The mission of the Spiritual Naturalist Society is to spread awareness of Spiritual Naturalism as a philosophy, encourage the further development of Spiritual Naturalist thought and practice, and educate others on the traditional wisdom and contemplative practices that inspire Spiritual Naturalism. In addition, the Society exists to help bring Spiritual Naturalists together for mutual learning, growth, encouragement, and fellowship.
How Does the Society Fulfill its Mission?
The Society spreads awareness of Spiritual Naturalism by publishing educational materials and articles freely on its website, by advertising its own existence and press releases to bring more visitors to that site, by supporting local chapters that host in-person discussion groups and other events, by seeking to publish its educational articles in other publications and websites outside its own, by engaging with other organizations with compatible missions, and through exclusive educational materials offered to members. It encourages further development of Spiritual Naturalist thought and practices by bringing together authors to contribute new materials, by bringing together members in forums for the purposes of discourse and dialog, and by initiating special collaborative projects. Lastly, the Society aids in fellowship of like-minded Spiritual Naturalists from all traditions and backgrounds through other sections of its forums, comment areas, social media, events, and through encouragement and support of locally-initiated groups.
Who are our Members?
Members of the society come from a variety of traditions. This is because spiritual naturalism is a new paradigm that cuts across familiar labels. Spiritual naturalists and Religious Naturalists can be found among Buddhist, Jewish, Taoist, Humanist, Pagan, Unitarian, atheist, agnostic, and many other communities. Within all of these traditions there is a rising sense of appreciation for the natural universe, a respect for rationality as the basis for humble knowledge, a desire for a spiritual wisdom that is consistent with the modern scientific understanding of the cosmos, and a return to compassion as the the core value upon which spirituality should rest. Individuals within many religions and other groups are working to heal of the schism between the natural and the sacred. Much like an interdisciplinary community, naturalists from all of these backgrounds are welcome members of the Spiritual Naturalist Society, without the need to leave their own traditions.
Other than our mission as an organization, we are also deeply committed to several principles and operate in accord with them. Among these are:
(1) We believe all human beings are equal in their worth and should be given equal opportunity and rights, regardless of their race, sex, ethnicity, nationality, religion, disability, or their sexual orientation or gender identity. Each individual is deserving of treatment as an individual, based on his or her character and choices, rather than any of these group identities or characteristics.
(2) We believe in treating others as we would be treated. We believe in practicing loving-kindness toward even those who do not return it. We believe universal compassion for all beings and unconditional love is the best answer to our conflicts.
(3) We try not to criticize the beliefs of others, be it in a respectful academic sense or in a bashing or flippant manner. We instead try hard to focus on what we believe and hope that it will help others find happiness, whatever their tradition. We believe being a living example of our values is a better way to spread them than criticism and conflict.
(4) We believe in acting ethically in both our personal lives and organizationally. This includes great care with the private information we handle on behalf of our members and subscribers, ethically handling all money and funds of the organization for the purposes they were given, and being honest in all things to our volunteers, members, and the public.
(5) We believe in the compassionate use of reason for solving our problems. This includes a humble approach to knowledge and the claims we make. It also includes respect for the scientific method, used responsibly and ethically for the betterment of all.
(6) While we are not a political or activist organization, we support a more peaceful, charitable, tolerant, just, and democratic world. We also support greater access to education, the necessities of life, and environmental responsibility. We encourage our members and subscribers to take up worthy causes with activist organizations as a part of their personal practice. Ultimately, we believe that change in the world begins with change in our heart, which is where the mission of our Society is focused.
Are We A Religion?
People have many different definitions of ‘religion’ and think of the word in different ways. For some, Spiritual Naturalism is a religion because of its inclusion of ritual and contemplative practices that have been associated with other religions before. In fact, some prefer the term Religious Naturalism and they are equally welcomed members. For others, Spiritual Naturalism is not a religion, but a philosophy, because it has no supernatural or faith-based aspects. The official position of the Spiritual Naturalist Society is that it is up to each individual to decide for themselves whether to call (or not call) their views or themselves ‘religious’, ‘spiritual’, ‘philosophic’, or otherwise.
