Michael Dowd

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Michael Dowd
Dowd delivering sermon, 2016
Born(1958-11-19)November 19, 1958
DiedOctober 7, 2023 (age 64)
Alma materM.Div. – Palmer Seminary, BA – Evangel University
Known forEpic of Evolution, Evolutionary Christianity, Ecotheology, and Post-doom

Michael Dowd (1958 - 2023) was an American author, lecturer, and advocate of ecotheology and post-doom.

Evolutionary Christianity[edit]

Michael Dowd's 1991 book, EarthSpirit,[1] launched his public speaking career, grounded in the epic of evolution, religious naturalism, and progressive Christianity.[2][3][4][5][6] "Evolutionary Christianity" was his preferred topic, resulting in his sometimes being called America's "evolutionary evangelist."[7][8][9] His 2007 book, Thank God for Evolution,[10] brought him an invitation to contribute a chapter, "A Story Big Enough to Hold Us All," in a book published in 2009.[11] It also extended his speaking invitations beyond religious institutions.[12] These included the Values Caucus at the United Nations,[13][14] The Skeptics Society,[15] the Darwin Day lecture at three universities,[16][17][18] and TEDx in Grand Rapids, Michigan in 2012 and 2014.[19][20]

In 2014 Dowd added climate change activism to his volunteer efforts and his public speaking in church contexts.[21] His speaking schedule in 2014 roughly tracked the cross-USA route of the Great March for Climate Action, including speaking in city parks and local churches in support of the marchers.[22] In 2014 he adopted a stage name, "Reverend Reality," and began wearing a green clergy shirt (image at right) to exemplify his shift into foregrounding ecotheology in his presentations. He merged the science of ecology with liberal Christian theology by using the term "grace limits" when referring to ecological limits and Earth's carrying capacity.[23]

He interpreted additional biblical metaphors for his purpose of ecological advocacy. Primary among them was the need for humanity to break away from ecological destruction and to seek redemption as the "prodigal species" who was finally "coming home to Reality."[23] For guidance in how to do this, Dowd offered a set of "Reality's Rules: Ten Commandments to Avoid Extinction and Redeem Humanity."[24][25] He wrote and spoke of the ten in the form of "Thus sayeth the Lord":

  1. Stop thinking of me as anything less than the voice of undeniable and inescapable reality.
  2. Stop thinking of ‘revelation’ or ‘divine instruction’ without including evidence.
  3. Stop thinking of Genesis, or your creation story, apart from the history of the universe.
  4. Stop thinking of theology apart from ecology: the interdisciplinary study of my nature.
  5. Stop defining and measuring ‘progress’ in short-term, human-centered ways.
  6. Stop allowing the free or subsidized polluting of the commons.
  7. Stop using renewable resources faster than they can be replenished.
  8. Stop using non-renewable resources in ways that harm or rob future generations.
  9. Stop exploring for coal, oil, and natural gas—keep most of it in the ground.
  10. Stop prioritizing the wants of the wealthy over the needs of the poor.[23][24][25]


In 2015 Dowd read the 1980 book by William R. Catton Jr.: Overshoot: The Ecological Basis of Revolutionary Change. That reading "changed everything" for Dowd and launched him on the path he would later call postdoom.[26] John Halstead described Catton's influence in a memorium for Dowd that he wrote in 2023: "Post-doom teaches that, ironically, it is the very urge to cling to hope and the faith in progress and technology that is driving us faster and faster toward our own annihilation. When we refuse to acknowledge natural limits, then we end up hastening the very outcome that we want to avoid."[27]

By 2019 Dowd had pivoted his message to a pastoral form of support for those who, like himself, had lost hope that climate change, ecological overshoot, biodiversity loss and other causes of civilizational collapse already underway could be halted.[21] Post-doom was the word he coined for the process of moving through the stages of grief,[26] then beyond mere acceptance and more fully into "calm, clarity, and courageous love-in-action."[28] Increasingly, he became known as the "postdoom pastor."[29]

