- Poems about religion and/or leaving the fold
- Poems about nature, life, love and death
- Poems about science, evolution, creation, intelligent design
- Poems about atheism
- Poems and portions of poems by Mary Oliver, most are from her book, Evidence
- Additional noteworthy poems
Poems about religion and/or leaving the fold
No chipmunk had to be crucified
on a tiny cross of twigs
To save all the other chippies,
Had to have nails pounded
through his little paws,
Had to take upon himself
all the sins of all the chippies
that ever were or would be
and die in agony
So that after they died
all the chippies
could live again forever,
But only if they believed
in all the sayings and doings
of the chipmunk crucified
on the tiny cross of twigs.
Antler, Last Words
Thank you Jesus for letting me see you slain.
I adore your blood, I love your wounds,
and I wear your cross with ache and strain.
I love the slaughter, I adore the gore.
Please let me have some more.
Iʼm the queerest young fellow that ever you heard.
My motherʼs a jew, my fatherʼs a bird.
With Joseph the joiner I cannot agree,
So hereʼs to disciples and Calvary.
If anyone thinks that I amnʼt divine
Heʼll get no free drinks when Iʼm making the wine
But have to drink water and wish it were plain
That I make when the wine becomes water again.
Goodbye, now, goodbye. Write down all I said
And tell Tom, Dick and Harry I rose from the dead.
Whatʼs bred in the bone cannot fail me to fly
And Olivetʼs breezy… Goodbye, now, goodbye.
James Joyce (from Ullysses, 1922)
For God gave His only Son,
His only, His pride, His number one.
Forgive me if I pick a bone,
But wasnʼt it more like a loan?
Some Thorny Questions About the Resurrection
Did He have to pee like a racehorse after three long days?
Did He think, man, when a guy gets wrapped for the tomb do they use ENOUGH linen and spices?
And on the road to Emmaus, had He, you know, borrowed a shirt and a pair of pants? Of all the hints and suggestions in the Gospels that Jesus may have had a few brothers, thatʼs the tiny hint that seems revealing to me, donʼt you think He mightʼve swung by His brothersʼ apartment and nicked a shirt and left a note: Dude, Iʼll make it up to you…
Brian Doyle (editor of Portland Magazine)
Lamb of God
Behold, behold, The Lamb of God
As it skips and hops.
I know that soon The Lamb of God
Will be the Lamb of chops.
Can be so trying.
Edward T. Babinski
Oh, Lord, Please Donʼt Burn Us
Oh Lord please donʼt burn us
donʼt kill or toast your flock
Donʼt put us on the barbecue
or simmer us in stock,
Donʼt bake or baste or boil us
or stir-fry us in a wok.
Oh, please donʼt lightly poach us
Or baste us with hot fat.
Donʼt fricassee or roast us
Or boil us in a vat,
And please donʼt stick thy servants, Lord,
In a Rotissomat”
Composed by Eric Idle and John Du Prez,
authored by Graham Chapman and John Cleese
Bertrand de Born Smuggles a Letter Out of Hell
by D. Nurkse
Dearest, I am happy in the fire.
The lighting is spectacular,
snaking tongues, a rain of sparks,
and the moans of the damned thrill me.
There is no death here. Godʼs love
revives us at the brink of extinction.
The torments are cunningly varied
but there is not one that does not correspond
to a dream I wailed at as a child
before my mother heard and soothed me.
I was condemned for being the poet
who praises war, trop estau en patz.
So shadow destriers piss on me
and drag their shit-stained carapaisons
across my welts, and the infantry
who died at Beziers, young and callow,
pierce me with non-existent lances,
but suffering is just a story
I tell myself, as in the crib.
No fire can singe my mind
except our separation.
P.S. Dante passed here in a toga woven
of strangely fire-resistant merino
and I trusted him with this message.
I scored it on vellum with a live coal,
searing holes shaped like letters.
Darling, hold it to your hazel eyes,
and see my constancy, my will,
and through this play of gaps
see the world the living cannot notice
without a lens or a screen:
the oak forest, deep-shadowed in May,
our wedding village, white dressed stone,
Hautefort, the first defenses of Paradise.
D. Nurkse, Ploughshares, v. 34, no.1 (Spring 2008)
Stanzas from a devout and well known Christian Hymn Writer, Isaac Watts
Thy hand shall on rebellious kings
A fiery tempest pour,
While we beneath thy sheltʼring wings
Thy just revenge adore.
[Book 1 Hymn 42]
There endless crowds of sinners lie,
And darkness makes their chains;
Tortured with keen despair they cry,
Yet wait for fiercer pains.
Not all their anguish and their blood
For their old guilt atones,
Nor the compassion of a God
Shall hearken to their groans.
[Book 2, Hymn 2]
Lord, I ascribe it to thy grace,
And not to chance as others do,
That I was born of Christian race,
And not a heathen, or a Jew.
[Divine and Moral Songs, Song 6, Praise for the Gospel]
[Speaking of Wattsʼ negative view of “the Jews,” he also wrote] See the fiery flying serpents, as the messengers of divine anger, to punish the rebellion of the Israelites in the wilderness: mark what multitudes in the camp of Israel received their mortal sting, and were given up to destruction and death . . . See Jerusalem, the city of God, all in flames [in 70 A.D.], and the whole land of Judea laid desolate, with deepest distress diffused and reigning among all the inhabitants of it: above a million of them were actually slaughtered and consumed by famine and sword, as a sacrifice to the anger of God, for their long provocations, and the cruel barbarous murder of his Son Jesus. [Excerpts from The World to Come or Discouces on the Joys or Sorrows of Departed Souls]
Adam was happy — now he had someone to blame
for everything: shipwrecks, Troy,
the gray face in the mirror.
