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The Bible and Suicide

Naturalism vs. Supernaturalism

Dateline: May 31, 2000

Introduction & Definitions

What is naturalism? It is not really a philisophical system so much as a point of view or tendency common to a number of philosophical and religious systems. Rather than a well-defined set of doctrines, it is more an attitude or spirit pervading and influencing many doctrines.

Naturalism is the belief that all objects, events, and even values can be fully explained in terms of factual and/or causal claims about the natural world. Nature is regarded the one original and fundamental source of all that exists. The limits of nature are also the limits of existing reality and knowledge. A more specific form, Materialistic Naturalism, asserts that matter is the only reality and that all the laws of the universe are reducible to mechanical laws.

All forms of naturalism explicitly reject any reference to or reliance upon supernatural powers or authority.

What is supernaturalism? Just the opposite - the belief that events and values require supernatural powers or authority for their explanation. Natural explanations may be reliable on an immediate level, but they in turn must eventually require a supernatural cause. According to supernaturalism, a supernatural order is the original and fundamental source of all that exists. It is this supernatural order which defines the limits of what may be known.

The difference between these two positions is one of the fundamental differences between atheists and theists - it is a difference which tends to cause the most disagreement and most friction. Atheists tend to be naturalists - taking the perspective that this natural world is all there is, all there is to know, and does not require anything "supernatural" to explain it. Theists tend to be supernaturalists - assuming that a supernatural realm exists beyond what we see and is necessary in order to explain our universe.

These fundamental assumptions are mutually exclusive and incompatible. If one is true, the other cannot be.

But is one more reasonable than the other? Is it more reasonable to be a naturalist, or does the evidence support being a supernaturalist? That question is what this article is designed to address and answer.

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