In her 2021 book, Victoria Loorz writes of "Michael Dowd's post-doom spirituality" and describes it as "a spirituality that accepts the fullness of our reality: the tragedy as well as the beauty. This spirituality moves into — and then eventually beyond — grief and repentance toward a deeper, more courageous, compassionate, and spiritual aliveness. Post-doom spirituality is, as Dowd says, 'what opens up when we remember who we are, accept the inevitable, honor our grief, and prioritize what is pro-future and soul-nourishing'."[30]

As Dowd reflects in a 2022 essay, "Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance: where are you in the vaunted stages of grief? And is doom automatically the end point?" He continues, "I began to explore (with others) the possibility of compassionate 'post-doom' forms of awareness."[31] His 2023 essay in Progressing Spirit is titled, "The Real End Times: From Doom to Faith." He writes,

A post-doom perspective is practical without promoting nihilism or lethargy. Trust, a secular name for faith, is its foundation. From there, generous and compassionate actions can continue, but they tend to be smaller in scope. They are here and now. They are free of frantic imperatives to engage in protests with the aim of transforming “the system.” Post-doom overall is hope-free. Dipping even one toe into this cool pool of acceptance can begin to yield benefits — emotional, spiritual, and relational benefits."[32]

An opinion piece published in the UK-based Church Times in 2022 was titled, "What we can learn from the 'post-doomers'.[33] The author writes that "spirituality features quite prominently" among those who identify or ally with the post-doom perspective: "Christians such as Michael Dowd and Fr Richard Rohr are making their contributions."

In a 2023 essay,[32] Dowd includes a list of 15 "Postdoom Benefits" developed by Karen Perry. Jem Bendell, the originator of the Deep Adaptation concept, also wrote about Perry's benefits list in 2023.[34] Dowd features other perspectives on the topic of postdoom in both video and audio formats by conducting conversations with more than 50 people from 2019 through 2023.[35] These and other resources can be accessed on the website Dowd originated in 2019: Postdoom.com website.[36]

He delivered his final sermon, titled Being the Calm in the Storm,[37] at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Flint, Michigan on August 13, 2023.

Personal life[edit]

Dowd lived in Ypsilanti, Michigan with his wife, the science writer Connie Barlow. In October 2023 he drove to Poughkeepsie, New York just in time to attend his father's death while in hospice. Two days later, Dowd experienced a massive heart attack at a friend's home and died that night. He was cremated the day after his father's funeral and burial.[38][39]


