When I was in high school, religion and the existence of God were issues and questions my friends and I debated frequently. I was definitely agnostic. I find comfort in the tangible, the verifiable—I like data, and I enjoy math because I like the certainty of finding a correct answer.
One day (in biology class) I asked a friend of mine who was (and still is) deeply religious why he believed in God. It was a beautiful spring day, and he waved his arm toward the window (we’re both drama nerds, so we love the theatrical) and said, “Look at that life! The trees, the sky, the grass, all the animals out there! How could that be without God?”
For me, this was not a convincing argument. Science could explain the prevalence of life on Earth, and I scoffed at his simplistic faith that dismissed the explanations provided by human discovery and research.
Over the years, however, I have thought of this moment many times. And I have begun to think that although what he was saying was indeed simple, it also contained something fundamentally true:
At the heart of the existence and continuance of life is an essential mystery, an original seed, a moment of wonder. And this is what imbues all life with a sacredness and a call for reverence that must not be dismissed, forgotten, or chopped up and compartmentalized.
In this, I have come to see the divine in this wonder of life—its diversity, its strangeness, its imperfection, and its dogged perseverance. When I think about all the factors that have come together so perfectly so our planet can support such prevalence and multiplicity of life—the exact right distance from our sun, the perfect tilt of our axis that gives us all the cycles that ensure life continues to renew itself year after year, the composition of our planet in both water and minerals, and much more—I am in awe.
And I am deeply grateful.
But it is not enough for me to simply feel this appreciation or to offer up my thanks to a higher power. To truly honor this life, to give of myself in deep gratitude, I must do what I can to protect and care for this fundamental gift of life.
And the science- and data-loving part of me supports this conclusion. For when I look around at our glorious planet, I see this practice of protecting and caring for life everywhere. This is not just a human concept; all life on Earth does something to support, protect, and/or make possible other life on this Earth. This is the basis of any ecosystem: an interconnectivity of care that makes life possible and thrive for all.
Now, how each of us expresses this gratitude and reverence will differ among us. And I’m okay with that; after all, diversity is a part of life itself.
But for me, this reverence for the sacredness of life is what informs my progressive values and drives my political activism.
I advocate for single-payer healthcare for all because, as many have said, healthcare is a human right. But perhaps “right” is the wrong word here, as it calls to the authority of such human-made documents as the US Bill of Rights or the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. For me, healthcare is life care, and to be a moral society, we must ensure that all people get the care they need to sustain their life as much as they can and desire.
I advocate to protect the environment and work to minimize the effects of climate change because we are destroying life on this planet and making it unlivable for future generations. We cannot simultaneously hold this gift of life as sacred and yet not work to protect and care for all life on our planet—including life still to come.
I recoil at the glorification and mindless race to needless war because I see—and don’t understand how others DON’T see—that it is a repudiation of all that a moral society holds true. It is to spit on our sacred gift of life.
In fact, all the issues that I and other progressives fight for—quality education for all, racial and gender justice and equality, housing for all, access to quality employment, affordable childcare, paid parental or family leave, ensuring security and dignity for our elder generation, caring for the sick and disabled—and what we fight against—grotesque income and wealth inequality; corporate rule and exploitation; oligarchy; government corruption; poisoning our air, water, and food supply; mass incarceration; extrajudicial killings; systemic discrimination; and on and on . . .
At the heart of all progressive values is a reverence for the sacredness of life and, thus, a commitment to protect and care for everyone in all of our communities, with no racial, gender, income, geographic, or other human-imposed exceptions.
So if someone were to ask me why I believe what I believe—why I am a progressive—I may wave my arm in a very theatrical way and proclaim, “Look at this life! I need to do what I can for it!”