Religious naturalism

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The interconnectivity of Nature is a key postulate in religious naturalism

Religious Naturalism is a philosophy, or a set of attitudes and beliefs, that combines an appreciation of perceptions and values commonly associated with religions with a naturalistic understanding of the world (grounded in findings from science, and not including anything supernatural that may exist or act in ways that are not consistent with processes in nature).


  • Religious naturalism is an approach to experiencing and appreciating nature with the awe, reverence, and respect that are usually associated with religion, but without the metaphysical paraphernalia of the latter.
    • Varadaraja V. Raman, book jacket review of Loyal Rue. “Nature is Enough”. State University of New York Press. 2011. [1]
  • Religious naturalism is a perspective that finds religious meaning in the natural world and rejects the notion of a supernatural realm.
    • William Murry, “Reason and Reverence: Religious Humanism in the 21st Century”. Skinner House Books. 2006., page xvi [2]
  • Religious naturalism is a belief in the natural order as understood by ongoing scientific investigation, supported by a strong and positive emotional feeling about the wonder and efficacy of that natural order. Religious naturalism is philosophically materialistic, but affirms the sense of mystery that accompanies our contemplation of the emergence of matter (and especially life) from the Big Bang forward. Though largely informed by science for its cognitive understanding, it draws on traditional religious feeling for its artistic and emotional inspiration.
    • Michael Cavanaugh, “What is Religious Naturalism?”, Zygon 2000. 35(2), page 242 [3]
  • Religious naturalism is the type of naturalism which affirms a set of beliefs and attitudes that there are religious aspects of this world which can be appreciated within a naturalistic framework. There are some events or process in our experience that elicit responses that can appropriately be called religious.
    • Jerome Stone, “Religious Naturalism Today”. State University of New York Press. 2008”, page 1 [4]
  • “RN” [religious naturalism] is a philosophy which seeks to live a religious life without a Supreme Being that is superior in power and value to the natural world. It is the attempt to think about life and live a religious orientation without a God, soul or heaven. There is a slightly different use of the term which overlaps with this first one. In this second view RN is the attempt to find in the natural world (including culture and history) the world as scientifically understood inspiration and resources for their religious life.
    • Jerome Stone, from an interview with Susan Baretto: “Jerome Stone discusses his research of a growing philosophical movement". Convergence 2009. 2(6). page 2.
  • Religious Naturalism is the view that nature is metaphysically ultimate and that nature or some aspect of nature is religiously ultimate. There is nothing beyond, behind or below nature. Nature requires no explanation beyond itself. It always has existed and always will exist in some shape or form. Its constituents, principles, laws and relationships are the sole reality. This reality takes on new traits and possibilities as it evolves inexorably through time
  • Religious Naturalism is a spiritual and philosophical orientation arising from profound responses to the wonder and mystery of Nature and its emergent manifestations in human creativity and culture. Its views of Nature are embodied in the Epic of Evolution and informed by scientific inquiry, without reference to supernatural explanations. It emphasizes reverence and gratitude for Nature and a deep regard for all life; it recognizes the imperative of planetary sustainability. It supports efforts that honor ecological and cultural diversity, that promote social justice and free inquiry, and that create a more compassionate, rational world where humans and non-humans alike can thrive.
    • Ash Bowie. Sacred River website. [6]
  • Religious naturalism is many things. It is a life of contemplation, inquiry, and moral practice devoted to the beauty and creativity of nature. It is the belief that nature is the whole of reality and that this insight is religiously and morally significant. It is a form of life that takes nature as the context for the discernment of meaning, value, and what matters to us ultimately. It is a way of being religious that understands human culture and religiosity within the vast sweep of cosmic evolution. Its sacred text is an epic that arcs from the genesis of the Universe with the Big Bang and the swirling of the earliest cosmic elements, to the birth pangs of stars and planets and the constellation of galaxies; it includes everything from the Sun’s gestation of our solar system to the emergence of life on earth, from the stunning ubiquity of bacteria to the biospheric tipping point that our own species has precipitated. It is a humble religious path that decentralizes the human species within the infinitely broader metaphysical and aesthetic rhythms of the Universe. It is a way of knowing that reveres the wisdom of collective human experience and reason more highly than any single sacred book or tradition. It is a quest for wisdom from wherever it may come: from the symbols, myths and rituals of the world’s diverse religious traditions, from literature and the arts, from the intricate splendors of indigenous knowledges to the mind-bending ways of the modern sciences. For religious naturalism, there is no “outside” of revelation—the whole of the cosmos rings with it, from the subatomic to the interstellar, from the unicellular to the civilizational.
    • Michael S. Hogue, Religion Without God: An Essay on Religious Naturalism, The Fourth R 27:3
  • The religious naturalism of my book, therefore, might more accurately be described as spiritual naturalism; I tell of our scientific understandings of who we are and how we got here, and I respond with such sensibilities as belonging, communion, gratitude, humility, assent, and awe.
    • Ursula Goodenough. Religious Naturalism and Naturalizing Morality. Zygon 2003. 38: page 101. [7]
  • Religious naturalism is best thought of as a generic term for mindful religious approaches to our understanding of the natural world. As such, it does not represent a detailed system of religious beliefs. Instead, the specificity shifts to, and resides within, the religious naturalists themselves.
    • Ursula Goodenough. Religious Naturalism. in "The Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature: Volume 1: A-J", Bron Taylor ed. Thoemmes 2005. page 1372. [8]
  • . . . we see an emerging consensus around a family-resemblance collection of features that religiously useful forms of naturalism tend to display. . . this emerging consensus is not on a single coherent doctrine, but rather on a list of propositions, most of which occur in a variety of combinations.
    • Wesley Wildman. Religious Naturalism. What It Can Be, and What It Need. Philosophy, Theology, and the Sciences. 1(1). 2014. page 41. [9]
  • With these caveats in mind, I assert that religiously useful naturalism affirms most of the following:
  1. Nature is sacred in its beauty, terror, scale, stochasticity, emergent complexity, and evolutionary development.
  2. The sacredness of nature expresses the self-transcendent potential of nature, and especially of natural creatures with self-awareness and moral imagination such as human beings.
  3. The sacredness of nature imposes moral obligations upon us to understand, appreciate, and preserve the parts of nature under our influence, taking full responsibility for our creative strategies through increasing compassion and control.
  4. There is no supernature: no supernatural agents, no supernatural means of knowledge, no supernatural authorizations, and no supernatural deity.
  5. Religions encode much wisdom about sacred nature but this religious wisdom is distorted in myths and legends that harden into literal descriptions of reality. Thus, religious naturalism can affirm traditional religions in some respects and must criticize them in other respects.
  6. Human beings are vulnerable to cognitive error, which keeps religious distortions and superstitions alive. Careful education can confer on individuals the ability to recognize and contest these cognitive biases.
  7. Religious naturalism will become increasingly attractive and socially viable as plausibility structures are changed by education that corrects cognitive biases and by centralizing humanist and ecological values in our species’ quest for survival.
  • The cumulative affirmation here is that naturalism, understood in a particular way – namely, as affirming most of the propositions in the list above – can be religiously relevant and can define a life world for people drawn to it.
    • Wesley Wildman. Religious Naturalism. What It Can Be, and What It Need. Philosophy, Theology, and the Sciences. 1(1). 2014. page 41. [10]
  • What is religious naturalism? It is a philosophy, a theology, a way of life. It finds its meaning in the processes of nature – in all its immensity, all of its delicacy, all of its freedom, and all of its fate. It can be atheist or theist. But it does make a distinction between the natural and the supernatural.
