earthFromSpaceThe Religious Naturalist Association or RNA (pun intended) was incorporated in August 2014. Its goal is to bring together persons from around the world who self-describe as religious naturalists and to introduce this concept to those unfamiliar with it. This website will serve as a resource for writings and dialogue on the religious-naturalist orientation, where it is hoped that additional projects and activities will emerge over time.  Clarifications as to what is meant by a religious naturalist orientation are offered below.

Information on the group is at the About RNApage (right-side menu).

Information on membership, which is free, is at the Join RNA  page.

What is the common understanding of being religious?
Most traditional religions have a core narrative (a mythos, a large story), usually recorded in texts or oral accounts. Interpretations of each account are embedded in the mythos and elaborated by clergy, spiritual responses to the account are elicited via art and ceremonies, and moral/ethical edicts are built into the fabric of the narrative. A person adopting a traditional religion elects to believe in the mythos and its embedded interpretive, spiritual, and moral/ethical parameters and usually participates in a community of fellow believers.

Who is a naturalist?
Scientific inquiry has provisioned us with a mind-boggling new core narrative  — the epic of evolution, the epic of creation, the universe story, big history, everybody’s story — where humans and human cultures are understood to be emergent from and hence a part of Nature. Naturalists adopt this account as their core narrative, with full recognition that these understandings will certainly deepen and may shift with further scientific inquiry. They adopt the story currently on offer and do not simply select features of the story that support preferred theories of Nature.

Who is a religious naturalist?
A religious naturalist is a naturalist who has adopted the Epic as a core narrative and goes on to explore its religious potential, developing interpretive, spiritual, and moral/ethical responses to the story. Importantly, these responses are not front-loaded into the story as they are in the traditions. Therefore, the religious naturalist engages in a process, both individually and in the company of fellow explorers, to discover and experience them. These explorations are informed and guided by the mindful understandings inherent in our human traditions, including art, literature, philosophy, and the religions of the world.

RNA newsletter – March, 2015

Dear Members of Religious Naturalist Association,

RNA membership has continued to grow. And, with this, we’ve added to the descriptions of Members’ Projects, including books on Muir, Emerson, Thoreau and others by Chris Highland, natural preservation work by Carl Axelsen, websites by Geoff Crocker and Frank Jude Boccio, and (along with some other things) carving merry-go-round animals by Brent E. White.

The Facebook group has been very active. If you haven’t done so yet, you might want to check it out at https://www.facebook.com/groups/323349644530093/. If you’d like to join the group, you can click the “Join Group” button and, as soon as the request is processed, you can join in the conversation. Good questions are being asked and some interesting ideas are being given in response. And, as people have posted quotes and links to articles and websites, a lot of things worth exploring are being shared.

Along with the benefits of Facebook, we’re also hearing from members who don’t like that format, and are therefore launching (ta da!) a new forum at GoogleGroups, called RNAnet. If you prefer that platform for conversations, write an e-mail to Michael Cavanaugh (MichaelCav@aol.com) and he’ll tell you how to join. You can of course be on both forums if you wish.

The News and Events page includes listings for a number of talks about religious naturalism, plus some events that focus on music or nature. At the sister website, the new Featured Author is Loyal Rue.

That’s it for now. As always, when you see things of interest or want to share ideas, continue to post these at Facebook or send us a note at RNAcomments@gmail.com.

Ursula Goodenough, President
Religious Naturalist Association


RNA newsletter – February, 2015

Dear Members of Religious Naturalist Association,

What we three officers (Todd, Michael and I) think of ourselves as doing is trying to figure out what we ought to be doing. At first we spent some time on recruitment of new members, and we’ll do that again later, but right now we are enjoying seeing new members find us while we think about programs you may find interesting. (By the way, we are up to 246 members now, spread over 42 States and 16 countries, and we are confident there are thousands of us out there when we have time to find them – in the meantime please send your friends and associates our way. We’re fully aware that “spreading the word” is not for everyone; some find it awkward, or prefer to keep these things to themselves. But if some of you were able to direct, say, one person per month to the http://religious-naturalist-association.org site, that would make for the kind of steady long-term expansion we’re hoping for.)

The process of looking at options and activities for RNA has a trial and error component, and naturally it includes enhancements to the website. We’ve added some new links to things we think you’ll want to know about, including upcoming events – so go to the website at least once a month to see what’s happening. And of course, send your friends there.

