A hot summer's day spin out into the fens, a few photos and a thought about religious naturalism

Another very hot day but I felt the need to get out on the bicycle so thought I'd head north along the River Cam to Waterbeach and beyond (on the other side of the river from Upware) to sit in the shade of a favourite willow tree, drink some tea, eat a banana and read some more of Jerome A. Stone's splendid new book "Sacred Nature: The Environmental Potential of Religious Naturalism."

To accompany the photographs here are Stone's opening three paragraphs of chapter one. As in an earlier post I cite them both to encourage some of my readers to think about getting the book and because they express well my own basic religious/philosophical position.

Before quoting them I should, for clarity's sake, add that later on in the same chapter (p.2) he makes it clear that "religious naturalism is a guess", what Stone calls "a surmise." By this he means that through his book he is simply trying to "make a case for it" and, in the end, it is simply "an insight that makes sense" for him and others. As he says, as a surmise it is "not a scientific theory" even though he attempts to let the position be "informed by the best scientific thinking."

Religious naturalism is a philosophy of life that points out how to lead a robust religious (or spiritual) life while believing that the natural world, including humans, is all there is. Religious naturalism claims that you can be religious (or spiritual) without: 1) belief in a God who is different from the rest of the world, 2) without looking for a heaven (and maybe hell) after this life, and 3) without believing that there is a special eternal part of people (their souls), which survives this life. In other words, religious naturalism is the attempt to lead a religious or spiritual life without the traditional belief in God, afterlife, and a soul. 

Naturalists believe that this world, this universe, is all there is. The meaning of life is to be found in relating to this world, not to a God and heaven apart from this world. Nature, including humans and their civilizations, is all there is. That is what naturalism means. Religious naturalism is an attempt to lead a religious life as a naturalist. 

Explaining what constitutes a religious or spiritual life is a large and body contested topic. Here is my working definition of religion. It is a tentative definition, subject to revision. Religion is our attempt to make sense of our lives and to act appropriately within the total scheme of things. In other words, religion is an effort to orientate ourselves to the big picture (p. 1).

All photos taken with my iPhone6+ using the Hipstamatic App. Just click on a photo to enlarge it.

The Pashley Guv'nor, my chosen steed for the ride

The willow tree in whose shade I read and drank tea
Looking across the river to Upware

The reflected sky upstream at Bottisham Sluice
Bubbles downstream at Bottisham Sluice 
The River Cam at the Green Dragon Bridge on the way home