What does religion say about climate change?

Volume 4 Issue 002: Is it real? Is it prophesied? Are we to blame? And will the gods fix it? A rabbi, a reverend and a Rastafarian walk into a magazine to find out...

Arti­cle taken from The Face Volume 4 Issue 002. Order your copy here.

Buddhism

Phramaha Bhatsakorn Piyobhaso is a monk at the Buddhapadipa Temple, London

If you look at the problem of global warming it all comes from human action. Before you can change your actions, you need to change your mind. In Buddhism, we focus on mind-training. When you practise meditation, you will see that all things in this world are related. If you do something bad, it will affect you. So to avoid problems we need to do more and more good things.

Buddhists believe that one day the Earth will be completely destroyed but it will be reformed again. Extinction of the human race will be temporary and human beings will come back when the Earth is ready.

To break the cycle of life and death we need to eradicate ignorance. The cycle of birth and death will continue. If our Earth is impossible for human beings to live on, they will go to another Earth in another cosmos.”

Islam

Tim Winter is chair of trustees at the Central Mosque, Cambridge

The Qur’an emphasises human belongingness to the natural order. The human function is to exist in harmony with nature, but also to act as an appropriate custodian where necessary.

The global climate emergency is the result of too much desire. It’s the result of humanity’s abandonment of a traditional sense of enough is enough’ and the traditional focus on spiritual life, your neighbours, good works and family.

Religions should be leading the charge in a global shift in perception away from materialism and greed and towards a more reverent and humble acceptance of our place in God’s world. My hope is that religions can actually combine their resources in doing this.”

Judaism

Sandra Kviat is rabbi at Crouch End Chavurah, London

There are technically two creation stories in the Torah. With these in mind, are we here to protect and be stewards of the Earth? Or are we the owners of it? There are tensions between the two.

Like other movements, we don’t advocate for purism or to live totally off-grid – it’s never going to happen. Extinction Rebellion has a sense of communalism. We need to do this together, through love and duty, which feeds right into Judaism. We have a responsibility to each other, both as people but equally as a society and environment. 

Judaism has too often been on the receiving end of what feels like extinction or catastrophe, hence our maxim hope against hope’. We don’t know what happens after death. We plan for future generations but mainly focus on our life here and now. Another important principle we have is tikkun, which is innate justice. That is the core of our relationship with the world: it’s about justice. That stretches to the environment, too.” 

Hinduism

Tilak Parekh is a Hindu scholar

I can’t speak for all of Hinduism, but for the devotional traditions there is a notion that all living beings have a soul, an atman. God is in everything, all living beings are imbued with some divinity. They advocate strict vegetarianism, which is extremely important for climate change. And there is a very important mantra, vasudhaiva kutumbakam, which means the whole world is one family’. 

The point of every living being is to achieve moksha – liberation from the cycle of life and death. Then you will eternally reside with God in bliss. But that does not necessitate cosmic fatalism or pessimism towards this world. You can’t achieve moksha if you don’t respect other beings on this planet – you’re just going to keep coming back. 

Climate change is a universal challenge, regardless of culture, religion, race or ethnicity. Whether you’re Hindu, Christian, atheist, Muslim, it doesn’t matter. All I can say is if we imbibe the principles that Hinduism is providing – that all living beings are divine and deserve our respect – it will go a long way in saving our planet.”

Christianity

The Reverend Timothy Miller is priest-in-charge at All Saints, Highgate, London

The world has a natural movement to it, where things have seasons in which they grow and then stop. There’s death, life – and it’s ironic that we fail to recognise how our choices and actions fit that same paradigm. Those cycles can be affected and disrupted.

I think the best parts of spirituality could help to save us from extinction. That is, if we start at the place where a lot of spirituality does – a place of humility.

There’s a point in the Bible where God seems to promise that the fullness of our life is not just what we see and experience. There seems to be a continuity between what is happening here and what happens in the next life. It’s about love, life and relationships. I think that is really important. A key part of faithful Christian living is the participation in the work of God.”

Rastafari

Stella Headley is director of Rastafari Movement UK

We are from the Earth, so we highly respect all things on the planet. We don’t want to hurt or harm, it’s all about love, preservation and sustaining what we have. Not all Rastafari are vegan or vegetarian, but we try and make our food be our medicine and our medicine be our food. Where possible we will plant and grow our own food and use that to sustain ourselves.

I think man has lost respect for the Earth and replaced it with a greed for power. It’s bad enough people being mis-educated, but we’ve started to mis-educate ourselves into thinking we need all these things. It’s like a slow suicide. 

But Rastafari don’t die, we continue in one realm or another. Our spirit will still live on to bless something else. To me, it seems like the people who align their future with money and materialism are the ones who are panicking.” 

Raëlism

Glenn Carter is president of Raëlians UK

There is no question that we have a climate crisis. However, in my view, and in the views of the latest science, the global warming aspect is a hoax. Global warming is not linked to humans. That has been a tax con for the government to raise money. Climate crisis and global warming are two completely different things.

Our creators have given us all the tools to survive ourselves, to solve problems [the Raëlian movement teaches that life on Earth was scientifically created by a species of humanoid extraterrestrials]. They gave us prophets, books and philosophies that we should be following. Will they eventually come and re-seed their experiment somewhere else, or will they let it just pass? I can’t say.

Initially humanity was created here because scientists wanted to express themselves. Something that may well have started out as just an experiment could become a universal growing or learning process for all people. Every day we have the opportunity to grow, learn, create and be a beautiful example of a human being, or be a complete and utter moron. It’s entirely up to us!” 

Satanism

Andy Diabolus is UK chapter head of the Global Order of Satan

As non-theistic Satanists, we don’t believe in God or the Devil: our major focus is science. We take a very similar perspective to Extinction Rebellion. In our six pillars, it states that science and reason should stand above any kind of dogma. We do a lot of activism and a lot of what we do is based on the figure of Satan in the poet Milton’s Paradise Lost. He’s the guy that turned around to authority and said: No, I’m not putting up with this!’ 

You have autonomy, you have personal power, you have the power to change things yourself and stand up to the institutions. We love ourselves, we love everyone – within reason – and we want the human race to continue. We want it to be free. To recognise what humanity’s true power is and do great and amazing things. We’re more than just ­communities, or nations, we are a world. We’ve got to work together on this.” 

Hare Krishna

Jai Nitai Dasa is president of ISKCON Radha-Krishna Temple, London

We teach a connectivity with all living creatures. Everything has come from the supreme being, who we call Krishna. That means that God is everywhere and we should treat everything with the utmost respect. 

There’s contamination of the planet because our hearts have become contaminated. We are not living from a pure place of understanding but from a place of illusion and forgetfulness of God. 

If one cultivates spiritual knowledge, one will act in a more civilised and humane way and will deal with the environment in a different way. If you water the root of the tree then all aspects of the tree become ­nourished. To water the root is to understand your connectivity with God and then you automatically understand your relationship with everything.

We are here to fully realise ourselves. Every soul is here ultimately to put their God-given nature or talent in service back to God. Whether you play football, or sweep streets, do it for Krishna.”


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