Eve was happy — now he would always need her.
She walked on boldly, swaying her beautiful hips.
The serpent admired his emerald coat,
the Angel burst into flames
(heʼd never approved of them, and he was right).
Even God was secretly pleased: Let
The dog had no regrets, trotting by Adamʼs side
self-importantly, glad to be rid
of the lion, the toad, the basilisk, the white-footed mouse,
who were also happy and forgot their names immediately.
Only the Tree of Knowledge stood forlorn,
its small hard bitter crab apples
glinting high up, in a twilight of black leaves.
How pleasant it had been, how unexpected
to have been, however briefly,
the center of attention.
Katha Pollitt (from The Mind-Body Problem, Random House, 2009)
The seventy-two elders
sequestered by Ptolemy
Philadelphus in chambers,
a cell for every scholar,
were told by the King of Egypt:
“Translate the books of Moshe [Moses],
your teacher, into Greek.”
Two days and ten weeks later
transcribed from memory
by grey-bearded rebbis
were word for word the same.
When you believe this legend,
you will know the Holy Spirit.
Timothy Murphy (a poem he wrote for Seree Cohen Zohar)
Most Zealots are eager to tell us
That their God is bad-tempered and jealous.
They go on for hours
Describing His powers
With a zeal thatʼs excessively zealous.
R. S. Gwynn (a brief selection from Sects from A to Z)
I donʼt want to start any blasphemous rumors,
But I think that Godʼs got a sick sense of humor,
And when I die I expect to find Him laughing.
Depeche Mode, “Blasphemous Rumors” [song]
Our forefathers (thanks to good King James)
Talked funny, They had oddish names.
They fell in love, succumbed to lust,
And trampled strangers in the dust.
They suffered flood and fire and drought.
A few of them remained devout.
Their lives were jolly, vapid, grim,
According to Jehovahʼs whim.
How little things have changed since then!
Whose fault that is, God knows. Amen.”
Jeanne & William Steig, The Old Testament Made Easy
People who do not live in Rome,
but pretend to,
are called Roman Catholics.
And they have a great many fathers,
who dress like ladies,
and do not have children.
This is so that a lady who gives birth to a boy,
without a father,
can call him God.
Edwin Brock, Paroxisms: A Guide to the Isms
Free to Err
The secrets of the bible are sealed,
out of Godʼs love for men.
truths and enigmatic mystery,
tucked ʻtween the pages within.
a simple person like me is not fit to interpret
or even understand,
- the good lord wants it so, - suffering is right and just,
recall the fall and Godʼs curse on man.
iʼm not wise enough to know all truth,
donʼt pretend to understand,
but if Jesus paid the price, why then the collection plate
passed ʻround sunday to pay a preacher man?
simple believers are never worthy,
to explain Godʼs holy word
theyʼll tell you so, in a pious squint,
at least thatʼs so inside the church;
the service ends and the brethren leave,
heading separate ways,
bound to cross an unbeliever, theyʼre transformed,
giving expert witness by power of almighty grace:
“Believe in the Holy Ghost
and the only begotten Son,
through Jesus Christ ye shall be saved,
by the power of his sacred blood.
“Spare yourself from His infinite wrath
that shall fall as lightning on the unbeliever,
Just believe in the Bible as His inspired word,
faith alone in the blood of the redeemer.”
“Darwin may claim man came from ape,
but the truth is within this Holy book,
God formed man from the dust of the ground,
you must only take a look!”
“Read here for yourself, the book of Genesis,
oh how Darwin lied, kind begats kind!
- created them male and female -,
commanding, ‘Be fruitful, Multiply’.”
What is this? You who know all truth?,
from times and places you have never been,
of things you have not seen,
nor having any evidence?!
This book you call Holy, Sacred, Inspired, Truth,
claiming divine origin for its creation,
yet, I find your faith rather crude.
That book holds all secrets,
even the origins of life itself?
If life was formed from “simple dust”,
then why hasnʼt science discovered this yet?
You say science cannot be trusted,
and Darwin told a lie, you say man
and ape are un-related,
yet, look what Iʼm beholding with my eyes:
Wasnʼt it you sitting in yonder church,
with open mind to what preacher says “just believe”,
as they say, “monkey see monkey do”,
arenʼt you remarkably good at mimmicking!
You tell me here, that science books,
Darwin, Evolution, cannot be trusted by men,
yet 40,000 denominations,
all EVOLVED from one Christianity!
You say the Bible need not explain
the geological record or modern astronomy,
neither is there mention of chromosomes or telomeres,
the microscopic fabric of DNA.
If the Bible fails to render all truths,
why should I render my faith?
if your God and Bible are free to err,
then so am I, what to say?
One by one, like leaves from a tree,
All my faiths have forsaken me;
But the stars above my head
Burn in white and delicate red,
And beneath my feet the earth
Brings the sturdy grass to birth.
I who was content to be
But a silken-singing tree,
But a rustle of delight
In the wistful heart of night—
I have lost the leaves that knew
Touch of rain and weight of dew.
Blinded by a leafy crown
I looked neither up nor down—
But the little leaves that die
Have left me room to see the sky;
Now for the first time I know
Stars above and earth below.
