Discovery Guides Areas


God, Humanity, and Nature:
Comparative Religious Views of the Environment

(Released December 2005)

  by Ethan Goffman  


Key Citations

Web Sites



Key Citations Short Format Full Format
  1. Man and Nature in World Religions

    Miroslav Artic.

    Socijalna Ekologija, Vol. 9, No. 1-2, Jan-June 2000, pp. 1-21.

    Discusses the relation between man & nature in world religions, proceeding from the origins of the world in Hinduism, Buddhism, Hebraism, Christianity, & Islam. With the first man's sin the balance of the relation between man & nature was disrupted. Acting irresponsibly may destroy the world & endangers life itself. Many religions offer integral (unity) solutions for overcoming the ecological (environmental) crisis. Hinduism especially emphasizes the way of love & moral activity (effects). Buddhism suggests that, in order to accomplish unity & harmony in nature, man must overcome his egoism. The Hebrew Old-Testament tradition brings to consciousness the concepts of subjugate, which implies that to cultivate & nurture the earth will lead to mutual happiness & contentment; & reign, suggesting that life should be cherished & protected. Jesus in the New Testament testifies by example how to persevere in refuting dependence on natural resources. Islam holds man responsible for the fate of Allah's creatures. 76 References. Adapted from the source document.

  2. Christian attitudes to nature

    Robin Attfield.

    Journal of the History of Ideas, Vol. 44, No. 3, Jl-S 1983, pp. 369-386.

    The conclusions of Lynn White, Jr., John Passmore, and William Coleman, who variously represent Judaeo-Christian attitudes to nature as despotic, anthropocentric and exploitative, are contested; just as frequently Christians have regarded human beings as stewards of creation, responsible for its care. A survey of the biblical, patristic, medieval and early modern periods suggests that evidence for gentle attitudes has been underplayed. Extra resources supporting an enlightened ethic thus become available.

  3. Bedouin religious practices in Sinai and the Negev

    Clinton Bailey.

    Anthropos, Vol. 77, No. 1-2, 1982, pp. 65-88.

    The Bedouins' extreme exposure to the desert's harsh environment and their scant recourse to help in the event of adversity have made their quest for the means to attenuate their fears particularly strong. This quest has led them to adhere to practices that give them the sense of exercising a degree of control over the recurrent afflictions of nature. Among these practices are fatalism, attempts to propitiate Allah, the concept of agents of evil, the creation of taboos, and belief in the power of magic. Although these devices do not form an integrated religion, in their appeal to the supernatural they constitute the Bedouin's true religion. This paper presents some of these practices, and indicates their relatedness to the natural environment of Bedouins past and present.

  4. The Fire Next Time: The Conversion of the Huli Apocalypse

    Chris Ballard.

    Ethnohistory, Vol. 47, No. 1, winter 2000, pp. 205-225.

    Examines the impact of Christian notions of the Apocalypse on the Huli speakers of the Southern Highlands of Papua New Guinea during the 1950s. Precontact Huli cosmology posited a moral constitution for the fertility of the universe in which the health of people & the land reflected the state of moral order in Huli society. Failure in social behavior, which could be gauged from the declining condition of the "skin" of the land, was attributed to an inexorable process of loss of the knowledge of customary lore. Human agency, however, was accorded a significant role in redressing this universal tendency to entropy, & ritual leaders claimed the ability to reduce an apocalyptic, earth-renewing fall of fertile soil from the sky. The adoption of Christian understandings of the Apocalypse as the revelation of divine will, & the abandonment of most of the precontact rituals, have had significant consequences for Huli conceptions of the role of human agency in history, & for the nature of their engagement with the land. 53 References. Adapted from the source document.

  5. God meets Gaia in Austin, Texas: a case study of environmentalism as implicit religion

    J. P. Bartkowski and W. S. Swearingen.

    Review of Religious Research, Vol. 38, No. 4, Jun 1997, pp. 308-324.