Statement on Politics
The Spiritual Naturalist Society is an apolitical organization. While political participation can be a noble part of a healthy life, and a means to help make the world a better place, the focus of Spiritual Naturalism is on a personal life practice – working first on the person in the mirror. Ultimately, it is contemplative practice, inner development, and cultivation of a compassionate heart and rational mind that serve as a replenishing source of wisdom and strength for individuals to make positive change in the world. As an organization supporting a spiritual practice, we seek to be a refuge from the rhetoric, sectarianism, and partisanship common to politics. To those ends, the Spiritual Naturalist Society does not engage in political activity, protests and demonstrations, take political positions, or support parties or candidates. Further, we welcome people from a wide range of parties and economic views.
Statement on Spirituality and Money
It costs no money to learn, grow, become wiser or more enlightened, engage in spiritual practice, and enjoy spiritual community to whatever level you apply yourself and choose. Beware ‘gurus’ and groups that charge exorbitant fees for their workshops, retreats, etc. If you ever feel like you are blocked in your ability to explore your spirituality because you cannot afford some item or event – or if you ever feel guilted or pressured into paying for something to be a spiritual/good person – then there is a better way. Many people seeking out spiritual advice or friends are in a vulnerable spot. It is therefore a sacred responsibility of any person or organization that teaches spiritual practices not to take advantage.
At the Spiritual Naturalist Society, our writers provide helpful articles, we publish educational materials, produce podcasts and courses, share announcements, answer questions, and run other programs for free whenever possible. You can become a valued member of the Society for free as well. Following are ways we handle money and the standards by which we do so…
We do have an option for being a Supporting Member for those who wish to make a regular donation to help pay the costs of the online tools and accounts required to do what we do, and to pay for the costs we have in outreach. People are also welcome to make one-time donations as they feel inclined. These donations and supporting memberships are purely optional and should only be chosen because you have means, a passion for sharing Spiritual Naturalism with others, and want to help support these efforts. It provides no benefits that would be required in order to practice your spirituality to the fullest. We also discourage you from taking this option if it is a financial burden to you. While generosity is a crucial spiritual practice, there are many ways you can be generous besides money – such as the gift of your time, your love, kind words, and helping others around you.
We also accept money for books that we have published. These very modest funds go to help pay for programs and expenses as well. However, members can receive the eBook versions of these for free, and we only charge members our own costs for printing where the paper book is concerned so it is sustainable.
We have charged for some classes that require a great deal of input, tools, and management. This has not been primarily for revenue, but because students tend to apply themselves more and “ghost” on the course less, and respect the mentor’s time when there is a perceived value and investment in order to take on such a project. Even then, we set our prices at the low end of similar online courses, and provided significantly lower options for members. The content from the course are made available in other forms, and as we move the course to a less mentor-intensive format, it will become free as well.
It is not inherently unreasonable for the members of a spiritual community to pitch in for the costs of organizational events, facilities, production costs, services the organization requires, and so on. But we believe there is a way to handle these things with transparency, respect for the members, frugality, and without abusing or ‘milking’ people in the name of spirituality. There may be other events, programs, or items we may need to charge for in the future, but it will be on a needed and practical basis, as conservatively as we can, with other options wherever possible.
Our staff has so far been purely volunteer, and we are proud of that. All of the modest funds we handle have gone to help further the mission of the Society. It is possible that, as our community grows, those who feel comfortable giving may reach a level where paid staff would someday be an option. It is also not unreasonable for a non-profit organization to utilize some paid positions, as this means it would have a much larger amount of the staff members time and attention. This would greatly increase what the organization could accomplish.
Again, responsible management of reasonably paid staff to the ends of a non-profit’s mission are entirely different from the kind of money-grabbing we have all seen from some gurus and movements. Should the Society ever reach such a size, we would proceed with proper transparency, voting by the volunteer Council, and follow all accepted common practice standards for non-profits.
If you ever have concerns or questions about how SNS handles money, or anything involving your own donations to the Society, please feel free to let us know and we will be happy to answer or discuss anything openly.
With love and thanks
-the staff at SNS
The SNS Logo
The logo of the Spiritual Naturalist Society is a tree, referring to many metaphors at once. In one sense, it represents the slow but steady cultivation and growth of our character and good life through continuous practice. In another sense, it represents the wisdom taught under the Bodhi tree by the Buddha, as well as knowledge, as represented by the Tree of Knowledge referred to in the Christian Bible. The branches of the tree can also represent the evolutionary paths along which all life develops. In yet another sense, the tree represents nature – or the natural universe as revealed by rational exploration. All of these meanings touch on different aspects of Spiritual Naturalism and are therefore suitable to our Society and its mission.
SNS at a Glance
The following gives a graphic snapshot of the different kinds of areas, projects, and structure of the Society (click to enlarge)…