On "Religious" 02/05/2010
I would like to talk about the "religious" part of the name Religious Naturalism. This is inspired by a short article in the latest issue of Quest, the monthly newsletter of the Church of Larger Fellowship, Unitarian Universalists. I have encountered a misunderstanding that to be "religious," one must believe in something supernatural. I have countered the misunderstanding by citing non-theistic religions such as Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism.
This article from Quest pointed out another common misunderstanding that Unitarian Universalists are often too non-religious. The author rightly points put that, in fact, Unitarain Universalists "take religion and religious concerns very seriously indeed. Too seriously to fake it, and sometimes too seriously to put into words."
The author goes on offer excellent definitions of the term "religious": "By religious I mean something descriptive of a primal attitude of reverence. By religious I mean an orientation sensitive to an unnamable sacred quality at the heart of our existence, that mystery that animates every cell in every living thing."
He further explains: "to be religious means paying attention to and having concern for the deeper questions of meaning and purpose and value in life. What are these religious questions? Theologian James Fowler identifies them as the basic questions of faith the world over, across time, across cultures, across the spectrum of our humanity. What commands and receives your best time and energy in life? What causes, dreams, goals, and institutions are you pouring out your life for? As you live your life, what powers do you fear or dread? What powers do you rely on and trust? To whom or what are you committed in life or in death? What are the hopes and purposes of your life?"
Yes, these are the questions Religious Naturalists ask, and they make Religious Nautralism undoubtedly religious.
Brian Hines' blog "Church of the Churchless" expounds very well the viewpoint of a post-Christian naturalist.
His latest post "Evolution shows the grandeur of life" is, in my opinion, a beautiful statement of Religious Naturalism (although he has never identified himself as such). This simple sentence says it all:
"I've been reading a few pages [of Richard Dawkins' latest book The Greatest Show on Earth] every day before I meditate. Now, I find more inspiration in science books than in spiritual books. Reality is uplifting."
The day is November 24, 2009.
From the HUUmanists email list:
Remember that today is a holy day to Humanists, Unitarian Universalists, and all others who hold sacred our rapidly increasing knowledge of our own precious human nature, and especially its relation to the rest of the universe. One hundred fifty years ago today, on November 24, 1859, Charles Darwin opened the gates of heaven with his publication of "On the Origin of Species by Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life," and suddenly a great light shone down upon us all. Our understanding of ourselves has grown rapidly ever since, is growing today, and will continue to grow forever. Humanity will never be the same again.
Amen and hallelujah!
Spinoza was born on this day in 1632.
Happy Birthday to you, Spinoza. Another reason for a Humanist celebration.
Spinoza is best known for his Ethics, a monumental work that presents an ethical vision unfolding out of a monistic metaphysics in which God and Nature are identified. God is no longer the transcendent creator of the universe who rules it via providence, but Nature itself, understood as an infinite, necessary, and fully deterministic system of which humans are a part. Humans find happiness only through a rational understanding of this system and their place within it.
Carl Sagan's book "The Varieties of Scientific Experience" (New York: Penguin, 2006) explains very well what Religious Naturalism is, although Carl has not identified himself or his religious view with this term. Religious Naturalism approaches religion and spirituality by the way of science. The words of Ann Druyan, Carl Sagan's wife and editor of the book, in "Editor's Introduction," are remarkably in-line with this position:
For Carl, Darwin's insight that life evolved over the eons through natural selection was not just better science than Genesis, it also afforded a deeper, more satisfying spiritual experience. (p. x)
He believed that the little we do know about nature suggests that we know even less about God. We had only just managed to get an inkling of the grandeur ofthe cosmos and its exquisite laws that guide the evolution of trillions if not infinite numbers of worlds. The newly acquired vision made the God who created the World seem hopelessly local and dated, bound to transparently human misconceptions and conceipts of the past. (p. x)
...he never understand why anyone wound want to separate science, which is just a way of searching for what is true, from what we hold sacred, which are those truths that inspire love and awe. (p. xi)
His argument was not with God but with those who believed that our understanding of the sacred had been completed. Science's premanently revolutionary conviction that the search for truth never ends seemed to him the only approach with sufficient humility to be worthy of the universe that it revealed. The methodology of science, with tis error-correcting mechanism for keeping us honest in spite of our chronic tendencies to project, to misunderstand, to deceive ourselves and others, seemed to him the height of spiritual discipline. If you are searching for sacred knowledge and not just a palliative for your fears, then you will train yourself to be a good skeptic. (p. xi)
The idea that the scientific method should be applied to the deepest of questions is frequently decried as "scientism." This charge is made by those who hold that religious beliefs whould be off-limits to scientific scrutiny---that beliefs (convictions without evidence that can be tested) are a sufficient way of knowing. Carl understood this feeling, but he insisted with Bertrand Russell that "what is wanted is not the will to believe, but the desire to find out, which is the exact opposite." (p. xi)
