“Humanistic Paganism” has come to be used more or less synonymously with “Naturalistic Paganism.” Naturalistic Paganism is a form of Religious or Spiritual Naturalism. A “naturalistic” religion or spirituality is one which seeks to explain the universe without resort to supernatural causes. For most Naturalistic Pagans, “naturalistic” is more or less synonymous with “scientific.” In general, Naturalistic Pagans adopt the most current scientific explanations of natural phenomena and are skeptical of any claims that are not supported by mainstream science. Thus, Naturalistic Pagans are skeptical about things like magic, psychic abilities, communication with spirit entities, attributing intention to inanimate nature, etc. — beliefs that many other Pagans are comfortable with.
To the extent that Naturalistic Pagans speak about “magic” or “gods”, we tend to use these words differently than other Pagans. For example, Naturalistic Pagans may understand “magic” as a kind of psychological technique. Or we may understand “gods” as metaphors for natural phenomena, as psychological archetypes, or as symbols for all that is beyond human control (Brendan Myers uses the term “Immensities”). For example, a Naturalistic Pagan may offer a prayer to the Egyptian god Ra or the Greek god Prometheus, seeing them, not as literal personalities, but as metaphors for the life-sustaining power of the Sun or the human drive to discover.
Just as Religious Humanism posits that human experience and reason are sufficient basis for ethical action, so Religious Naturalism posits that the scientific understanding of the material universe is a sufficient basis for the awe and reverence which motivate religious worship. As Carl Sagan has written:
“In some respects, science has far surpassed religion in delivering awe. How is it that hardly any major religion has looked at science and concluded, ‘This is better than we thought! The Universe is much bigger than our prophets said, grander, more subtle, more elegant?’ Instead they say, ‘No, no, no! My god is a little god, and I want him to stay that way.’ A religion, old or new, that stressed the magnificence of the Universe as revealed by contemporary science might be able to draw forth reserves of reverence and awe hardly tapped by the conventional faiths. Sooner or later such a religion will emerge” (Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space).
Similarly Alan Watts has written, “Science has given to our age a most impressive view of this universe, and this demands an equivalently wonderful and splendid conception of God together with an appropriate manner of worship” (Behold the Spirit). Naturalistic Paganism aims to be just such a religion by providing this “larger” conception of the divine along with an appropriate manner of worship.