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Reason and Reverence

Reason and Reverence

Religious Humanism for the 21st Century

This new vision of religious humanism invokes compassion, spirituality and a language of reverence while grounded in reason, community, social responsibility, science and ethics.

Editor: William R. Murry

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Answering the critics who find humanism lacking the power to inspire, Murry brings a new vision of religious humanism--one that evokes compassion, spirituality and a language of reverence-while grounded in reason, community, social responsibility, science and ethics. Along with an accessible account of humanism?s historical development, theological challenges and future directions, on these pages readers will discover a more open and inclusive humanism, one that speaks to the heart as well as the mind.
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Foreword by David Bumbaugh

Introduction

Why I Am a Religious Humanist

The Religious Dimension

A Short History

Changes and Challenges

Anchored in Nature

Human Nature and Destiny

The Responsible Search for Truth

Growing a Soul

Can We Be Good Without God?

The Ethics of Humanistic Religious Naturalism

A Religion for the Future

Religious naturalism is a perspective that finds religious meaning in the natural world and rejects the notion of a supernatural realm. It has a long tradition dating back at least to the philosopher Spinoza. In recent years, religious naturalism has been enjoying a resurgence. Most religious naturalists are theists who understand God as belonging to the natural universe rather than as a supernatural deity. This book describes a non-theistic form, a perspective that I call humanistic religious naturalism. In one sense, this would seem to be no different from traditional religious humanism, which rejects the supernatural and maintains that there is only one reality, the natural universe. However, traditional humanism has historically been too anthropocentric; whereas for humanistic religious naturalism, nature rather than humankind is ultimate. This lays the foundation for a strong environmental ethic, a necessity in a world threatened by environmental destruction. Further, integrating religious humanism with religious naturalism results in a greater spiritual depth and a language of reverence, both of which many find missing in traditional religious humanism. This emergent form of humanism also provides a meaningful story, the epic of evolution. The differences with traditional religious humanism may seem subtle, but they provide a foundation for a more open and inclusive humanism that speaks to the heart and the soul, not just the intellect.

At the same time, naturalism is not a sufficient source of religious meaning because nature is morally neutral or simply amoral. Its only value would seem to be creativity. Nature has produced what we perceive as the magnificence of the universe. Through evolution it created humankind, who in turn developed moral principles. But nature's rain falls on the just and the unjust. Disease and death afflict everyone, regardless of character. Nature knows nothing of justice, love, kindness, or generosity. Human-ism, with its conviction of the dignity and value of all humans and all that follows from this principle, provides the values that naturalism lacks.

"Though Murry challenges traditional humanism, he seeks not to abandon it but to revivify it. Be we humanists or not, this is a book that all who care about liberal theology, to say nothing of the future of Unitarian Universalism, need to absorb and wrestle with."

—William F. Schulz, executive director, Amnesty International USA, 1994-2006; UUA president, 1985-1993

"Reason and Reverence is an invaluable resource for those wishing to explore new visions for contemporary religious humanism. Informed by the latest scholarship, Murry presents an accessible account of humanism's historical development, theological challenges and future directions. An excellent choice for all who want to expand and deepen their understanding of non-theistic liberal religious alternatives."

—Rev. Dr. Carol Hepokoski, minister, First Unitarian Universalist Church, Rochester, Minnesota

"Reason and Reverence is one of the best systematic affirmations of humanism as a way of life since Corliss Lamont's The Philosophy of Humanism. It updates humanism by responding to black humanists, feminists and the ecocrisis. Murry answers critics of humanism by addressing reason, science, feelings, evil, ethics and death, anchoring humanism in a scientifically based religious naturalism, showing that humanism is not a big, bad boogeyman."

—Jerome A. Stone, adjunct faculty, Meadville Lombard Theological School

"An essential resource for all who want to understand the rich heritage and unfolding possibilities of religious humanism for living fully in a complex world with wonder, honesty and hope."

—Dr. Sharon D. Welch, chair and professor of religious studies, University of Missouri-Columbia

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