Naturalizing God?

A Critical Evaluation of Religious Naturalism

By Mikael Leidenhag

Subjects: Religion, Theology, Philosophy Of Religion, Environmental Philosophy, Environment And Religion
Hardcover : 9781438484419, 286 pages, July 2021
Paperback : 9781438484402, 286 pages, January 2022

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Table of contents


Introduction: The Religious Naturalists to Be Discussed
Current Research on Religious Naturalism
Metaphysical Grounding Problems
Chapter Overview

1. Explicating Religious Naturalism
Introducing Religious Naturalism
The Nature of Naturalism
Religious Aspects of Reality
Religious Naturalism and Traditional Religion
The Function of Religious Language

2. What Is Naturalistic about Religious Naturalism?
The Central Pillars of Naturalism
Monistic Naturalism
Pluralistic Naturalism
Summary of Monistic Naturalism and Pluralistic Naturalism

3. The Metaphysical Grounding Problems of Monism and Pluralism
Monistic Naturalism and the Issue of Antireductionism
Pluralistic Naturalism and Emergence Theory
Some Grounding Problems for Pluralistic Naturalism

4. The Religious Dimension of Religious Naturalism
Religious Realism in Rue and Crosby
Religious Antirealism in Hardwick and Drees
Understanding Pragmatic Religious Realism

5. The Problem of Religious Discourse in Religious Naturalism
The Tension between Physicalism and Christian Faith
Limit-Questions and the Status of Naturalism
Pragmatic Realism
Functional Religion and Theological Realism
Objectivist Religion and the Problem of Evil

6. Alternative Ontology 1: Naturalistic Options
Liberal Naturalism
Agnostic Naturalism
Pragmatic Naturalism

7. Alternative Ontology 2: Theistic Options
Background to Panentheism
Why Panentheism Entails Dualism
The Positive Status of Panentheism and the Question of Religious Naturalism
God and Values: A Proposal by Fiona Ellis

8. Alternative Ontology 3: Panpsychism
Panpsychism Today
Three Arguments for Panpsychism
Between Strong and Weak Panpsychism
The Panpsychist Dimension of Emergence Theory
Metaphysical Objections to Panpsychism
The Religious Relevance of Panpsychism

9. Concluding Remarks and Looking Ahead
Panpsychism and Teleology
Panpsychism and Eco-Ethics
Subjectivity and the Promise of Panpsychism

Name Index
Subject Index

Evaluates religious naturalists’ attempts to find a middle path between supernaturalism and atheistic secularism, and explores naturalistic, theistic, and panpsychist solutions.


Can nature be considered a religious object? Religious naturalists answer yes, as they seek to carve out a middle path between supernaturalism and atheistic secularism. In this book, Mikael Leidenhag critically examines the religious proposals, philosophical commitments, and ecological ambitions of key religious naturalists, including Willem B. Drees, Charley D. Hardwick, Donald Crosby, Ursula Goodenough, Stuart Kauffman, Gordon Kaufman, Karl Peters, and Loyal Rue. Leidenhag argues that contemporary religious naturalism faces several problems, both with regard to its understanding of naturalism and the ways in which it seeks to uphold a religious conception of reality. He evaluates possible routes for moving forward, considering naturalistic and theistic proposals. He also analyzes the philosophical thesis of panpsychism, the idea that mind is a pervasive feature of the universe and reaches down to the fundamental levels of reality. The author concludes that panpsychism offers the most promising framework against which to understand the metaphysics and eco-ethical ambitions of religious naturalism.

Mikael Leidenhag is the Science and Theology Editor in the School of Divinity at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland.