Spiritual naturalism, also called Religious Naturalism, is a path that finds deep inspiration in nature. It holds that modern science is the best way to understand nature, and that nature is worthy of the kind of awe and reverence traditionally reserved for God or gods.
Spiritual naturalism embraces modern science. The scientific method has made remarkable discoveries, revealing an orderly and breath-taking universe. It is the best way we have at present to discover our world. In light of this, adherents reject supernatural conceptions of “God,” “gods,” “spirits,” “magic,” and the like.
At the same time, they feel something like the feeling traditionally called “religious.” The universe revealed by science is not just orderly, but beautiful beyond comparison. From the wonder of the butterfly’s chrysalis to the terrible power of the black hole, the universe is awe-inspiring. Before it, one may feel the mysterium tremendum described by Rudolf Otto. Thus, the universe is worthy of being called divine. Without any supernaturalism, the universe that we can see and touch and feel is sacred.
These are the two core ideas of spiritual naturalism: science and spirituality. There is much variety among adherents about how exactly to work out the balance between them. Varieties generally fall into two groups: those who embrace religious language and practice, and those who do not.
Those who embrace traditional religious language, albeit under a naturalistic interpretation, include the various “humanistic” varieties of religions, such as Humanistic Judaism, Humanistic Buddhism, Christian Humanism, and Humanistic Paganism. Some forms of Pantheism may also fit in this category.
Those who reject all that smacks of traditional religion, and speak only of awe and reverence for nature, tend to go by terms like “spiritual naturalism,” “religious naturalism,” “spiritual humanism,” or “religious humanism.” Many emerging authors are bringing this perspective to life, such as Ursula Goodenough, Chet Raymo, Loyal Rue, Jerome Stone, Michael Hogue, and Donald Crosby.
That is a solid, if brief, overview of Spiritual Naturalism. Its two core ideas are embrace of modern science and an attitude of awe and reverence toward nature. While this does not do justice to the great variety and nuance of views, it provides a basic launching point from which to explore this exciting movement in spirituality.