Why is Naturalism Radical?
One of the hottest points of contention between Atheopagans and both theists and hard-antitheist atheists has to do with naturalism. Naturalism is a philosophical position which holds that there is nothing which is not of the physical Universe: that there is nothing which is supernatural, and that such claimed supernatural phenomena as gods, spirits, souls, ghosts, and magic are fictitious.
Theists dispute this out of hand, of course. It makes sense that nontheist Pagans have friction with theists over this point.
But adamant antitheists like David Dennett and Richard Dawkins have conflict with it, too–because they insist that if you are a naturalistic tradition, you’re not really a religion.
This is frankly silly. The only reason that we assume you must believe in the supernatural in order to be religious is because our society unthinkingly adopts the paradigm of religious traditions for whom Belief is a Big Big Deal.
Think about it. If you were going to create a religion today*, there is no way you would start from the standpoint that much of what science tells us is untrue and that instead, fantastical and completely unverifiable anecdotes are the true accounting of the nature of the Universe.
The only reason such anecdotes and beliefs are sewn into the fabric of Bronze Age religions is because they didn’t know any better back then. They were grasping for answers and they made up stories to fit their cultural values and what little they could verify for themselves.
Clearly, cultural inertia is a thing.
I grow frustrated with the likes of Dawkins and Dennett because their arguments against Religion writ large are always REALLY arguments against supernaturalism.
But religion doesn’t have to be supernaturalistic. So their arguments “against religion”—entire books’ worth—come down to straw man fallacies.
Why is it considered so wild an idea that religion need not contain a supernatural component? The only answer I have is that it is because the religions we see around us have not been doing it that way. For centuries.
The insistence that Belief in that which requires Faith is a necessary prerequisite for a religious tradition is basically a monotheistic holdover from the Abrahamic religions, in my opinion. We’ve been steeping in the assumptions of the Judeo-Christian worldview for so long we can’t even see how they have stained us.
Religion isn’t just what you believe about the Universe. It’s also about your values, and your morals, and your religious practices and observances.
And that really isn’t such a radical idea.
*And if you’re an Atheopagan, you actually are, by the way.