This page is an effort to sort out the range of beliefs that characterize "Religious Naturalism". Since not all people drawn to the term have the same sensibilities, one can expect that the "Big Tent" of this religious paradigm and community will end up including a range of beliefs, as tends to be the case with most religious movements and traditions. Generally these break down into three categories of belief – neo-theistic (progressive/modern theism), non- theistic (agnostic) and not theistic (soft atheism). Following is a brief description of these and an attempt to sort out which beliefs are central and shared by most all and beliefs that are shared by some people in the different sectors (booths) of Religious Naturalism.
Main categories of Religious NaturalismEdit
Neo-theistic - those who maintain a god concept of some kind or they may simply use god language to express their feelings about what is. Many of these people have evolved out of traditional religious beliefs and may still be active in churches of various denominations. Many of them can be called religious liberals. Their god concept is a strictly a naturalistic one. That is, their concept of deity is not supernatural as most god concepts are. What ever they see as God, must be in or of the real world.
Non-theistic - middle ground sector that approaches the concept of God as an unanswerable question. No universally accepted truth, one way or the other, has materialized over several thousand years on the question about the existence of god, so there is no need to waste more time on it. A person can live their life without answering this arguable question. There is an uncertainty in doing this, but objectively, life is an uncertainty. Masking this uncertainty with a god concept comforts some people. Some however find this an undesirable self-deception and accept the unknowing as one of the attributes of a vast, mysterious Universe. It becomes part of the spirituality they see in it. This acceptance of uncertainty may in time become the key distinct attribute of Religious Naturalism. Most religions try to eliminate not knowing. People generally desire dogmatic certainty, unchanging doctrine. They seek a frozen truth rather than see it as being relative, evolving and emergent. Uncertainty on the other hand for many is exhilarating, sparking their curiosity, making the future more interesting. Mystery is something that is acceptable and is to be embraced. Current authors and website writers who can probably be considered non-theistic are Ursula Goodenough, Donald Crosby, Willem Drees, Jerome Stone, V.V. Ramon, Chet Raymo, Loyal Rue and Jerald Robertson.
Not-theistic - those in this sector of Religious Naturalism are atheistic (a soft atheism - not combative). They deny a concept of God in any form or by any definition. Never the less, they admit to a strong personal spirituality and religious orientation. There are aspects of the world that they consider sacred worth of reverence and respect. They have a religious feeling for morality and love for the environment. They perceive the same awe, wonder and mystery in the natural world that other Religious Naturalists do. Some of these may have a foundation based on Buddhism and Taoism, neither of which are theistic, but also have rich spiritualities.
Other viewpoints - the three sectors above are categorized by their position on the God question. There are others ways to differentiate them. Author Jerome Stone (Religious Naturalism Today) classifies them by groups of people using their position on God but by a somewhat different criteria than above. Other ways are by what they consider sacred, by communities or by culture. In recent years some church or synagogue congregations have adopted a Religious Naturalist approach. Reconstructionist Jews and some local Unitarian Universalists churches are examples. To these perhaps may be added the Fellowship of Religious Humanists and some individual Quakers. Some of the tenets of Progressive Christianity are very similar to those of Religious Naturalism.
Viewpoints of most Religious NaturalistsEdit
Meaning of life - Religious Naturalism, like most religions, is concerned about the meaning of life but it is equally interested in living life in a meaningful, rational and happy way.
The Supernatural – there is no such entity or realm
Science - is the primary interpretive tool for Religious Naturalism because scientific methods provide the best opportunity yet devised for understanding the world and Nature, including human natures. Scientific methods collect and examine data, form postulates about it, test those speculations, and retest to verify. The result is most often the development of comprehensive theories about what is true and reliable. These then undergo deeper and wider challenges and critiques. Only insofar as a theory continues to meet the challenges is it accepted as true, and this truth is seen as the best answer until a better one is found. There is nothing magical or supernatural in this process; it produces factual, real, and natural explanations. Thus mainstream science is used by Religious Naturalists to formulate their religious and spiritual perspectives augmented by their subjective emotions.
Spirituality – a spiritual response to life is possible without supernatural elements and entities. A spiritual life can be based on the combined objectivity of science and the emotional subjective responses to the natural world. Part of this spirituality is the wonder and awe that can exist without science, but which science amplifies. This spirituality provides a sense of humility and exuberance, and a reverence for a mysterious, magnificent Universe.
Ecology and Stewardship – The rationality and feelings provided by science and a naturalistic spirituality instill within Religious Naturalism a strong sense of concern for the Earth. The environment of Earth has produced Homo sapiens by natural means. It is humanity’s mother and home. As such it merits respect, love and benevolent caretaking. There is innate value in Nature and Nature is considered sacred. It is not to be wasted by greed and stupidity.
Interconnectivity - Humans, other life forms and inanimate Nature, are one, part of a oneness of being
Primary Narrative – the central story of Religious Naturalism that connects everyone and validates the preceding statements is the saga of evolution. It brings together the biosphere, human progress and the emergence of culture and morality. It connects what is with what is important to human beings. This narrative it termed The Epic of Evolution.
Morality (ethics/virtues) - the quality of being in accord with social or individual standards of right or good behavior, a system of rules and perceptions of right and wrong conduct. They are the consequence of our biological and social evolution having evolved naturally over the generations rather than being directed or revealed by a higher authority. Stewardship of the Earth is a key moral concern.
Tolerance – Religious Naturalism is a Big Tent paradigm and thus pluralistic
Viewpoints some Religious Naturalists haveEdit
- There is creativity in the Universe that can be called God.
- The totality of the Universe can be called God (Spinoza)
- Neo-Pantheism (naturalistic pantheism) is a way to view Nature and God
- Process theology, dualism, sublime or spiritual naturalism
- Hold no positive belief in anything which for which there is no empirical evidence. Truth and reason suffices to explain everything
- A credo of continuation and especially of human continuation
- Spirituality is an emotional response to Reality
- A global ethos
- Mystery is a grace
- The universe is evolving toward greater complexity, cooperation, and consciousness
- Emergence is a creation mechanism
- A naturalistic reinterpretation of supernaturalism is a kindred viewpoint