Frequently Asked Questions
What is religious naturalism?
Religious naturalism (RN) is a view, including attitudes and beliefs, that combines a science-based understanding of what seems possible and real with appreciation of goals, concerns, and feelings that are parts of religion. It understands the origins and nature of ourselves and our world in ways that are grounded in the core narrative of evolution. It examines ways of being spiritual that do not include belief in a God that may actively alter the course of natural events. More detailed descriptions are provided at:
What do religious naturalists do?
Nothing is required. Religious naturalists tend to be interested in learning – about human nature and the natural world – and when they consider religious types of questions (relating to values, purpose, coping with loss, and other challenges), they do so in ways that draw from perspectives from science, the humanities, and art.
No churches or temples exist, but people may gather at conferences and they may share information and ideas in internet chat rooms (including one conducted as part of the Religious Naturalist Association. Some appreciate activities that may contribute to a spiritual sense and have their own forms of religious practice. These can include meditation, marking special events, and encounters with nature and art, with paths of community and action.
What do religious naturalists think about God?
Religious naturalists do not believe in God as a type of consciousness or being that may cause events in the world. But differences of opinion exist regarding use of the term, God, as the creative force that causes things to be as they are. Some find this useful as a symbol, or have senses of God that do not conflict with a naturalist view. Others disapprove of this usage and avoid all reference to God.
For more on this, see Images of God at this website.
Why should religion be considered, along with a science-based view? Why not just be secular?
Most people, at times, consider questions or experience feelings that can be seen as spiritual or religious. This may occur when a loved one passes away, or when moved by nature or the beauty of art, and in other settings. We all have a framework for what we believe is possible and real, and for what seems right and good. These can be seen as secular (normal day-to-day parts of life). Or, with an attitude that looks at things in the context of something larger (with connection to others, and future and past, and values and ideals, or a sense of some things as sacred), they can be seen as spiritual or religious.
Perspectives from science show that religion has been present in all cultures and times and, like art, can be seen as a part of human nature (and, like art, exists in a variety of forms and is of greater interest to some than to others). Science has also shown that aspects of being religious can contribute to social and personal benefits. Rejection of particular forms of religion does not require rejection of religion overall. Part of the goal and focus of religious naturalism is, along with a naturalist worldview, to acknowledge, appreciate, and take advantage of some of the positive things that can come from religion.
What is the history of RN?
Religious naturalism has been discussed by name, for more than 100 years, as part of the effort reconcile religion with science. It draws from ancient traditions that gave prominence to nature, and from scientists who have tried to understand religious feelings and perceptions. Popular recognition and interest has built since the 1990s, when increasing numbers of articles and books began to refer to and focus on this view. The Religious Naturalist Association was founded in 2014.
What do religious naturalists believe?
Religious naturalists believe that all that exists and all that occurs is in accordance with natural processes. They value the scientific method as a way of considering what is real, but also recognize emotional and intuitive ways of understanding and the value of art, ritual, and symbols.
Beyond a naturalist worldview and appreciation of religion, RN has no specific dogma or creed and includes a wide range of views.
What does it take to become a religious naturalist?
Nothing is required. There is no need to join a group and no dogma to affirm.
People with this orientation may describe themselves as religious naturalists, or they may use different terms to describe what they believe. People can see themselves as religious naturalists and also as Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, or members of other traditions.
Those who would like to affirm that they see themselves as religious naturalists and join with others who share similar views may consider joining the Religious Naturalist Association.
Why use the term, “naturalist” instead of “atheist”?
Both terms share active disbelief in a traditional image of an active personal God, but the words have different connotations.
Atheism positions belief in God as the norm. It rejects this view, but says nothing about what an atheist does believe.
Naturalist positions nature and natural laws as a foundation for belief. Rather than focus on and rejection of a traditional view, it presents and affirms a modern alternative.
For more on this, see Atheist, secular, naturalist – what’s in a name? at this website.
If there is no belief in God, what is the basis for values?
Humans, like other creatures who live in social groups, have consistent ways of behaving with others. Separate from religious beliefs, similar values and ideals have been seen in different cultures and times. Some parts of this (like a mother caring for a child) appear to be genetic. Other parts are learned and enforced as part of the rules and laws in a culture. A theme in this is based in a principle of life – to seek the well-being of individuals and groups.
For more on this, see the Values page at this website.
How can I learn more about religious naturalism?
Pages at this website give a good start, with discussion on many topics and links to sites with additional information. These can be seen by clicking on menu titles at the top of this page.
Also, the Religious Naturalist Association (RNA) website has information and links.
Click on titles on the home page to get an overview of RN. Then, for topics that are of interest, check out articles, books, and other resources – and explore . . .