NATURAL THEOLOGY

 


NATURAL THEOLOGY


Mother Nature is to Natural Theology as Father God is to Religious Theology, that is, a grammatical personification useful for symbolic thinking, writing, and communication with other people. She is a name for natural forces of eternal evolution in the perceivable world, just as He names super-natural forces primarily aimed at eternal life in another world beyond bodily death.  


The first major difference in the two "theologies" is that Natural Theology is "this worldly," about life in the natural world as potentially graspable by human senses, while Religious Theology is essentially "other worldly"–that is, about omnipotent forces existent outside the known world, yet somehow directed toward and operable in this world as we humans know it. 


The second major difference exists in the minds of those who affirm one or the other of the two "theologies." Those who think in terms of Natural Theology understand Mother Nature to be a useful grammatical formulation for understanding life in this world, while believers in Religious Theology take Father God to be a real entity, an actual super-human force existing totally apart from any human perception–that is, an omnipotent being which we human beings may or may not recognize, but nevertheless exists "somewhere."


I use the term theology for my observations about life in the natural world, but often place it in quotes to imply symbolic rather than literal usage. Literally, theo-logy, means knowledge-about-god, and is obviously taken from the language of religious believers as distinguished from secularists who may also be atheists (dis-believers in god). 


I do so for two major reasons: first, we need a language (nouns, verbs, etc.) for thinking and communicating about quality of life in this world, as distinguished from physical quantities  measurable in concepts of space and time. Secondly, even though psychological terms have lately evolved for aspects of this significant arena of attention (e.g., mental health and illness), older religious language remains, as best I can tell, better for referencing positive and negative qualities of natural life.

 

Perhaps this is because we humans are born into and reared in societies rooted, structured, and still steeped in older religious concepts of life. Consequently religious beliefs tend to become, in effect, heard and accepted, even before children become capable of conscious, rational thought on their own. By the time personal evaluations become possible, for example, questioning God, as a child might also come to disbelieve in Santa Claus, "spiritual" concepts may already be "ingrained" as language about qualities of "physical" life.


Johnny-Come-Lately psychological concepts and language, largely drawn from next older medical terminology (such as, "mental illness" and "emotional health," etc.) are an advance over ancient ideas of sin as disobedience to super-human gods, and salvation as only possible in a post-mortem heaven; but even so, for humans who grow up where religious concepts yet structure home and community, "spiritual" language is apt to express deeper human concerns better than "mental" or "physical" ideas related to "disease" and "health." 


Perhaps the most significant consequence of thinking in psychological rather than spiritual terms is the underlying sense of personal responsibility associated with each. Since psychological theories are largely rooted in secular medicine rather than religious beliefs, they cannot but also imply similar approaches to "healing" or "getting well," as contrasted with "salvation" or "being saved." Physical illness is largely viewed as caused by external forces, such as, germs, viruses, punctures, and other forms of bodily invasion from outside oneself; consequently, healing is easily assumed to be available through external forces, such as, drugs (medicine), doctors, and surgery, etc.


Consequently, when psychological "cures" are sought for "emotional disturbances" or "mental illness," rather than "salvation" from "sin," patients cannot but be influenced by secular beliefs in external causes for personal "problems" as well as physical "diseases," such as, difficult circumstances, poverty, lack of education, bad mothers, evil uncles (or priests), misunderstanding wives, unfaithful husbands, etc., etc.


With countless such real, external forces to possibly blame for human unhappiness, "patients" may deeply feel, and unconsciously look for similar forms of "healing" from outside oneself, such as, from drugs and/or medicine, counseling, behavior modification, various rehabilitation programs, etc. for more serious degrees of "disturbances," and/or improved circumstances, more money, better mates, etc., for lessor levels of "unhappiness." 


Even with religious beliefs in literal gods–that is, external forces (e.g., angels, Jesus, Mother Mary, etc.) capable of "saving sinners" from "damnation" and "hell," still there is commonly an underlying belief in personal action ("sin") as cause of human unhappiness ("lostness"), as well as individual responsibility ("repentance" or personal change) essential for "getting saved." It is just this primary sense of individual cause for "going wrong" and initial responsibility for "getting right," as common in religions. which is often lacking in "patients (another medical term)" who seek "well being," if not "salvation," from psychological "doctors," drugs, counseling, analysis, and many other forms of secular "therapy." 


Obviously, "parishioners," religious believers, like secular "patients," commonly look for ultimate salvation ("well being") from gods or powers beyond themselves, often with minimal personal effort (e.g., "believing in Jesus"); but, and this is the difference which may exist between the two groups of persons, both seeking "better living (either now and/or later)": religious language, even with all its short comings, such as, invitations to project personal powers externally (as onto gods, angels, etc.), and to look for ultimate salvation later, still seems to be rooted in a deeper sense of personal responsibility than is found in typical secular "patients." 


Consequently, Natural Theology, as I have explored and honed over the years, is another way of looking and thinking about our common human concerns for advanced degrees of happiness. I do not think of either "theology" as right or wrong in itself, only as a potentially useful way of approaching our shared quests for "heaven"–either now or later.


And, obviously, I opt for focus on now rather than the later..... 


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