Religion should focus on faith and ecology

O-Grey Colby Patterson
Grey Leman

Grey Leman

Pope Francis has done it again. This time he announced he will be publishing a document on the environment. This will be the first Vatican document on the environment in decades and sheds light on an area not widely discussed. This is the religious view on the environment.

Until the scientific revolution, the environment was discussed in direct relation to the sacred. But with the advent of modern science, holiness and the environment were separated. This has had huge implications that we are just becoming aware of.

Pope Francis said, “We are losing the attitude of wonder, contemplation, listening to creation … we have moved away from God; we no longer read his signs.” Science is a recent creation of humans. For the majority of our existence, we have lived without science. Until modern times, when humans talked about the environment it was through religious realms, making the environment a huge source for the sacred in theology.

In this modern scientific era, we often pass over what religion has to say on the matter and miss out on the subjective teachings religion can offer. Science deals with objective facts, which we also need to consider. As humans, we are a part of the environment, and we should regard it with a balanced perspective.

When you begin looking at what religions have to say on the environment, you begin to see many similarities emerge. The Alliance of Religions and Conservation is an interdisciplinary group of religions focused on faith and ecology. They have a section where each faith discusses their views on the environment, and the similarities are striking.

Another similarity is this idea of humans being a part of the environment and not separated from it. According to ARC, Buddhism teaches a respect for all life, Hinduism treats all life as sacred, Christianity and Judaism teach that humans are to be stewards of nature, and this trusteeship is known as Khalifa in Islam.

As humans, we are part of the environment and can never be separate from it. Yet science talks about the environment in a way that separates the human from it. By looking to what religion teaches about the environment we are reminded of this connection. This reminds one that the environment is something sacred. There are millions of living beings working in extremely complex ways that support this thing we call the environment.