At Odds

Both religion and ecology are often talked about in our modern age, but seldom are the two linked together. More specifically how the different outlook of Christianity on nature when compared to other world religions. White makes some interesting claims in his essay, The Historical Roots of Our Ecological Crisis, especially surrounding the topic of Christianity’s impact on nature. He starts by pointing out the seemingly unrelated events that happen when, put bluntly, stuff happens. The environment is always changing, much due to its complexity and the number of organisms it holds in balance. Much like how we are taught in biology that if a predator’s population shrinks, the prey will increase to the point of famine. This alone is not too interesting, however the introduction of Christianity into the picture sheds new light. 

Christianity, as with any religion, is practiced by people. It is an event which brings with it ideas and guidelines on how the world works. White’s claim that “Christianity is the most anthropocentric religion the world has seen.” is a very interesting one. The way he described the actions undertaken by its followers, and in the differences from earlier religions, struck me as very poignant. When White explains how technology advanced under Western Christianity, I think he is saying that this advancement came directly because of a disregard for nature. This can obviously be said of events such as the industrial revolution, but it is fascinating to me hearing about this through the lens of a commonly practiced religion. White posits that even in our modern, by his 1960’s standards, secular society, the pervasiveness of the Christian disregard for nature permeates the general mindset. 

White’s claims are reinforced by the encyclical Laudato si’, wherein Pope Francis reinforces some of the domineering mindset over nature seen in Christianity. Though the Pope also recognizes this and seems to be willing to adapt to a more nature centric vision of Christianity. White makes the claim that, “Since the roots of our trouble are so largely religious, the remedy must also be essentially religious”. This seems to be the approach that the current Pope seems to adhere to. Not the rejection of Christianity, but more of a reformation of the way nature is considered.

Lynn White, Jr., “The Ecologic Roots of Our Ecologic Crisis,” Science 155:3767 (10 March 1967), 1203-1207.

Pope Francis, Laudato Si

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