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Spiritual Atheism

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In summary, SPIRITUAL ATHEISTS are people who are:
    • Spiritual Atheists do not believe in the existence of an entity external to the universe that supposedly created and rules the universe.

    • Spiritual Atheists believe that the entire universe is, in some way, connected; even if only by the mysterious flow of cause and effect at every scale. Therefore, Spiritual Atheists generally feel that as they go about their lives striving to be personally healthy and happy, they should also be striving to help the world around them be healthy and happy! ("Wholistic Ethics")

Please note: The goal of the Spiritual Atheism project is not to provide a specific spiritual philosophy (that is your own responsibility); but, rather, to unify all Spiritual Atheists, regardless of their particular philosophies and points of view.


This is something that we ought to go ahead discuss for all of the lurking eyes that may browse the spirituality section. It's worthy of noting that supernaturalism has no corner on spirituality. In fact there are naturalistic oriented alternatives to supernaturalism, in case someone may not be aware of it. In the link at the top of the post is an informative entry on the topic. 


On the other thread I've started, several people inquired about spirituality and what is considered "spiritual." Now I've long been a member of www.pantheism.net and the world pantheism movement. That qualifies as one of the specific spiritual philosophies that is encompassed by Spiritual Atheism. 


What that means to me is that I know that the Bible and all other traditional spiritual texts and writings are the work of mythology. They are clearly not literal nor are they to be taken as such, from this perspective. And that has kept me from jumping from one religion to another. Pantheism is philosophical, not so much religious. But it is a spiritual belief - that the universe is an interconnected whole, interdependent and so on. There's some positive belief involved.


God is not taken to mean anything literal, aside from just the existence of everything. The earth, the universe and whatever natural existence extends beyond our range of perception. There's no supernatural transcendent. Transcending the universe is something that only makes sense along side of a progressive cosmological model, the multiverse, eternal cosmos ideas, etc. To transcend the natural is to simply encounter more of the natural. 


But our inherent spiritual feelings as human beings are not suppressed at all. We simply understand that they arise from a sense of interconnectedness. The supernaturalists, in my view, misinterpret these intuitive feelings by thinking that mythology (from where supernaturalist ideas arise) is literally true, and that these spiritual feelings of interconnectedness are somehow proof that a supreme being or deity must really exist. I maintain that all of what people are grasping at by grasping at supernatural ideas can be easily solved with a naturalistic approach. And this is a facet of Spiritual Atheism.


This is my own personal spiritual expression alternative to Christianity. 

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"Long agoPantheism overspread the world. Yet contemporary reference books contain scant mention of the religion. How could a once universal faith go so little recognized today? And how could Pantheism go worldwide again tomorrow? 

Scholars conjecture that a sense of divinity in Nature co-evolved with the first emergence of human consciousness, perhaps 100,000 years ago. The earliest god was Nature. "As far back as we are able to look into the past," says historian Colin Wilson, "human beings seem to have worshipped nature, and connected it to a higher spiritual reality, which they called god or the divine."   Such pantheistic intuition predates all known religions of recorded history and probably prevailed for many thousands of years.

Gradually humans elaborated on the sense of an immanent creative force in Nature. They invested individual natural features like mountains, trees, and thunder with divinity, which led to polytheism. Later still, monotheism supplanted natural divinities with a single supernatural entity above and beyond Nature. Nature became profane. Revering the Earth became a heathen heresy. Monotheism effectively demonized Pantheism in the Middle Ages and, to this day, Pantheism retains a residual stigma of orthodox opprobrium that helps to explain its infrequent recognition. 

The rise of scientific inquiry brought Pantheism back to life. In the 19th century, Science reduced everything to material elements working through ascertainable natural laws. However, modern science has found that all matter consists of incredible vibrating energy. From quarks to quasars, science reveals a Universe infinitely more wondrous and mysterious than any supernatural world envisioned by Man. By reestablishing the natural world as the preeminent source of awe and wonder, and by disclosing the myriad miracles of existence, science rekindles reverence for life and being. The idea of god as ‘Nature and its creative forces’ dovetails with the latest scientific discoveries. The synergy between science and Pantheism bodes well for the future of Pantheism.....


Pantheistic ideas have also expanded into popular culture. Gallup reports ever-growing numbers of people engaged in "an intensive spiritual search and a continuing desire for inward and spiritual growth."  Web sites, song lyrics, and self help books strive to recapture a sense of the sacred that is currently missing in many lives. National bestsellers like Hymns To An Unknown God and Spiritual Literacy strum several pantheistic chords. 

