Spiritual Ecology: A Universal Grounding

A common caricature of traditional religions is that they are insulated from progressive social engagement, instead focused on ancient texts, life-after-death concerns and opposition to science education. Many comments along these lines followed this week’s posts by Adam and Marcelo.

I’m spending this week at a conference called The Energy Transition: Religious and Cultural Perspectives, organized by the Institute on Religion in an Age of Science (IRAS) on Star Island off the coast of New Hampshire. I came with a vague sense that the traditions had become engaged in matters relating to climate change and global sustainability, but I was unaware of the depth and scope of that engagement. Here’s a sampling of their commitment.

  • Bill McKibben’s 350.org includes active participation by religious congregations.
  • A film Renewal: Stories from America’s Religious Environmental Movement is available that describes American environmental activists from Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Buddhist traditions.

Marcelo writes of “spiritual ecology” as a moral universal, one with the potential to serve as one of the higher grounds as we move from the sterile science-religion debates between fundamentalist and atheistic believers (yes, I would say that “strident atheism” is a fundamentalist belief). Spiritual ecology is, of course, fully open to those of us who are not affiliated with a traditional religion. But to me it is very exciting to realize that this is a path that we can all walk together.

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