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Spiritual Naturalism services

In Search of Peace (partial image)
In Search of Peace (partial image)
(cc) Madhavi Kuram (Bindaas Madhavi), Flickr.com

Are you aware that there are individuals in the world accumulating around the concept of a naturalistic spirituality? Here in Houston, I am hosting weekly services in spiritual naturalism, but I suspect I should outline what it is, as many might be unfamiliar with the term.

Spiritual naturalism is a form of spirituality for people without supernatural beliefs. It mines the many treasures of wisdom found throughout the religions, traditions, philosophies, and practices of history, and from East to West around the globe. These perspectives and principles which are compatible with a naturalistic view of the world are then put into practice to help the practitioner live well - to move closer toward a life of happiness and flourishing. As any good form of spirituality will, it touches both the intellectual and the emotional; both reason and compassion. It helps to provide meaning, purpose, and context to our lives.

As more people find they cannot say with certainty that the beliefs of their ancestors are their beliefs, what we are seeing is an unfortunate process whereby everything of ethical value and meaning and wondrous awe that had been attached to the supernatural, is being lost with those beliefs. But this was not always the case. In ancient times, the universe was seen by many as One integrated whole, operating by rational principles. There was a union between the natural and the sacred, and this is the rift that spiritual naturalism seeks to mend.

What of the word "spirituality"? First, the term spirit comes from the Latin word spiritus, which means 'wind or breath' - essentially the "essence" of something. As you might refer to the 'spirit of the law' you can also talk about the essence of something or the essential in life. Spirituality, then, need not refer only to the supernatural, but can also mean those things beyond the mundane which have deeper and more profound meaning than our simple material needs and shallow concerns. This includes developing our compassion, empathy, love, and a sacred approach to life, living our lives, and towards one another. Thus, the connotation of the word appropriately conveys the tone we're aiming for like few other words can.

And "naturalism"? Naturalism is a positive word focusing on what we do believe in, rather than what we don't. First and foremost it means our approach to knowledge is with humility. That is, through a humble approach to knowledge, we accept that human beings are imperfect in their ability to know things. As such, we are careful that our claims do not exceed what we can show and share with others to observe for themselves. Our views on matters of natural fact align with the rational and scientific approach, which means that we attempt to match our degree of belief in a claim to the degree of evidence we have for a claim. Significantly, we view this approach as a sacred, compassionate, and humble principle of our spirituality. This doesn't mean that things beyond the natural can't possibly exist - which we can't show that either. But it means that we are content to accept when we don't know.

Lastly, and most importantly, our aim is to practice what we say we value, and to let our example speak for itself. We are not interested in bashing those of other beliefs, but in loving, respecting, and working with all people in fellowship.

This is an attempt to explore and develop a rich and robust body of spiritual teachings, perspectives, and practices that will be compatible with the beliefs of modern naturalists and useful to them in achieving happier and more fulfilling lives.

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