I am writing a novel wherein a group of people want to create a religion without any supernatural elements. Everything within the confines of the 'religion' is absolutely science based. So I've been trying all the words I can think of, but none of them fit. Can anyone help?

I've tried organization, but it is too loose a term and none of the synonyms seem to fit.

It was essential that they create a religion without any supernatural force, a need this word or phrase. I am going with ideology, but will use worldview and order within the story. Thanks to pyobum, Richard Kayser, and Chris H.

On Edit. They are mostly women who have traveled in time. They are followers of Mother Universe, not supernatural. They would like to curtail or prevent (through education and social traditions) overpopulation and pollution in future Earth so that Earth survives beyond their original time. They are landing in 6000 BCE. So 'science' isn't a word I want to use even though my group will have it. This word would be used for outsiders.

Okay thanks for all the answers. I have decided on one with thanks to Hot Licks.

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    Absent faith in the supernatural, what characterizes a "religion" for you? It seems like a deity is a defining characteristic, but if you tell us what other features this group has, we might be able to suggest other appropriate words.
    – Dan Bron
    Dec 13, 2016 at 19:58
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    I don't know of EST, but I do know "religion" is used metaphorically for a tight-knit group of people with a strong set of beliefs, but usual term is "cult", and it doesn't sound to me like you want a pejorative term for your time-travelers. It would probably be worth your while to mull it over and identify and elaborate on the traits which define your group, rather than start with an inapplicable term and remove things. It's almost always easier to find the appropriate word through a constructive definition, rather than a whitespace definition.
    – Dan Bron
    Dec 13, 2016 at 20:30
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    Maybe the best way to put it is: why do you want to call your group a "religion"? What features does the group have that calls to your mind a religion?
    – Dan Bron
    Dec 13, 2016 at 20:30
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    Gods are viewed by many Buddhists, for instance, as just another distraction, like death and taxes. They don't deny them, any more than they would deny snakes; but they are not part of Buddhist practice. Dec 13, 2016 at 20:48
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    So what happens when these women go back in time and kill your great^24-grandmother, thus rendering your novel non-existent and the need for this question moot? Because of questions like this, I hate to encourage the writing of science fiction, but I'm gonna upvote this question because of its use of BCE.
    – deadrat
    Dec 13, 2016 at 21:22

6 Answers 6


How about ideology?


ideology: 2 a : a systematic body of concepts especially about human life or culture b : a manner or the content of thinking characteristic of an individual, group, or culture c : the integrated assertions, theories and aims that constitute a sociopolitical program

I understand that your mostly-women time travelers are followers of "Mother Universe", but at a higher level, independent of the content of their beliefs, they are trying to inculcate in humanity a specific ideology, in their case an ideology whose aims are "to curtail or prevent (through education and social traditions) overpopulation and pollution in future Earth".

Aside: An absolute belief in the ability of science to solve all of our problems is a religion in disguise, just another form of metaphysics.

  • That feels like a light bulb moment for me. I seem to be making this more difficult than I should. As a writer, I should know better than to make my reader endlessly look for a dictionary. Thanks.
    – WRX
    Dec 14, 2016 at 1:33

"A religion without any supernatural elements" seems contradictory. Religion by its typical definition is faith-based and contains supernatural elements, even without belief in a deity. While it still has a non-scientific supernatural element (belief in souls), a close real-world religion that is nontheistic is Jainism. If you're willing to set aside the "absolutely science-based" part of your description and focus on the details in the edit, Jainism could be used as (or at least compared with) the women's religion.

I contend that a fully science-based [word OP is looking for] is more of a philosophy rather than a religion, but philosophy may be too vague.

To be more specific, we could call the set of concepts they are trying to introduce a


1 the overall perspective from which one sees and interprets the world

2 a collection of beliefs about life and the universe held by an individual or a group

Even more suitable than worldview, we have an excellent loanword from German:


  • a comprehensive view or personal philosophy of human life and the universe (Collins English Dictionary)

  • a comprehensive conception or image of the universe and of humanity's relation to it (Webster's College Dictionary)

The women in the story want to create a worldview/Weltanschauung whose tenets will curtail or prevent overpopulation and pollution in future Earth.

  • I really like your suggestion of 'worldview'.
    – WRX
    Dec 14, 2016 at 1:13

I take it that you have decided to consider it a religion, and want a term like monotheism or pantheism to convey the idea that no deities are needed to manifest the world. Historically, atheism served just fine. Nowadays, Nontheistic is the normal adjective, particularly with regard to creation myth. Also consider Ietsism, which makes a point of not assigning deities to particular chores.

Question: What's the Difference Between Nontheism & Atheism?

Answer: In principle, there is no difference and should be no difference between nontheism and atheism. Nontheism means not believing in any gods, which is the same as the broad definition of atheism. The prefixes "a-" and "non-" mean exactly the same thing: not, without, lacking.

