Sunday, December 2, 2012

Integral Dark Green Religion

I'm reading Bron Taylor's scholarly Dark Green Religion: Nature Spirituality and the Planetary Future. He presents an interesting survey and history of "religion that considers nature to be sacred, imbued with intrinsic value, and worthy of reverent care," (ix) which differs from green religion, "which posits that environmentally friendly behavior is a religious obligation" (10). His definition of religion is broader than some would have it, including any all-encompassing attitude towards nature that affects a person's behavior and lifestyle as well as her convictions about what is sacred. He uses not only Starhawk, but the movie Lion King, crocodile enthusiast Steve Irwin, and scientist Jane Goodall as examples of exemplars of dark green religion. He devotes an entire chapter to surfing culture as a similar exemplar. He identifies four types of dark green religion: Spiritual Animism, Naturalistic Animism, Gaian Spirituality, and Gaian Naturalism. Spiritualism includes religions/perspectives that include unseen forces like gods and fairies, while naturalism regards nature as the power itself. He argues that most examples of dark green religion are constructed of a bricolage, or blend of these perspectives and that most people are not strictly in one camp.

I like Taylor's view of religion as broader than what one usually considers religion. At first I was a little resistant to the idea, but as I read his discussion, it makes perfect sense. It's no stranger than viewing, say, capitalism as a religion.

One aspect I find missing from the book, though, is the idea that dark green religion and green religion are not mutually exclusive, nor are Abrahamic religions always completely exclusive to regarding nature as intrinsically sacred. And while Taylor is not evaluating dark green religions, just discussing them, I keep thinking about the distinction between pre-trans and trans-ego views of spirituality. I think a discussion of these views (though somewhat tangential to his thesis) would be interesting, if only because these underlying perspectives will affect how proponents of dark green religion make policies and argue their case for the care of nature. (For a discussion of the pre-trans fallacy, please see here.) Something for me to contemplate, anyway, of what integral dark green religion looks like. I guess you could call me a Christian Mystical Gaian Spiritualist who seeks to transcend and include, who views nature as deeply sacred and alive while also turning to the mystical teachings of the soul to understand my and others' place in the Universe.

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