Meta-Religious Essays and Sermons

How the Great Story Enriches Faith and Philosophical Traditions


Physicist Joel Primack and cultural leader Nancy Abrams view The Great Story as CRUCIAL FOR THIS PIVOTAL MOMENT in history:

"There's a joke among cosmologists that romantics are made of stardust, but cynics are made of the nuclear waste of worn-out stars. Sure enough, the complex atoms coming out of supernovas can be seen either way, but these atoms introduce into matter the possibility of complexity, and complexity allows the possibility of life and intelligence. To call them nuclear waste is like calling consumer goods the waste products of factories. A cosmology can be a source of tremendous inspirational and even healing power, or it can transform a people into slaves or automatons and squash their universe into obsession with the next meal or with trivial entertainment. The choice of what attitude the twenty-first century will adopt toward the new universe may be the greatest opportunity of our time. The choice between existential and meaningful is still open." —The View from the Center of the Universe, 2006.

Thomas Berry speaks of the Universe Story (or Great Story or Epic of Evolution) not as a new religious outlook or faith but as a meta-religious contribution that can enrich the religious or world-relational experience of all peoples and all faiths, lifeways, and philosophies. The Great Story embraces not only the full diversity of cosmos and life, but also the full diversity of religious expression. It is the over-arching narrative that includes and uplifts all sacred stories. The Great Story thus offers hope for expanded interfaith dialogue and harmony.

Connie Barlow and Michael Dowd began soliciting in 2000 meta-religious essays from individuals in this movement who are deeply grounded in and faithful to a particular religious tradition, who enthusiastically embrace the Universe Story / Great Story, and who are excellent writers. Paula Hirschboeck, Professor of Philosophy at Edgewood College in Madison WI, submitted the first such essay, and then joined Connie and Michael as co-editor of this project.

We realized upon reading Paula's essay that mere reconciliation of the Great Story with various faith traditions and philosophies is too limited a goal. Rather, mutual enrichment is the standard. Indeed, Paula's essay movingly shows that not until the Universe Story provided her with a way to understand the core tenets of Buddhism could she get past her difficulty with the personhood of the Buddha. As a modern feminist, Paula was then able to fully embrace this ancient religion.

Important too is that all of these essays speak from the heart. The authors do not write generically how the Great Story can enrich their tradition; they write subjectively. They intimately share what it has done for them. They tell their personal stories.

Curiously, the effect is to not only translate the Great Story into ideas and words that can resonate with those in the same tradition; each essay also educates and allures those outside the tradition. We find ourselves saying, "If that's what Buddhism is, I could be a Buddhist." Or, "If that's what Catholicism is, I could be a Catholic." Or, "If that's what Paganism is, I could be a Pagan." And so we find ourselves hoping . . .

Maybe, just maybe, the Great Story could build religious harmony, everywhere that the story is told.

  • CATHOLIC - "Holy Ground: Where Catholic Tradition and the Universe Story Meet" by Sr. Gail Worcelo. Click here to view CATHOLIC on-screen or PDF version.

  • BUDDHIST - "A Zen Way into the Universe Story" by Paula Hirschboeck. Click here to view BUDDHIST on-screen or PDF version.

  • UNITARIAN - "Fire and Emptiness: Unitarian Universalism and the Universe Story" by Patricia Gordon. Click here to view UNITARIAN on-screen. Patricia also has written a short version of The Universe Story, available here in PDF format. An Earth Day Sunday sermon written and delivered by UU minister-in-training Sally Beth Shore (at the UU Church in Asheville NC, Earth Day 2006) is an example of a sermon that also presents a metareligious, personal testimonial of how the Epic of Evolution can transform a life.

  • BIBLICAL CHRISTIAN - "Biblical Christianity and The Great Story: A conversation between Michael Dowd and a Christian college student" by Michael Dowd. Click here to view BIBLICAL CHRISTIAN on-screen or PDF version.

  • CHRISTIAN (general)

    by Michael Dowd

    2008 book (Viking) and companion website



    by Mary Coelho: "Of Leadings and the Inner Light: Quakerism and the New Cosmology".

         See also online PDF, Quakers and the New Story: Essays on Science and Religion

  • JEWISH - "Evolutionary Passover Haggadah" by Tree Bressen (2007). Click here to view JEWISH PASSOVER DOCUMENT in PDF.

