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When God Is Gone, Everything Is Holy: The Making of a Religious Naturalist

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  199 ratings  ·  33 reviews
In what he describes as a "late-life credo," renowned science writer Chet Raymo narrates his half-century journey from the traditional Catholicism of his youth to his present perspective as a "Catholic agnostic." As a scientist, Raymo holds to the skepticism that accepts only verifiable answers, but as a "religious naturalist," he never ceases his pursuit of "the beautiful ...more
Hardcover, 148 pages
Published September 1st 2008 by Sorin Books (first published August 31st 2008)
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Sep 06, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommended to Jessica by: Amazon Vine
Shelves: non-fiction
My Amazon review: The middle of the road rating on this book is not a reflection on the author, who is obviously an incredibly smart and thoughtful man and a very interesting writer, but on the fact that I am very obviously not the target audience for this book and am honestly not sure how this book would rate when compared to others written in a smiliar vein.

That said, this is the heaviest 150 page book I've ever opened. By page 24 my list of people and words to double check on included Gerard
Nov 25, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Noted writer, naturalist, and Professor Emeritus of Physics at Stonehill College, Raymo is first and foremost a man of science. But unlike Richard Dawkins and those of his New Atheist ilk, Raymo has a soft spot for religion, specifically in the sensuous rituals of his own Catholic upbringing.

This book is a brief, humble manifesto on what it means to be a religious naturalist. Raymo does not believe in miracles or the supernatural. He believes, rather, that we should stop looking for God in exce
Jeanette (Again)
2 1/2 stars

This guy's too much of a fence-sitter to warrant 3 stars. He presents excellent arguments for why science rejects the existence of "God" and miracles and an afterlife. (Zero proof, no reproducible results.) But he cannot seem to commit himself to one view or the other. He considers himself a true scientist, but then insists on calling himself a "Catholic agnostic." When I finished the book I was left without a clue as to what he'd hoped to show in writing it. I felt like the whole boo
Feb 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
The title to this book is somewhat misleading, at least to me. The author isn't advocating the absence of the concept of god, but rather finding spirituality in the complexities of nature--that "the point of religion. . .is to celebrate the unfathomable mystery of creation" (4). It is a beautiful book, and the first spiritual book that has resonated with me in a long time. I borrowed this title from the library, but I'm definitely buying a copy for myself.

"I am an atheist, if by God one means a
Jan 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
I think the publisher’s blurb and a few reviews here do this book justice - it’s a fine book, displaying ”spirituality that is consistent with the empirical way of knowing.” It is, in fact, rich with interesting references, including the simple complexity, if you will, of the 959-celled worm C.elegans, Deus absconditus, and Gerard Manley Hopkin’s poem “God’s Grandeur” - “The world is charged with the grandeur of God. It will flame out, like shining from shook foil...”

The book offers an example,
Apr 06, 2009 rated it it was amazing
A concise and enlightening look into "religious naturalism." Raymo is poetic, crystal clear in what he has gained from his own religious upbringing (Catholic) and where he departs from it, and an eloquent and sincere voice for the scientific worldview (rather than harsh and sarcastic, as Richard Dawkins can be). Raymo says a lot in a slim volume. This is one that will stay with you.
May 29, 2009 rated it did not like it
Another book sent for me to review . . .

I am usually a very quick reader of books, as long as the subject matter isn't too dry or boring. Unfortunately, this book did not hold my attention very well, but that could be because I am not really interested in science all that much. At first glance I thought that this book would be about spirituality, in a sense of truly exploring one's existence with nature too -- but that wasn't the case here.

There are a few points I'd like to make about the author
Dec 01, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: esoteric, nature
I resonate with the message that the author is intending to get across with this book. However, the meandering style reduces somewhat the effectiveness of the delivery of that message. I love Mr. Raymo's Science Musing blog (, and find his style and content more impactful in those smaller, zen-like observational chunks. ...more
Erwin Thomas
Feb 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: religion, pantheism
When God Is Gone Everything Is Holy by Chet Raymo is an intriguing book that offers the religious and secular alike diverse views about religious living. He explained how nature in a Heraclitean way hides itself. As a scientist he ventured to peel back the many layers of nature to find its meanings. Such an endeavor has led to some surprises and discoveries. How come a staunch Roman Catholic with a graduate education in physics from the University of Notre Dame became a critic of the Catholic fa ...more
Feb 26, 2018 rated it it was ok
chet raymo is so,,,extra lmao

chet: epistemological humility in all things !

why did the universe come into existence?

chet: i don't know.

what lies in the distant universe?

chet: i don't know.

does God exist?

chet: NOOOO!1!1!!!11!!! no! no chance! no possibility! science! SCIENCE ?? EVER HEARD OF IT ??

Zach Rusk
Oct 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book outlines a spectacularly rational view regarding religion and faith. I appreciate the objectives highlighted that are determined to be important in a religion that won't cause war. Anyone interested in theology or free thinking would enjoy this immensely.
R. Saunders
Jun 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Compelling and intricate. This book belongs in your personal library.
Matthew Cimone
Dec 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
One of the most brilliant books I've ever read. Raymo's writing is like science set to poetry
Miriam Jacobs
Dec 31, 2019 rated it liked it
A collection of good essays with some surprises. I prefer Raymo's fiction.
Feb 20, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: religion
The ramblings of a "religious naturalist:" When God is around; everything is not holy

The author recalls and recounts his life experiences about his catholic upbringing, and his conflict with scientific and philosophical education. He calls himself a "religious naturalist," who does not believe in personal, transcendent God; yet feels religious and belief in Catholic sacramental tradition.

This is a potpourri of sociology and theology dictated by a certain level of morality required by Catholicis
Sep 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This is one of those books that the title says it all.