Additionally, we are also tinkering with various “working groups,” and I encourage you to consider joining one of them. Our most successful group so far is the Facebook Group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/323349644530093/), which we highlighted last newsletter, but there are others either started or on the drawing board (see below). The Facebook Group has not only allowed us to share personal opinions and get to know one another better, but it allows for the posting of links that are VERY interesting to religious naturalists. One good example features Bertrand Russell’s ideas (http://www.brainpickings.org/2015/02/03/bertrand-russell-immortality-good-life/), and the Facebook discussion is also exciting because it showcases interesting things our own members are doing. So, if you know of links that think may be of interest to RNA members, post them at Facebook or let us know at rnacomments@gmail.com.

So now I want to turn to a major goal that we talk about a LOT, and that is the need for developing leaders to work on some of the projects we need to develop further. I can assure you that our 246 members include some awesome people with awesome experiences and abilities, but of course that means you are also busy, and may or may not have the time to give to RNA projects. However, for RNA to be active and able to share the types of talents group members have, it is crucial for at least some of you to find a project you want to work on. If you already let us know that when you joined, please remind us, since day-to-day challenges sometimes keep us from picking up on important clues when you join.

So what sorts of projects am I talking about? The ones we’ve talked about are myriad, and in some cases we’ve overtly decided to put them off until later. Usually we find ourselves saying “that would be a good idea, IF we find a leader or co-leaders to put it together.” Here are some of the ideas we are currently considering, with some notes to let you know our current thinking; in future newsletters we’ll talk about other possibilities.

  1. “Top Ten” groups. The idea here is that, for a number of topics related to religious naturalism, we could provide resources that would be available to anyone interested. This could include pages on the website with a list of “top ten” resources for clergy or philosophy professors, or poems with RN themes, or music, or books, or whatever.
  1. An additional listserv conversation besides Facebook. Some of our members just don’t like Facebook, and we are thinking we need one (or more) alternatives, perhaps focused on specific subjects like music, clergy interests, or religious naturalist ceremony. Those listserv discussions could also lead to website buildout pages.
  1. At least one “real world” project that we could support – some type of activity, such as encouraging explorations of nature (maybe including support for nature camps for children) that members could get enthusiastic about. We would love to hear any ideas you have.

Sorry for the length of the newsletter, but there are so many ideas, so little time . . .

Ursula Goodenough, President
Religious Naturalist Association

RNA newsletter – January, 2015

Greetings, again, to all members of RNA.

We are happy to announce the rollout of RNA’s presence on Facebook, thanks to the good work of our first-ever Working Group, chaired by Jane Altman Page. Members on the working group are James Slaven, Ken Macdonald, Peer Gebert, Sarah Ritcheson, and Frank Jude Boccio.  Though not in this order they are from Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, North Carolina, and Switzerland.

This is a significant development for several reasons, at least one of which may escape your attention but shouldn’t. Of course we want a Facebook presence, and of course we want a viable discussion forum (we will probably create others later). But this is our first “working group” which looks to be a major way we will operate as an association. Already another working group is active, creating a website section with Religious Naturalist Resources for philosophy classes. Other working groups are on the drawing board, and if YOU have ideas for such a group please write Michael Cavanaugh (RNAsecretary@ aol.com). And in the meantime THANKS Jane, James, Ken, Peer, Sarah, and Frank Jude. To join the Facebook page, click on this link or go to Facebook, click “Find New Groups” and enter “Religious Naturalist Association (RNA)”.

We’re off to a great start in 2015. We now have 230 members and the websites have been active. From October to the end of the year, we had more than 7,400 separate “visits” with more than 26,000 pages viewed at our two websites. Viewers came from more than 50 countries, including most of North and South America and Europe, China, India, and Japan, plus people from Malaysia, Rwanda, Qatar, Uganda, Belize, Kazakhstan, and Myanmar.

Some interesting items have been added to the Members’ Projects page, including an upcoming online symposium, “The Future Is Calling Us to Greatness”, hosted by Michael Dowd and Connie Barlow), a 3-way conversation with Loyal Rue on his book, “Nature is Enough”, plus music from Lane Tracy, a blog (ahhbeautiful) hosted by Jeff Nechleba, and graduate-level study in New Zealand by Marshall Lewis. All examine varied aspects of religious naturalism.

We added a page – News and Events — that identifies conferences, classes, talks, or other events that relate to religious naturalism. We expect that a number of others are worth highlighting so, if you know of any that may be of interest to RNA members, send a memo to let us know – at RNAcomments@gmail.com. We realize that very few of you will actually be able to participate, e.g. for geographic reasons, but the page will give you a sense of what’s happening and perhaps give you ideas of activities to sponsor in your own region.

Some new items are featured at our sister website, religiousnaturalism.org, including updated pages that look at Origins and Carl Sagan as featured author, and we call attention to an amazing video – the Sun (SDO, Year 3) — as seen with NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory.

Enjoy the lengthening days!

Ursula Goodenough
Religious Naturalist Association