Sara Teasdale, Rivers to the Sea (1915)
The Last Prayer I Uttered As A Christian
This morning, Lord, I come before You
A Holy Soldier at Your feet
It is I, Nobody Special
A Jar of Clay that You complete
Iʼve lived my life as a Believer
Extolled Your virtues, praised Your name
A Demon Hunter, Holy Soldier
Saved by Grace, my only claim
Iʼve lived by faith, my Creed persistent
A Living Sacrifice for You
But whereʼs the proof? Itʼs nonexistent
Imaginary will just not due
An Ultimatum is before me
Set by me by my free will
The Crucified or rationality
I want real truth to set me free
My mindʼs made up, I choose You not
Itʼs Evanescence of the faith
At Six Feet Deep Iʼll simply rot
The soulʼs not Payable On Death
I will not cry for Your Deliverance
When my time comes As I Lay Dying
Will love my neighbor and Die Happy
Will change the world or will die trying
A Barren Cross is a nice story
But so is Santa and Mother Goose
I believe not in eternal glory
Not by Christ, Allah nor Zeus
Iʼm not the Bride, and not the Stryper
I nailed You not to cross nor tree
I am no longer Your Disciple
From this day on, Iʼm JezuzFree
There is a grave deep and wide
The death of innocence lies inside
Itʼs full of things I once believed
Dreams of a child, so naive
Tales of faires in the night
Sneaking in before day light
A tooth for a dime and then to part
Yes,I believed with all my heart
And Santa Claus knows everything
The stuff youʼd like for him to bring
His watchful eyes, see all I do
Youʼd best beware heʼs watching you
To see if youʼve been bad or good
And minded your folks like you should
Oh I believed right from the start
Yes, I believed with all my heart
And there was god up in the sky
Youʼd go to see him when you die
His watchful eyes see all you do
Youʼd best beware heʼs watching you
He hears the things you say and more
Wait…have I heard this tale before?
Oh I believed right from the start
Yes, I believed with all my heart
But then one night I played the sleuth
To see the fairy take the tooth
But the hand under the pillow was mommas hand
It was so hard to understand
They always said I shouldnʼt lie
How could they ..I wondered why
To know the truth tore me apart
Cause I believed with all my heart
Then kids at school made fun of me
And said St Nick was make believe
I said your wrong you just donʼt know
Itʼs true …my daddy told me so
But when I asked he took a pause
Then said there is no Santa Claus
And to know he lied tore me apart
Cause I believed with all my heart
But the worst was yet to come you know
For though the bible told me so
I found it too was just a lie
There was no god up in the sky
The death of my faith came that day
All my beliefs had gone away
And to know the truth tore me apart
Cause I believed with all my heart
Yes, I believed..with all my heart
To convince me
that Iʼm guilty
is not difficult —
I hear that still small voice
that encourages me to work
for the good of my pack
and the continuation of my species.
Yes, Iʼve lied,
Iʼve been selfish.
Lay it on thick now:
as I reflect on my humanity,
set up your arbitrary mark
and I just might begin to believe
that Iʼve missed it.
I seek the worldʼs wisdom,
I have priorities that donʼt include
paying homage to invisible absentees,
I touch myself while thinking of
my neighbor —
I am human, naked,
and for this I suddenly feel ashamed.
Your silver-tongued diatribe
has me cursing my allegorical ancestors
for refusing to live
in blind obedience.
Just like them, Iʼve reached out for knowledge
and for this, I, too, should be cursed.
My emotions raw from the whip of guilt,
I seek solace as you play my heartstrings.
What could be more touching
than Maryʼs little lamb,
an innocent man, condemned to die,
for crimes youʼve pinned on me?
I canʼt stop to think
about the logic
(or lack thereof)
in your Ultimate Lawgiver being unable to change
His Ultimate Laws
(or, for that matter, failing to live by them Himself);
thinking is what got me into this mess to begin with.
No longer wise in my own eyes,
I accept your allegation that innocent blood
is on my hands, and that the only way to wash it off
is to bathe in it.
Iʼll believe anything — and believe I do —
to lift my spirit from this miry clay
(Iʼll pretend I didnʼt see you earlier, pouring your holy water
on the solid ground beneath my feet).
And so it goes, that my guilt becomes love
when a psyche is battered and bruised this much,
most anything looks like healing.
Vicariously you accept these gifts
and you know that soon youʼll have me
on my knees,
eating sacrament out of the palm of your hand.
While looking forward to a never-ending reward
doled out by a nepotistic tyrant,
Iʼll devote my life in service
to filling your deep pockets.
Iʼll curse my earthly body,
dying to myself daily,
while the terrestrial beings
go on learning, and living.
Seek the Truth And It Will Set You Free
[A poem for theists—ETB]
Dare to question, dare to test things,
Dare to seek, search unconfined,
Godʼs embodied in your question
Already God had you in mind.
Dare to question, dare to feel doubt
Dare to take the path you chose
Godʼs is already deep inside you
Closer than you dare suppose.
Dare to question, dare to say no to
Far too simple, glib replies,
Dare to wait and dare to waver,
God will still be at your side
Dare to question, bold and fearless,
God will still believe in you
Life in you is Godʼs own purpose,
Already, God has you in view.
Dare to question, doubt and wonder,
You are loved, by God retrieved
You are longed for, seen, discovered,
Free to live and to believe
Poems about nature, life, love and death
There is a destiny that makes us brothers:
None goes his way alone:
All that we send into the lives of others
Comes back into our own.