    Noting insights from Mircea Eliade's theory of sacred space, calls attention to striking similarities between classical modes of religious experience and the sacralization of a prized natural resource located in Austin, Texas. Using interview data collected from 45 environmentalists and ecologically-minded individuals, argues that this city's most prominent natural resource (Barton Springs) is construed in terms that can be interpreted as nodal space that provides individuals with access to ultimate reality; integrative space which binds them to the local Austin community, and demarcative space that furnishes Austin with a distinctive character in opposition to surrounding locales. (Original abstract-amended)

  6. The Mount Kare Python and His Gold: Totemism and Ecology in the Papua New Guinea Highlands

    Aletta Biersack.

    American Anthropologist, Vol. 101, No. 1, Mar 1999, pp. 68-87.

    Mount Kare in the Papua New Guinea highlands was traditionally a ritual site where pigs were sacrificed to Taiyundika, a totemic python, to promote the fertility of plant, animal, & human species. Today, it is where gold is mined in pursuit of unprecedented riches & millenarian transformations. Although sacrifices are no longer conducted there, the python still has some salience for the Paiela people, who consider the gold to be the flesh of the totemic python. Blending Christianity with traditional cosmology, Paielas interpret the finding of the gold as a millenarian sign. As an ancestral figure who guarantees the continuing fertility of the earth in exchange for pork sacrifices, the python stands at the core of Paiela constructions of nature & humanity's position in it. Here, Paiela totemism is explored in terms of an indigenous symbolic ecology & of how "local knowledge" or a "cognized model" can inflect capital-intensive resource development at a time of ostensible globalization. The ecology of Mount Kare gold mining must be sensitive to intercultural processes & to how global flows (of ideologies, technologies, & capital) are mediated by vernacular constructions. 1 Figure, 72 References. ndapted from the source document.

  7. Alternative Spirituality and Environmentalism

    Jon P. Bloch.

    Review of Religious Research, Vol. 40, No. 1, Sept 1998, pp. 55-73.

    The relationship between religiosity & environmentalism has previously been examined by studying conservative vs liberal Christian affiliation. Explored here are environmentalist attitudes among persons whose religiosity does not fit conventional patterns, ie, the so-called "alternative" or "counterculture" spiritual community (eg, New Age, Neo-Paganism). This network of individuals finds commonalty & solidarity not through organizational ties or a singular theology, but through an overriding ideology that challenges the alleged rigidity & dualistic dogma of mainstream society, & so suggests a new form of social movement. Central to this critique of the mainstream is the notion that the Earth is just as sacred as the heavens, so by preserving the planet, one is being "spiritual." Excerpts from in-depth interviews with 22 alternative spiritualists feature numerous key environmental/spiritual themes & demonstrate that issues such as religiosity, liberal vs conservative affiliation, & environmental politics can take on different meanings outside of mainline Christianity. 2 Tables, 52 References. Adapted from the source document.

  8. Christianity and the Environment in the American Public

    Heather Hartwig Boyd.

    Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, Vol. 38, No. 1, Mar 1999, pp. 36-44.

    Data from the 1993 General Social Survey (Ns range from 800-1,400 respondents to select religion/environment questions) are drawn on to test hypotheses specific to the relationships among Christian & environmental beliefs & behaviors in the US public. When examined using hierarchical linear regressions that enter demographic variables in the first block, religion variables appear to be weak predictors of environmental attitudes & behaviors. After examining belief in God, biblical literalism, fundamentalist tradition, graceful image of God, church attendance, & prayer, only membership in a fundamentalist tradition was associated with (weak) support for the environment. Contrary to hypotheses, more frequent prayer was associated with stronger support for the environment, even after demographic controls. While fundamentalism was positively associated with prayer, fundamentalist tradition & frequency of prayer were associated with environmentalism in different directions. When examined absent other religion variables, the interaction between fundamentalism & frequency of prayer did not significantly account for variance in any of the three dependent measures of environmentalism. Overall, religion variables appear to be weak predictors of environmentalism in the US. 2 Tables, 12 References. Adapted from the source document.

  9. Loving Nature: Eros or Agape?

    Susan P. Bratton.

    Environmental Ethics, Vol. 14, No. 1, spring 1992, pp. 3-25.

