Religious Naturalism

Naturalistic Paganism is a form of Religious or Spiritual Naturalism. A “naturalistic” religion or spirituality is one which seeks to explain the universe without resort to supernatural causes. For most Naturalistic Pagans, “naturalistic” is more or less synonymous with “scientific.” In general, Naturalistic Pagans adopt the most current scientific explanations of natural phenomena and are skeptical of any claims that are not supported by mainstream science. Thus, Naturalistic Pagans are skeptical about things like magic, psychic abilities, communication with spirit entities, attributing intention to inanimate nature, etc. — beliefs that many other Pagans are comfortable with.

To the extent that Naturalistic Pagans speak about “magic” or “gods”, we tend to use these words differently than other Pagans. For example, Naturalistic Pagans may understand “magic” as a kind of psychological technique. Or we may understand “gods” as metaphors for natural phenomena, as psychological archetypes, or as symbols for all that is beyond human control (Brendan Myers uses the term “Immensities”). For example, a Naturalistic Pagan may offer a prayer to the Egyptian god Ra or the Greek god Prometheus, seeing them, not as literal personalities, but as metaphors for the life-sustaining power of the Sun or the human drive to discover.

Just as Religious Humanism posits that human experience and reason are sufficient basis for ethical action, so Religious Naturalism posits that the scientific understanding of the material universe is a sufficient basis for the awe and reverence which motivate religious worship. As Carl Sagan has written:

“In some respects, science has far surpassed religion in delivering awe. How is it that hardly any major religion has looked at science and concluded, ‘This is better than we thought! The Universe is much bigger than our prophets said, grander, more subtle, more elegant?’ Instead they say, ‘No, no, no! My god is a little god, and I want him to stay that way.’ A religion, old or new, that stressed the magnificence of the Universe as revealed by contemporary science might be able to draw forth reserves of reverence and awe hardly tapped by the conventional faiths. Sooner or later such a religion will emerge” (Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space).

Similarly Alan Watts has written, “Science has given to our age a most impressive view of this universe, and this demands an equivalently wonderful and splendid conception of God together with an appropriate manner of worship” (Behold the Spirit). Naturalistic Paganism aims to be just such a religion by providing this “larger” conception of the divine along with an appropriate manner of worship.

14 Comments on “Religious Naturalism

  1. Pingback: Chasing destiny : running from autonomy - Heart Story

  2. After searching all my life (I’m 51), I have finally found my religion!

  3. Fascinating. I’ve always found Wicca and other pagan faiths to be interesting, intoxicating, even. However, I’ve always been an exceedingly skeptical person, and always demand empirical evidence to justify things.

    That said, I’ve studied several psychology courses, and I know religion to have some considerable mental benefits. Doing religious rituals of sorts as a channel to bring about mental changes in one’s self for the psychological benefit actually rationalizes why they are beneficial in a way that can be scientifically proven.

    Very interesting and has given me something to contemplate. I always take for granted that humanist and agnostic thought is deeply ingrained into my belief system, but I never considered to expand upon it. Thanks for the read!

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  7. It feels like Home. The Universe is my Deity , Science my Philosophy, Art my Rite and Compassion my Religion. I belong to the Elements and I´m full of Reverence and Gratitude. I feel in the Unity of Opposites.Matter matters.
    Greetings from Abya Yala.

    • Beautifully written. I deeply appreciate your sentiments. ❤

  8. I see spells, magic, and supernatural as more psychological aids and physical phenomena that we are lacking an explanation for. This really clicked after read about Fey children and autism. As an example I’ll use ghosts, I don’t believe in ghosts per say but I do believe people are seeing something. But most people don’t know how we see and how the information is passed from the eye to the brain. (And why isn’t there cavemen ghosts? Can I stake out Lascaux just to make sure?) But yet, I’ve had my own experiences that still make me ask is there something else out there. I believe in nature and I like rituals and ancestors.

    • In my opinion for example it is noted that the cavemen, neanderthal, troglodytes, anthrophicus, where not humans so effectively expecting a ghost of them is like expecting a doll to have a present soul, I do think that the age old questions of whether or not there is a religion or a God is now approved agree to differ, I am presently looking at Carl Gustav Jung who looks at Spirituality, God and religion through an empirical understanding and thus eliminating his need to find proof or validation and being a believer myself I would be the sceptic to your point I will further address.

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  11. As a Pagan artist on a new path I have been searching for a definition of what I do. I find spiritual inspiration and guidance in myth, Gods and Goddesses, but I dont worship or follow a specific entity, group or religion. I dont believe in specific gods/goddesses, but I know and respect what they do and have done for others. I also approach magic and many neo-pagan rituals with extreme personal skepticism, but I understand what those practices do for those who believe.

    I believe in living honestly, in peace, and in harmony with my family and the earth. After reading the articles on this site, I believe I have found the definition of my spiritual path through art. Thank you for being here!


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