I care not what his temples or his creeds,
One thing holds firm and fast
That into his fateful heap of days and deeds
The soul of man is cast.
I have no prayers or charms of faith
If God there be, Heʼll know my weight
If God be nought, Iʼll still do good
And practice justice as I should
We should not seek reward to do
What decency expects us to
Should Heaven be a kingly court
Iʼll go elsewhere to prove my worth
Donʼt get me wrong – Iʼve sought belief
But lust for faith brought no relief
Mere logic leaves me where I stand
I am not blest, nor am I damned
I seek to do what good I can
I am your friend, a fellow man
The Meaning of Existence
Everything except language
knows the meaning of existence.
Trees, planets, rivers, time
know nothing else. They express it
moment by moment as the universe.
Even this fool of a body
lives it in part, and would
have full dignity within it
but for the ignorant freedom
of my talking mind.
Les Murray (from Poems the Size of Photographs, 2002)
Whoever knows only how to help himself, and with words—thereʼs no helping him. Not in the short run and not in the long.
Ingeborg Bachmann, a few lines from her poem, Wahrlich
The Stranger from Beyond the Sky
The handsome stranger cast his eye
On Shirley-girl and gave a sigh.
“Oh talk a while,” he said, “with I.”
She liked his noble knobby dome.
They dinnered at the Hippodrome.
She fell for him, she brought him home.
“Oh, mother see this guy of mine,”
She said. “Heʼs from a noble line.
His I.Q. soars to 9-9-9.”
But what the mother said was, “Yoik!
I doubt me, girl, that it will woik.
It strikes me that he is a joik.
“It isnʼt just his extra eye,
Or that he lives beyond the sky,
Or has more toes than you or I,
“Or whale bone teeth. But itʼs a shock
When from his brow the cuckoo cock
Pops out and carols, ‘Eight Oʼclock.’
“Oh give him dear, I beg, the boot.
You no more need this alien brute
Than fishes need a parachute.”
Said Shirley, “Stranger, itʼs been keen.
I loved your mouthful of baleen.
And now I beg you Leave the Scene.”
He wept a tear. The tear was green.
R. A. Lafferty
Dirge Without Music
I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground.
So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind:
Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely. Crowned
With lilies and with laurel they go; but I am not resigned.
Lovers and thinkers, into the earth with you.
Be one with the dull, the indiscriminate dust.
A fragment of what you felt, of what you knew,
A formula, a phrase remains — but the best is lost.
The answers quick and keen, the honest look, the laughter, the love,
They are gone. They have gone to feed the roses. Elegant and curled
Is the blossom. Fragrant is the blossom. I know. But I do not approve.
More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the world.
Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.
I work all day, and get half-drunk at night.
Waking at four to soundless dark, I stare.
In time the curtain-edges will grow light.
Till then I see whatʼs really always there:
Unresting death, a whole day nearer now,
Making all thought impossible but how
And where and when I shall myself die.
Arid interrogation: yet the dread
Of dying, and being dead,
Flashes afresh to hold and horrify.
The mind blanks at the glare. Not in remorse
- The good not done, the love not given, time
Torn off unused - nor wretchedly because
An only life can take so long to climb
Clear of its wrong beginnings, and may never;
But at the total emptiness for ever,
The sure extinction that we travel to
And shall be lost in always. Not to be here,
Not to be anywhere,
And soon; nothing more terrible, nothing more true.
This is a special way of being afraid
No trick dispels. Religion used to try,
That vast, moth-eaten musical brocade
Created to pretend we never die,
And specious stuff that says No rational being
Can fear a thing it will not feel, not seeing
That this is what we fear - no sight, no sound,
No touch or taste or smell, nothing to think with,
Nothing to love or link with,
The anasthetic from which none come round.
And so it stays just on the edge of vision,
A small, unfocused blur, a standing chill
That slows each impulse down to indecision.
Most things may never happen: this one will,
And realisation of it rages out
In furnace-fear when we are caught without
People or drink. Courage is no good:
It means not scaring others. Being brave
Lets no one off the grave.
Death is no different whined at than withstood.
Slowly light strengthens, and the room takes shape.
It stands plain as a wardrobe, what we know,
Have always known, know that we canʼt escape,
Yet canʼt accept. One side will have to go.
Meanwhile telephones crouch, getting ready to ring
In locked-up offices, and all the uncaring
Intricate rented world begins to rouse.
The sky is white as clay, with no sun.
Work has to be done.
Postmen like doctors go from house to house.
Thermodynamics of Immortality
When I die, scatter my ashes to the wind to settle
on a forest floor where earthworms buffet
through rich humus, where I pass from intestines
as nutrients taken by acorns, sprout, stretch
toward sunlight, year after year, inch my way to a branch
steeped with cicada eggs so I fall to the ground
and burrow, eat sap for seventeen years,
burst forth for two frenzied days seeking a mate,
when a burnt-ember cardinal snatches me, red
and cackling, catching warm air pockets from the pavement
until winter moves in; I huddle on a branch, fall asleep,
thud to the cold ground, dissolve slowly
into the icy creek, flow like mercury,
weave over stones around roots under branches, turn warm,
briny, pull into a spiny starfish, pump
into slow feet, and crawl again.
Kelley Swain (from the book, Darwinʼs Microscope, which contains other brilliant pieces)
Poems about science, evolution, creation, intelligent design
What is Man?