    A discussion of the characteristics of both divine & human love for nature, relating traditional theological questions about love to Christian ecotheology. Two types of Christian love are analyzed: eros & agape. It is argued that, because agape is self-giving, it is preferable to eros in relationships with the environment. Further, it is spontaneous & unmotivated, creative, & indifferent to value, encourages fellowship between God & creation, recognizes individuality & freedom in nature, & produces action & suffering. This love should recognize the possibility of reciprocal interaction with nature, appreciate gifts of the natural world to humankind, & simultaneously consider the needs of both human & nonhuman neighbors. Continued philosophical & theological discussion of the role of reciprocity & sacrifice in love for nature is suggested. Adapted from the source document.

  10. The Ordination of a Tree: The Buddhist Ecology Movement in Thailand

    Susan M. Darlington.

    Ethnology, Vol. 37, No. 1, winter 1998, pp. 1-15.

    As part of a growing environmental movement in Thailand, a small number of Buddhist monks engage in ecological conservation projects, teaching ecologically sound practices among Thai farmers & criticizing rapid economic development nationwide (which they see as one of the primary causes of the country's environmental crisis). Highlighted here is how one northern Thai monk used a tree ordination, adapted from a traditional Buddhist ritual, to build villager commitment to his ecology projects. 1 Bibliog. Adapted from the source document.

  11. Religion, Culture and Environmental Concern: An Empirical Cross-National Analysis

    Paul Dekker, Peter Ester and Masja Nas.

    Social Compass, Vol. 44, No. 3, Sept 1997, pp. 443-458.

    Presents a comparison of 1993 International Social Survey Project data from 20 countries evaluating the environmental consequences of Christian religious beliefs, belonging to the Christian community, & postmaterialist values. Macro- & microanalyses result in the rejection of Lynn White's (1967) hypothesis that the attitude of human dominance over nature held by the Judeo-Christian heritage is responsible for the current ecological crisis, & only partial support R. Inglehart's (eg, 1995) correlation of a new model of environmental ethics with society's postmaterialism, the result of an intergenerational values shift. Evidence indicates that postmaterialism & willingness to pay are related, & green attitudes are associated with environmental concern. 3 Tables, 1 Figure, 20 References. Adapted from the source document.

  12. Environmental Stewardship: Our Spiritual Heritage for Sustainable Development

    O. P. Dwivedi.

    Journal of Developing Societies, Vol. 12, No. 2, Dec 1996, pp. 217-231.

    Examines the concept of environmental stewardship, balancing concerns for environmental well-being against the pursuit of economic & industrial development. Arguing that protecting the environment is an interest inherent to all world cultures & spiritual traditions, it is suggested that the standards of sustainable development advocated by the 1987 Brudtland Commission report be adopted. In support of this approach, the concept of nature & stewardship is examined across cultures, focusing on the Western & Hindu traditions. The concept of Vasudhaiv-kutumbakam (viewing human beings & all life on earth as belonging to one's extended family) is advocated as a way of promoting an ecologically responsible approach to global change. It is argued that only through a universal charter of environmental stewardship can environmentalism be linked to long-term development. Adapted from the source document.

  13. Christianity, Environmentalism, and the Theoretical Problem of Fundamentalism

    Douglas Lee Eckberg and T. Jean Blocker.

    Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, Vol. 35, No. 4, Dec 1996, pp. 343-355.

    Data from the 1993 General Social Survey, which has 40+ measures of environmental attitudes & actions, as well as numerous measures of religious membership, belief, & participation, & other background measures, are drawn on to analyze the relationship between religion & environmentalism. Findings give some support to the thesis of Lynn White (1967) that Christian theology has an antienvironmental effect, but do not support the contention that it has a stewardship effect. However, evidence is found of a proenvironmental effect of religious participation. Further, the negative effect of Christian theology seems to be largely an effect of fundamentalism or sectarianism; while this could be theologically oriented, it might also be an offshoot of conflict between religious conservatives & liberals. 2 Tables, 18 References. Adapted from the source document.