    • Rev. Rev. Ron Phares. Religious Naturalism: A Balance. YouTube video. Published on June 3, 2013. [11]
  • Before we can make any progress in a discussion of religious naturalism it will be necessary to clarify our terms. Many individuals – theists and non-theists alike – will balk at the word religious because they take it to imply conformity with institutionalized teachings and practices. And many naturalists balk at the word spiritual because they take it to imply belief in some supernatural being or metaphysical substance. I wish to be clear about rejecting both these usages in favor of a single definition that treats “religious” and “spiritual” as equivalent terms. I regard a religious or spiritual person to be one who takes ultimate concerns to heart. The important difference between religious (spiritual) persons and nonreligious (nonspiritual) persons is a matter of attitudes. Attitudes are valenced beliefs, that is, beliefs that are infused with appraisals of value and existential meaning, beliefs that have non-trivial consequences for the way a person relates to something or someone. The difference between a religious theist and a nominal theist is that the former takes God to heart. Likewise, a religious naturalist differs from a nonreligious naturalist by virtue of his or her suite of attitudes: the religious naturalist takes nature to heart.
    • Loyal Rue, Nature is Enough. State University of New York Press. 2011, page 110. [12]
  • Dewey's religious naturalism is rooted in a criticism of Santayana's dualism.
    • The Journal of Speculative Philosophy‎ - Page 162, Project Muse - Philosophy - 1995
  • Epic of Evolution is such a story, beautifully suited to anchor our search for planetary consensus, telling us of our nature, our place, our context. Moreover, responses to this story—what we are calling religious naturalism—can yield deep and abiding spiritual experiences.
  • It is true that 'religious naturalism', or the acknowledgment of the Divine in Nature, is also an element of the Christian religion….but it is by no means the characteristic, the tendency of the Christian religion.
  • Religious Naturalism differs from this (naturalism) mainly in the fact that it extends the domain of nature farther outwards into space and time. It never transcends nature
  • Religious naturalism is today one of the outstanding American philosophies of religion
    • H.H. Dubs - Religious Naturalism – an Evaluation (The Journal of Religion, XXIII: 4, October, 1943)
  • Religious Naturalists will be known for their reverence and awe before Nature, their love for Nature and natural forms, their sympathy for all living things, their guilt for enlarging the ecological footprints, their pride in reducing them, their sense of gratitude directed towards the matrix of life, their contempt for those who abstract themselves from natural values, and their solidarity with those who link their self-esteem to sustainable living.
    • Loyal Rue - Religion is not about God, Rutgers University Press, 2005, page 367, ISBN 0813535115
  • (1) there exists a supernatural being(s) or power(s) outside the natural world, (2) this being or power has commerce with the world, and (3) the grounds for belief in both the supernatural being and its commerce cannot be seen, discovered or inferred by way of any known or reliable epistemic method. Note that this commitment to the dispensability of the supernatural does not contain a rejection of all forms of spirituality or religion. The theologians and philosophers who are Religious Naturalists reject the conjunctions of 1,2 and 3 above.
    • Owen J. Flanagan - The Really Hard Problem: Meaning in a Material World, Published by MIT Press, 2007, page 260, ISBN 026206264X, [15]
  • One can start from the perspective of a religious naturalist or from the perspective of the world religions and arrive at the same place: a moral imperative that this Earth and its creatures be respected and cherished.
    • Ursula Goodenough Interview by Jill Neimark] [16]
  • There are two flavors of God people: those whose God is natural and those whose God is supernatural. Certainly there are a lot of people within religious naturalism who have no problem with God language--God as love, God as evolution, God as process. People see God as part of nature and give God-attributes to the part of nature that they find most sacred. I encounter people like that all the time.
    • Ursula Goodenough Interview by Jill Neimark] [17]
  • We try to make ourselves worthy of a universe of which we are an infinitesimal part. We will not agree on what worthiness consists of. For the religious naturalist, it is a mix of cautious skepticism and celebration
    • Chet Raymo – When God is Gone Everything is Holy, page 126

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