Not a superman who stumbles,
but an ape with makeshift manners
in whose nickel-plated jungles
roam mechanical bananas.
William Tenn (famously funny sci-fi writer)
for the discoverer of the Grotte de Lascaux, Marcel Ravidat, 1923-1995
On all the living walls
of this dim cave,
soot and ochre, acts of will,
come down to us to say:
This is who we were.
We foraged here in an age of ice,
and, warmed by the fur of wolves,
felt the pride of predators
going for game.
Here we painted the strength of bulls,
the grace of deer, turned life into art,
and left this testimony on our walls.
Explorers of the future, see how,
when our dreams reach forward,
your wonder reaches back, and we embrace.
When we are long since dust,
and false prophets come,
then donʼt forget that we were your creators.
So build your days
on what you know is real, and remember
that nothing will keep your lives alive
but art - the black and ochre visions
you draw inside your cave
will honor your lost tribe,
when explorers in some far future
marvel at the paintings on your walls.
Philip Appleman, New and Selected Poems, 1956-1996
O let us give thanks for the glorious spasm
that spurted atoms on an endless quest
for the far edge of everything, letʼs
praise the ancient heave and buckle,
the burn, blister, and boil
that birthed our blue-green planet,
be grateful for the lucky spark
that seasoned our primal soup,
and honor the ultimate sacrifice
of the creeping pioneers
who dragged us up onto dry land.
Letʼs be thankful for the heroism
of all those fallen fathers
who bequeathed to us these novelties,
our clever arms and legs,
thankful too for the company
of moles and manatees, sloths and seals,
horses and hedgehogs - and thankful for
the monkeys, gibbons, and gorillas
who once upon a time set off
on gambles of their own, aping our long,
long hunger, vines
choking trees to reach the sun,
predators lurking at water holes.
Now, somewhere out there, the atoms race on,
still searching for the edge of everything,
but here, snug in our tundra and grassland,
our forest and savanna, let us thank
the furry ancestors who brought us
along this way, and now stay at our side
as we press on to some great adventure
just beyond our dreams.
Not truth, nor certainty. These I forswore
In my novitiate, as young men called
To holy orders must abjure the world.
‘If…,then…,’ this only I assert;
And my successes are but pretty chains
Linking twin doubts, for it is vain to ask
If what I postulate be justified,
Or what I prove possess the stamp of fact.
Yet bridges stand, and men no longer crawl
In two dimension. And such triumphs stem
In no small measure from the power this game,
Played with the thrice-attentuated shades
Of things, has over their originals.
How frail the wand, but how profound the spell!
Clarence R. Wylie Jr.
Fear of God
Galileo was chided by the God-fearing for observing that the solar system is Copernican, not Ptolemaic. And yet… the wanderers did and do move about the sun.
Newton was chided by the God-fearing for describing all motions with mathematics, not with divine will. And yet…measurements in mechanics could and can be predicted with precision through calculation.
Lavoisier was chided by the God-fearing for explaining chemistry as quantative reactions, not as miracles or magic. And yet…substances did and do appear and disappear with predictable regularity in labs everywhere.
Darwin was chided by the God-fearing for showing the diversity of life resulting from ecological factors and adaption to them, not from theistic interventions. And yet…life had and has a single structure and has changed and does change forms in time.
Einstein was chided by the God-fearing for demonstrating the democracy of observers, not the absolute Godʼs-eye view. And yet…space and time have changed and do change from frame of reference to frame of reference, and the laws of nature have been and are the same for all frames.
Perhaps the God-fearing are right to fear God. If God is the source of reality, they have been fighting or ignoring Godʼs facts for four hundred years!
Ronnie J. Hastings, Ph.D. (1983)
At first men try with magic charm
To fertilize the earth,
To keep their flocks and herds from harm
And bring new young to birth.
Then to capricious gods they turn
To save from fire or flood,
Their smoking sacrifices burn
On altars red with blood.
Next bold philosopher and sage
A settled plan decree,
And prove by thought or sacred page
What Nature ought to be.
But Nature smiles – a Sphinx-like smile –
Watching their little day,
She waits in patience for a while
Their plans dissolve away.
Then come those humbler men of heart
With no completed scheme,
Content to play a modest part,
To test, observe and dream.
Till out of chaos come in sight
Clear fragments of a Whole;
Man, learning Natureʼs way aright,
Obeying, can control.
The great Design now glows afar;
But yet its changing Scenes
Reveal not what the Pieces are
Nor what the Puzzle means.
And Nature smiles – still unconfessed
The secret thought she thinks –
Inscrutable she guards unguessed
The Riddle of the Sphinx.
William Cecil Dampier (published in “A History of Science and Its Relations with Philosophy and Religion”)
So Far, So Good
From Labrador to Coral Sea
Our lives were stunted, bleak, unfree.
We shared our huts with rats and fleas
And lost our children to disease.
(Our holy men would sigh and nod
and tell us, “Thatʼs the will of God.”)
But then, with steam, vaccines and votes,
Our fortunes rose like tide-raised boats.
Weʼd more to eat; drew breath more years;
Dethroned (or worse) our tsars, emirs;
Sent men and mirrors as our eyes
To search the black galactic skies;
And in our cells, till then unseen,
We found our Fates, our djinns: our genes.
The worldʼs still cruel, thatʼs understood,
But once was worse. So far so good.
