Thanks to a comment by Alex on a recent post about the wonders of the universe, I learned about Religious Naturalism -- which I wasn't very familiar with before. (Alex is with the Unitarian Universalists Hong Kong, UUHK.)
May I introduce the philosophical/religious position which explores the religious depth (feelings of wonder, awe, inspiration, reverence, and humility; and contemplation of life and death) of the Universe as understood by science: Religious Naturalism
In my opinion, your article is a wonderful exposition of Religious Naturalism (if you don't mind being so described).
No, Alex, I don't mind. Browsing through the links you shared, I felt quite comfortable with this philosophy.
Some questions in the FAQs of ReligiousNaturalism.org cleared up one perplexity. If I believe in the natural world, but not in a supernatural realm, why would it be desirable for me to preface my philosophy of life, natualism, with "religious"? I sort of agree with the answers, but not entirely.
What makes a religious naturalist religious?
Our attitudes makes us religious. Being religious is not about rituals and churches, but about how we feel and address our philosophy of life. Theologian Loyal Rue expresses this well in his book (Religion is not about God), where religion is depicted as an attitude toward life (see our book store). Most naturalistic groups do not express the importance of this attitude as strongly as we do. For more see Goals of RN - Spirituality.
Why use the word religious when it carries so much baggage for so many people?
The Latin root of legere (as in ligament) means "to bind together", and thus religion is a fine word to describe the holding together of the components that make up a personal philosophy and way of life.
Interpretive religious responses also address the big questions asked by humans such as : Why is there anything at all rather than nothing? Where did everything come from? Does the universe/my life have a purpose? How do I think about death?.?
Well, I still wondered about that "religious" word. I don't want to be associated with it, though I do resonate with some of the feelings often associated with a belief in God: awe, wonder, reverence, gratitude.
I just direct those feelings toward the seemingly impersonal universe rather than a personal divinity. Looking up at the sky on a crisp, clear, moonless Oregon night, my sensations probably bear more than a little resemblance to how a religious believer feels while worshipping.
So parts of an essay by Jerome A. Stone, "What is Religious Naturalism?", spoke to me. Clicking on the link shared by Alex, I read on page 5:
Gradually I have developed a technical theory of sacredness. It goes something like this. The word "sacred" is a word we use to describe events, things, processes which are of overriding importance and yet are not under our control or within our power to manipulate. In this sense these four events and others are sacred. But there are further twists.
The stance for living which flows from this emphasis on the sacred is essentially that of openness, of readiness for the appearance of sacred events. Disciplined preparation and loyal commitment to the sacred are called for but need to be balanced by a recognition that the sacred is essentially unmanipulable. Thus Confucian focusing of heart and mind needs to be balanced by a Taoist openness to the spontaneous play of the sacred.
This is one of the events Stone mentioned -- not exactly the usual sort of religious sacredness.
One summer evening walking in a park after dinner my wife and I heard a presence just over our heads and looked up just in time to see a kestrel catch a junco in midair and carry it in its bloody claws to eat on a nearby telephone pole. It gave us both a thrill at the excellence of the hunter and a vivid realization that this struggle so close to us was yet quite other than our concerns.
Science can take us a long ways. Still, only so far. Facts are one thing, meanings another. There are objective realities and subjective apprehensions of them.
I've got little problem with religion so long as it respects scientific discoveries instead of trying to usurp them. If your theology can comfortably mesh with big bang cosmology and evolutionary biology, go for it. Whatever turns you on.
Religious Naturalism strikes me as being the icing on a scientific cake. Some people may enjoy the cake just fine without any topping. For others, though, an additional delicious taste of quasi-religious Wow! will be more appealing.