  14. Islam and ecology: a bestowed trust

    Richard C. Foltz, Frederick M. Denny, Azizan Haji Baharuddin and Adnan Z. Amin.

    Cambridge: Center for the Study of World Religions, 584 pp.

  15. Toward a Queer Ecofeminism

    Greta Gaard.

    Hypatia, Vol. 12, No. 1, winter 1997, pp. 114-137.

    Examines the intersections of ecofeminist & queer theories by considering the social construction of the natural, uses of Christianity as a logic of domain, & the rhetoric of colonialism, ie, the role of erotophobia. It is argued that the development of a queer ecofeminism is important to the common liberation of the erotic in a democratic, ecological society. 72 References. Adapted from the source document.

  16. Religion and Environmental Issues within Anglo-American Democracies

    Bernadette C. Hayes and Manussos Marangudakis.

    Review of Religious Research, Vol. 42, No. 2, Dec 2000, pp. 159-174.

    Using Lynn White's historical thesis that Judeo-Christianity has cherished the human exploitation of nature as our frame of reference, this article examines the impact of religion on environmental attitudes & behavior in the US, Canada, GB, & New Zealand. Results of the 1993 ISSP Environment survey, a nationally representative sample of the adult population in each nation, suggest that (1) in general, Christians & non-Christians do not significantly differ regarding their concern for the environment; (2) there are some significant interdenominational as well as intradenominational differences within the Christian tradition in terms of attitudes toward the environment; & (3) overall, religious identification is relatively weak & inconsistent predictor of environmental attitudes & behavior across nations. 3 Tables, 1 Appendix, 18 References. Adapted from the source document.

  17. Medieval Jainism : culture and environment

    Prem Suman Jain and Raj Mal Lodha.

    New Delhi: Ashish Pub House, 178 pp.

  18. Ecology in the New Religiosity

    Jakov Jukic.

    Socijalna Ekologija, Vol. 11, No. 1-2, Jan-June 2002, pp. 57-80.

    Although it may seem that between the new religiosity & ecology, there are no deeper ideological connections & similarities, the situation is quite the opposite. Both movements stem from the same matrix: postmodernism. Because of this, one can speak about two faces of the same issue. Such an example offers the Seventh Day Adventist Church, which addresses ecological matters. The second example is apocalyptic communities, which for the most part came into existence in France. The third example is new religious movements; described here are the movement of the guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh; the International Society for the Consciousness of Krishna; & the groups around the spiritual leader Sai Baba. The fourth example mixes premodern & postmodern conflicts, as is the case with the ecological sect, Mandarom, recently founded in France. Finally, the fifth & most developed form of religious relation with ecology is the New Age movement. The paper ends with the ideas of A. Naess's "deep ecology" & those of W. Fox, which attempt to connect the deep ecological philosophy with scientific results of transpersonal psychology. 35 References. Adapted from the source document.

  19. Saving the Creation: Christian Environmentalism in the United States

    Laurel Kearns.

    Sociology of Religion, Vol. 57, No. 1, spring 1996, pp. 55-70.

    In the mid 1980s, religious environmental activism in the US increased dramatically. Based on a 1987-1992 field study of this emerging movement, 3 models or ethics of Christian-related ecotheology are proposed: Christian stewardship, ecojustice, & creation spirituality. Following a detailed examination of Christian stewardship & creation spirituality, environmentalism is investigated through the cultural shift/change frameworks of various scholars. 1 Table, 60 References. Adapted from the source document.

  20. Some Aspects of the Man-Nature Relationship in the Islamic World

    Adela Krikavova.

    Archiv Orientalni, Vol. 63, No. 3, 1995, pp. 251-285.

    The relationship between man & the environment in the Islamic world is examined. The desert environment of much of the Islamic world is characterized by harsh conditions, open spaces, changeability, & a heavenly sphere of stars & the cosmos. These qualities of the environment dictated an Islamic way of life built around tribal communities, nomadic wanderings, exaltation of water, & the need to understand the timing & rhythms of nature. The desert environment has influenced various aspects of Islamic life: (1) forms of Islamic towns; (2) the relationship between man, water, & vegetation; (3) Islamic gardens; (4) the importance of land tenure; (5) reflections of the environment in literature; (6) aesthetic feelings & the fine arts; & (7) ecological problems. D. Generoli.

