Religion and Environmental Destruction

Philosophy of life determines one’s world view. World view influences the goal of life and the goal of life guides lifestyle. Lifestyle impacts on habits. Habits determine wants and needs. Wants and needs define what goods and services are needed. That determines the mode and scale of production of what is to be produced.

Cumulatively this link structures the socio-economic model. If the philosophy of life is altered it leads to a whole lot of sequential and consequential changes.

The consensus of enlightened opinion is that the conquering and domineering Western religious, scientific and social model that evolved since the Age of Enlightenment is the cause of this huge destruction. 

How religion causes environmental destruction

  • The Judaeo-Christian view that God created the universe for the enjoyment of man, which destroyed pagan animism which had long protected nature and environment.
  • Western civilizations have believed that man was created in God’s image and is the crown jewel in all of God’s creation.
  • Christian theology tends to regard any attempt to consider nature as sacred as pantheism and idolatry and by this, it has denied the immanence of God in His creation.
  • Conversion to Christianity has meant an abandonment of an affinity with the natural world for many forest dwellers, peasants, fishers all over the world.
  • These people followed their own religious traditions which included setting apart between 10 and 30 per cent of the landscape as sacred groves and ponds.
  • On so converting to a religious belief system that rejects assignment of sacred qualities to elements of nature, they began to cut down the sacred groves to bring the land under cultivation.

Eastern philosophies of hinduism, buddhism, jainism, sikhism, Taoism and shintoism are environment-compatible, eco-friendly and build environmental consciousness

  • Shinto—all believe that nature and humans both originate in divinity and consider nature and humans as interrelated and dependent on one another.
  • In Hinduism-‘In the creation, the Divine is immanent in the earth, water, air, fire and space and in every tiniest atom of this universe.’
  • The sacred Buddhist scripture, says, ‘Earth, water, air, fire and human beings, all emerged only out of the vacuum of space.’
  • Jain sacred text, says, ‘The four elements, earth, water, air and fire, are animated by souls; particles of earth are the bodies of elementary souls called earth-lives.’
  • Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh scripture, declares that ‘The five elements of earth, water, air, fire and space and all living beings are, “O God, only thee”.
  • The Taoist scripture, states that ‘Tao is the mother of heaven and earth, of yin and yang and the origin of the five agents and of the myriad beings. Man and all other beings are born from the same primordial breath—qi—so that all beings emanate from Tao and obtain their essence from Tao

[Source: Hindu-Buddhist philosophy on conflict avoidance and environment consciousness,VIF edition]

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