James C. Davis (from the Epilogue to The Human Story: Our History, From The Stone Age To today by James C. Davis, James Cushman Davis)
Evolution doesnʼt make things new from scratch.
It takes a lot of work to find something that works
and then it fiddles with it and makes variations on it
are a result of that fiddling.
is a result of that fiddling.
So now we —
late bright fiddlers on the scene —
find ourselves in the midst
of a timed test,
to see if we can fiddle more consciously,
intensely, brilliantly aware of
we are fiddling.
But first, it seems, sadly,
we must fiddle drunk while burning
our own earth empire,
of what we are doing.
Deep inside our collective noise,
I hear the greatest music teacher,
reminding us, sternly,
to get serious soon
and practice, practice, practice
awake, sober, wise…
Because as Evolution
we become its playing.
And if it rolls back to sleep
weʼll be gone.
When you were a tadpole and I was a fish
In the Palaeozoic time,
And side by side, on the ebbing tide,
We sprawled through the ooze and slime,
Or skittered with many a caudal flip
Through the depths of the Cambrian fen,
My heart was rife with the joy of life,
For I loved you even then.
Mindless we lived and mindless we loved,
And mindless at last we died;
And deep in a rift of the Caradoc drift,
We slumbered side by side.
The world turned on in the lathe of Time,
The hot lands heaved amain,
Till we cought our breath from the womb of death,
And crept into light again.
We were Amphibians, scaled and tailed,
And drab as a dead manʼs hand:
We coiled at ease ʻneath the dripping trees,
Or trailed through the mud and sand,
Croaking and blind, with our three-clawed feet,
Writing a language dumb,
With never a spark in the empty dark
To hint at a life to come.
Yet happy we lived and happy we loved,
And happy we died once more:
Our forms were rolled in the clinging mold
Of a Neocomian shore.
The æons came and the æons fled,
And the sleep that wrapped us fast
Was riven away in a newer day,
And the night of death was past.
Then light and swift through the jungle trees
We swung in our airy flights;
Or breathed in the balms of the fronded palms,
In the hush of the moonless nights.
And oh, what beautiful years were these,
When our hearts clung each to each;
When life was filled, and our senses thrilled
In the first faint dawn of speech!
Thus life by life, and love by love,
We passed through the cycles strange;
And breath by breath, and death by death,
We followed the chain of change;
Till there came a time in the law of life
When over the nursing sod
The shadows broke, and the soul awoke
In a strange, dim dream of God.
I was thewed like an Auroch bull,
And tusked like the great Cave Bear;
And you, my sweet, from head to feet,
Were gowned in your glorious hair.
Deep in the gloom of a fireless cave,
When the nights fell oʼer the plain,
And the moon hung red oʼer the river bed,
We mumbled the bones of the slain.
I flaked a flint to a cutting edge,
And shaped it with brutish craft:
I broke a shank from the woodland dank,
And fitted it, head to haft.
Then I hid me close to the reedy tarn,
Where the Mammoth came to drink:
Through brawn and bone I drave the stone,
And slew him upon the brink.
Loud I howled through the moonless wastes,
Loud answered our kith and kin:
From west and east to the crimson feast
The clan came trooping in.
Oʼer joint and gristle and padded hoof,
We fought and clawed and tore,
And cheek by jowl, with many a growl,
We talked the marvel oʼer.
I carved that fight on a reindeer bone,
With rude and hairy hand:
I pictured his fall on the cavern wall,
That men might understand.
For we lived by blood, and the right of might,
Ere human laws were drawn,
And the Age of Sin did not begin
Till our brutal tusks were gone.
And that was a million years ago,
In a time that no man knows;
Yet here tonight, in the mellow light,
We sit at Delmonicoʼs.
Your eyes are deep as the Devon springs,
Your hair as dark as jet:
Your years are few, your life is new,
Your soul untried, and yet –
Our trail is on the Kimmeridge clay,
And the scarp of the Purbeck flags:
We have left our bones in the Bagshot stones,
And deep in the Coralline crags.
Our love is old, our lives are old,
And death shall come amain:
Should it come today, what man may say
We shall not live again?
God wrought our souls from the Tremadoc beds,
And furnished them wings to fly:
He sowed our spawn in the worldʼs dim dawn,
And I know that it shall not die;
Though cities have sprung above the graves
Where the crook-boned men made war,
And the ox-wain creeks oʼer the buried caves,
Where the mummied Mammoths are.
For we know that the clod, by the grace of God,
Will quicken with voice and breath;
And we know that Love, with gentle hand,
Will beckon from death to death.
And so, as we linger at luncheon here,
Over many a dainty dish,
Let us drink anew to the time when you
Were a tadpole and I was a fish.
Itʼs a Long Way from Amphioxus
Oh a fish-like thing appeared among the annelids one day
It hadnʼt any parapods nor setae to display
It hadnʼt any eyes or jaws or ventral nervous chord,
But it had a lot of gill slits and it had a notochord.
Itʼs a long way from Amphioxus
Itʼs a long way to us,
Itʼs a long way from Amphioxus
To the meanest human cuss.
Well, itʼs good-bye to fins and gill slits,
And itʼs welcome lungs and hair,
Itʼs a long, long way from Amphioxus
But we all came from there.
It wasnʼt much to look at and it scarce knew how to swim,
And Nerius was very sure it hadnʼt come from him
The molluscs wouldnʼt own it and the arthropods got sore,
So the poor thing had to burrow in the sand along the shore.
