The immanent divine

Spiritual naturalism and religion.

Today many people say “the Universe” where their parents would say “God.”

In “The Decadent Society: How We Became the Victims of Our Own Success,” Ross Douthat envisions a religious renaissance. It could come from “a general belief in the immanent divine… that’s interwoven with the material world rather than standing outside it as a Creator God.” This sounds like a good description of the personal religion, often unconscious, of those who invoke the universe.

Douthat also mentions a related but different “therapeutic form of faith, in which the purpose of prayer and meditation is here-and-now happiness through harmony with the universe and the God Within.”

In “Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics,” Douthat notes that this religion of the God Within is becoming “the religious message with the most currency in American popular culture.”

The religion of the God Within is centered on feeling good, internal harmony, and this sort of things. Its moral code is “Just don’t be an asshole, that’s all.” It is a “therapeutic religion” with an immensely tolerant “spirituality of niceness” but without the strenuous outward-directed purpose that leads to real benefits for persons and societies.

Therefore, Douthat recommends traditional Christianity as a better alternative, stronger than the weak religion of the God Within.

But the religion of the immanent divine seems to me much stronger than the religion of the God Within, and as strong as traditional Christianity.

At a first glance, the religion of the immanent divine interwoven with the physical universe sounds more like spiritual naturalism than like religion.

But the evolution of the immanent divine blurs the line between immanence and transcendence. We are part of the divine and we are called to participate in the divine work. We will participate in the awakening of the universe and the resurrection of the dead.

Turing Church is radically optimistic, can-do spiritual naturalism, or religion. See my books (links in the About page).

The theologians of the immanent divine “would need to embrace a clearer cultic aspect for their faith,” says Douthat. I agree: most people need shared rituals that blend spirituality and community, and our ideas won’t reach the masses until we can offer that.

“Burning Man almost gets you there, but not quite,” continues Douthat. Interestingly, in “Believing in Dawkins” (a book that I highly recommend), Eric Steinhart describes Burning Man as a powerful ritual for spiritual naturalists. Steinhart shows that spiritual naturalism can offer the promises of religion (yes, including resurerction) in a scientific framework inspired (but not necessarily endorsed) by Richard Dawkins.


Cover picture from Pexels.