I made the title of this a discussion a question and not a statement for a reason; I really don't understand why Naturalism hasn't become the default demographic descriptor for people of the same world-view as those that frequent the Atheist Nexus site (or any other similar site).

Whenever I am asked to give a single word description of world-view, if the choice is available, I chose Naturalism.  It best describes the lens that I look at the universe through.  But yet, most others with the nearly the exact same world-view that I have would pick either Atheist or Agnostic.  I really don't understand that.

Atheist- Lack of belief in gods.

Agnostic (used in the context that I most frequently encounter it) - Can never be 100% positive that there are no gods.

OK, I agree with both the Atheist and the Agnostic.  But so what?  I have known people that describe themselves as either Atheist and/or Agnostic and yet they believe the book "The Secret" has merit or that homeopathy is a reasonable way to treat disease.  So by knowing that I am an Atheist, you really don't much about me at all.  Why has that label become a banner and not Naturalism?

When I say I am a Naturalist, I actually describe a great a deal about myself:  I have reached a point in my life when I normally just disregard any supernatural explanation for a phenomenon, I believe the knowledge arts (science, mathematics, history, etc.) have reached a point where the consensus in those fields is the absolute closest thing to "Truth" we have (this is probabilistic), and  I'm even telling you that if you want to convince me of something, it had better based on evidence and logic. And yes that entails that I do not believe in G(g)od(s).

So, given that Naturalism is much better descriptor of who I am than Atheist, why do I keep having to check Atheist (not that I'm ashamed, I check it proudly) on demographic questions?


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I prefer the term naturalist also.

Bright is another term that didn't catch on.

I wonder if some become atheists because they wish to make a statement about rejecting something rather than embracing something.

Also I wonder how many atheists are familiar with the term naturalist?  And if they are familiar with the term - do they really know all that it implies?  I think that people shy away from identifying with a philosophical outlook - it's like subscribing to something - and atheists generally are trying to show that they are not subscribed to something.

Perhaps you'd like to do a survey on it?  Asking participants if they are familiar with the term - what they know - if they identify - if they don't and why? 

I love the term. I do believe it describes much more than atheist. I also use the term humanist myself to better describe me.

Worldview Naturalism in a Nutshell

If you don’t believe in anything supernatural – gods, ghosts, immaterial souls and spirits – then you subscribe to naturalism, the idea that nature is all there is. The reason you’re a naturalist is likely that, wanting not to be deceived, you put stock in empirical, evidence-based ways of justifying beliefs about what’s real, as for instance exemplified by science. You probably (and rightly) hold that such beliefs are usually more reliable and more objective than those based in uncorroborated intuition, revelation, religious authority or sacred texts. Kept honest by philosophy and critical thinking, science reveals a single manifold of existence, what we call nature, containing an untold myriad of interconnected phenomena, from quarks to quasars. Nature is simply what we have good reason to believe exists.

We can see, therefore, that naturalism as a metaphysical thesis is driven by a desire for a clear, reliable account of reality and how it works, a desire that generates an unflinching commitment to objectivity and explanatory transparency. Supernaturalism, on the other hand, thrives on non-scientific, non-empirical justifications for beliefs that allow us to project our hopes and fears onto the world, the opposite of objectivity. As naturalists, we might not always like what science reveals about ourselves or our situation, but that’s the psychological price of being what we might call cognitively responsible, of assuming our maturity as a species capable of representing reality.

To be a thorough-going naturalist is to accept yourself as an entirely natural phenomenon. Just as science shows no evidence for a supernatural god “up there”, there’s no evidence for an immaterial soul or mental agent “in here”, supervising the body and brain. So naturalism involves a good deal more than atheism or skepticism – it’s the recognition that we are full-fledged participants in the natural order and as such we play by nature’s rules. We aren’t exempt from the various law-like regularities science discovers at the physical, chemical, biological, psychological and behavioral levels. The naturalistic understanding and acceptance of our fully caused, interdependent nature is directly at odds with the widespread belief (even among many freethinkers) that human beings have supernatural, contra-causal free will, and so are in but not fully of this world.

The naturalist understands not only that we are not exceptions to natural laws, but that we don’t need to be in order to secure any central value (freedom, human rights, morality, moral responsibility) or capacity (reason, empathy, ingenuity, originality). We can positively affirm and celebrate the fact thatnature is enough. Indeed, the realization that we are fully natural creatures has profoundly positive effects, increasing our sense of connection to the world and others, fostering tolerance, compassion and humility, and giving us greater control over our circumstances. This realization supports a progressive and effective engagement with the human condition in all its dimensions. So we can justly call it worldview naturalism: an overarching cognitive, ethical and existential framework that serves the same function as supernatural worldviews, but without trafficking in illusions. By staying true to science, our most reliable means of representing reality, naturalists find themselves at home in the cosmos, astonished at the sheer scope and complexity of the natural world, and grateful for the chance to participate in the grand project of nature coming to know herself.

Originally written for and posted at Nirmukta - thanks to Ajita Kamal.

There are many atheists who don't accept that free will is an illusion....

"There are many atheists who don't accept that free will is an illusion…."

You'll find more than a few of them here, as well as dualists, as well as many who would parlay their non-belief into a religion itself… it does take all kinds after all.

I've never looked on atheism or agnosticism as labels or identities. Perhaps that's the rational skeptic in me; they are to me positions, each a single point of data, just negative defaults to positive claims. I don't self identify as a non-relish eater either, or a non-cantelope. …for the same reason.

Naturalism can also describe Deists, …or even Spinoza. Believers in non-supernatural god(s), …something I believe is covered under the position of atheism as a, "nope" as well.

As there are so many things not to believe and much of reality to accept; I think I'll just stick to the self-identifier "human", …I dare any to use THAT one as a weapon against me, or my world view.

"Naturalism can also describe Deists"

True enough, also reminds me of a joke;

An Atheist, an Agnostic and Deist walk into a bar and....

...and nobody could tell the difference.

Or, slightly modified:

  • An Atheist, an Agnostic and Pantheist walk into a bar.
  • The bartender asks, "So, what can I get you, sir?"

That's "ma'am" thank you.

And yes, I'm reviving this thread a bit. I think we don't hear much from this side of things, because this isn't where the "fight" is.

I also prefer the term. I don't know why it is not more popular.

(1) It's an unfamiliar term to many. Someone hearing it for the first time might confuse you with a naturopath, or perhaps they would think you are a nudist, since "naturism" is a term that nudists use for their social stance.

(2) When it is understood, the hearer, knowing that you are denying all supernatural things, will likely zero in on the implication that you deny his or her favorite imaginary friend. "So, you don't believe in god, so you're an atheist, right?" With the implication, so why didn't you say so?

I live in Australia - it might be different here than to other places - but I have friends who are various religious denominations - and I find that it's a positive way to introduce my world view that they seem to prefer to atheist - i think because it is a positive position.  I generally say that I believe that everything we have in this world is natural and can be explained by scientific methods.   No-one yet has gone on to ask if I believe in god or not.... probably because they'd rather not create the divide.

"Never heard of Naturopath, whats that?"

Kook/woo merchant, usually.




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