I came across the Spiritual Naturalism web site a few years ago, then blogged about it in "Spiritual Naturalism appeals to my churchless non-soul."
Their definitions of "naturalism" and "spirituality" rang true to me.
Naturalism is a view of the world that includes those things which we can observe or directly conclude from observations. Naturalists’ conception of reality consists of the natural world as outlined by the latest scientific understanding.
As for claims for which we have no evidence, we do not hold any beliefs in these and do not make any other claims about them. It is quite possible, even likely, that many things exist which we cannot detect, but we believe in a humble approach to knowledge. With humility, we can recognize that human beings are imperfect in their ability to know all things.
Therefore, we are careful to limit our claims about reality to what we can experience and measure, as well as reproduce and show to others. On all else, we are content to admit “we don’t know”.
Spirituality is the other word in Spiritual Naturalism. For many, the word ‘spirituality’ has an association with the supernatural. However, we mean the term in its more general and original sense.
The Latin root word spiritus meant ‘wind’ or ‘breath’, or the essence of something. As we might speak of the ‘spirit of the law’ or ‘school spirit’, the spiritual is that which is concerned with the essence of life – or the essential things in life.
Thus, a person with no sense of spirituality would be a person that lives on the surface, always dealing only with the shallow or the mundane; perhaps even a materialistic person. But to have spirituality is to be concerned with the larger, deeper, and essential matters of life and to apply ourselves consciously toward them in a committed practice or ‘walk’.
This includes, as Socrates put it, the ‘examined life’, and this is what we mean by spirituality.
Recently the Spiritual Naturalism folks contacted me, wondering if they could republish one of my blog posts. Naturally I said, "sure."
That led to a discussion about whether I'd like to write regularly for them. Again, I said, "sure."
So now, whoopee, I'm on the Contributing Writers page. I haven't contributed any original writing yet, but will do so in a few days.
Wanting to get a feel for what sorts of essays appear on the Spiritual Naturalism site, I did some clicking around.
Read the whole essay. It's well-written and thought-provoking. Here's an excerpt:
In common usage, the word agnostic is misused – at least compared to it’s technical meaning. Many people imagine agnosticism to (a) be about, or mainly about, God; and (b) to be some kind of intermediary on the spectrum between theism and atheism. It could be that people associating naturalism with atheism is why they then wonder if it is compatible with agnosticism. However, this is not an accurate understanding of agnosticism.
Agnosticism is not necessarily about belief in God, but about all beliefs in general. It is one’s approach to knowledge.
Gnosticism is the claim that knowledge can be inherent or come to us through means other than experience and evidence. Agnosticism is in opposition to this – it is the claim that knowledge can come only through experience and evidence. And, that without such evidence, we simply cannot know something.
So, if I am an agnostic, I will not claim to know how many coins are in your pocket, unless I have some prior evidence to give me an indication of that. Agnosticism is not a position on any given fact (gods or otherwise) but an approach or method for deciding when and how we know things (anything).
Agnosticism is also not on any kind of spectrum or position between atheism and theism.
To be clear, let’s begin with the root term – theism. Theism is not the belief that God is possible, or even very likely. Theism is the belief that God is real and exists. If one puts God in the same category as dogs, clouds, the sun, and cheeseburgers – all things that are a true part of reality – then they are a theist.
If one does not hold that belief, for any reason or for no reason, then they “lack theism” and are “a-thesitic” or an atheist. It doesn’t really matter if they hold some belief similar to or ‘almost’ like theism (such as ‘God is very possible’). If they don’t hold the belief that god/s exist, then they are not a theist and those who lack theism are atheists.