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World Religions and the Environmental Crisis (Foltz)

Course Title


It is a duplicate of the Foltz, World Religions syllabi
REL 143


Richard C. Foltz
Columbia University




World Religions; Comparative Religions

Pedagogical Level



Spring 1997–1998


Gettysburg College



What do the various religions of the world say about human responsibility toward the environment? Western civilization has long seen nature as an adversary to be overcome and resources as existing only to benefit human beings. Consequently, contemporary debates have focused on the assertion that Western values and Christianity in particular are to blame for the present global crisis. In an age when natural resources are in danger of being depleted, the question of stewardship surely needs to be re-addressed, in spiritual as well as material terms. This course will pursue a comparative analysis of humanity’s place in the natural world as viewed by diverse religious traditions, in terms of the environmental crises of the present day.


No special format listed


None listed

Attendance and Participation
Weekly Reaction Papers
Final Take-Home Exam
  1. Attendance and Participation in Class Discussions
    Readings to be done before class meets.

  2. Weekly Reaction Papers
    1–2 page personal responses to reading assignments.

  3. Final Take-Home Essay Exam
    Due Monday, May 4 by 12 noon in Religion Dept. office.

See “Course Requirements”


Required Texts

Devall, Bill and George Sessions, eds., Deep Ecology. Salt Lake City: Element, 1993.

Gottlieb, Roger S. ed. This Sacred Earth. New York: Routledge, 1995.

Skolimowski, Henryk. A Sacred Place to Dwell. Rockport, Mass.: Element, 1993.

Thomas, Keith. Man and the Natural World. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.

Jan 20

The Nature of the Crisis

Jan 27

The Relevance of Religion: Is Christianity to Blame?
Assigned Reading

  • Lynn White, Jr., “The Historical Roots of Our Environmental Crisis,” This Sacred Earth, 184–93.
  • David Kinsley, “Christianity as Ecologically Harmful,” This Sacred Earth, 104–15.
  • begin reading Keith Thomas, Man and the Natural World.
Feb 3

Divorce From Nature: 1500–1800
Assigned Reading

  • finish Man and the Natural World.
  • Feb 10

    The Beginnings of American Nature Spirituality
    Assigned Reading

    • Ralph Waldo Emerson, excerpt from Nature, This Sacred Earth, 26–27.
    • Henry David Thoreau, excerpt from “Walking,” This Sacred Earth, 18–20.
    • John Muir, excerpt from A Thousand Mile Walk to the Gulf, This Sacred Earth, 27–28.
    • Aldo Leopold, excerpt from A Sand County Almanac, This Sacred Earth, 29–31.
    Feb 17

    Ecological Models from Primal Religions
    Assigned Reading

    • Michael Kioni Dudley, “Traditional Native Hawaiian Environmental Philosophy,” This Sacred Earth, 125–30.
    • John S. Mbiti, “African Views of the Universe,” This Sacred Earth, 174–80.
    • J. Donald Hughes, excerpt from American Indian Ecology, This Sacred Earth, 131–46.
    • Black Elk, “Wiwanyag Wachipi: The Sun Dance,” This Sacred Earth, 470–79.

    Film: Where the Green Ants Dream (Werner Herzog)

    Feb 18

    Lecture by Ecofeminist Starhawk
    Junction (Union Building), 7:30 pm

    Feb 24

    Ecological Models from Western Religions
    Assigned Reading

    • selections from the Hebrew Bible, This Sacred Earth, 71–83.
    • Louis Ginzberg, excerpts from Legends of the Bible, This Sacred Earth, 84–86.
    • Daniel Swartz, “Jews, Jewish Texts, and Nature: A Brief History,” This Sacred Earth, 87–103.
    • David Kinsley, “Christianity as Ecologically Responsible,” This Sacred Earth, 116–24.
    • Mawil Y. Izzi Deen (Samarrai), “Islamic Environmental Ethics: Law and Society,” This Sacred Earth, 164–73.
    Mar 3

    Ecological Models from Eastern Religions
    Assigned Reading

    • Chatsumarn Kabilisingh, “Early Buddhist Views on Nature,” This Sacred Earth, 147–50.
    • O. P. Dwivedi, “Satyagraha for Conservation: Awakening the Spirit of Hinduism,” This Sacred Earth, 151–63.
    • Lao Tzu, selections from the Tao Te Ching, This Sacred Earth, 67–70.
    Film: Shinto

    Wk of Mar 9

    Spring Recess
    Mar 17

    Assigned Reading

    • Roderick Nash, “The Greening of Religion,” This Sacred Earth, 94–229.
    • John F. Haught, “Christianity and Ecology,” This Sacred Earth, 270–85.
    • Sallie McFague, “The Scope of the Body: The Cosmic Christ,” This Sacred Earth, 286–96.
    • Thomas Berry, “Into the Future,” This Sacred Earth, 410–14.
    • Joanna Macy, “Faith, Power, and Ecology,” This Sacred Earth, 415–22.
    • Warwick Fox, “Transpersonal Ecology and the Varieties of Identification,” This Sacred Earth, 436–44
    Mar 24

    St. Francis
    Assigned Reading

    • begin Henryk Skolimowski, A Sacred Place to Dwell.
    Film: Brother Sun, Sister Moon.
    Mar 31

    Evolutionary Theology
    Assigned Reading

    • finish A Sacred Place to Dwell.
    Apr 7

    Assigned Reading

    • This Sacred Earth, 317–400.
    Apr 14

    Deep Ecology
    Assigned Reading

    • Bill Devall and George Sessions, Deep Ecology.
    Apr 21

    Assigned Reading

    • This Sacred Earth, 511–85.
    Apr 28

    More Proposals
    Assigned Reading

    • This Sacred Earth, 586–653.
    May 4

    Final Take-Home Essay Exam


    Copyright © 1997 Richard Foltz.
    Reprinted with permission.
    The author retains all copyrights for all syllabi materials.
    Please contact each author individually for reprint rights.