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Symington, N. (2004). The Spirituality of Natural Religion. Int. J. Appl. Psychoanal. Stud., 1(1):61-72.

(2004). International Journal of Applied Psychoanalytic Studies, 1(1):61-72

The Spirituality of Natural Religion

Neville Symington

“Religion remains as it always was, the chief motive power, the heart of the life of human societies, and without it, as without the heart, there can be no rational life.” (Tolstoy)

When the word “religion” is used, many people immediately assume that one is talking of Revealed Religion: that God intervened in human history at some particular point and revealed his law. The three religions that base their claim on this are Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The rationale for the morality that flows from this is that such-and-such should be done and that other thing not done because God had so ordained that it shall be such. How do we know that this is the best thing to do? We know because God has ordained that it shall be such. How do we know that God exists and that his law is to be followed? We know of his existence through faith and our belief that he is good is the rationale for following what he has commanded us to do. That in summary is the position of Revealed Religion.

Natural religion, on the other hand, is something arrived at through reason and not through the authority of a God who has revealed himself or through his authority as transmitted through his followers or through the tradition flowing from a first band of faithful adherents. It is based upon the individual's own reason and assessment. Clement Webb has defined it as follows:

It may be held that the element of chief value in religion is that which, when disengaged from its husk of traditional ritual and legend, appeals to the sympathy and intelligence of every man irrespective of his nationality or creed …

Those things in religion, the appeal of which meets with a universal response, whether they be statements about the essential and eternal nature of reality, apprehended by the reason as true in their own right, from whatever source they have been learned, or whether they be precepts of conduct, the moral obligatoriness of which, when once propounded, is also perceived, as Kant would say, a priori, these will constitute, so it has seemed to some, Natural Religion …

What is then the sphere of religious reflexion? It is a deliberation upon the ultimate nature of the world, of existence.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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