Until about five hundred years ago, there had been no such wall separating science and religion. Back then they were one and the same. It was only when a group of religious men who wished "to read God's mind" realized that science would be the most powerful means to do so that a wall was needed. These men---among them Galileo, Kepler, Newton, and, much later, Darwin---began to articulate and internalize the scientific method. Science took off for stars, and institutional religion, choosing to deny the new revelations, could do little more than build a protective wall around itself. (p. xi)
To him we were "starstuff pondering the stars; organized assemblages of 10 billion billion billion atoms considering the evolution of atoms; tracing the long journey by which, here at least, consciousness arose." For him science was, in part, a kind of "informed worship." (p. xiii)
How do Religious Naturalists/Religious Humanists read the Bible and pray? God = Nature; God = Love 10/18/2009
How do Religious Naturalists read the Bible and pray? God = Nature
How do Religious Humanists read the Bible and pray? God = Love
I am turning from Christianity to Religious Naturalism and Religious Humanism. Naturalism believes that everything belongs to Nature as understood by science; Humanism believes that the final authority is in human. Both Naturalism and Humanism are non-theistic. The New Zealand Presbyterian theologian Lloyd Geering points out that the term "God" is a symbol which has meaning only in the pre-scientific worldview: a personal highest being who has created and is taking care of the world, and loves human. Since Enlightenment, the Western worldview has drastically changed and now the Universe is understood to be impersonal, running according to physical laws. This causes the term "God" to lose its meaning for modern people.
I still go to Christian churches occasionally. Today, I go to my old church, an Anglican church. When the word "God" is uttered while reading the Bible or saying a prayer, I have difficulty in dealing with that word. Today, right during the worship, I figured out the following solution:
When a Religious Naturalist reads the Bible or says a prayer, when the term "God" is encountered, (s)he can replace it in his/her heart by the term "Nature." Then the integrity of intellectual conscience can be maintained. Naturalism understands the "God" of the Bible as follows. Human projects to an external being "God" his/her own feelings of praise, awe, and gratitude towards Nature. Human then personalizes "God" in order to make "Him" an appropriate subject for interpersonal relationship (a familiar mode of relationship since everyone's infancy) and worship (affirmation of worth).
When a Religious Humanist reads the Bible or says a prayer, when the term "God" is encountered, (s)he can replace it in his/her heart by the term "Love" or "benevolence." Then the integrity of intellectual conscience can be maintained. Humanism understands the "God" of the Bible as follows. Human projects to an external being "God" his/her own highest values and meaning of life. Human then personalizes "God" in order to make "Him" an appropriate subject for interpersonal relationship and worship. Christians often say that Jesus is "Son of God" or "God Incarnate." In fact, the core of Jesus is Love or benevolence. Jesus is really "Son of God' or "God Incarnate" in the sense that Jesus fully expresses Love in his life to the extent that Jesus is experienced as "Son of Love" or "Love Incarnate." "God is love" (1 Jn 4:8,16).
Which word to use, then? "Nature" or "Love"? Does this imply that Naturalism and Humanism are two conflicting theories, one worships Nature as God, the other worships Love as God? My present thought is that: In the realm of Nature, "God" symbolizes Nature; in the realm of human relationship, "God" symbolizes Love. I worship both Nature and Love.
Religious Naturalism Today: The Rebirth of a Forgotten Alternative (book by Jerome Stone) 10/12/2009
Just received Jerome Stone's good news from the UURN email list:
Hi---I've learned that many people don't know that my book, RELIGIOUS NATURALISM TODAY: THE REBIRTH OF A FORGOTTEN ALTERNATIVE is now out in paperback (and much less expensive!). FYI here is the abstract and contents.
Religious Naturalism Today: The Rebirth of a Forgotten Alternative
by Jerome A. Stone
State University of New York Press, 2008
Religious naturalism, a once-forgotten option in religious thinking, is making a revival. It seeks to explore and encourage religious ways of responding to the world on a completely naturalistic basis without a supreme being or ground of being. This book traces this story and analyzes some of the issues dividing religious naturalists.
Part One covers the birth of religious naturalism, from Santayana to Wieman. Chapter One deals with philosophers, Chapter Two with theologians. Chapter Three analyzes some of the issues debated between these early naturalists and presents a variety of attempts to develop a naturalist view of the mind. The Interlude between the first and second parts briefly explores religious naturalism in literature and art. Part Two depicts the rebirth of religious naturalism following the publication of Bernard Loomer’s The Size of God in 1987. Over twenty current writers are presented. Chapter Four analyzes three different sources of religious insight among contemporary religious naturalists, including experiences of grace and obligation, nature both as appreciated and as the object of scientific study, and the hermeneutics of religious and literary traditions. Contested issues are discussed in Chapter Five, including whether nature’s power or goodness is the focus of attention and also on the appropriateness of using the term "God." Chapter Six sketches the contributions of other recent religious naturalists. Chapter Seven ends the study by exploring what it is like on the inside to live as a religious naturalist.
