December 6th, 2010
02:01 PM ET

TIME: Has Environmentalism Lost Its Spiritual Core?

Environmentalism began as a religion.

Certainly that's how paleo-greens like John Muir, founder of the Sierra Club, would have seen it. Muir was awakened to nature when he first explored Yosemite in the 1860s, and he felt it in a religious way — he called what would become one of the nation's first national parks "the grandest of all special temples of Nature."

Muir's biographer, Donald Worster, has written that Muir saw his mission as "saving the American soul from total surrender to materialism." David Brower, a spiritual successor to Muir who would found Friends of the Earth, would say of his staunchest green allies that they had "the religion." Environmentalism — rooted in nature and the outdoors — was an antidote to secular, technological modern life.

Read the full story on Time.com

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Culture & Science • Environment

soundoff (24 Responses)
  1. kyuss

    Nothing turns me off being "green" faster than making it into a religion. I think I'll go pour a litre of oil into a river now.

    December 15, 2010 at 7:14 am |
  2. Gene

    Uh, Gary, I think you meant "extinkted".

    December 9, 2010 at 10:41 am |
  3. Gene

    When my boys were in Boy Scouts, we used to delude ourselves that we were going on campouts to appreciate nature (Marine bivouacs never had such pretensions), when in fact we always ended up appreciating material civilization.
    I can very easily appreciate nature as long as I am sheltered from it by technology.

    Man is the great AB generalist amomg the species, and must shape the environment to his convenience for survival.

    There are no inherent rights in nature that are not granted by human beings (indeed, obviously, no concepts at all). A mouse cannot assert a right to its life in the face of a hungry hawk.
    Was it a tragedy that the dinosaurs became extinct? No, it was just a brutal fact, neither mourned by themselves nor celebrated by the mammals who would benefit.
    Our moral limit to technology should be diminishing or negative returns, to where our appreciation of nature from within our material shelters is no longer possible. The wretched of the earth still want pumped clean water.

    December 8, 2010 at 12:29 pm |
    • Gary

      Gene you are correct. Humans ruined nature. Kill each other and hopefully one day will become extinked too.

      December 8, 2010 at 10:40 pm |
    • Gene

      Gary, I'm a little confused. How does a particular day (or any day) become "extinked"?

      December 9, 2010 at 11:33 am |
  4. Barking Alien

    True conservatives should want to conserve the environment. Unfortunately the envirornment has take a back seat to the economy. The economy is tied to the environment (tourism, food production, health care cost, etc) so it is in our best interest to preserve it.

    December 7, 2010 at 1:27 pm |
    • NL

      Some conservative evangelicals are actually embracing a kind of environmental responsibility that they call 'Stewartship.'

      December 8, 2010 at 7:55 pm |
  5. Reality

    The USA taxpayers took over with their monetary support of the EPA.

    December 7, 2010 at 8:06 am |
  6. Peter F

    It's too bad Christians nowadays put so little effort into working to preserve and protect creation. Materialism IS taking over! Gah!

    December 7, 2010 at 2:03 am |
    • Peace2All

      @Peter F

      Hello me 'fundie' amigo...! How are ya..? Hope that you are well.

      Anyways, I like what you said.


      December 7, 2010 at 3:05 am |
    • Peter F

      Hey, Hey, Hey! How is it going? Yeah, I haven't been on the forum in a while. Busy studying Hebrew and the OT and all that other fun stuff. Keeping busy!

      Me? A fundie? Someday I wish David Johnson (or you for that matter) would define "fundie." I am interested as to your definition.

      Peace 2 you, friend.

      December 7, 2010 at 4:01 am |
    • Peace2All

      @Peter F

      Hey pal...!

      Oh, I think for me, to put it succinctly, I mean you are a 'believer' i.e...('fundie'). You are a firm believer in the Bible, God(as you think you know him), and Jesus, etc... I certainly don't mean it negatively. It is just a 'short-hand' way of saying 'believer' with a little dash of fun and lightheartedness to it.

      Whereas, I am 'agnostic'... I am one who claims to 'not be sure' about it all, but very open-minded.

      Anyways, good to here you are well...! Hope that we can talk soon.


