Religion After Darwin

Charles Darwin’s On The Origin of Species  was published in 1859, and had an immediate and dramatic effect on religious narratives. Traditional religions were forced to adopt an evolutionary worldview, or to go on the offensive; whereas New Religious Movements like Wicca or New Age adopted an environmental concern as a central part of their belief. And possibly, for individuals and groups committed to protect, preserve or sacralise nature, environmentalism has become a kind of religion in itself.

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Bron Taylor is Professor of Religion and Nature at the University of Florida. He is also a Carson Fellow at the Rachel Carson Center at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München. His central scholarly interest and personal passion is the conservation of the earth’s biological diversity and how human culture might evolve rapidly enough to arrest and reverse today’s intensifying environmental and social crises. He edits the Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture, as well as the two-volume Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature. His latest book is Dark Green Religion: Nature Spirituality and the Planetary Future (2009) – the first chapter can be read on his website, along with a wealth of other supplimentary material including a piece on Bron’s thoughts on the movie Avatar, as discussed in the podcast

5 replies
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    Sarah Moselle says:

    Thank you for posting this thought-provoking interview. One question that comes to mind relates to Taylor’s suggestion that this ‘greening’ of religions is a universal phenomenon. Taylor’s suggestion that the religions of the world are ‘turning green’ operates on an assumption that they were historically ‘not green’. In making his case, Taylor refers to Lynn White’s essay “On the Historical Roots of Our Ecological Crisis”, which asserts that the Judeo-Christian tradition models an exploitative relationship between humanity and nature. I’m curious to know if (and how) Taylor sees this exploitative relationship embedded in other global traditions as well.(Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Canada)

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      Christopher Cotter says:

      Good question – it is quite a ‘romantic’ and potentially orientalizing assertion that I would like to see/hear more evidence for myself…

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    Mathew Elder says:

    The degree to which segments of the “Abrahamic” religions have embraced environmental activism seems to challenge Taylor’s critique. His criticism of the “anthropocentric” views of these traditions does not take seriously how varied these traditions are, especially in the last few decades.

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    Christine says:

    Although his treatment of Abrahamic faiths is slightly polemical, Taylor raises a significant question in his treatment of them. Are the increasingly public environmental concerns of traditional faith groups actual changes in their actions and theological conceptions of the world, or are they merely “greenwashing”? Are their ecological concerns simply an attempt to maintain relevance within modern society and will they result in any positive, measurable outcomes? Rather than dismissing Abrahamic and other major traditions, Taylor suggests that the answers to these questions have yet to be determined. It is too early for proponents of traditional religions to lay claim to “eco-friendly” status.

    Many of the individuals with whom I discussed this podcast found Taylor’s obvious self-identification as a practitioner of “dark green religion” off putting. In his interview, Taylor does not maintain a distance between himself and his research subject, “dark green religion” and its practitioners. This led some people to suspect both his premises and conclusions on the subject. It led me to his book, Dark Green Religion, which I found to be thoroughly researched and engaging. Some of the ideas and belief systems which seem muddled and unclear in the podcast are explained in detail in the first 20 pages of the book. Although I do believe that Taylor is a proponent of “dark green religion”, his book is more than mere apologetics. It presents a compelling case for the emergence of a relatively new, earth based spiritual and religious movement.

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    Ruth-Anne Avruskin says:

    Thank you for this enlightening podcast! Though I am a student of religious studies, I had never before considered these perspectives on religion and nature. This podcast left me wondering how much of an impact does religion have on society and how much impact does the rest of society have on religion?


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