This post is my Christmas gift to the community, as host of this series. While it was written with Christians in mind, its good news message applies equally to everyone.

Evolution isn’t just about Darwin, dinosaurs, and DNA. It’s about whether you and your loved ones are going to settle for a precarious promise of paradise after you die, or whether you’ll experience real heavenly joy in this life. It’s about whether you and those you care most deeply about are going to actually experience “the peace that passes all understanding,” for real, or be resigned to struggling with your “sinful nature” (and/or judging others for doing so) till the day you die.

It should not be a surprise that alcoholism, drug dependence, domestic violence, porn addiction, and both abortion and suicide rates are highest in religiously conservative parts of the U.S. (1), and that the least religious countries report the highest levels of personal and social wellbeing (2)(3). Not only shouldn’t this be a surprise, it should be expected—given that the majority of religious conservatives are trying to navigate their lives by the Bible alone. Trying to live your life according to a woefully outdated map of reality, rather than what God has been revealing for centuries through scientific and historical evidence and cross-cultural experience, is like trying to drive from St. Louis to Portland with a GPS that has the Oregon Trail as its pre-programmed map. Good luck!

You can “turn it over to Jesus” a thousand times, you can read your Bible hours every day, you can fast regularly and pray unceasingly, but if you think that your troublesome thoughts, feelings, and “bad habits” are the result of your great, great, great, great… grandmother eating an apple, don’t be surprised if you feel robbed of joy again and again. A mythic view of God and the human condition is impotent, compared to a natural, factual understanding of Reality (God) and of our human foibles and inherited proclivities.

Only by having an evolutionary appreciation of the challenges of living with “mismatched instincts” in a world of “supernormal stimuli” can we even hope to begin finding some gratitude for our un-chosen nature—and gratitude is the essential first step for real, this-world salvation.

Consider: ten thousand years ago, our ancestors lived in environments free of alcohol, free of Vicodin, free of crack cocaine or methamphetamines. They were never tempted by obesity-engendering concentrations of sugar, salt, and fat: they had no cookies, French fries, grain-fed beef burgers—and certainly no ice cream. Indeed, because famines happened so often, the people who survived back then to become our ancestors (and who passed on their genes to help us do the same) were the ones exceptionally good at putting on fat after a successful hunt or harvest, and keeping it for as long as possible.

Prior to paper and photography, there was no realistic porn. Prior to the internet, there was no instantly accessible moving porn—and thus no epidemic of “sex addiction” and far fewer ruined lives.

You get the picture. Times have changed—enormously. The fact that so many of us fall to one form or another of unhealthy or degrading habit may not be our fault, but it is our responsibility! We set ourselves on the path of this-world redemption most assuredly by reaching for the sources of guidance aimed at the challenges in our times—not those of our sheep-herding religious forebears.

When we begin to see through this new lens of understanding, a kind of peace arrives almost at once. We realize this simple truth: If our ancestors had not been blessed with the very same instincts that seem like a curse to us—if they had not had a strong desire to eat whenever food could be found, if they had not craved sexual experience, if they had not had instincts to repeat any novel activity that felt good—then none of us would have been born. It’s really that simple.

More, by interpreting scriptural and traditional insights such as “The Fall of Adam and Eve” and “Original Sin” mythically, rather than literally, I now have a deeper appreciation of their practical wisdom than ever before.

So, yes, I am truly grateful for the instincts that challenge me most and that challenge those I love. I, and they, would never have known the joy of existence without them.

Might you, too, open to letting the solace of gratitude wash over you? Might you nurture a heart of genuine thanksgiving for the countless ancestors who struggled and survived to make your birth possible? Can you feel grateful for your religious ancestors who compiled written guidance thousands of years ago to assist in the human struggles that darkened their times? Can you imagine transforming judgment or guilt into acceptance of and gratitude for the mismatched instincts that cause you and your loved ones so much pain today?

If you can, then you, too, will begin to walk a path of this-world salvation. By shedding condemnation for yourself and the wayward ones in your life, you will experience a new clarity, a new calm, a new humility and lightness of being—a new hope. Surely, “abiding in Christ” cannot mean anything less (or less real) than this!

Here is what ultimately is available along this path: You will be able to love like Jesus—that is, you will be able to love that which may now seem utterly unlovable, while you calmly hold to firm boundaries for maintaining your own standards of goodness—indeed, safety—in the presence of others who continue to struggle.

And then, lo, you will find heaven on Earth. You will experience peace no matter what the challenges in your life.

Will you join me, and thousands of others on this path?

If so, I suggest you begin by watching this documentary about the evolutionary gospel I share with religious and non-religious audiences alike, and my “Evolutionize Your Life: Heaven Is Coming Home to Reality” program that inspired it. Then join the conversation here!

Co-evolutionary blessings,

~ Michael

PS. Beyond the above, an evidential view of reality interpreted meaningfully has also been salvific for me in these four ways:

1. It has given me an inspiring and trust-engendering way of understanding the role of death in the universe, including the inevitability of my own death and the death of loved ones. (Also see: “What Happens When We Die?“)

2. It has helped me appreciate how important (indeed, necessary) are chaos and breakdowns for catalyzing evolutionary emergence.

3. It has provided a realistically hopeful way of thinking about the future and humanity’s role in the larger body of life.

4. It has offered me a post-modern “personal relationship to God” that is far more comforting and empowering than the pre-modern, unnatural and otherworldly view of God I held when I was an idolator of the written word.

I’ll speak to each of these in my conversation that goes live on January 14.