This is the first little section of an assigned reading in one of my classes."The effort to build a sustainable world could advance dramatically if religious people and institutions, on one hand, and environmentalists and advocates of sustainable development, on the other, were to embrace each other's central concerns. But to do so, the longstanding distrust between the two communities would need to be overcome.
The two groups share important interests. Each looks at the world from a moral perspective; Each views nature as having value that surpasses economics; and each opposes excessive consumption. They also have complementary strengths. Advocates of sustainability are strongly rooted in science, and have a concrete vision for sustainability. Religious traditions enjoy a moral authority and broad grassroots presence that puts them in a powerful position to shape the worldviews and lifestyles of billions of people."
Invoking the Spirit
Religion and spirituality in the quest for a sustainable world
I felt compelled to share it with you all. I want to hear your opinions. Mine are below, but don't let my opinion sway yours!
First off, I'll mention that I'm an agnostic, and atheist if we are considering a conventional idea of God as an entity or deity. I study International Development and Geography (simplified, environmentally sustainable human development is my thing). My first reaction to reading this was to pause and say "Huh, I hadn't thought of that before."
Note: My use of the word 'organized' as it appears below is intentional. I have no problem with theism or believing in a God, although I find it impractical for myself. My issue is with the institution and the brainwashing and hypocrisy that takes place in religion, but not theism - Two different issues. You can believe in God and have no religion.
Then, I began to think critically about it.
For one, I disagree completely that religion believes nature to be more valuable than economics.
Not dis-similarly, most religions oppose excessive consumption (gluttony) on a superficial value but do not heed by this doctrine, particularly on an institutional level.
One has only to consider the millions of dollars poured into the Catholic church - One visit to the Vatican City to see the tonnes upon tonnes of towering pedestals, vast floor tiles or engulfing bath tubs made of cottanello antico (one of the rarest and most valuable stones on earth, much of it was stolen by the Roman Catholics from Egypt and other middle eastern & Mediterranean regions during their rule), and it becomes clear that over-indulgence and environmental exploitation is in fact a staple of most religions. Even the more modest religions such as buddhism have ornate temples saturated with gold and precious stones. All of the major organized religions have this, whether it is Hinduism or Islam or Judaism or Christianity or Buddhism or anything else I am missing. Excessive consumption is a defining feature of organized religion, and in fact it is one of a very long list of reasons I feel that organized religion itself is quite evil.
So there's one thing - Any opposition to gluttony on the part of religion is purely superficial.
The other thing is the statement that religion believes nature to be more valuable than economics. Again, similar evidence as cited above. The mass amount of environmental destruction simply for the sake of having valuable or luxurious goods is very strong evidence that religion values luxury more than nature, and since luxury is a byproduct of economics, the assertion made by the author here can not be true.
That being said,
Human rights has a firm place in my heart, and as much as I value the environment and the scientific method, I also value diversity. Religion leaves a bitter taste in my mouth, and on a moral level I am opposed to it in every regard, but even I have to admit that humankind without religion would be rather monotone. Culture is important, but culture is flexible - American culture today is not what it was in the 1920's, or the 1800's, nor is any other culture. There are world regions that have become largely secular and maintained a strong cultural identity, however - Japan and Korea come to mind as examples. I'm really not sure whether I feel religion should fizzle out and die, or whether it should stay because its one and only value in my eyes (bringing diversity) is valuable enough to merit staying...
One way or another, I can not argue with the fact that religion is here now, and it does have the sort of power to influence and move people in exactly the way that the author is describing. I feel that using this as a tool to inspire sustainable development is promoting sustainability for all of the wrong reasons, but then that brings up a whole other round of debate. Is it still a good deed if it's only being done to avoid punishment or gain something personally? Is the fear of God a good reason to be a good person? Do you need a reason? Does having a reason negate the concept of altruism, and thus, make you not really a good person, but a selfish one? And is the purpose or intention behind the deed even relevant at all, or is the bottom line that good deeds are being done?
This one little section really threw my moral compass for a new and interesting loop. It has simultaneously pitted some of my core values against each other while encouraging them to cooperate, with some pretty logical evidence for why exactly they should. I certainly favor the scientific side of things, but the argument for the cooperation of the two is actually pretty compelling if you're looking at it from a "get-shit-done" point of view. It's delicious food for thought, so I thought I would share it with my fellow ponderers.