Is environmentalism a new religion?


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This is actually my dissertation title. I am a student at plymouth uni. Basically Ive been looking at the similarities between environmentalism and religion. I would really appreciate your thoughts on how different religions see our relationship with nature and our responsibilities towards it. depends on how you define religion. It's easy to make parallels between secular and religious ideologies simply on the basis of being ideologies - but when you start looking at the details it can be harder to reconcile them.

For example, key points about religion is that it is usually a definitive set of beliefs, dealing specifically about our relationship with the universe and death, and how to apply those principles to living. Usually there's a central core of texts which cannot be challenged, and an organised body that overseas interpretation and practices from these texts for the lay community.

I don't really see that in environmentalism.

However, the comparison as above may be particularly superficial, or else misunderstand the interpretation of what constitutes religion. :)

Anmyway, hope that helps, and welcome to CR. :)
Hi Ben:)

I tend to agree with Brian in that it really depends on how one defines religion. Sometimes, one's religion is part of an organized (or somewhat disorganized at times;)) belief system which may or may not speak to the idea of taking care of the environment. However, it seems to me that the issue is often addressed by these systems, either by direct command, or by a general idea of how we are to treat all things.

In cases where there is no written, organized doctrine, there are still many cultures who have, over the ages, been extremely environmentally aware. This might often be due to necessity, but I think it also can go somewhat beyond to a sense of spiritual responsibility--a mutual respect with nature, or perhaps a need to care about the things around us that sustain and enhance our existence.

And I might venture that there could actually be a contemporary, organized religion out there somewhere with environmentalism at its core. I know there are certainly individuals who "religiously" practice love for the environment. (Lots of us tree huggers here in CR, too!):)

Best wishes for a great dissertation...

If you take a look at the tennets of deep ecology as proposed by Arne Naess and also writings of transendentalists such as Emerson you see that a spiritual understanding of the environment is right at the core of these philosophies. Also the idea of the environment as a sort of living bible with from which knowledge of god can be derived keeps coming up. While this could be said to be spirituality rather than religion there is now a more defined and organised movement growing up around it. This movement has absorbed ideas from previous paradimns and religions just like all evolving religions. Like all religions it trys to understand our place in the world and lay down rules to help us live in it. There are certainly environmentalists who preach very much like priests. Just as an extra thought, there are also alot of environmentalists who hold a faith in modern technology which seems to verge on the religious. But maybe thats a whole new discussion...
Also, Im just looking at a book on the anthropology of religion and it sets out the characteristics of a religion...

1 religious or practical
2 Doctrinal or philisophical
3 Mythic or narrative
4 Experimental or emotional
5 Ethical or legal
6 Organisational or Social
7 Matierial or Artistic
8 Political and economic

All these seem to be, in some form, part of the environmental movement.