What is the relationship between religion and environment?

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What is the relationship between religion and environment?

Religion can promote environmental conservation, but it alone cannot solve the crisis. What is the relationship between religion and environment?

The complex relationship between religion and environment

The relationship between religion and the environment is a complex one that has been the subject of much debate in recent years. On the one hand, many religious traditions place a strong emphasis on stewardship of the Earth and its resources and view the natural world as a sacred gift from a higher power. On the other hand, some argue that certain religious beliefs and practices have contributed to the environmental crisis we currently face.[1]

God gave ‘dominion’ over the Earth

One example of this can be seen in the way that the concept of ‘dominion’ has been interpreted in Christianity. The Bible states that God gave humans ‘dominion’ over the Earth, which has been interpreted as giving humans the right to exploit the Earth’s resources as they see fit. This interpretation has been used to justify activities such as clear-cutting forests and polluting the air and water. However, others interpret this as having stewardship, or responsibility, to take care of the world on behalf of God. [2]

Wasting of resources in Judaism

Another example can be seen in the way that the concept of ‘bal tashchit’ has been interpreted in Judaism. This concept, which prohibits the wasting or destroying of resources, has been used to justify environmental conservation and protection. However, it has also been used to justify the exploitation of resources, arguing that it is necessary for the survival and wellbeing of the Jewish people.[3]

Protection and preservation

Islam also has teachings that encourage the protection and preservation of the environment. The Quran emphasises the importance of being good stewards of the Earth and respecting its balance and natural resources. Muslim scholars have also developed teachings on environmental stewardship, such as the concept of ‘tawhid’, which holds that everything in the universe is connected and should be respected.[4]

On the other hand, certain interpretations and practices of Islam can negatively impact the environment. For example, the practice of sacrificing animals for religious celebrations, such as Eid al-Adha, can lead to overgrazing and pollution of different forms.[5]

Indigenous culture

However, it is important to note that not all religious traditions have the same relationship with the environment. Many indigenous cultures, for example, have a deep reverence for the natural world and view themselves as part of a larger ecological community. In these traditions, the health of the environment is seen as vital to the wellbeing of all living beings.[6]

These examples demonstrate that religious teachings can be used to justify both environmental protection and exploitation. The challenge is to find a way to interpret these teachings in a way that promotes the responsible stewardship of the Earth’s resources.

Religious environmentalism

In recent years, there has been a growing movement among religious leaders and organisations to promote environmentally responsible practices. For example, the Catholic Church has issued a number of statements on the environment, including Pope Francis’s encyclical ‘Laudato Si’, which calls for the protection of the Earth and its resources.[7]

Similarly, many Islamic leaders have issued statements and fatwas (Islamic legal opinions) in support of environmental protection, and Jewish leaders have called for the implementation of halakhic (Jewish legal) principles in support of environmental conservation.[8] [9]

Moreover, the Islamic Declaration on Climate Change, signed by leaders of Muslim-majority countries, calls for Muslims to take action to reduce their carbon footprint and protect the planet for future generations.[10] The Interfaith Rainforest Initiative, a coalition of religious leaders and organisations, is also working to protect the Amazon rainforest by promoting sustainable development and supporting indigenous communities in their efforts to preserve their land and culture.[11]

In addition, there has been an increase in the number of religious-based environmental organisations, such as the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility[12] and the GreenFaith organisation,[13] working to promote environmental responsibility among religious communities and in the business sector.

A long way ahead

We have seen that the environmental problem we are facing today has some of its roots in various religious and cultural beliefs.[14] The way these teachings have been interpreted and applied in practice has sometimes been used to justify the exploitation of the Earth’s resources. However, in recent years, there has been a growing movement among religious leaders and organisations to promote environmentally responsible practices.[15] [16] Despite these efforts, the religious roots of the environmental problem still exist, and much work remains to be done. Religious leaders and organisations must continue to promote environmentally responsible practices and to educate their members and communities about the importance of protecting the Earth and its resources.

Ghila Amati

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[1] The Historical Roots of Our Ecological Crisis

[2]Dominion – The world – GCSE Religious Studies Revision – WJEC – BBC Bitesize.

[3] בל תשחיתויקיפדיה

[4] Al Tawhid (Oneness with God/Divine Unity of All Things): Islam, the Natural World, and the Rise of the Muslim Environmental Move

[5] Towards an Eco-Friendly Eidul Adha | EcoMENA

[6] Indigenous people and nature: a tradition of conservation.

[7] Laudato si’ (24 May 2015) | Francis

[8] Fatwas on Boosting Environmental Conservation in Indonesia

[9]What Is “Islamic Environmental Law”?

[10]Islamic Declaration on Climate Change | UNFCCC

[11] Interfaith Rainforest Initiative

[12] Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility


[14] How Religion Influences Our Relationship With the Environment

[15] The Historical Roots of Our Ecological Crisis

[16] Religion and the Environmental Crisis | IntechOpen