      December 8, 2010 at 12:06 am |
    • Sumerian Dude


      Hey bro! 😯
      I hope you are well? All in one peace?
      Happy Agnostic Holidays to you! H.A.H.!
      I finally find a post of yours and am running out of time before running errands! Arrrgh!
      Well, I had fun anyway. I have been busy with that non-internet stuff, though. Sorry I haven't been posting.
      Talk atcha later. 😛

      December 8, 2010 at 5:51 pm |
    • Peace2All

      @Sumerian Dude

      It's YOU... ! I have missed ya' bro...!!!!! The belief blog just has not been the same without ya'. 🙂

      Great to hear from you. I'm sure we will be talkin' later on.

      Happy Agnostic Holiday's to you too friend.


      December 8, 2010 at 5:55 pm |
  7. TheRationale

    Give me a break, being good to the environment was an idea that long predates religion in any form. Religion does not get any credit for starting this idea.

    December 6, 2010 at 11:02 pm |
  8. Gary

    As an agnostic who enjoys hunting,fishing,mountain biking hiking exploring. I do feel very spiritual when I am in the wilderness. I can see how American natives saw Gods in nature. I realize also how most tree huggers today are so clueless

    December 6, 2010 at 10:19 pm |
    • NL

      Speaking of clueless, did you happen to catch Sarah Palin 'hunting' caribou?

      December 8, 2010 at 8:00 pm |
  9. Daniel

    On the contrary, Earth-based religions are among the most vital and fastest growin religious movements today. While it is easy to mock Neo-Paganism in sly Hallowe'en seasonal articles on modern Witchcraft, there is a deep current of environmental concern empowering this religious trend which will, Gaia bless, grant it deeper legitimacy and relevance in coming years as our environmental crises grow ever more acute.

    December 6, 2010 at 7:02 pm |
    • Reality

      Mocking Wicca and/or Paganism?

      Mocking spells, curses, covens, black magic, witches, voodooing dolls, hoodooing the results, shadow books, maypoles, god(s) and goddess(es), Gerald Gardiner et al??


      December 7, 2010 at 12:18 am |
  10. Denizen Kate

    "Turning the other cheek. Loving thy neighbor. Doing good deeds without seeking recognition. And so many others." Are you really arrogant enough to believe that only Christians do good?

    December 6, 2010 at 4:44 pm |
    • Sumerian Dude

      @Denizen Kate

      Please take a minute or two and bring us up to date, would you? (assuming you're just sayin' things)
      You could use your website or something...eh?
      And Happy Agnostic Holidays to you! 😛

      December 8, 2010 at 5:42 pm |
    • Peace2All

      @Sumerian Dude

      Are you my friend... a.k.a..."Sum Dude"...? If so, give me a 'sign' that will let me know it's you, will ya'...?


      December 8, 2010 at 5:50 pm |
  11. Reality

    Once a day WARNING for new commentators:

    • The moderators of this blog have set up a secret forbidden word filter which unfortunately not only will delete or put your comment in the dreaded "waiting for moderation" category but also will do the same to words having fragments of these words. For example, "t-it" is in the set but the filter will also pick up words like Hitt-ite, t-itle, beati-tude, practi-tioner and const-tution. Then there words like "an-al" thereby flagging words like an-alysis and "c-um" flagging acc-umulate or doc-ument. And there is also "r-a-pe", “a-pe” and “gra-pe”, "s-ex", and "hom-ose-xual". You would think that the moderators would have corrected this by now considering the number of times this has been commented on but they have not. To be safe, I typically add hyphens in any word that said filter might judge "of-fensive".

    • More than one web address will also activate “waiting for moderation”. Make sure the web address does not have any forbidden word or fragment.

    Sum Dude routinely updates the list of forbidden words/fragments.

    December 6, 2010 at 3:52 pm |
  12. CatholicMom

    This comment on our environmental concerns shows Nobel Peace Prize laureate Wangari Maathai has the right direction on how to think about our environment…a more personal/ spiritual approach while mixed in with Bryan Walsh’s comments from Time to keep it more on the secular plane.

    December 6, 2010 at 3:10 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.