  1. ^ Dowd, Michael (1991). EarthSpirit: A Handbook for Nurturing an Ecological Christianity. Mystic, Connecticut: Twenty-Third Publications. ISBN 0-89622-479-1.
  2. ^ Miller, David Ian (25 April 2005). "FINDING MY RELIGION / Reverend Michael Dowd preaches the wonders of evolution". SFGATE.
  3. ^ Hassinger, Amy (20 February 2006). "Welcome to the Ecozoic Era". UU World.
  4. ^ Steigenga, Mark (22 May 2009). "The good news of EVOLUTION" (PDF). Ludington Daily News (Michigan).
  5. ^ "Michael Dowd: Biography & Resources". EnlightenNext Magazine. 2012-02-12. Archived from the original on February 12, 2012. Retrieved 2016-06-01.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  6. ^ New Hampshire Public Television (2010-12-20), One-on-one with Michael Dowd, archived from the original on 2021-12-21, retrieved 2016-06-01
  7. ^ Chaffee, Paul (15 May 2013). "Michael Dowd and 'Evolutionary Christianity': Reconciling Science and Faith". The Interfaith Observer.
  8. ^ Jacobson, Mike. "Evolution Evangelists ... Coming to a Church Near You? (2002)". Answers in Genesis. Retrieved 28 April 2024.
  9. ^ Stark, E (2002). "Evolution's traveling 'evangelists' tell the sacred tale". Research News & Opportunities in Science and Theology. 3 (2): 35.
  10. ^ Dowd, Michael (2007). Thank God for Evolution: How the Marriage of Science and Religion Will Transform Your Life and Our World. New York: Viking / Penguin. ISBN 978-0-670-02045-4.
  11. ^ Muir, Frederic (2009). The Whole World Kin: Darwin and the Spirt of Liberal Religion. Boston: Skinner House Books. pp. 15–28. ISBN 978-1-55896-556-0.
  12. ^ Bhattacharjee, Yudhijit (15 June 2008). "Darwinists for Jesus". New York Times Magazine.
  13. ^ California Lutheran University. "Minister to address evolution in CLU talk (September 2011)". California Lutheran University. Retrieved 28 March 2024.
  14. ^ Foltz, Jordan (21 April 2013). "Realizing religion, sanctifying science: Michael Dowd in Asheville". Mountain Xpress Asheville NC.
  15. ^ Dowd, Michael (7 June 2009). "Distinguished Lecture Series (June 2009 presentation)". Skeptic Society.
  16. ^ Goodman, Rachel M (2008). "Celebrate Darwin Day, An Event for Education and Outreach in Evolutionary Biology". Evo Edu Outreach. 1 (3): 306–311. doi:10.1007/s12052-008-0060-9.
  17. ^ Campus News (31 January 2006). "UT Darwin Day Programs to Explore Evolution, Education (2006)". University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Retrieved 26 September 2023.
  18. ^ Texas Wesleyan University. "College Day Event - Spring 2009" (PDF). The Great Story.
  19. ^ Dewey, Charlsie (14 April 2014). "TEDxGrandRapids reveals speakers (2014)". Crain's Grand Rapids Business. Retrieved 26 September 2023.
  20. ^ Dowd, Michael (20 June 2014). "My TEDx Talk: Reality Reconciles Science and Religion (2014)". Huffington Post.
  21. ^ a b Catano, Jim (15 September 2021). "Time's Up: It's the End of the World, and We Know It". Salt Lake City Weekly.
  22. ^ Dowd, Michael. "Past Itinerary". The Great Story. Retrieved 26 September 2023.
  23. ^ a b c MacLeod, David (10 January 2017). "Standing for the Future". Resilience.
  24. ^ a b Dowd, Michael (Fall 2016). "Evidential Medicine for Our Collective Soul: What's Inevitable? What's Redemptive?" (PDF). Oneing. 4 (2).
  25. ^ a b Dowd, Michael. "ProFuture Faith - Session 4 (2019)" (PDF). Living the Questions. Retrieved 16 October 2023.
  26. ^ a b Dowd, Michael (June 2023). "Collapse and Denial: Inevitable and Unstoppable" (PDF). The New Ecozoic Reader (7): 23–26.
  27. ^ Halstead, John (20 October 2023). "It's Not Too Late to Love the World: In memoriam Michael Dowd". A Beautiful Resistance.
  28. ^ "Beyond Hope and Fear (sermon by Michael Dowd)". Unitarian Universalist Church of the North Hills, Pittsburgh PA. 18 November 2021. Retrieved 26 September 2023.
  29. ^ "Michael Dowd: Postdoom Pastor". TheGreatStory. Retrieved 7 December 2023.
  30. ^ Loorz, Victoria (2021). Church of the Wild: How Nature Invites Us Into the Sacred. Minneapolis MN: Broadleaf Books. ISBN 978-1-5064-6964-5.
  31. ^ Dowd, Michael (27 January 2022). "My God, What Have We Done?". Progressing Spirit.
  32. ^ a b Dowd, Michael (July 2023). "The Real End Times: From Doom to Faith" (PDF). Progressing Spirit / Progressive Christianity.
  33. ^ Pott, David (1 April 2022). "What we can learn from the 'post-doomers'". Church Times.
  34. ^ Bendell, Jem (21 September 2023). "The Benefits of Collapse Acceptance". JemBendell.com. Retrieved 26 September 2023.
  35. ^ Dowd, Michael. "Postdoom Conversations". Postdoom. Retrieved 26 September 2023.
  36. ^ "Postdoom: Regenerative conversations, connections, and resources for moving beyond doom". Postdoom. Retrieved 26 September 2023.
  37. ^ Being the Calm in the Storm (30-min) Dowd, 2023, retrieved 2023-11-13
  38. ^ "Tributes for Michael Dowd". Postdoom. Retrieved 6 December 2023.
  39. ^ Trapani, Tara C. "Michael Dowd & Post-Doom (October 2023)". Yale Forum on Religion and Ecology. Yale School of the Environment. Retrieved 6 December 2023.

Further reading[edit]