He burrowed in the sand before a crab did nip his tail,
And he said, “Gill slits and myotomes are all to noavail,
Iʼve grown some metoplural folds and sport an oral hood,
But all these fine new characters donʼt do me any good.”
He sulked a while down in the sand without a bit of pep,
Then he stiffened up his notochord and said “Iʼll beat ʻem yet,
Let ʻem laugh and show their ignorance I donʼt mind their jeers,
Just wait until they see me in 100 million years!”
My notochord shall change into a chain of vertebrae,
And as fins my metoplural folds shall agitate the sea;
My tiny dorsal nervous chords shall be a mighty brain,
And the vertebrae shall dominate the animal domain.”
Our Intelligent Designer
Our Intelligent Designer,
Who art in the unspecified-good-place,
Unknown be Thy name.
Thy flagella spin, Thy mousetraps snap,
On Earth, as it is in the
Give us each day our unchecked apologetic.
And forgive us our invidious comparisons,
As we smite those iniquitous Darwinists
And lead us not into encounters with people
Who ask us to state our theory,
But deliver us from biologists
Who know what weʼre up to.
For Thine is the irreducible complexity,
And the wiggly parts of bacterial bottoms,
And the inapplicable theorems,
Now and forever.
Wesley Elsberry (on The Pandaʼs Thumb blog)
by Tom McIver
ID, ID, burning bright,
Rescue us from Darwinʼs fright,
Beastly origin of our race,
Evolutionʼs dread embrace.
But what science or what art
Frames immortal hand, eye, heart?
Can we force religionʼs claim,
Dare pronounce His very name?
Yahweh, Zeus, or Allah, then?
Raël’s ET DNA?
Hosts of deities at play?
Ask the Ichneumonidae
Did he who made the lamb make thee?
Who created Heavʼn and Hell,
IDʼs ID burning bright
Through obscuring fog and night,
Whether wielding Wedge or prism
ID is: Creationism.
The poet, Robert Frost once wrote a little gem, titled, “Design,” in which he described a “fat, dimpled spider” sitting on a flower, having just finished devouring a moth, “itʼs dead wings carried like a paper kite.” Frost pointed out that this “snow-drop spider” was of the same white hue as the flower it sat upon, so it could lie in wait without being detected. The flowerʼs sweet scent attracted moths to dine at the very place where the moths then became the dinner of the camouflaged spider. Frost asked:
What brought the kindred spider to that height,
Then steered the white moth thither in the night?
What but design of darkness to appall?—
If design govern in a thing so small.
Oh Rose, thou art sick;
The invisible worm,
That flies in the night,
In the howling storm,
Hath found out thy bed
Of crimson joy,
And his dark, secret love,
Doth thy life destroy.
Hornworm: Autumn Lamentation
Since that first morning when I crawled
into the world, a naked grubby thing,
and found the world unkind,
my dearest faith has been that this
is but a trial: I shall be changed.
In my imaginings I have already spent
my brooding winter underground,
unfolded silky powdered wings, and climbed
into the air, free as a puff of cloud
to sail over the steaming fields,
slighting anywhere I pleased,
thrusting into deep tubular flowers.
It is not so: there may be nectar
in those cups, but not for me.
All day, all night, I carry on my back
embedded in my flesh, two rows
of little white cocoons,
so neatly stacked
they look like eggs in a crate.
And I am eaten half away.
If I can gather strength enough
Iʼll try to burrow under a stone
and spin myself a purse
in which to sleep away the cold;
though when the sun kisses the earth
again, I know I wonʼt be there.
Instead, out of my chrysalis
will break, like robbers from a tomb,
a swarm of parasitic flies,
leaving my wasted husk behind.
Sir, you with the red snippers
in your hand, hovering over me,
casting your shadow, I greet you,
whether you come as an angel of death
or of mercy. But tell me,
before you choose to slice me in two:
Who can understand the ways
of the Great Worm in the Sky?
“A Mouse that prayed for Allahʼs aid
Blasphemed when no such aid befell;
A Cat, who feasted on the mouse,
Thought Allah managed vastly well.”
Saki, “For the Duration of the War” 1915
I think that I shall never see
A God so cruel
heʼd make a Flea!
A Flea whose hungry mouth is pressed
Against my dogʼs
hot itching breast.
A Flea that looks for dogs all day
And jumps three feet
to land its prey.
My dog (who may in summer wear
ten nests of Fleas
deep in his hairs)
Upon his bosom they have lain,
He intimately lives
Brave doubts are born in fools like me:
There is no god
whoʼd make a Flea!
Rosemary E. Morgan (1965)
Poems about atheism
Fish (fly-replete, in depth of June,
Dawdling away their watʼry noon)
Ponder deep wisdom, dark or clear,
Each secret fishy hope or fear.
Fish say, they have their Stream and Pond;
But is there anything Beyond?
This life cannot be All, they swear,
For how unpleasant, if it were!
One may not doubt that, somehow, Good
Shall come of Water and of Mud;
And, sure, the reverent eye must see
A Purpose in Liquidity.
We darkly know, by Faith we cry,
The future is not Wholly Dry.
Mud unto mud! — Death eddies near —
Not here the appointed End, not here!
But somewhere, beyond Space and Time.
Is wetter water, slimier slime!
And there (they trust) there swimmeth One
Who swam ere rivers were begun,
Immense, of fishy form and mind,
Squamous, omnipotent, and kind;
And under that Almighty Fin,
The littlest fish may enter in.
