In an age when science is regarded as the best method to learn about reality, the most suitable comprehensive approach to life (i.e., religious stance) is the one which is based on Nature as understood by science. That is Religious Naturalism. The following Minimal Statement defines Religious Naturalism for us.
More on Religious Naturalism:
Religious Naturalism: www.religiousnaturalism.org
Religious Naturalism blog: www.sacredriver.org (see "Spiritual Practice" for real-life practice)
UU Religious Naturalists: www.uurn.org
Minimal Statement on Religious Naturalism
Religious Naturalism is a spiritual and philosophical orientation arising from profound responses to the wonder and mystery of Nature and its emergent manifestations in human creativity and culture. Its views of Nature are embodied in the Epic of Evolution and informed by scientific inquiry, without reference to supernatural explanations. It emphasizes reverence and gratitude for Nature and a deep regard for all life; it recognizes the imperative of planetary sustainability. It supports efforts that honor ecological and cultural diversity, that promote social justice and free inquiry, and that create a more compassionate, rational world where humans and non-humans alike can thrive.
宗教自然主義博客： www.sacredriver.org （關於實修，可閱 "Spiritual Practice" 頁）
UU 宗教自然主義者： www.uurn.org
（譯自 www.rnstatement.com ）
My wife is expecting a baby boy on 8 Febuary 2010. So I must brush up my baby-rearing skills. A great source of information for nurturing a young baby's potential is The Institutes for the Achievement of Human Potential in Philadelphia. The Institutes have been serving brain-injured children since 1955. Their experience eventually resulted in a series of books and materials for enhancing normal children's brain growth. I am reading the Institutes’ founder Glenn Doman's "How Smart is Your Baby?" which is essentially a guide to enriching a baby's first year of life. Surprisingly, a passage of the book touches on the philosophical debate between physicalism and idealism* regarding the nature of the mind. The book clearly favours physicalism. Page 21 of the book reads:
"It is very important to remember that when we speak of the human brain we are speaking of that physical organ that occupies the skull and the spinal column and weighs three to four pounds.
"We are not speaking of that nebulous thing called 'the mind.' The confusion between the organ called 'the brain' and the idea called 'the mind' has created problems in the past.
"The mind has defied any agreed upon definition of what it is or what it is not. The brain, however, is material. It is easier to study. We can see it, feel it, and smell it. We can even taste it if we are inclined to do so.
"The brain is a nice, clean orderly organ whose job is to take in data and process that data in such a way that its owner can relate to his environment appropriately at all times."
Here, the idea is simple. "Mind" is vague and cannot be defined clearly. We are simply unable to study it. The brain, on the other hand, is something which we are able to study. For something that cannot be defined and we are unable to study, like "mind" and "God," all we can do is to remain silent. Only for something that we are able to understand, like all physical entities, that we can study and obtain meaningful knowledge of them.
Ancient Chinese wisdom echoes here. Confucius said, "Respect ghosts and gods, and stay away from them." Also, "We know so little about this life, how can we know anything about after death?" Confucius teaches to be reserved and remain silent for vague and unknown things. Physicalism might not be the only explanation, but physicalism is the only explanation we can understand and handle. I am a physicalist because I am only able to understand the physicalist universe.
*Physicalists argue that only the entities postulated by physical theory exist, and that the mind will eventually be explained in terms of these entities as physical theory continues to evolve. Idealists maintain that the mind is all that exists and that the external world is either mental itself, or an illusion created by the mind.
The day is November 24, 2009.
From the HUUmanists email list:
Remember that today is a holy day to Humanists, Unitarian Universalists, and all others who hold sacred our rapidly increasing knowledge of our own precious human nature, and especially its relation to the rest of the universe. One hundred fifty years ago today, on November 24, 1859, Charles Darwin opened the gates of heaven with his publication of "On the Origin of Species by Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life," and suddenly a great light shone down upon us all. Our understanding of ourselves has grown rapidly ever since, is growing today, and will continue to grow forever. Humanity will never be the same again.
Amen and hallelujah!
Spinoza was born on this day in 1632.
Happy Birthday to you, Spinoza. Another reason for a Humanist celebration.
Spinoza is best known for his Ethics, a monumental work that presents an ethical vision unfolding out of a monistic metaphysics in which God and Nature are identified. God is no longer the transcendent creator of the universe who rules it via providence, but Nature itself, understood as an infinite, necessary, and fully deterministic system of which humans are a part. Humans find happiness only through a rational understanding of this system and their place within it.
