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Ecotheology: Reuniting God and Nature

By John Halstead

[Snip] In 1967, Lynn White published an article in the periodical Science entitled “The Historical Roots of Our Ecological Crisis”. The article examined the influence of Christianity on humankind’s relationship with nature. White believed that the environmental decline was, at its root, a religious problem, specifically a Christian problem. White marked the Industrial Revolution as the fundamental turning point in our ecological history, when our ability to destroy nature grew exponentially. However, for White, the belief that the earth was a resource for human consumption was much older and could be traced back to the triumph of medieval Christianity over pagan animism, and even further back to the Biblical injunction to man to “subdue” the earth and exercise “dominion” over every living thing. Medieval Christianity, according to White, elevated humankind, who was made in God’s image, and denigrated the rest of creation, which was believed to have no soul.

“In antiquity every tree, every spring, every stream, every hill had its own genius loci, its guardian spirit. … Before one cut a tree, mined a mountain, or dammed a brook, it was important to placate the spirit in charge of the particular situation, and keep it placated. By destroying pagan animism, Christianity made it possible to exploit nature in a mood of indifference to the feel in of natural objects. … Man’s effective monopoly on spirit in this world was confirmed, and the old inhibitions to the exploitation of nature crumbled.”

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