I think it's science professor/writer Raymo's smallest (143 pages) but really it’s his most profound. In this case: simply is better. The book traces the author’s transformation from his devote Catholic up-bringing to his self-assigned descriptor “religious naturalist,” who proclaims that “Divinity is inseparable from nature.”

“I know…that for all the learning, honor, law, and material prosperity that make our lives tolerable, we live in a wo
Jan 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This one is a toughie. The title is rather abrasive in its confrontational approach to organized religion. That's unfortunate, because much of the content is far less aggressive and I would say much more reasonable. Raymo is doing two things in this book: he's recovering from trauma he experienced being raised Catholic, while at the same time trying to hold on and transform the aspects which gave him comfort (community, tradition, ceremony, and reflection).

Whether you're religious or not, if yo
Apr 08, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Written by a professor emeritus from a college in the northeast and highly regarded science author, this book is a reflection on one man's transformation from devout Catholicism to what is titled "religious naturalism". Chet argues that the study, even worship, of the natural world and its enormous complexity and beauty is enough to occupy a religious naturalist - no need to invent a higher power or supreme being. He develops this argument with a liberal sprinkling of scientific thought and hist ...more
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Jan 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
Written by a professor emeritus from a college in the northeast and highly regarded science author, this book is a reflection on one man's transformation from devout Catholicism to what is titled "religious naturalism". Raymo argues that the study, even worship, of the natural world and it's enormous complexity and beauty is enough to occupy a religious naturalist--no need to invent a higher power or supreme being. He develops this argument with a liberal sprinkling of scientific thought and his ...more
Bob Paterson-watt
May 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
So accessible, so readable, in spite of the author's scientific pedigree. Widely read in the sciences, religion, theology, philisophy, poetry, Raymo takes an honest and reflective look at his religious experience as a child and young person in the wake of his education in science. Rather than utterly dismissing all things religious, as is the habit of some of the 'new athiests,' he takes a kinder, gentler path. I love his favourite phrase, three simple words. I echo them often. You'll have to re ...more
Jan 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
Such a short little book, but it took me a long time to read. Lots of stuff jammed into these pages, lots of things to think about. (and i do love a book that makes me think!) However what I'm most grateful for is his explanation of the story and popularity of the novel 'Mr. Blue'(1928) by Miles Connolly, in the very first chapter. (I had always wondered what it was about that one, will probably read it now.) Raymo makes a strong argument for curiosity and wonder in the natural world, this is de ...more
Feb 26, 2009 rated it really liked it
A nature writer and physicist explores ground that lies between theological or faith-based religion (particularly Catholicism, his birth faith) and scientism. A complete empiricist and "agnostic Catholic" who rejects all anthropormorphic views of divinity or nature, he is drawn to discover and celebrate the Mystery that transcends our understanding and lies hidden in every particular of nature.
Jun 04, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Started out a little unsure of this, but by the end I couldn't put it down. What "Honey from Stone" hinted at as an underlying foundation, this book expressly studies and explores. It's Raymo's analysis of his path from devout seminary student preparing to enter the priesthood to physicist and "religious naturalist." Clearly a different path than my own, but he manages to describe my own beliefs better than I could ever attempt.
Fred Kohn
Nov 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
I put this on my science shelf, but it is really more the philosophy of science. There are also several references to poems and poetry, and a few to literature, which makes this book hard to classify. It is a wonderful book for those of us who call ourselves pantheists or, as Raymo prefers, religious naturalists. This is my second time through, and reading it a few years later was a much better experience. Probably because I am more scientifically literate.
Jun 03, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: summer-09
It's different than I thought it would be but enjoyable nonetheless, most of all as an introduction to historical/literary figures engaged with the tension between science and religion. At times curiously repetitive (a Biblical trope?), Raymo did have me reading much more per sitting than I usually intended.
Dana Larose
Jun 27, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: owned, 2010, nonfiction
Picked this up on a whim. It's sort of memoir sort of a personal statement of belief by a Jesuit-educated physicist who transitioned through his life from practicing Roman Catholic to what he labels a Catholic agnostic.

A lot of it has to do with how the author finds wonder and mystery in the world without having to attach a deity to it.
Jan 17, 2009 rated it really liked it
As I consider Chet Raymo one of my favorite writers of fiction and nonfiction, I found this book irresistibly well-written and engaging--though I did not find his essential premise completely convincing.
Oct 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful meditation on how to find spirtual solice in nature. The writing is poetic and mesmerizing and the ideas resonate in those who have not bought into what otherwise organized religions have tried to sell.
Mal Gormley
Sep 29, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: seminal
I liked it. A bit repetitive of Raymo's earlier themes. I misplaced my copy about 2/3 through.
Nov 06, 2010 rated it really liked it
A good and thought provoking read.
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Chet Raymo (born September 17, 1936 in Chattanooga, Tennessee) is a noted writer, educator and naturalist. He is Professor Emeritus of Physics at Stonehill College, in Easton, Massachusetts. His weekly newspaper column Science Musings appeared in the Boston Globe for twenty years, and his musings can still be read online at

His most famous book was the novel entitled The Do

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“Walt Whitman regarded the soul, how he spelled it out in his poem I Sing the Body Electric-
... Head, neck, hair, ears, drop and tympan of the ears, Eyes, eye-fringes, iris of the eye, eyebrows, and the waking and sleeping of the lids, Mouth, tongue, lips, teeth, roof of the mouth, jaws, and the jaw hinges ... The lung-sponges, the stomach-sac, the bowels sweet and clean ... The womb, the teats, nipples, breast-milk, tears, laughter, weeping, love-looks, love-perturbations and risings ... The thin red jellies within you or within me, the bones and the marrow in the bones ...
to merely dip into his exuberant parsings of the flesh. "Oh I say now these are the soul!" he enthuses.
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