Friday, April 23, 2010

A Green Universalism?

This semester has had many questions, mostly unanswered, but one of the big ones is ‘what is religion?’ In Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District (from now on referred to as Kitzmiller) we get incredibly long and detailed reasons and definitions for the decision to strike down intelligent design as a science because it is not a science. This opinion in the Atlanta Journal Constitution is a very well written opinion, but I am having a hard time with “environmentalist religion”. It seems like the environment should be a science. In Kitzmiller the 3 levels used to determine ID as not a science were invoking and permitting a supernatural being, the use of ”irreducible complexity” or dualism, and the fact that evolution is supported by scientists. Professor Nelson never calls the environmentalists scientists, but based on these three levels his opinion would not disprove validity of science. So then the question is “is it really a religion”? Nelson claims that the environmentalists are trying to be God and have their own 10 Commandments and have made Earth Day their Easter. However, he says the reason the Earth Day Environmentalists (EDE)are able to get such support is by connecting with people from various religious groups as well as spiritual people who have no wish to be in a religion. Here is the money question; “have the EDE created a viable universal religion that puts the Prison Fellowship Ministries (found in Winnifred Fallers Sullivan’s book Prison Religion) to shame?” In some ways I would argue yes. Professor Nelson says

“By appearing distinct from formal theologies and official churches of institutional Christianity, it can attract people who would normally not be involved, including residents of many nominally Christian nations and those who think of themselves as “spiritual,” while vigorously rejecting any suggestion that they should ever belong to “a religion.”

Where the InnerChange Freedom Initiative (IFI) employs sectarian views (there was disagreement in discussion about whether sectarian or secular or universal but I think we all agreed that there were no strong arguments for universalism) the EDE is able to bring people willingly into the fold through casting off religion. On Earth Day, Facebook was littered with statuses along the lines of “Go Green or Die” by people whose “religion box” ranged the gambit from Christian to Atheist to Spiritual to various smart-alecky remarks. Now Facebook is not the most “scientific” of sources to use for an argument but it certainly touches many people in the United States, and it is telling that it does touch so many different types of people. Sullivan argues that “religion” is not a viable term to use in the language of law. But looking at all the different things we call “religious” or “a religion”, maybe “religion” has outlived its viable use. The practices and beliefs of all of these different groups are still strong and in many cases growing. But if we continue to split up the world into “religions” we will never have a “universal group”. That seems like an oxymoron anyway. I have never heard of a “group” that includes everyone. I thought that was a species. And then we are back to religion v. science….


nedwards13 said...

From a fashion to a political party to now a religion. It seems to me that what people that are "earthy" or want the world to "go green" want to call their ideals and antics whatever will get attention. I will from the commencement of this comment will say that I could care less about nature and about the outdoors. One of the main reasons that I have opted to pursue higher education in the middle of an over populated and urban not to mention traffic congested big city. I love this blog post because I enjoy topics and scenarios about religion where people want to claim that it is one for publicity with the government or special treatment. After a semester of cases filled with questions such as “what is religion?” “Who defines religion?” I think that it is safe to say that religion is in a league of its own much like this green revolution is. I feel that the people that are crazy about being environmentally friendly and spend most of their time recycling and hugging trees take advantage of the fact the because it is such a popular thing to do (recycle that is) potentially with passing it on as a religion can acquire it more credibility. But this opens the door to the debate of who are we to decided what a religion is and what is it not. I understand that I is measured is the sincerity and the intention but again who are we to measure even those aspects. I feel when it comes to this topic people will do what is fashionable and what they see appealing. If that wasn’t the case we wouldn’t have celebrities advertising concerts for a “go green” campaign of coming up with their own bio degradable lingerie. In the end I didn’t buy the new bag of sun chips because it looked cool or because I wanted to help the environment. I bought them because I was hungry and like sun chips. Which is more then I can say for the people promoting this to be a religion. All hail the Toyota Prius.

jpeterson said...

Something like this appears to be more on the secular side because it deals with science. However it would be interesting to study this movement's behaviors and practices in a comparative manner to religions and spiritual practices. I wonder if it would be a fruitful endeavor to compare this movement to those like Elvis Presley followers. I think it comes down once again to the problem of definitions and defining what things are. I feel environmentalism has always constituted the same belief system, but depending on how one defines the group or movement, you could classify environmentalism as a fad, a political movement, a religion or whatever you want. It all comes down to what benefits will be received along with the current definition.