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Abstract

The central hypothesis of this paper is that idealization of nature may fuel environmental racism when combined with dual interpretation of human religious or spiritual states. Medieval typological Biblical exegesis, originally based on historic rather than racial differentiation, encouraged presentation of Christianity as "natural" and Judaism as contra-natural. During the Gothic period, the stained glass of St. Denis Cathedral presented Judaism as occupying the material rather than the transcendent spheres of existence. In numerous stained glass windows, Jews appear as threats to nature by attacking Christ on a green cross, which symbolizes the renewal of all life, or the Lignum Vitae. As Christian architects and scientists increased their focus on the divine light of creation, prejudicial portrayals depicted Judaism as blind Synagogue, unable to fully appreciate nature. Pagan motifs, such as the Green Man, syncretized with Christian theological dualism, also serve to separate Judaism from living nature. These depictions purposefully conflict with Gothic aesthetic emphasis on proportion, clarity, and integrity and were intended to imply that religious minorities have no legitimate role in Christian European society. Modern religious scholarship must be cautious not to describe some religions as natural or nature religion, while neglecting others, particularly Judaism and Islam.

In: Worldviews: Global Religions, Culture, and Ecology

Abstract

Recent catastrophes in environmental management, such as population collapses in oceanic fisheries, have led environmental activists and scholars to invoke the precautionary principle (PP). In its strong form, PP demands that no human-initiated change in an ecosystem be permitted unless it is certain it will do no harm; while, in its weak form, PP holds that if an action might be environmentally harmful, regulators may, on best evidence, limit human activities to avoid damaging ecosystem perturbations. Implementing PP, however, presents epistemological, logical and practical difficulties. This paper compares the function of PP to that of the Biblical Wisdom literature in encouraging ecological prudence, and argues that PP should be replaced by a series of guiding concepts, dealing with the limitations of ecological knowledge and the flaws in human character most likely to result in environmental disaster. The environmental cases analysed are from oceanic fisheries management.

In: Worldviews: Global Religions, Culture, and Ecology

Abstract

From the Iron Age to the modern period, authors have repeatedly restructured the ecomythology of the Siegfried saga. Fritz Lang's Weimar film production (released in 1924-1925) of Die Nibelungen presents an ascendant humanist Siegfried, who dominates over nature in his dragon slaying. Lang removes the strong family relationships typical of earlier versions, and portrays Siegfried as a son of the German landscape rather than of an aristocratic, human lineage. Unlike The Saga of the Volsungs, which casts the dwarf Andvari as a shape-shifting fish, and thereby indistinguishable from productive, living nature, both Richard Wagner and Lang create dwarves who live in subterranean or inorganic habitats, and use environmental ideals to convey anti-Semitic images, including negative contrasts between Jewish stereotypes and healthy or organic nature. Lang's Siegfried is a technocrat, who, rather than receiving a magic sword from mystic sources, begins the film by fashioning his own. Admired by Adolf Hitler, Die Nibelungen idealizes the material and the organic in a way that allows the modern ''hero'' to romanticize himself and, without the aid of deities, to become superhuman.

In: Worldviews: Global Religions, Culture, and Ecology

Abstract

Mitchell (2016) proposes shared stories and religious background are unimportant to hiker spiritual experience on John Muir National Trail, USA. This study analyzes surveys from 265 volunteer day-hikes in three settings: urban, suburban natural area, and wildland; representing three modes of hiking: goal-directed, nature observation, and meditative. Overall, setting produced more statistically significant differences (22 of 25) among locale descriptors than the mode did (3 of 25). Sacred was more closely associated with descriptors of lack of human presence, than those related to biodiversity. Association of the sacred with higher elevations and mountain wildlands rather than with wetlands implies a pre-existing shared story. Nature oriented and meditative hiking accentuated perception of values, such as educational, humbling, sacred and wondrous, providing evidence that religious practice influences hiker perception. Suburban natural areas, which are more accessible to urban residents than wildlands, received ratings competing with wildlands in terms of personal benefits.

In: Worldviews: Global Religions, Culture, and Ecology