On a Spiritual Spectrum

In the previous post (On a Beach Walk: No. 12), I presented a continuum. No matter the topic, a continuum tries to categorize in order to show relationships. Positions are difficult because overlap exists between adjacent groups and each group can be subdivided into more specific smaller groups.

The continuum below is an attempt to show relationship around the topic of science and theology regarding evolution. It’s not perfect, but it illustrates different positions people hold, so it also stimulates thinking and serves as a point of discussion.

Defining each group is another important aspect. Although each definition below is far from complete, they provide a sense for each group’s position. On the other hand, representing all positions would be difficult.

Strong atheist: Lack the belief in any god and are fervently against religion.

Passive atheist: Lack the belief in any god, but are less antagonistic to religion – possibly tolerant.

Agnostic: A broad group including (but not limited to)

  • Those who don’t believe in any god because we cannot prove a deity’s existence or non-existence.
  • Those who simply don’t know about any god or don’t care to know.

Spiritual naturalist: A broad group including (but not limited to) two broad groups: religious naturalists and humanists – neither believing in a god or gods.

  • Religious naturalists see the meaning of life through the beauty and complexity of the natural world.
  • Humanists embrace reason and logic in order to emphasize a moral and ethical code for doing good in human society.

Spiritual non-theist: Religions that are spiritual, but without believing in a god or gods; such as Buddhists, Hindus, and others

Deist: God who is not linked to any religion is the creator, but does not intervene and is not personal because God has left the world. There are different types of Deists.

Theistic evolutionist: God is the creator. Scripture and nature in a collective relationship. A range of theistic evolutionist exist.

Progressive Creationists: God is the creator and the earth is very old. Two groups include

  • God created many species from which others evolved through mutation and selection
  • Intelligent Design: God creatively intervenes over time when necessary.

Young-Earth creationist: God is the creator, Earth is young, and a literal Genesis in today’s language explains creation.

29 thoughts on “On a Spiritual Spectrum

  1. Great stuff here, Frank. I think your continuum presents things well. Now, if we can all be respectful of others no matter where they fall on the continuum, this would be a better world.

    By the way, I was SO happy to see Jordan win DWTS. He really was amazing.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Religious belief is indeed a continuum in the population. I’m wondering therefore about the utility of labels in this case. Labels define boundaries and imply a static condition, do they not?

    If I were so challenged, I can see applying several different labels to myself depending on circumstances. “A drowning man will clutch at a straw.” “There are no atheists in foxholes.” Seems like a cop-out, I know, but it’s real. Religiosity is a part of most people and must have had survival value in our species’ evolution.

    Interesting post, Frank.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m glad you followed up Beach Walk No. 12 with today’s post which defines the categories of the Spiritual Continuum. Combining elements from levels 7&8, I’m a person who believes that God is the creator, that the earth is very old, that God created many species from which others evolved through mutation and selection, that scripture and nature are in a collective relationship, and that God creatively intervenes over time when necessary.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Tim,
      The past two posts was my plan all along. To my surprise, I didn’t receive any questions about definitions on the beach walk post … but that’s OK.

      Meanwhile, because you declared your position, you are NOT in the #8 category (Progressive Creationist) because I know you don’t support the Intelligent Design movement … well … at least I don’t think you are.


  4. You are correct that I am a #7, but I’m OK with borrowing good ideas from any of the others as long as they do no harm. JSYK my wife had a good time reading your post and immediately declared herself a yellow in order to (1) position herself a minimum of two levels to the left of me, and (2) carry on her family’s tradition of eliciting howls and accusations of “two-by-four” religious thinking, while at the same time receiving high-fives from her father for anyone willing to remain true to Emerson’s “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” (Her dad had a predilection for leaving out the first two words of the quote.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • “No harm” by the ID people would be debatable … and biology texts don’t contain ID information. Regarding Mrs. Marching Band, “non-theist” and her high-fiving don’t seem to go together.


  5. Why stop at napkins? Your chart would make a great poster – used for progressive schools, churches, adult ed programs, on and on. Cocktail napkins are really enticing, too. 🙂
    Are you sure you’re not a cousin of Dan Brown’s? If he’d known about your chart, I think he would have had “Winston” use it in the book ORIGINS. You’ll know what I mean when you read it.
    And lastly, I like your chart indeed. Still mulling over where I fit in…

    Liked by 1 person

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