Religion and Ecology – A Growing Field of Study of Interest to Humanists
Presenter: John Pope
The blending of religious belief and environmental ethics is explored in the study of religion and ecology. The intersection of religion and ecology involves the interactions between humans, as individuals and as communities, with the natural world and the universe.
From the Psalms in the Bible to the sacred rivers in Hinduism, the natural world has been integral to the world’s religions.
Wikipedia lists the major religions and their references to ecology and the natural world. Buddhism seems to have the most references: “Buddhism idealizes and emphasizes interconnection, thereby creating a mindset that creates a productive and cooperative relationship between humans and nature.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_and_environmentalism But all religions now seem to be emphasizing ecology in their schools of thought. “In the last two decades, the connections between religion and ecology have been manifest by explosive growth in theological writings, scholarship, institutional commitment, and public action. Theologians from every religious tradition—along with dozens of non-denominational spiritual writers—have confronted religions’ attitudes toward nature and complicity in the environmental crisis…. Religious morality has expanded to include our relations to other species and ecosystems, and religious practice has come to include rituals to help us express our grief and remorse and also to celebrate what is left.” – Roger S. Gottlieb, “The Oxford Handbook of Religion and Ecology“.
So, religious thought seems to be returning to its origins – the natural world, and our human place in it.
What about Humanism? Humanist principles, including our VSHA principles, all acknowledge the primacy of the environment and our human responsibility to it. Our VSHA principle states “(xii) Humanists affirm that human beings are completely a part of nature, and that our survival is dependent upon a healthy planet which provides us and all other forms of life with a life-supporting environment.”
We will discuss the trends in religious/ecological thought, and how we Humanists fit in.
Is environmentalism a religion by any definition?
Do Humanists have ‘faith’ in science? Will science and technology save the species in the long term?
Are most people too fixated on the present or the near future to care about the distant future?
Does this revival of interest in the environment by religions mean a revival of religion in general?
Are youth today more inclined to protect the environment than past generations?
Book: “Ecology and Religion” – Grim and Tucker: https://www.kosmosjournal.org/article/ecology-and-religion/
Wikipedia: “Religion and environmentalism is an emerging interdisciplinary subfield in the academic disciplines of religious studies, religious ethics, the sociology of religion, and theology amongst others, with environmentalism and ecological principles as a primary focus.”: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_and_environmentalism “Ecology And Religion: An Overview” https://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/ecology-and-religion-overview
“Spiritual ecology is an emerging field in religion, conservation, and academia recognizing that there is a spiritual facet to all issues related to conservation, environmentalism, and earth stewardship.” – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spiritual_ecology “Environmentalists often speak of protecting nature as a sacred duty that offers a profound connection to a higher purpose.” “Is Deep Ecology a Religion?” – https://www.utne.com/environment/sacred-nature