Foreword by Philip Hefner
Introduction: What is Religious Naturalism?
Part One The Birth of Religious Naturalism
Chapter One Philosophical Religious Naturalism
II Samuel Alexander
III The Pragmatists (John Dewey, George Herbert Mead)
IV Roy Wood Sellars
V John Herman Randall
VI Jan Christian Smuts
Chapter Two Theological Religious Naturalism
I The Early Chicago School: George Burman Foster, G. B. Smith, Shailer Mathews, Edward Scribner Ames
II The Humanists: John Dietrich, The Humanist Manifesto, Julian Huxley
III Frederick May Eliot
IV The New Universalism: Clarence Skinner, Kenneth L.Patton
V The Later Chicago School: Henry Nelson Wieman, Bernard Meland, Bernard Loomer, Ralph Burhoe
VI Others: William Bernhardt, Mordecai Kaplan, Jack Cohen, Gregory Bateson, Albert Einstein, Philip Phenix
Chapter Three Analyzing the Issues
I Five Issues among the Early Religious Naturalists
II A Naturalist View of Mind, Soul or Spirit
Interlude: Religious Naturalism in Literature
Part Two The Rebirth of Religious Naturalism
Chapter Four Sources of Religious Insight
I Experiences of Grace and Obligation: Charley Hardwick, William Jones, Sharon Welch, Jerome Stone
II Nature as a Source of Religious Insight: Delores LaChapelle, Gary Snyder, Brian Swimme & Thomas Berry, Michael Cavanaugh, Ursula Goodenough, Karl Peters, Connie Barlow
III The Hermeneutics of Traditions: Willaim Dean, Jerome Stone, Willem Drees, Michael Cavanaugh, Karl Peters, Henry Levinson, Charles Milligan
Chapter Five Current Issues in Religious Naturalism
I Power and Goodness in the Object of the Religious Orientation: Stone, Gordon Kaufman, Charley Hardwick, Charles Milligan, William Dean. Brian, Swimme & Thomas Berry, Donald Crosby, Sharon Welch, Karl Peters
II The Use of God-language
Chapter Six Other Recent Religious Naturalists: Corrington, Bumbaugh, Clark, Gilette, Hammond, Mesle, Murry, Oler, Peden, Raymo, Shaw, Spretnak
Chapter Seven Living Religiously as a Naturalist
Jerome A. Stone
A praise by William Murray appeared in the email list shortly afterwards:
I'm very glad to learn that Jerry Stone's book, Religious Naturalism Today, is available in paperback. It is an important book and in my view it is "must reading" for anyone interested in knowing more about religious naturalism in all its many incarnations. In my review of the book in the "Journal of Liberal Religion" I wrote that "it is very important that a comprehensive and knowledgeable history of religious naturalism be written, and Stone has given us that in spades."
William R. Murry
Minister Emeritus, River Road Unitarian Church
Past President, Meadville Lombard Theological School
Author, Reason and Reverence
Charles Darwin and the Tree of Life (BBC) 10/06/2009
The Link (History Channel documentary) 10/05/2009
Missing link found! This looks like a very significant addition to the evidence of human evolution:
Missing link found! An incredible 95 percent complete fossil of a 47-million-year-old human ancestor has been discovered and, after two years of secret study, an international team of scientists has revealed it to the world. The fossil’s remarkable state of preservation allows an unprecedented glimpse into early human evolution. ...
A useful tool for science education in secondary schools...
Growing Up in the Universe
Every secondary school in England and Wales has received a copy of Growing up in the Universe - Professor Richard Dawkins' 1991 Royal Institution Christmas Lectures.
You can use this resource in a variety of ways, perhaps as end-of-term videos or to support learning in Science lessons about the scientific method, evolution, and DNA. In RE or General Studies lessons about the awe and wonder that the study of the natural world can arouse, or about the conflict between science and religion. ...
www.HumanistGrid.net is coming soon! We’re working on videos, tool kits and other educational resources for students, teachers and parents related to Humanism.
Also see www.humanismforschools.org.uk
© British Humanist Association
Universalist Herald 08/19/2009
I came across an article about Religious Naturalism in the latest issue (July/August 2009) of Universalist Herald. I have scanned it for you: http://uurn.webs.com/Universalist Herald.jpg
Universalist Herald, the "oldest continuously published
liberal religious periodical in North America," can be reached at www.universalist-herald.net