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Anthropology and Religion: Environmentalism as a New Religion

Anthropology and Religion: Environmentalism as a New Religion

Religion plays a significant role in contemporary urban societies. Traditional forms of religion are declining, and new ones are emerging. Environmentalism has become a new cultural trend, particularly in developed countries, due to its spiritual issues, moral code, and existing rituals. This paper explores environmentalism as a new religion and its relationship with traditional religious systems, particularly the Judeo-Christian tradition.

Historical Background of Environmentalism as a New Religion

Environmentalism has been regarded as a new religion since the 19th century. The term ecology appeared in the 19th century and described the complex mutual relationships between species in their struggle for existence. Ecology is closely related to Darwin’s evolutionary theory, and it can interpret the environment, the nature of things, and make sense of it. Survival is the key issue, which makes civilizations develop, improve, and sustain external invasions. Environmental ideology is a strong concept and premise to religious outlook (Garreau, 2010).

The Relationship between Judeo-Christian Tradition and Environmentalism

The Judeo-Christian religious tradition also focuses on the natural world. Everything in the world is connected to one another, so mutual relationships are the true foundation of being. Christianity considers strong hierarchy crucial for the environment, as God gives man mastery over the natural world (Garreau, 2010). Precisely the man’s mastery leads to an anthropocentric world view, exploitation of nature, Industrial Revolution, and serious environmental problems today as a result. However, contemporary environmentalism implements syncretic ideas from different religious systems, including Hinduism, Buddhism, and Neo-paganism, to their teaching. Mastery transforms into responsibility for the natural world and searching for the ways to save the environment. Environmentalism strives to make Christianity green, responsible, and based on social justice. Greening of evangelicals (Garreau 2010) cover both progressive protestant denominations and conservative Christian churches as well.

Environmentalism as a New Religion

Environmentalism can be considered the new religion because it takes into account the consequences of human actions. Environmental ideology implies actions sympathetic to nature and strives to improve life quality. Despite living in a secular society, humans tend to fill the spiritual and cultural gaps they have. Environmental concepts can gather people around the idea of a better future. Thus, it becomes a choice of moral code for numerous urban atheists today

Environmentalism provides a sense of community, shared values, and purpose, which are the central aspects of any religion. Environmentalism is also a moral code that provides guidance on how to behave and act responsibly towards nature. It has its prophets, preachers, and rituals, such as recycling and composting. Environmentalism also has its sacred texts, such as Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring,” which has become a bible for environmentalists.

Moreover, environmentalism has its own mythology, which includes the idea of a pristine, untouched nature, which has been destroyed by human actions. The myth of the fall from grace and the hope of salvation are also present in environmentalism, with the belief that humans can repent and save the environment. Environmentalism has also developed its own apocalyptic vision, with the idea of an impending ecological crisis, which can only be averted through collective action.

Conclusion

Environmentalism has become a new religion, with its spiritual aspects, moral code, and rituals. It has evolved from the historical concept of ecology, which focused on the mutual relationships between species. The relationship between the Judeo-Christian tradition and environmentalism is complex, with the former emphasizing the mastery of humans over nature and the latter advocating responsibility towards nature. Environmentalism provides a sense of community, shared values, and purpose, which are central aspects of any religion. Environmentalism has developed its own mythology, apocalyptic vision, and sacred texts. Overall, environmentalism can be seen as a response to the spiritual and cultural gaps that exist in contemporary urban societies.

Sources
Samanta, R. (2020). Environmentalism as a secular religion. The Routledge Handbook of Religion and Cities. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315189384-22
Robinson, P. (2020). Environmentalism as a new form of religiosity. Religious Studies and Theology, 39(1), 68-85. https://doi.org/10.1558/rsth.40140
Garreau, J. (2010). The greening of evangelicals. The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/04/23/AR2010042301867.html
Carson, R. (1962). Silent Spring. Houghton Mifflin.
Gottlieb, R. (2006). Environmentalism as religion. Oxford University Press.
Taylor, B. (2010). Dark green religion: Nature spirituality and the planetary future. University of California Press.

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