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Religious Naturalism

Taking Nature to Heart


Interdependent Existence

“The reality today is that we are all interdependent and have to co-exist on the small planet.”

Dalai Lama

The problems facing the world today are many and varied. Each one urgently needing attention. But these issues do not exist independently.

These issues stem directly from the hubris of western culture, which emphasizes: dominion over the Earth; personal ownership; competition over cooperation; “progress” in the form of out-sourcing our work onto animals, other people, or fossil fuels, and; a stubborn blindness to our dependence on a healthy Commons. The underlying assumption behind this way of being in the world is the view that people exist independently from one another and from nature

Conversly, religious naturalists understand the interdependence of people, things, and situations. Highlighting interdependence can contribute to views that, as some suffer, all have types of harm; and that, for us, individuals, to be well, the whole must also be well (or, in more pragmatic terms, that we, ourselves, can’t be secure when others suffer wrongs that will prompt responses). In this, we can come to think of ourselves as part of a global family, with kinship to all people (not just in our closer-in tribes) along with connections to animals, ecosystems, and the cosmos. 

Mindsets: The Lenses Through Which We See The World

A mindset is a way of seeing the world;  a worldview or world perspective. It is a set of beliefs and values about how the world works and our place in it. For the most part our mindsets develop without our conscious awareness. As we grow up we adopt beliefs or draw conclusions about how things work. There are many sources that influence this process: family, society, culture, personal experience, and so on.

Because mindsets are made up of beliefs and assumptions about the nature of the world and our place in it they heavily influence our thoughts and behaviors. There are two main types of mindsets; the independent mindset and the interdependent mindset.

The Independent Mindset may be referred to as a fearful mindset because our place in the world, according to this mindset, is a perilous one. This mindset is based on a faulty assumption about the nature of the world and our place in it. The Fearful Mindset assumes that we are independent individuals living in a world of independent objects and events.

On the other hand, the Interdependent Mindset is based on the actual nature of the world. Rather than being independent selves, human beings, along with all life forms on the planet, exist interdependently; depending on each other and the environment for existence.

The mindset we operate under determines the kind of things we come to believe will help us meet our needs. Our values are determined by the relationship we believe ourselves to be in with nature. The values of the independent mindset arise out of a belief in independent selves living in a world of independent things. The values of the interdependent mindset arise out of the realization that we are interdependent individuals living in a world of interdependent phenomena.


Need Independent Mindset Value Interdependent Mindset Value
Physiological Access to Physical Requirements – food, water, air, warmth Vitality
Safety Strong Protective Boundaries Resiliency
Security Wealth – resource accumulations Sustainability
Membership Tribal Membership – strength in numbers Inclusive Membership
Significance Status within groups, Power, Respect, Admiration Personal Responsibility
Meaning Personal Meaning – relative to self concerns Humility
Purpose Personal Success – relative to others Personal Contribution

Each of these sets of values motivates us to act in ways we believe will help us meet our needs. Unfortunately, acting according to the values of the independent mindset has created many of the global problems we now face. We need to come to a clear understanding of the interdependent nature of our existence and to act according to the values that arise out of that understanding. We need to embrace the values of the interdependent mindset if we are to continue as a species.

For a more detailed examination of the implications inherent in the independent and interdependent mindsets you may be interested in The Hopeful Mindset by Terry Findlay, one of our members.