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    Thread: Christianity's impact on the environment

    1. #1
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      Christianity's impact on the environment

      In one of my sustainability courses this year we're discussing the consequences of Western adoption of Christian philosophy on the environment.

      In the most traditional Christian sense through the Roman Catholic church, man holds domain over the animals and the kingdom of Earth. Man is, in a sense, NOT a part of nature in a fundamentalist belief set, and according to many, the Earth is here for US.

      If we also compare the cult of saint worship to pagan cult worship, we can see a stark difference. Pagan deities reside WITHIN that which they guard. The tree spirit resides within all trees; most Pagan belief systems before Roman times had a pantheist view on the spirit of deities or God. On the other hand, saints, much like the Roman Pantheon, reside in Heaven (for Cultus Deorum Romanorum, Mt. Olympus, the realm of the gods.) While they watch over certain things (patron saints of specific groups/things) they are not a PART of it. So rather than being given the gift of a tree from a tree spirit, a saint is unconnected to that tree that was just cut down.

      It's an interesting discussion that we were having, and I wanted to know what your thoughts are on the topic! The paradigm shift from local deity worship to Christianity and its profound impact on environmentalism and the root causes of environmental damage, that is.
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      It took me a minute to understand what you were getting at, until I realized - yeah, fundies are so often Republicans, and Republicans think nothing of decimating entire forests and flattening huge tracts of land in the name of progress.

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      Quote Originally Posted by Darkmatters View Post
      It took me a minute to understand what you were getting at, until I realized - yeah, fundies are so often Republicans, and Republicans think nothing of decimating entire forests and flattening huge tracts of land in the name of progress.
      It's not JUST Republicans, though. Think about the "Democrats" who will recycle toxic aluminum and PVC-heavy plastics, yet purchase a new electronic device every time one comes out, at the expense of 3rd world workers and our dwindling precious metals like Lithium. The one GOOD thing about the Republican idea of "Buying American" because "those darn ______ (other nationality) are taking our jobs." is that we have much higher standards for chemicals and toxins in our goods, and American manufacturers are exploited far less.

      One of the main points we discussed was materialism, and whether we should be "using" nature or "living in" nature. Rather than use plastics that sit hundreds of years in a landfill, we could be using biodegradable materials, even some plastics. It's the entire Western cultural identity, we abuse and destroy nature to plant one more coffee tree or create one more coal mine. It's not a political issue, it's a cultural one, in my opinion.
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      Ah ok - more subtle, but point taken.

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      Quote Originally Posted by Darkmatters View Post
      Ah ok - more subtle, but point taken.
      Not that Republicans aren't a huge cause of the problem, because they ARE. At least they are upfront about it and willingly admit to not worrying about the environment. Democrats are doing just as much damage, as are Democratic politicians, but pretend that they are "good." (Al Gore's house uses 6 times the energy of the average American home. Sure, he's all for saving the environment, but not at his own expense.) In reality they are just the lesser of two evils. The GREEN Party, on the other hand...

      We discussed THAT in class, too, how being "less bad" is just as bad, because you're ignoring the problem; consumption.

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      I don't consider it a religious issue or political issue, both politics and religion feed into it but it's really just about avoiding responsibility and doing whatever possible to get ahead. This is an evolutionary problem and evolution must correct it. All sorts of bullshit justifications come into play on the grand scale (manifest destiny, etc) but it all comes down to the same reality, and it's not based on an illusion that God wouldn't let us hurt the world even if we tried. The reality is that we're just too caught up in our own lives to see the direction we're headed as a species. Like a mountain gorilla killing all the infants of his former rival, we are just doing what is necessary for our own survival and the survival of our offspring., ultimately at the expense of the survival of our species.

      Everything works out in the end, sometimes even badly.


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      But think about Eastern cultures: Not until they adapted Western economies and customs did they begin to quickly industrialize and start harming the environment.

      Western religions see existence as a time line. Born once, live once, die once. Eastern religions and traditions see existence as a cycle. The circle of life is a central belief held by many Eastern faiths. It's not about "God won't let the earth come to harm" it's ignorance to pantheistic beliefs. I consider it very much a religious issue.

      Here's the full article to explain. http://www.uvm.edu/~gflomenh/ENV-NGO...Lynn-White.pdf It's definitely worth your time.

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      I think if you look, you will find eastern cultures hurt the environment as well. Everyone did. Even primative people harmed the land, though often on smaller scales where it was less obvious. But there was still droughts and famines in early history that was due to poor choices of men, often from them trying to farm. Often it is a case of people not knowing the damage they can cause, rather than out right ignoring it.

      The same goes for today, people usually do not try to harm the land on purpose, but do not know the actual harm they are doing. The other side is people who use the enviroment for economic reasons. Though still they usually don't understand all the results. If you said, would you cut down this forest to get a lot of new jobs and help your home town grow. Most people would say yes. If you said, would you cut down this forest to get a lot of new jobs and help your home town grow, but there is twenty years all the land will become a barren waste land no longer fit for any use. Most people probably would say no.

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      I think no matter what belief system you have a vast mechanized civilization like we have cannot fail to do incredible damage to the ecosystem. Only small societies living in wilderness can really live in harmony with nature.

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      I know most people never read books that people recommend on forums, but if you want to know how 8 billion humans CAN live in harmony with nature, you should read Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things. It is a really interesting and surprisingly optimistic view of a sustainable future.

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      Quote Originally Posted by Darkmatters View Post
      I think no matter what belief system you have a vast mechanized civilization like we have cannot fail to do incredible damage to the ecosystem. Only small societies living in wilderness can really live in harmony with nature.
      I agree, I think no matter what kind of ideological background the area has, if it's not an ecosystem destroying monster it's probably just waiting to be conquered by one.
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      Everything works out in the end, sometimes even badly.


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