Religious Naturalism Defined
The complexity of Religious Naturalism is such that the two words of its title cannot describe it. Neither are those words specific nor explicit enough in themselves to render a distinct definition. These diverse symbols, one of a theological nature and the other scientific, amalgamate to represent a convergent mid-point between theistic supernaturalism and hardcore naturalism.
A name or title is what you call something. A definition is how you express the essential nature of what that something is. It attempts to describe, explain, make definite, or clear what it is. Religious Naturalism is an identifying name given to it by its advocates to distinguish their belief from other religious/philosophical paradigms.
Religion is a title with very broad usage and thus not effectively descriptive. Most people associate it with groups of people having specific dogmas, rituals, texts, churches, priesthoods, deities and cultures. Religious Naturalism is not based on these features. But it is religious in its unique awareness, judgment, and behavior towards being and existence that replace the more typical religious attributes. It is also religious in its explicit tenets of modern morality and ecological declarations. The sincerity that its followers have for their beliefs makes it legally religious.
Naturalism is also a title with broad implications. The dictionary definition of it is that it’s a paradigm that denies supernatural explanations and relies on the scientific method to explain Existence. A Religious Naturalist holds that whatever is defined as scared or of ultimate value, whatever is understood as moral or amoral, whatever is emergently creative or any entity that can be called God is part of Nature. There are no supernatural realms, revelations or beings.
Naturalism is the view that Existence is what there is and all there is. There is no other anything. Thus Existence, and all that compose it, can be the only thing of real valve. It is the only thing that can be held as sacred and can be valued using physical means. The sacredness that Religious Naturalists see in Nature is their way of valuing the world.
We are separate distinct individuals however we are also part of a vast, beautiful and mysterious Oneness. This Oneness gives us the opportunity to transcend ourselves. We can expand into, appreciate and be mystified by all that exists. This transcendence is not to a supernatural realm that does not exist but to a Reality that is there outside us. We transcend the limitations of the Self to the eternal, infinity and mystery of being. This going beyond ourselves is the amplifying of the mindfulness of what we are.
Seeing the Allness of the Oneness, feeling it, being in it, is a spiritual event. It is an insight, a clarity, a tranquility, an acceptance. It is hearing the music, seeing the picture and absorbing the poetry that is there. It can be a purification (a baptism of sorts), a liberation, an enlightenment. It offers an exhilarating potentiality. It is a spirituality that finds and feels an ecstasy in Reality and being.
RN is naturalistic by almost all definitions. It is a variety of naturalism that involves an attitude that there are attributes of this world that can be valued within a naturalistic paradigm. It is also religious in the way the U.S. Supreme Court would judge it. Michael Cavanaugh’s perspective on RN at the ReligiousNaturalism.org site offers addition depth on the religiousness of RN. A more scholarly in-depth analysis is presented in Loyal Rue’s book Religion is not about God.