including Elizabeth I (reigned 1558 – 1603) and James I (reigned over England 1603 – 1625).  The American Anglicans split off in 1789 from the Church of England as a result of the American Revolution to form the "Episcopal Church of the United States of America", also called the "Protestant Episcopal Church".  It was renamed in 1967 simply to the "Episcopal Church".  It followed the practices of the Anglican Church including governance by an episcopacy—a hierarchy of overseeing bishops (from the Greek "episcopoi")—as well as the use of the King James Bible of 1611, and the Book of Common Prayer compiled in the 16th Century.  The Episcopal Church as of 2007 had about 2.2 million members.  The Episcopal Church was long a harmonious part of the loosely organized worldwide Anglican Communion of currently 77 million "communicants".  But recent controversies (writing in 2009) relating to the ordination of female priests (1976), female bishops (1989), gay priests (1989), and an openly gay bishop (2003) have led to fractious secessions and realignments by the so-called conservatives, processes and upheavals that are ongoing. 
(2) The Original Ontological Argument:  Anselm of Canterbury, in Proslogium, Chapter III (found in Complete Philosophical And Theological Treatises Of Anselm Of Canterbury, transl. Jasper Hopkins and Herbert Richardson, Arthur J. Banning Press, ©2000) states: "[God] cannot be thought not to exist. /  Assuredly, this [being] exists so truly [i.e., really] that it cannot even be thought not to exist.  For there can be thought to exist something which cannot be thought not to exist; and this thing is greater than that which can be thought not to exist.  Therefore, if that than which a greater cannot be thought could be thought not to exist, then that than which a greater cannot be thought would not be that than which a greater cannot be thought—[a consequence] which is contradictory.  Hence, something than which a greater cannot be thought exists so truly that it cannot even be thought not to exist.  And You are this [being], 0 Lord our God."
(3) The Size of the Universe:  CH Lineweaver, TM Davis, "Misconceptions About The Big Bang", Scientific American, March 2005, p. 36 – 45.
(4) Multiverses: Max Tegmark, "Parallel Universes", Scientific American, May 2003, p. 41 – 51. This article discusses the possible types of "multiverses".
(5) Bible quotations: are taken from the NIV [New International Version] Study Bible, Zondervan Corporation, 1985.
(6) Koran quotations: are taken from N. J. Dawood's translation of The Koran, Penguin Books, copyright 1999.
(7) The God Gene: Dean H Hamer, The God Gene: How Faith is Hardwired into our Genes, Doubleday, 2004.  This book is negatively reviewed by Carl Zimmer in Scientific American October 2004, which is available at http://www.sciam.com in an article entitled "Faith-Boosting Genes".
(8) Christian Symbols:  Having no Greek, I present the following on faith.  The phrase Jesus Christ in upper case Greek letters is spelled ΙΗΣΟΥΣ ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ.  The Christian symbol IHS derives from the first 3 upper case letters of ΙΗΣΟΥΣ (Iota, Eta, Sigma)—and apparently not, as some have maintained, from the Latin "Iesus Hominum Salvator" (="Jesus, Savior of Men").  The CHI-RHO monogram (which I have depicted above) derives from the first two letters of ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ.  The fish came to represent Christ because of several associations:  The Greek letters for fish, ΙΧΘΥΣ (Iota Chi Theta Upsilon Sigma, which transliterate into English as "Ichthus"), were taken to be an acronym for "Iesous Christos Theou Yios Soter", which in English means "Jesus Christ, God's Son, Savior".  Associations of Jesus with fish in the New Testament include his disciple Peter, who was a fisherman, and the tale of the miracle of the fish and loaves in Matthew 14.  The Alpha and Omega symbols recall Jesus' words in Revelation 1:8.
(9) No Atheists at the Bedside: See Margaret Carlson, A Doctor Prescribes. Time Magazine. Jun. 24, 2001.  http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,151643,00.html.  "...'[Dr. C Everett Koop] was beloved at that hospital, worrying over patients as if they were his own children...'  To criticism that he tinged his medicine with religion, Koop says, 'There are no atheists at the bedside of a dying child.' ... Koop learned this firsthand in 1968, when his youngest son David, a junior at Dartmouth, fell to his death in a mountain-climbing accident..."
(10) Suprahumanism: Well after coining and using this term in these memoirs as defined above, I encountered other possible definitions and uses of the same word, such as might apply to fictional characters or in works by Kurwenal (pertaining to Wagner and Nietzsche).  I am not interested in superhumans—we have enough problems just with humans of standard abilities.