As the bedrock religion of humanity, Pantheism could be bulldozed, but not banished, by later world religions. Eastern faiths including Hinduism, Buddhism, and Taoism retained thin layers of Pantheism and they never abandoned a sense of unity with Nature. Early Christianity contained outcrops of Pantheism; Saint Francis of Assisi celebrated the natural world and kinship with all life......

The persistence of Pantheism springs from its deep-seated connection to the human heart and mind. Pantheism is a part of human nature, the natural religious disposition of humankind. As Christian writer Robert Burrows acknowledges: 

"The religious options open to humanity are limited: We can believe in no God and be atheists. We can believe in one God and be theists. Or we can believe that all is God and be pantheists. Of these three, pantheism has been humanity’s major preoccupation throughout history... because, as C.S. Lewis observed, "it is an attitude into which the human mind automatically falls when left to itself." 

Actually, Pantheism is an attitude into which the human mind automatically soars when left to itself, and more people than ever are spreading their pantheistic wings to fly.


Copyright © 1999 Gary Suttle


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Towards a naturalistic spirituality


Strong Naturalism is at the heart of World Pantheism’s outlook which we call Naturalistic Pantheism or Scientific Pantheism. World Pantheism offers a completely naturalistic spirituality. We direct our deepest feelings towards Nature, just as it is presented to us by our senses and explored by science. Nature alone is powerful, beautiful and mysterious enough to be the object of our deepest reverence, and Nature provides us with realistic ways of coping with stress, anxiety and bereavement.


Our forms of celebration are also completely naturalistic, focused on this life on this earth, not on supernatural realms or beings. They may involve nature hikes and appreciation of natural objects and photographs; natural sports such as surfing, skiing, mountaineering or whitewater rafting; or simply the quiet contemplation of nature. Some pantheists enjoy symbolic rituals but these are done for fun or self-expression, not because we think we can control the elements and magically manipulate natural laws.

Natural death


Part of naturalistic spirituality is an acceptance of natural death as the end of the separate individual person. The only forms of “afterlife” are natural ones such as the persistence of our creations, actions, memories and genes, and the recycling of our elements into new living forms.

Natural death also involves nature-friendly funerals, such as burials in woodlands or orchards using biodegradable materials and without embalming.

How the WPM differs from other naturalistic organizations


Most atheist and humanist organizations have a strong naturalistic point of view, and we agree with them fully on this. Like them, we have no belief in a thinking, creator or personal God. Like them we believe that humans are the source of human ethical codes.

We add to humanism and atheism a strong affirmation of this life, in these our bodies, on this our beautiful planet. This is the only life and the only paradise we will ever know, so we had better take good care of them. We also believe that there are naturalistic ways to satisfy those needs that traditional religions target – for community, purpose, therapy, remedies for grief and fear of death.


There are organizations where Naturalism occupies a more explicit place. The Center for Naturalism embodies the strong version of Naturalism, as does the WPM. However, the Center for Naturalism places a very strong emphasis on the denial of free will and personal responsibility. The WPM recognizes that some strict naturalists believe in determinism. Others, equally strict, believe in free will. The WPM does not have a position on this question. Determinism is not a necessary deduction from  strong Naturalism. There are eminent naturalistic thinkers who believe in free will – such as Daniel Dennett.  Determinism has also been associated with theistic religions, and there have been many Christian determinists such as Luther and Calvin and even St Paul.


The Religious Naturalism email lists at Yahoo and the Institute for Religion in an Age of Science (IRAS) operate with the weak version of Naturalism – in which the natural world is considered as being ruled by natural law, but without excluding the possibility that there is a creator deity. Catering for theists as well as atheists, the Religious Naturalist lists allow for “traditional religious beliefs that nature itself rests in ultimacy and is the object of divine concern.” In other words, Religious Naturalism (at least as practiced in the two main forums with that title) can embrace Panentheism and Deism as well as Pantheism.

It’s also possible to conceive of a different approach to Religious Naturalism – one that follows the strong version of Naturalism. The WPM’s Naturalistic Pantheism can be considered as the most explicit home for that tendency.


At the WPM we consider a personal, creator or thinking God as a supernatural idea, incompatible with strong Naturalism. Indeed a creator God is the most supernatural entity one could possibly conceive of. Even if this God disappears after the moment of creation, leaving Nature to proceed by natural laws (as Deism believes), it’s still the supernatural first cause of everything that exists. About one third of WPM members and friends use the word God – but they use it to denote their own deep feelings of reverence towards Nature and the wider Universe, not to indicate belief in anything supernatural.

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