It’s Not Just World View That’s the Problem

I’ve been a longtime fan of ClimateArk.org for its gathering of news stories on climate change. I also love the implicit reference of its title to Noah and the Ark, with a little image of these in its upper left corner.

In a very beautiful VHS documentary, KEEPING THE EARTH: RELIGIOUS AND SCIENTIFIC PERSPECTIVES ON THE ENVIRONMENT, they intersperse (Judeo-Christian) religious stories of creation with scientific perspectives, and when they get to the Noah story, they say that Noah wrote the first Endangered Species Act.

The problem I have with ClimateArk is some of Dr. Glen Barry’s (its host) counterproductive tangents. Now Dr. Barry does a really marvelous job with his website and he’s just great on that account, but he does get into these snits on his blog, sort of like I do, I guess :). His recent one is:

“God Pollution: Nature Is My Religion, Earth Is My Temple” — There are no invisible ghosts in the sky ruling over and judging us. God pollution kills, obscures truth, and slows progress. All we have and need is each other, kindred species, ecosystems, and the biosphere.

I’m a religious person whose environmentalism flows from my ardent love of God, love of God’s creation, and (if God says I must then) love of neighbor and keen desire to do right by them. I tend to wonder how Dr. Barry cannot be aware of the religious underpinnings of his tremendous love of creation and efforts to do right by it. A true atheist, it seems to me, would just be concerned about feeding his own face and perhaps being kind to a few people around him in a self-serving way, unless he/she were somehow hooked into a religious moral system in which God has been deleted from the world view, but the moral system (the ethos) maintained. Sort of the reverse of those who cling to a self-serving concept of “God,” while chucking the moral system that foundationally involves “keeping the Earth” – the people Dr. Barry seems to be railing against.

In fact, it seems to me that it is due to the Judeo-Christian conception of God as transcendent (and immanent) – which, of course, God gave us to understand through our spiritual history – that science arose. The forces of nature in this conception of God and creation are not in animistic spirit beings but are natural laws or laws of nature. In other words, physics, chemistry, biology, etc explain things, not an angry or capricious Gaia, Zeus, or tree spirits.  (No offense to the ancients, who were just doing science as best they could, trying to make sense of the world.)

But I digress. What I really object to about Glen Barry’s anti-religious spiel has nothing to do with religion, but my multidimensional (transdimensional) theoretical framework as an anthropologist. I’m not a cultural or ideological determinist or Hegelian; neither am I a material or social (economic) determinist or Marxist, nor a political determinist. I’m neither an environmental nor biological determinist, nor a psychological determinist. My theoretical assumption is that all these dimensions impact our human condition; no single one is sole determinant.

Did Islam cause bin Laden to attack us? Islam twisted to his own ideas/purposes/subconscious-issues probably played a part, but culture (ideology, religion) is only one strand among the many other interpenetrating dimensions of our human condition. Does Christianity cause people to destroy the earth and God’s creatures? It (twisted and perverted) may pay a part among the many other impacting forces, including other ideologies that entwine Christianity like a bunch of killer weeds. We of various religious faiths need to keep our gardens (and ourselves) weeded.

Totally off topic & not at all about the environment per se, but some really great movies I’ve been watching are THE PERFECT STRANGER trilogy which I saw on a Protestant TV station, purchased, & have been passing around. Check it out on YouTube — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XPPwQApwBsA; and its sequel ANOTHER PERFECT STRANGER — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=55pTVRyuaMk.

Let us let God heal ourselves emotionally and spiritually (like putting the oxygen mask on ourselves first, then on others next to us) so that we can truly KEEP THE EARTH — which foundationally precedes the 10 Commandments.

And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it – Genesis 2:15

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