What is the true nature of Reality? Notice the capital R. I'm not talking about the finite observable present day-to-day temporal world of basic facts which includes humans as one form of primate undergoing evolutionary change.
Rather, I am speaking of the ultimate category of reality of which philosophers, physicists, and cosmologists refer to, and what religious people and mystics say they experience--the ultimate objective source of Being and Becoming.
Where does "all this" come from and eventually go to?
After this cosmos in so many trillions and trillions of years either stretches out space to infinity or implodes back to a singularity, what will still BE?
Why are we here? Are there eternal truths?
Of course some philosophers and scientists declare there is nothing "out" there beyond matter and energy. The cosmos-- maybe universes beyond universes--has no Meaning or Purpose, only IS for no reason.
Scientists such as Richard Dawkins claim that even to think there might be some Meaning behind it all is to be deluded in the worst sort of way. He wrote The God Delusion to try and demonstrate this central non-theistic thesis.
And Stephen J. Gould the famous Darwinian biologist, in a magazine interview, said humankind itself is only a "fluke" of evolution that probably wouldn't show up again if evolution were re-run another time.
Other famous scientists in this chorus of non-meaning include Coyne, Harris, Cashmore, Hutchens, Monad, Dennett, and Provine.
Dawkins' most famous statement against religion and the transcendent is probably his declaration in River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life:
"The total amount of suffering per year in the natural world is beyond all decent contemplation. During the minute that it takes me to compose this sentence, thousands of animals are being eaten alive, many others are running for their lives, whimpering with fear, others are slowly being devoured from within by rasping parasites, thousands of all kinds are dying of starvation, thirst, and disease. It must be so."
"If there ever is a time of plenty, this very fact will automatically lead to an increase in the population until the natural state of starvation and misery is restored."
"In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won't find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice."
"The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference."
So there is the first option as to the true nature of Reality: Matter, Energy, and Chance or Cosmic Determinism. The natural, indifferent Cosmos itself is all there is.
We humans are an accidental species or "meat puppets" who construct our own illusions.
Then die. Eventually we as a species will go extinct.
In strong contrast, Enlightenment figures argued that consciousness, reason, human rights, justice, equality, and so forth show evidence of the essential nature of existence--the Deity.
And Friends have trusted for 300 hundred years that Ultimate Reality is Loving Relationship, Equality, Purpose--
that at the very center and heart of Reality are eternal truths, everlasting ideals, absolute love.
Some other faiths agree with the Society of Friends. Transcendent Love is the Center of the Cosmos.
Martin Buber, the Jewish mystic wrote a book on God, titled, I-Thou, which speaks of a love relationship between God and each human.
The Baptist minister and civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., (despite his own moral failings), strongly held to Ultimate Reality being loving and good and true and just.
In his speech "Rediscovering Lost Values," King said, "The first principle of value is that we need to rediscover is this: that all reality hinges on moral foundations."
"In other words, that this is a moral universe, and that there are moral laws of the universe just as abiding as the physical laws..."
"I'm here to say to you this morning that some things are right and some things are wrong. (Yes) Eternally so, absolutely so."
"It's wrong to hate. (Yes. That's right) It always has been wrong and it always will be wrong. It's wrong in America. It's wrong in Germany..."
"It was wrong in 200 B.C. and it's wrong in 1954 A.D...It's wrong in every age and it's wrong in every nation."
"Some things are right and some things are wrong, no matter if everybody is doing the contrary. Some things in this universe are absolute."
No doubt early Friends would have ascribed non-theism to the "ocean of darkness" that threatens humankind. So how is it then that some Friends in the last 40 years have come out stating there is no God to worship, no Ultimate Reality to "quake before"?
They say God is a fiction, a word which does not represent anything real.
It is uncertain why such Friends deny God's existence. We are all doubters to one degree or another, but when humans, especially Friends, claim for certain that there is no God, it is puzzling and distressing.
After all both names--"Friend" and "Quaker"--are in reference to God. And the vital central focus of a Quaker meeting is worship of the Truth, the Light, the Divine.
If there is no One--no Center--to worship, then it would appear that such individuals are consciously choosing to pretend, what other non-theists such as Dawkins term "delusion."
Before I continue with an introduction to the Friends view of worship, let me emphasize that ALL humans are invited to come to commune in worship, even those who don't think there is any Ultimate Reality to live in and commune with. Hopefully, they will encounter the Truth, the Light.
After all, remember what Stephen King that famous Quaker horror writer;-) wrote in his novel, The Stand. In response to an atheist's statement that he doesn't believe in God, the heroic leader in the novel laughs and says, "But that don't matter. He believes in you."
To be continued
In the LIGHT,