  • PAGAN - "The Universe Story as Unfolding of the Triple Goddess and Her Seasonal Celebration" by Glenys Livingstone. Click here to view PAGAN onscreen. See also, "Early Morning in the Slick Hills, Southern Oklahoma" by Meical abAwen.


    Example 1 - "An Immense Journey: Religious Naturalism and the Great Story" (A Tribute to Julian Huxley, Paul Martin, Aldo Leopold, Thomas Berry, Brian Swimme, Annie Dillard, and Loren Eiseley) by Connie Barlow. Click here to view RELIGIOUS NATURALISM-1 on-screen or in PDF version.

    Example 2 - "On Finding Grandeur in Nature" by Thomas Shotwell. Click here to view RELIGIOUS NATURALISM-2 on-screen or in PDF version.

    For sermons and other hotlinks on religious naturalism, click more religious naturalism.


    Brian Swimme 1997 interview in U.S. Catholic.
    Brian Swimme 2001 interview in What Is Enlightenment?

        This 9-minute YouTube video of Neil deGrasse Tyson is a gem. Click to be inspired by his personal story of how how he became a scientist and his peak spiritual experiences in doing science.


    See "Awakening to Evolution" by Andrew Cohen
  •                  What is META-RELIGIOUS? Click to choose from a selection of 11 short audio clips of Thomas Berry reading from The Great Work, including his discussion of the meta-religious power of the sacred story of the Universe.       

    Please feel free to download, print, and use any and all of the resources posted directly on this website, without seeking permission, for all purposes other than professional for-profit publication. (Contact us if you wish to include them in a book or magazine.) And please hotlink our site to yours.


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    by Michael Dowd and Connie Barlow, "evolutionary evangelists"

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    Sermons: MICHAEL DOWD


  • 2009: "Gratitude: An Evolutionary Perspective"
       Unity of Bellevue, WA

  • 2009: "Evolutionary Transformations"
       Mountainside Center for Spiritual Living, Placerville CA

  • 2009: VIDEO: "Seven Gifts of Evolutionary Spirituality"
       Agape Spiritual Center, Culver City CA

  • 2008: VIDEO: "The Evolutionary Gospel"
       Renaissance Unity, Detroit MI

  • 2008: "Evolutionary Good News"
       First Unitarian Society of Milwaukee, WI

  • 2008: "Why I Thank God for Evolution"
       Unity of Marin, CA

  • 2008: "Thank God for Evolution!"
       First Unitarian Church of Dallas, TX

  • 2006: "The Gospel According to Evolution"
       Unity Church of Christianity, Houston TX

  • 2006: "The Epic of Evolution"
       Unitarian Universalists of Hendersonville, NC

  • 2006: "The Great Story"
       Unity of Woodinville, WA

  • More AUDIO and VIDEO of talks/interviews
       can be viewed at


    Sermons: CONNIE BARLOW


  • 2009: "Your Brain's Creation Story"
       UU Congregation of Whidbey Isl, WA

  • 2008: "Evolution: Truth, Beauty, and Utility"
       UU Fellowship of Hendersonville, NC

  • 2008: "We Are Stardust" (intergenerational service)
       Unitarian Universalist Church of Riverside, CA

  • 2008: "Evolution Now: A Manifesto for our UU Congregations"
       Cedar Lane UU Church Bethesda, MD

  • 2006: "Celebrating Evolution"
       Second Unitarian Church of Omaha, NE

  • 2006: "An Evolutionary Celebration of Death"
       Unitarian Society of Hartford, CT

  • 2005: "What Is Our Cosmic Task?"
       Yakima Unitarian Universalist Church, WA

  • 2003: "Is This Not Divine?"
       Unitarian Church of Asheville, NC

  • 2008: VIDEO of "Celebrating Evolution"
       Unitarian Universalist Church of Canandaigua, NY



  • 2006: "Cosmos, Mysticism, Reverence for Life"
       First Unitarian Society of Denver, CO

  • AUDIOS of CHURCH SERMONS by Various Individuals

    "Day Language, Night Language"

    guest sermon by Dr. Loren Acton

    at the Bozeman United Methodist Church

    17 August 2008

    Note: Loren Acton, a member of the Bozeman United Methodist Church, is a retired astronaut, who flew on a 1985 Challenger Space Shuttle Mission. He is a solar physicist, and the photograph at left commemorates that particular shuttle mission.

    (Photo by Connie Barlow, taken at NASA-Houston.)


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