  21. Islam and utilisation policies for environmental resources

    Erhun Kula.

    Journal of interdisciplinary economics, Vol. 14, No. 3, 2003, pp. 213-226.

    During the last three decades or so academics from a variety of disciplines have been taking part in a wide range of outlets to explore whether religion in general, and Judaeo-Christian faith in particular is really responsible for the misuse of environmental resources. Unfortunately, Islam, as a major World religion, has been largely absent from these debates. This paper looks at the importance of nature in the main sources of Islamic instruction with a view to finding out about the importance of good environmental conduct in Muslim countries where the pressure on environmental resources has been growing.; Reprinted by permission of A.B. Academic Publishers

  22. Christianity in the Face of the Problem of "Man/Nature-Environment"

    Vittorio Lanternari.

    Religioni e Societa, Vol. 18, No. 45, Jan-Apr 2003, pp. 6-48.

    The religions of the world have been concerned with ecology & the environment to varying extents, as can be seen by a brief overview of some of the basic attitudes of major religions toward the natural world, starting with the Greeks & their worship of Gaia. Emphasis is placed on the history of the contact between Christian missionaries in Africa & the religious practices of the indigenous inhabitants, which tended toward nature-worship. Paradoxically, this part of the world (Zimbabwe, Zambia, Madagascar, Malawi, etc) is currently most under threat of ecological despoliation, deforestation, & rain forest destruction. Responses within the Christian community to threats to the environment are discussed, including the Eleventh Commandment Fellowship, & the Catholic Church, including a discussion of Pope John Paul II's 1991 encyclical, Centesimus annus. A. Siegel.

  23. Science, Progress, and the End of the Modern World

    Chris H. Lewis.

    Soundings, Vol. 75, No. 2-3, summer-fall 1992, pp. 307-332.

    Like sixteenth- & seventeenth-century Europe, late twentieth-century global industrial civilization has experienced the proliferation of Christian prophecies of an imminent apocalypse & scientific & popular images of the death of nature & the extinction of humanity. Because of the dialectical interaction between religion & science since the seventeenth century, Christian apocalyptics use the most current science & apocalyptic ecologists use Christian apocalypticism to frame their critiques of the modern world. It is argued that this ecological apocalypticism is at least four centuries old & is as dependent on Christian millennialism as it is on a scientific worldview. The increasing politicization of science & the scientific community over the danger of uncontrolled progress since the 1930s represents a radical new development in this debate about the modern world's drive to transfrom the Earth & create endless growth & development. Overwhelmed by apocalyptic prophecies, many modern Americans & Europeans cling to their faith in the modern worldview but fear that continued progress will cause the collapse of modern industrial civilization & threaten humanity with extinction. AA.

  24. India's Middle Classes and the Environment

    Emma Mawdsley.

    Development and Change, Vol. 35, No. 1, Jan 2004, pp. 79-103.

    The focus of most analyses of environmental struggles & discourses in colonial & postcolonial India is on rural & forest areas, & on subalterns versus elites. Recently, however, there has been increased interest in urban environmental issues, &, to some extent, in India's (variously defined) 'middle classes.' This article reviews a range of literatures - environmental, social-cultural & political - in order to draw out themes & arguments concerning the relationships between India's middle classes & the complex meanings & materialities of the environment. Three issues are explored in detail: civic indifference & the public sphere; environmental activism; & Hinduism & ecological thinking. The article emphasizes the importance of recognizing diversity & dynamism within the middle classes in relation to the environment. It argues the need to develop situated understandings of what constitutes 'the environment' among different middle-class groups; & underlines the ways in which environmental issues reflect & are often emblematic of wider social & political debates. 1 Table, 139 References. Adapted from the source document.

  25. Dispossessing the Spirits: Christian Transformations of Desire and Ecology among the Urapmin of Papua New Guinea

    Joel Robbins.