Oh! never fly conceals a hook,
Fish say, in the Eternal Brook,
But more than mundane weeds are there,
And mud, celestially fair;
Fat caterpillars drift around,
And Paradisal grubs are found;
Unfading moths, immortal flies,
And the worm that never dies.
And in that Heaven of all their wish,
There shall be no more land, say fish.
Rupert Brooke, 1913
Iʼm not supposed to tell you Iʼm an atheist.
You might be concerned I have no moral compass,
no certainty concerning the finer points of the universe.
Better to dress it up and affect Taoist,
Plump it up and claim agnostic—gush
Gosh, wouldnʼt it be nice to know?
Make of God such a windy abstraction
one might as well pray to the wind,
but please donʼt say that word.
Sorry. I love life, Earth
its glorious habitat, sailing
through space, teeming with intelligent
faithful killing each other to confirm
which speaks for God. In silence I am
still mindful of our course,
the frailty of the crew,
its rare and precious cargo.
To look out upon the astounding universe
with eye unblinking and a face unblanched;
to ignore no truth and fear no fact;
to be ready to re-cast opinion in the crucible of experience;
to forgive without demanding apology;
to keep affection in spite of misunderstanding;
to set our thought upon the things of value
and spend our strength in the fulfilling of noble purposes;
to reverence the reverences of others
rather than what they revere;
to be alert to Natureʼs pageantry of beauty,
though we dwell amid the cityʼs clamor;
to get the most out of Life
and give the most we can;
to be guided in our conduct by the angel of Intelligence
and not by the gaunt spectre of Fear;
to approach our last hour with the calm of a philosopher and the gentleness of a saint,
and to leave the world enriched by a treasury of kindly deeds and a memory of love;
this is our Aspiration,
this is our Ideal.
from Words of Aspiration
Arthur W. Slaten, 1927
Free Will and Suffering
Humankind longs for belief
in a god of comfort
to ease their grief
and provide relief
when times are difficult.
Yet a problem remains:
this belief does not
take away all pains.
So, human brains
devised the “free will” concept
to explain why the god they made
sits invisible and silent
in the face of pain,
and suffering remains
in spite of prayers to remove it.
God gets praises from throngs
when times are blissful,
but when things go wrong
the blame belongs
to human “free will”?!
All of this mythology —
the god, the free will,
the apologies —
isnʼt good for the human psyche
when viewed as literal.
Where is the dice
Which decides my destiny?
Where is the dice
That controls my life?
I say, there is no dice,
Dice is an illusion,
Life does not need a dice,
It only adds to the confusion…
What is life anyways?
Why do we have life?
Did god create life? then who created god?
Are these even right questions to ask? probably not…
Is life really that special?
I think its all biology and chemistry,
Is there life elsewhere?
That is the real mystery…
The universe is an old and humongous lab,
Rare things like life are inevitable and bound to happen,
Life is just a flow energy,
Life doesnt need a supreme being or a creation…
We were all dead for billions of years,
Then we are born and live for few years…
We will all be dead for I dont know how many years,
Life is just a blink, in the cosmic scale of years…
So whats the moral of this poem?
Life is a journey,
Life is beautiful.
Life is purposeless,
And life is YOU.
Ripu DaMan Jain (Facebook, 2012)
Poems and portions of poems by Mary Oliver, most are from her book, Evidence
May I never not be frisky,
May I never not be risque.
May my ashes, when you have them, friend,
and give them to the ocean,
leap in the froth of the waves,
still loving movement,
still ready, beyond all else,
to dance for the world.
Almost a Conversation
I have not really, not yet, talked with otter
about his life.
He has so many teeth, he has trouble
Wherefore our understanding
is all body expression—
he swims like the sleekest fish,
he dives and exhales and lifts a trail of bubbles.
Little by little he trusts my eyes
and my curious body sitting on the shore.
Sometimes he comes close.
I admire his whiskers
and his dark fur which I would rather die than wear.
He has no words, still what he tells about his life
He does not own a computer.
He imagines the river will last forever.
He does not envy the dry house I live in.
He does not wonder who or what it is that I worship.
He wonders, morning after morning, that the river
is so cold and fresh and alive, and still
I donʼt jump in.
I Want To Write Something So Simply
I want to write something
or about pain
as you are reading
you feel it
and as you read it
you keep feeling it
and though it might be my story
it will be common,
though it be singular
it will be known to you
so that by the end
you will think -
no, you will realize -
that it was all the while
yourself arranging the words,
that it was all the time
words that you yourself,
out of your own heart
had been saying.
Let me keep my distance, always, from those
who think they have the answers.
Let me keep company always with those who say
“Look!” and laugh in astonishment. . .
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
We Shake With Joy
We shake with joy, we shake with grief.
What a time they have, these two
housed as they are in the same body.
Additional noteworthy poems
The Guest House
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if theyʼre a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
Rumi (translation by Coleman Barks)
Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.
Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night
with plans and the simple breath
that kept him alive.
Before you know kindness
as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow
as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness
that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day
to mail letters and purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you every where
like a shadow or a friend.
Naomi Shihab Nye
We can make our minds so like still water that beings gather about us, that they may see, it may be, their own images, and so live for a moment with a clearer, perhaps even with a fiercer life because of our quiet.
Is a disease of the oyster.
Is a disease of the spirit
Caused by the irritation
Of a granule of Truth
Fallen into that soft gray bivalve
We call the mind.
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