Naturalistic pantheism

Naturalistic pantheism

Naturalistic pantheism (also called scientific pantheism) is a naturalistic form of pantheism that encompasses feelings of reverence and belonging towards nature and the wider universe, but is realist and embraces rationalism and the scientific method. It presupposes metaphysical naturalism and as such it affirms the nonexistence of supernatural realms, afterlives, beings or forces.[1]



Pantheism has a long history but the term "pantheistic" was first used in English John Toland to described the "opinion of those who believe in no other eternal being but the universe". [2]. Thus Toland was probably the first naturalistic pantheist. Naturalistic pantheism is a relatively modern term, probably first used in the pages and email forums of the World Pantheist Movement[3].

Naturalistic pantheists have included the 19th century German naturalist Ernst Haeckel[4] and the 20th century physicist Albert Einstein.[5]

The Roman Catholic Church has attacked pantheism repeatedly since the mid-19th century, but most recently its attacks have been on the naturalistic version of pantheism in the encyclical Caritas in Veritate of 2009[6] and the Pope's New Year's Day statement on January 1, 2010.[7]


The core of naturalistic pantheism is reverence and respect for nature and the wider universe, as progressively revealed by the scientific method and rational interpretations of sensory information. Thus naturalistic pantheism does not believe in any Creator-deity distinct from nature, but rather that nature itself is the self-originating source of all being. This implies that anything referenced to as God or Deity within naturalistic pantheism can equally well be associated with an impersonal physical process.

Some versions of naturalistic pantheism, including that of the World Pantheist Movement, embrace some notion of natural rights, concern themselves with the welfare of humans and all living beings, and promote care for the environment (see secular humanism); while others regard all human instincts and behaviors as part of the natural world, and thus do not adopt ethical and environmentalist attitudes (see amoralism or moral nihilism). "Morality" is not objective, but codes of conduct are drawn from the need to coexist in a society.[8]

Although naturalistic pantheism does not include belief in a personal afterlife, believers often promote ideas and even rituals to make the life and death process socially meaningful. These include the promotion of the ideas of genetic inheritance, persistence through memories and the results of actions. Additional solace is gained by the assertion that the matter which composes the human organism is neither created nor destroyed and is recycled into other forms upon death.[1]

Naturalistic pantheism and classical atheism

Since there is no deity of a personal nature in naturalistic pantheism, some argue that it is in essence atheistic. Differences from atheism mainly come from the emotional and esthetic responses to nature and the universe, rather than differences in the beliefs themselves[9]. Naturalistic pantheism is defined to be consistent with modern science, although science is purely a base and provides no moral interpretation.

It has been argued that the non-traditional God of pantheism is not God (according to the orthodox theistic definition)[10], suggesting that this form of pantheism is compatible with atheism. Many atheists choose the term "naturalistic pantheist" over "atheist" because it is a positive term describing what is affirmed and not a negative term describing what is denied.

Monist Physicalism

The key aspect of this form of pantheism is the rejection of idealism and dualism. This form of pantheism would be philosophically categorized as monist physicalist pantheism. It is believed that all phenomena are brought about through emergence from physical processes. This is a widely held belief among scientists.


The primary naturalistic/scientific pantheist organization is the World Pantheist Movement. The WPM website [11]defines Naturalistic Pantheism as having the following characteristics:

  • Reverence, awe, wonder and a feeling of belonging to Nature and the wider Universe.
  • Respect and active care for the rights of all humans and other living beings.
  • Celebration of our lives in our bodies on this beautiful earth as a joy and a privilege.
  • Realism - acceptance that the external world exists independently of human consciousness or perception.
  • Strong naturalism - without belief in supernatural realms, afterlives, beings or forces.
  • Respect for reason, evidence and the scientific method as our best ways of understanding nature and the Universe.

The widest known complete expression of Naturalistic Pantheism is the belief statement of the World Pantheist Movement [12] .

See also


  1. ^ a b World Pantheist Movement, Belief Statement
  2. ^ Toland: the father of modern pantheism
  3. ^ World Pantheist Movement Facebook Page
  4. ^ Haeckel's Monism
  5. ^ Einstein, pantheist
  6. ^ Caritas In Veritate, July 7, 2009
  7. ^ Message Of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI For The Celebration Of The World Day Of Peace [1]
  8. ^ Sam Harris, "Science can answer moral questions" Recorded at TED2010, February 2010 in Long Beach, CA. Duration: 23:07
  9. ^ Pantheism as Sexed-up Atheism
  10. ^ Dawkins, R (2006), The God Delusion, Transworld, a Black Swan Book, ISBN 978-0-552-77331-7  “Pantheism is sexed-up atheism”
  11. ^ World Pantheist Movement website
  12. ^ World Pantheist Movement Belief Statement

External links

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