Spiritual Humanism generally avoids definitive, positive statements concerning the nature of divinity. Therefore, a degree of freedom exists for each individual to interpret and form concepts of divinity, God, the eternal – as they find meaningful.
Still, Spiritual Humanism avoids notions of deity that are beyond what an evidence based approach to spirituality and theology can support. We are careful to limit our claims and recognize that almost all God-talk is metaphorical and poetic.
Reality is a unity – everything is interrelated – everything has evolved/emerged from a divine singularity – everything comes from one sacred, creative source – and that sense of sacredness infuses all reality.
Therefore, from the perspective of Spiritual Humanism, the way of encounter with the sacred is by engaging the world, not escaping it. A holy life is a richly lived and full life – one that affirms the better aspects of human nature and is placed at the service of others.
Our secular age has experienced the desacralization of the world and nature – a rendering of nature as flat, lifeless, and spiritually meaningless. A pivotal aim of nature-based spirituality is to create awareness of the sacredness of the world and nature – to allow the underlying sacred presence to seep through and cultivate our awareness of such.
Spiritual Humanism fosters an attitude of awe at the beauty, preciousness, oneness, and interconnectedness of everything. Rather than being perceived as flat and mechanical, nature is once again perceived as an interconnected web of vitality and meaning.
Our experience of this sacredness – nature’s and our own – addresses us as persons, asking us to freely live in harmony with nature, and calling us beyond ourselves to relationships with others based on reciprocity and mutual cooperation.
The sacred is the sum of the animating, organizing forces and relationships that are forever making a cosmos out of chaos. We hold sacred that coordinating, integrating factor we find in nature that bespeaks the interconnectedness and unity of everything that exists – our ultimate concern, the creative principle in nature, and the life-affirming power that animates evolution and brings order out of chaos.
Various cultures and religions have named this unifying, creative principle – some calling it the One, God, Tao, Awen, and some personalizing it while others treating it as a force.
From a Spiritual Humanist perspective, the sacred, by whatever name we wish to call he/she/it – is the vitalism that interpenetrates nature and empowers the interconnected web of life – the energy flowing throughout nature and immanent in the earth’s cycles of birth, growth, death, decay and regeneration.
Philosophically, God has been spoken of in terms of being the ground of existence, the uncaused cause, the first principle of creation, and the underlying non-contingent being.
These philosophical categories yield to other concepts such as understanding God in terms of the absolute and the contingent, the necessary and the fortuitous, potency and act, possibility and impossibility, being and nonbeing, transcendence and immanence.
Humility in Theology
Despite the poetic metaphysics of the above insights, the truth of the matter is that we, strictly speaking, have no evidence for the existence of divinity. The matter of divinity is a judgment that each individual makes for him or her self, relying on illative reasoning, indirect and incomplete evidence, and their own experience.
If by God/Goddess one means a personal deity who is concerned about human beings, who created billions of stars and galaxies over a period of 14 billion years – all out of love for human beings, then one would have to say in the first place how they know this and produce some degree of evidence.
If there is any meaningful sense to Divinity it is approaching God metaphorically. All notions of Divinity are metaphors for the creative and ordering principles found within the universe. The “Divine” can be metaphorized in many ways, as change, relatedness, love, life, and so on. Using the language of Divinity provides a focusing point for ritual and celebration, and prevents us from slipping into purely utilitarian terms that negate the power of ritual. But we must never forget that any talk of God is a metaphor.
This notion is reinforced by theologian, David Bentley Hart:
God is not something posed over and against the universe, in addition to it, nor is God the universe itself. God is not a “being,” at least in the way that a tree, a shoemaker, or a god is a being: God is not one more object in the inventory of things that are, or any sort of discrete object at all. Rather, all things that exist receive their being continually from God, who is the infinite wellspring of all that is.
Whether this ground of being is personal is debated in various theological traditions. Yet there remains a conviction that our ultimate concern is relational – a presence in the world capable of evoking a holistic response from us as persons – a response that can involve a sense of intimacy.
Still, many find a sacred presence within natural activity – the unity and teleos of the processes or powers within the natural order. In this sense, God is the power that leads to the fulfillment of nature, including human nature, and not in the suspension of the natural order.
Sacred Orientation & Poetic Method
Regardless of what God is in itself, we can assert some meaningful sense of God, using poetic method, as orientation, as the unifying focus of our values and commitments. From a poetic-metaphorical perspective, God is the concept of unity among the diversity of being – the great oneness that speaks of the truth of the interconnectedness of everything. Such notions underlie most mystical experience.
When we contemplate our highest aspirations – loving families, faithful marriages, honest livelihoods, safe communities, and care for the needy – we begin to understand that these goals require lifelong commitments that in reflection cannot be satisfactorily explained in terms of our taking these upon ourselves. There is a sense that these are ultimate concerns – concerns that seem rightly grounded in a reality transcendent to humanity.
Humans experience their lives as containing inherent meaning, purpose, and direction. We are capable of experiencing being commanded by something beyond ourselves, something that both speaks to our nature and is yet embedded there. In moments of quiet honesty, we find ourselves with a given orientation – and that orientation offers itself up as an approach to God.
God serves, therefore, as the poetic focal point of our prayers, of our desires, of our better thinking – the goal of our religious efforts and the ground of our spirituality.
This mythopoetic orientation offers the outline of a path away from the unfortunate effects of secularization – the tendencies toward nihilism and dehumanization.
Such analysis reveals the divine to be the symbol-metaphor for core values and meaning in all their dimensions. Such a vision of the sacred can command our loyalty. Such a vision contains a sense of obligation, a sense of primacy and priority.
Reflecting on this sense of the sacred also represents the fullness of reality in its interconnected, interdependent.
The human mind grasps the patterns of order, goodness, structure, and cycles present within nature. Underlying these patterns we find some sense of our own place within the rhythm of the world. Many also sense a common source to reality – it’s existence, structure, order, and regularity – the fact that reality is cosmos rather than chaos.
Essentially, the traditional Western concept of monotheism is the apprehension of a unified transcendent value source.