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)
Symphony of Science – We Are All Connected
featuring Carl Sagan, Richard Feynman, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Bill Nye
A beautiful song synthesized from words of great popular scientists. This song reminds me of the beauty of Religious Naturalism—achieving spiritual depth from meditating on Nature herself as understood by science, without resorting to beliefs in the supernatural.
We are all connected;
To each other, biologically
To the earth, chemically
To the rest of the universe atomically
I think nature's imagination
Is so much greater than man's
She's never going to let us relax
We live in an in-between universe
Where things change all right
But according to patterns, rules,
Or as we call them, laws of nature
I'm this guy standing on a planet
Really I'm just a speck
Compared with a star, the planet is just another speck
To think about all of this
To think about the vast emptiness of space
There's billions and billions of stars
Billions and billions of specks
The beauty of a living thing is not the atoms that go into it
But the way those atoms are put together
The cosmos is also within us
We're made of star stuff
We are a way for the cosmos to know itself
Across the sea of space
The stars are other suns
We have traveled this way before
And there is much to be learned
I find it elevating and exhilarating
To discover that we live in a universe
Which permits the evolution of molecular machines
As intricate and subtle as we
I know that the molecules in my body are traceable
To phenomena in the cosmos
That makes me want to grab people in the street
And say, have you heard this??
(Richard Feynman on hand drums and chanting)
There's this tremendous mess
Of waves all over in space
Which is the light bouncing around the room
And going from one thing to the other
And it's all really there
But you gotta stop and think about it
About the complexity to really get the pleasure
And it's all really there
The inconceivable nature of nature
How do Religious Naturalists/Religious Humanists read the Bible and pray? 宗教自然主義者/宗教人文主義者如何讀《聖經》及祈禱？
How do Religious Naturalists read the Bible and pray? God = Nature
How do Religious Humanists read the Bible and pray? God = Love
I am turning from Christianity to Religious Naturalism and Religious Humanism. Naturalism believes that everything belongs to Nature as understood by science; Humanism believes that the final authority is in human. Both Naturalism and Humanism are non-theistic. The New Zealand Presbyterian theologian Lloyd Geering (whom our Progressive Christian Fellowship (PCF) is studying) points out that the term "God" is a symbol which has meaning only in the pre-scientific worldview: a personal highest being who has created and is taking care of the world, and loves human. Since Enlightenment, the Western worldview has drastically changed and now the Universe is understood to be impersonal, running according to physical laws. This causes the term "God" to lose its meaning for modern people.
I still go to Christian churches occasionally. Today, I go to my old church, an Anglican church. When the word "God" is uttered while reading the Bible or saying a prayer, I have difficulty in dealing with that word. Today, right during the worship, I figured out the following solution:
When a Religious Naturalist reads the Bible or says a prayer, when the term "God" is encountered, (s)he can replace it in his/her heart by the term "Nature." Then the integrity of intellectual conscience can be maintained. Naturalism understands the "God" of the Bible as follows. Human projects to an external being "God" his/her own feelings of praise, awe, and gratitude towards Nature. Human then personalizes "God" in order to make "Him" an appropriate subject for interpersonal relationship (a familiar mode of relationship since everyone's infancy) and worship (affirmation of worth).
When a Religious Humanist reads the Bible or says a prayer, when the term "God" is encountered, (s)he can replace it in his/her heart by the term "Love" or "benevolence." Then the integrity of intellectual conscience can be maintained. Humanism understands the "God" of the Bible as follows. Human projects to an external being "God" his/her own highest values and meaning of life. Human then personalizes "God" in order to make "Him" an appropriate subject for interpersonal relationship and worship. Christians often say that Jesus is "Son of God" or "God Incarnate." In fact, the core of Jesus is Love or benevolence. Jesus is really "Son of God' or "God Incarnate" in the sense that Jesus fully expresses Love in his life to the extent that Jesus is experienced as "Son of Love" or "Love Incarnate." "God is love" (1 Jn 4:8,16).
Which word to use, then? "Nature" or "Love"? Does this imply that Naturalism and Humanism are two conflicting theories, one worships Nature as God, the other worships Love as God? My present thought is that: In the realm of Nature, "God" symbolizes Nature; in the realm of human relationship, "God" symbolizes Love. I worship both Nature and Love.
Alex from UUHK