    Ethnology, Vol. 34, No. 3, summer 1995, pp. 211-224.

    Western nongovernmental organizations have brought environmental issues to the attention of remote populations to encourage protection of national resources. In the process, they have changed the nature of the indigenous culture's constructions about the environment & ecological relations with it. Local constructions about the environment have become political resources. Reported here are results of an ethnographic study of changing environmental constructions among the Urapmin of the Western Highlands of Papua New Guinea, who are noted for thinking of themselves as completely Christian, but who practice a local form of animism. The Urapmin practices of sacrificing pigs when digging gold prospecting trenches & the Christian group possession dances are described. It is observed that Christianity & Christian ideas about power, ownership, the self, & desire can have an impact in the transformation of indigenous ethnoecologies, & that ecological ideas are interlinked with ideas about social life & relationships. 38 References. M. Pflum.

  26. The rural church the farm family

    W. B. Rogers and G. E. Buckmire.

    Agricultural economics special report, vol. 7, May 1967.

    Religion is a major influence in the lives of people living in rural environments. this is examined in relation to the changing functions of the rural family.

  27. Five attitudes toward nature and technology from a Christian perspective

    Robert John Russell.

    Theology and science, Vol. 1, No. 2, Oct 2003, pp. 149-159.

    Challenged by Lynn White's sharp criticism of Christianity's responsibility for earth's ecological crisis, both Ian Barbour and Philip Hefner have proposed theological anthropologies based upon the imago Dei that supports an ecological ethic. Russell, while supporting the ecological ethic, turns not to anthropology but rather to eschatology and the proleptic vision of a new creation.; Reprinted by permission of Routledge, Taylor and Francis Ltd

  28. Eschatological dimension of ecology

    Hans Schwarz.

    Zygon, Vol. 9, No. , D 1974, pp. 323-338.

    The intention of this paper is to show that the eschatological dimension of ecology is indispensable to any considerations to secure the future. First, I try to determine whether we live in an aging world or just in a world come of age, then I illustrate the apocalyptic dimension of the future, and finally address myself to ecological planning as seen in the context of ecology. My contention which is illustrated with examples is that the Christian understanding of the anticipatory power of eschatology can provide the incentive and the possibility of stopping the exploitation of man's environment and of preventing his own self-destruction.

  29. Gandhi, Deep Ecology, Peace Research and Buddhist Economics

    Thomas Weber.

    Journal of Peace Research, Vol. 36, No. 3, May 1999, pp. 349-361.

    The central importance of Mohandas Gandhi to nonviolent activism is widely acknowledged. There are also other significant peace-related bodies of knowledge that have gained such popularity in the West in the relatively recent past that they have changed the directions of thought & have been important in encouraging social movements, yet they have not been analyzed in terms of antecedents, especially Gandhian ones. The new environmentalism in the form of deep ecology, the discipline of peace research, & what has become known as "Buddhist economics" very closely mirror Gandhi's philosophy. Assessed here is Gandhi's contribution to the intellectual development of three leading figures in these fields: Arne Naess, Johan Galtung, & E. F. Schumacher. 1 Figure, 50 References. Adapted from the source document.

  30. Substantive Religious Belief and Environmentalism

    Michelle Wolkomir, Michael Futreal, Eric Woodrum and Thomas Hoban.

    Social Science Quarterly, Vol. 78, No. 1, Mar 1997, pp. 96-108.

    A critical reexamination of the debate, predicated on Lynn White's thesis (1967), over whether Christian dominion doctrine fosters negative environmental attitudes & outcomes. It is argued that previous links between biblical literalism, religious salience, & negative environmental attitudes are spurious, & that the more consequential religious determinants of environmental ethics entail substantive beliefs such as dominion. This argument is empirically supported with regression analyses based on a 1992 national survey. As hypothesized, alleged negative religious effects on environmental attitudes are spurious; however, religious salience is found to be positively associated with environmentally responsible behavior. Positive & negative religious effects on environmentalism are identified, & practical potentials suggested. 5 Tables, 22 References. Adapted from the source document.