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Dark Green Religion

Dark Green Religion: Nature Spirituality and the Planetary Future

Bron Taylor
Copyright Date: 2010
Edition: 1
Pages: 360
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  • Book Info
    Dark Green Religion
    Book Description:

    In this innovative and deeply felt work, Bron Taylor examines the evolution of “green religions” in North America and beyond: spiritual practices that hold nature as sacred and have in many cases replaced traditional religions. Tracing a wide range of groups—radical environmental activists, lifestyle-focused bioregionalists, surfers, new-agers involved in “ecopsychology,” and groups that hold scientific narratives as sacred—Taylor addresses a central theoretical question: How can environmentally oriented, spiritually motivated individuals and movements be understood as religious when many of them reject religious and supernatural worldviews? The “dark” of the title further expands this idea by emphasizing the depth of believers' passion and also suggesting a potential shadow side: besides uplifting and inspiring, such religion might mislead, deceive, or in some cases precipitate violence. This book provides a fascinating global tour of the green religious phenomenon, enabling readers to evaluate its worldwide emergence and to assess its role in a critically important religious revolution.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-94445-9
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Readers’ Guide
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. CHAPTER 1 Introducing Religion and Dark Green Religion
    (pp. 1-12)

    This chapter explores terms that are central to this study:religion, spirituality, nature religion, green religion,anddark green religion.Although this sort of linguistic labor may seem most pertinent to those with backgrounds in anthropology and religious studies, it should be even more valuable to those with little background in the academic study of religion. The rationale for this starting point is simple: terminology matters. It shapes methods and focuses attention in illuminating ways. Terminology also carries assumptions that may occlude phenomena that might well be relevant to any given inquiry. It is important in this investigation, therefore, to...

  6. CHAPTER 2 Dark Green Religion
    (pp. 13-41)

    Since the publication of Rachael Carson’sSilent Springin 1962, environmental alarm has intensified and become increasingly apocalyptic. Meanwhile, nature-related religion has been rekindled, invented, spread, and ecologized.¹ A great deal of this religious creativity has beendark green,flowing from a deep sense of belonging to and connectedness in nature, while perceiving the earth and its living systems to be sacred and interconnected. Dark green religion is generally deep ecological, biocentric, or ecocentric, considering all species to be intrinsically valuable, that is, valuable apart from their usefulness to human beings. This value system is generally (1) based on a...

  7. CHAPTER 3 Dark Green Religion in North America
    (pp. 42-70)

    Writing a history of dark green religion raises many questions about what individuals and groups to include: Do they have to clearly state that they consider nature to be sacred and intrinsically valuable? Were they inspirations to it but not fully a part of it? Should indigenous peoples or people engaged in religions that originated in Asia be included? Instead of setting out to write a comprehensive history of the phenomena, which would pose these and other insurmountable questions, I have opted for a descriptive and analytic strategy that looks for patterns and resemblances without laboring obsessively to demarcate boundaries....

  8. CHAPTER 4 Radical Environmentalism
    (pp. 71-102)

    On 22 December 2005 , William C. Rogers pulled a plastic bag over his head and asphyxiated himself. He had been arrested seventeen days earlier, suspected with eighteen others of involvement in the Earth Liberation Front (ELF), a radical environmental group responsible for setting a series of fires and causing tens of millions of dollars in damage at logging companies, Forest Service offices, geneticengineering research facilities, automobile dealerships, and corrals where captured wild horses were held, awaiting slaughter.¹ The targets were scattered across the western United States and included an exclusive ski resort lodge that was under construction in Vail,...

  9. CHAPTER 5 Surfing Spirituality
    (pp. 103-126)

    On a sunny November day in 1997, I played hooky from a conference in San Diego, California. The surf was up and I was soon chatting with a young woman at a surf shop, deciding which board to rent. When she learned I was formerly an ocean lifeguard from the region, transplanted to Wisconsin, she exclaimed, “Whoa dude, no amount of money is worth living away from Mother Ocean.”

    The Hollywood motion picturePoint Break(1991 ) was a campy thriller in which a band of surfers funded their global surf quest by robbing banks. Early in the film Keanu...

  10. CHAPTER 6 Globalization with Predators and Moving Pictures
    (pp. 127-154)

    Soul surfers generally understand they are part of the food chain, that they are not only predators but prey. Such recognition can dramatically alter perception.

    For some people, being in habitats with predators capable of eating them evokes a sense of belonging and participation in the cycle of life. Indeed, realizing that sooner or later one is food, if only for microorganisms, can overturn anthropocentric hubris. Some follow mountain lion tracks, as did Edward Abbey. Others refuse to leave the water after shark sightings. Some, such as Doug Peacock, enjoy how alert and alive they feel when inUrsus arctos...

  11. CHAPTER 7 Globalization in Arts, Sciences, and Letters
    (pp. 155-179)

    In this chapter I borrow the termparareligionfrom the anthropologist Jonathan Benthall as shorthand for what some call implicit religion or quasi religion. Some use such terms to refer to religion-resembling phenomena that they do not consider to actuallybereligious. I am using the termparareligion,however, without assuming it needs some currently missing trait to be “real” religion. Instead, I use it in a way that reflects this study’s flexible definitional strategy, which does not seek to resolve religion’s boundaries.¹

    Gaian Naturalism and Naturalistic Animism, and thus much of the phenomena already examined, are examples of the...

  12. CHAPTER 8 Terrapolitan Earth Religion
    (pp. 180-199)

    Nature and religion have long been intertwined. We have seen that a significant part of human religiosity has affinity with what I have been calling dark green religion. Nature-based spirituality has both deep roots and new expressions. As environmental alarm has intensified, this sort of religion has been rekindled, revitalized, invented, ecologized, localized, and globalized. What remains mysterious is the extent of itsnearterm influenceandlong-term impacts,as well as whether we are witnessing the emergence of a global, civic, earth religion.

    In 2002 I traveled back to Africa to look for clues regarding the influence and prospects of...

  13. CHAPTER 9 Conclusion: Dark Green Religion and the Planetary Future
    (pp. 200-222)

    Before examining obstacles that will hinder dark green religion from becoming a powerful social force, as well as some trends and factors likely to spur it on, it is worth noting several things:

    First,evolutionary theory has precipitated profound changes.Most forms of what I am calling dark green religion will have been unfolding for only 150 years by the time this book is published, the years since the publication ofOn the Origin of Speciesin 1859. There were individuals and groups with dark green perceptions, and important antecedents and tributaries to dark green religion before that momentous publishing...

  14. Afterword on Terminology
    (pp. 223-224)

    I began this study by suggesting that explanatory power can be achieved by deploying a flexible definition ofreligionas an analytic strategy. I also indicated that it does not matter to me whether anyone concludes thatreligionis a good term for the types of experiences, perceptions, values, and practices that I have described and called dark green religion.

    I chose the tropedark green religionfor several reasons. An important one is that it has not been used before, so it has no baggage, positive or negative, and hopefully no obvious meaning that would preclude my ability to...

  15. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 225-226)
  16. APPENDIX: Excerpts with Commentary on the Writings of Henry David Thoreau
    (pp. 227-248)
  17. Notes
    (pp. 249-298)
  18. Bibliography
    (pp. 299-322)
  19. Index
    (pp. 323-338)
  20. Back Matter
    (pp. 339-340)