“God” for Religious Naturalists

Earthseed is a naturalistic religion, which means we don’t believe in a supernatural or personal God.  And yet, the Book of the Living uses theistic language, i.e., i.e., “God is Change.”  This can be confusing to both theists and other Religious Naturalists.  Some might say that we should “say what we mean” and avoid theistic language altogether.

However, to surrender all theistic language to literalist demands is to throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater. Both the heart and the head need to be satisfied. In religion, the evocative power of language is at least as important, if not more, than semantic precision. As Humanistic Pagan, B. T. Newberg, explains,

“The imagination must be captivated and transformed by a vision, not of what one is not, but of what one is or could be. This missing element may be embodied in symbols that remind, invite, and inspire. The individual must be able to interact imaginatively with the symbols in ritual or meditation, and fill them up as it were with experience and affect. At that point, when they are charged with personal meaning and emotion, they may become powerful motivators of thought and behavior. They radiate the power to transform.”

The word “God”” is embedded in a complex web of cultural associations. This is precisely why many Religious Naturalist discard theistic language — especially when those associations are negative.

But it is also a good reason for retaining “god talk”. Such language is laden with emotional resonance and has unique potential to evoke powerful emotions of a special character. Because the word “God” lacks an objective referent, it is like a container that can be filled with many different meanings. Whatever goes in the container takes on the qualities associated with the word, including a sense of sacredness, a relationship to what is of “ultimate concern” (Paul Tillich), and moral power. For Earthseed, the “God container” is filled by Change.

∞ = Δ

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