Nontheism was only created and continues to be used in order to avoid the negative baggage that comes with the label 'atheism' due to the bigotry of so many Christians towards atheism. Thus if there is a difference between nontheism and atheism, it lies entirely in the attitude of the speaker towards atheism: an atheist is a person who doesn't believe in any gods and isn't ashamed to say so; a nontheist is a person who also doesn't believe in any gods but may be ashamed of it on some level and doesn't want to be associated with all those dirty atheists who won't stay in the closet.

The earliest usage of non-theism may be from George Holyoake in 1852.

According to Holyoake:

Mr. [Charles] Southwell has taken an objection to the term Atheism. We are glad he has. We have disused it a long time [...]. We disuse it, because Atheist is a worn-out word. Both the ancients and the moderns have understood by it one without God, and also without morality.

Thus the term connotes more than any well-informed and earnest person accepting it ever included in it; that is, the word carries with it associations of immorality, which have been repudiated by the Atheist as seriously as by the Christian. Non-theism is a term less open to the same misunderstanding, as it implies the simple non-acceptance of the Theist's explanation of the origin and government of the world.

Note: the above two paragraphs are the quote as reported by James Buchanan in Modern Atheism under its forms of Pantheism, Materialism, Secularism, Development, and Natural Laws, 1857

The source for the quote is Holyoake's The Reasoner", New Series, No. VIII. 115, 1852.

George Holyoake at least adopted a positive-to-neutral attitude. Today, usage of non-theism is more likely to be accompanied by a hostile attitude towards atheism: people insist that nontheism and atheism cannot mean the same things and that while atheism is dogmatic and fundamentalist, nontheism is open-minded and reasonable. It's the same sort of argument heard from people who are convinced that agnosticism is the only "rational" position to have.

both blocks from here: http://atheism.about.com/od/Types-Atheism-FAQ/f/Difference-Nontheism-Atheism.htm

  • Atheistic or atheism are fine words. How can it fit it to my sentence? It was essential that they create a religion without any supernatural force, an atheistic community. It doesn't sound funky granola enough -- but food for thought!
    – WRX
    Dec 13, 2016 at 21:24
  • Please make absolutely clear who wrote what, including inner quotations such as according to Holyoake.
    – MetaEd
    Dec 13, 2016 at 22:45
  • @MetaEd Working on it, it's a bit of a goatrope. It seems the Holyoake quote was provided indirectly from another work. I have the trail, but not the actual source.
    – Phil Sweet
    Dec 13, 2016 at 23:36
  • Now does anyone know what the other downvotes are about?
    – Phil Sweet
    Dec 14, 2016 at 0:03
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    Good answer. I think at least some of the downvotes might be because one of your quoted passages includes the words "bigotry" and "Christians" in the same sentence. Or, more generally, because you're talking about religion on the internet. People are kind of touchy about this stuff. Dec 14, 2016 at 1:42

One simple word to describe the group of people may be simply order, though this dodges the question of how to describe their beliefs (for which creed may be useful).

  • Another great choice. It's simple and everyone knows what it means. I think I just got too far into fantasy and even though there is this one weird non-science thing in the book (time travel), everything else is exactly as it should be. Nothing goes unexplained -- except the one thing that the reader has to accept or not.
    – WRX
    Dec 14, 2016 at 13:03

If the system you are describing is exclusively based on science you may refer to it as scientism:

  • Excessive belief in the power of scientific knowledge and techniques.


  • Thanks I edited again @ JOSH. Your answer is only not 'right' because I omitted some information. What does ODO mean?
    – WRX
    Dec 13, 2016 at 20:11
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    @WillowRex - Oxford Dictionary Online
    – user66974
    Dec 13, 2016 at 20:12
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    Keep in mind that "Scientology" is a cooky sect which has little to do with science.
    – Hot Licks
    Dec 13, 2016 at 22:00
  • EST is not Scientology.. and I agree with you. My women are not a cult. Thanks @ Hot Licks
    – WRX
    Dec 13, 2016 at 23:23
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    @HotLicks "Scientology" and "scientism" are not remotely the same thing. It's like saying be careful with the word supreme which could lead people to associate it with the racist term supremacy.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Dec 13, 2016 at 23:43

Unless you have something specific in mind - and clearly not, because you asked - the correct generic term to describe a religion without a deity is 'fake'.

There are cultures and beliefs and cults and rules for living and who-knows-what but a religion necessarily revolves around at least one deity.

  • "a pursuit or interest to which someone ascribes supreme importance." That to me does not mean supernatural, but it is fine if you do not agree.
    – WRX
    Dec 31, 2016 at 1:31
  • Uh… Willow, that's an interesting definition and where on Earth did you get it? How would that be different than work, to a workaholic? Doesn't using 'supernatural' necessarily mean there can't be a deity? Dec 31, 2016 at 1:41
  • I got that from googling religion definition, but here is one I can link, maybe. My tab doesn't link on this site, but here is my try.link
    – WRX
    Dec 31, 2016 at 2:26

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