Carl Sagan's book "The Varieties of Scientific Experience" (New York: Penguin, 2006) explains very well what Religious Naturalism is, although Carl has not identified himself or his religious view with this term. Religious Naturalism approaches religion and spirituality by the way of science. The words of Ann Druyan, Carl's wife and editor of the book, in "Editor's Introduction," are remarkably in-line with this position:
For Carl, Darwin's insight that life evolved over the eons through natural selection was not just better science than Genesis, it also afforded a deeper, more satisfying spiritual experience. (p. x)
He believed that the little we do know about nature suggests that we know even less about God. We had only just managed to get an inkling of the grandeur ofthe cosmos and its exquisite laws that guide the evolution of trillions if not infinite numbers of worlds. The newly acquired vision made the God who created the World seem hopelessly local and dated, bound to transparently human misconceptions and conceipts of the past. (p. x)
...he never understand why anyone wound want to separate science, which is just a way of searching for what is true, from what we hold sacred, which are those truths that inspire love and awe. (p. xi)
His argument was not with God but with those who believed that our understanding of the sacred had been completed. Science's premanently revolutionary conviction that the search for truth never ends seemed to him the only approach with sufficient humility to be worthy of the universe that it revealed. The methodology of science, with tis error-correcting mechanism for keeping us honest in spite of our chronic tendencies to project, to misunderstand, to deceive ourselves and others, seemed to him the height of spiritual discipline. If you are searching for sacred knowledge and not just a palliative for your fears, then you will train yourself to be a good skeptic. (p. xi)
The idea that the scientific method should be applied to the deepest of questions is frequently decried as "scientism." This charge is made by those who hold that religious beliefs whould be off-limits to scientific scrutiny---that beliefs (convictions without evidence that can be tested) are a sufficient way of knowing. Carl understood this feeling, but he insisted with Bertrand Russell that "what is wanted is not the will to believe, but the desire to find out, which is the exact opposite." (p. xi)
Until about five hundred years ago, there had been no such wall separating science and religion. Back then they were one and the same. It was only when a group of religious men who wished "to read God's mind" realized that science would be the most powerful means to do so that a wall was needed. These men---among them Galileo, Kepler, Newton, and, much later, Darwin---began to articulate and internalize the scientific method. Science took off for stars, and institutional religion, choosing to deny the new revelations, could do little more than build a protective wall around itself. (p. xi)
To him we were "starstuff pondering the stars; organized assemblages of 10 billion billion billion atoms considering the evolution of atoms; tracing the long journey by which, here at least, consciousness arose." For him science was, in part, a kind of "informed worship." (p. xiii)
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Alex from UUHK