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Religion, Ethics, and Nature (Foltz)

Course Title

Religion, Ethics, and Nature
Rel 3492


Richard C. Foltz
University of Florida




World Religions; Ethics

Pedagogical Level



Fall 2000


University of Florida


Course Description

What do the various cultural traditions 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, many contemporary debates have begun from the assertion that Western values and Christianity in particular are to blame for the present global crisis. Is this accusation valid? Are other traditions more “eco-friendly?” is an ecological Christianity possible?

In an age when our very life support systems are in jeopardy, the relationship of humanity to nature clearly 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 from Western and non-Western cultural perspectives, in terms of the environmental crisis of the present day.


No special format listed


None listed

Attendance and Participation in Class Discussions
Weekly Reaction/Response Papers
Final Paper
  1. Attendance and Participation in Class Discussions
    Readings to be completed before class meetings.

  2. Weekly Reaction/Response Papers
    Papers are in response to assigned readings (1 page each).

  3. Final Paper
    10–12 pages

Reaction/Response Paper Guidelines
These weekly papers are to be exactly one page each (double-spaced, 12–point font, preferably Times New Roman). This means you will have to edit your papers to fit the required length. The assignment is to compose a polished, crafted, thoughtful, and concise statement of observation and opinion, in dialogue with the assigned reading. Make a point and develop it. Mechanical errors of spelling or grammar indicate haste or laziness and should not occur. Do not take these assignments lightly: your interaction with the readings is the most important aspect of this course.

Grading Criteria for Reaction/Response Papers

check + clear, concise, original and insightful, free of factual or grammatical errors
check sound work, shows that the reading has been understood and absorbed
check- fails to meet stated criteria in one or more significant ways
no grade unacceptable; re-write if you wish to receive credit for this assignment

In short, a - grade means try harder next time; a check means you’re getting the material; an + is a special pat on the back.


See “Course Requirements”


Required Texts

Coward, Harold, and Daniel C. Maguire, eds., Visions of a New
Earth: Religious Perspectives on Population, Consumption, and Ecology
. Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press, 2000.

Gottlieb, Roger S., ed. This Sacred Earth: Religion, Nature,
. New York: Routledge, 1996.

Kinsley, David. Ecology and Religion. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.:
Prentice-Hall, 1995.

Coursepack of Photocopied Readings

Aug 23

Is There an Environmental Crisis? Has Religion Got Anything to Do With It?
Assigned Reading

  • Kinsley, Ecology and Religion, xv-xxi.
  • Daniel Maguire, “Introduction,” in Visions of a New Earth, 1–13.
Film: God’s Earth: A Call for Environmental Stewardship
Aug 30

Is Western Civilization to Blame?
Assigned Reading

  • Lynn White, Jr., “The Historical Roots of Our Ecologic Crisis,” in This Sacred Earth, 184–93.
  • Kinsley, Ecology and Religion, 103–14.
  • Roderick Frazier Nash, “The Greening of Religion,” in This Sacred Earth, 194–229.
Sep 6

Man, Nature, and Modernity
Assigned Reading

  • Kinsley, Ecology and Religion, 125–40.
  • Keith Thomas, Man and the Natural World: Changing Attitudes in England 1500–1800 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1983) 17–36 (coursepack).
  • David R. Loy, “The Religion of the Market,” in Visions of a New Earth, 15–28.
Sep 13

First Peoples
Assigned Reading

  • Kinsley, Ecology and Religion, 3–50.
  • J. Donald Hughes, “Excerpt from American Indian Ecology,” in This Sacred Earth, 131–46.
  • John S. Mbiti, “African Views of the Universe,” in This Sacred Earth, 174–80.
  • Michael Kioni Dudley, “Traditional Native Hawaiian Environmental Philosophy,” in This Sacred Earth, 125–30.
Sept 20 Judaism
Assigned Reading

Excerpts from:

  • Selections from the Hebrew Bible, in This Sacred Earth, 71–83.
  • Daniel Swartz, “Jews, Jewish Texts, and Nature: A Brief History,” in This Sacred Earth, 87–103.
  • Laurie Zoloth, “The Promises of Exiles: A Jewish Theology of Responsibility,” in Visions of a New Earth, 95–109.
  • Arthur Waskow, “What is Eco-Kosher?” in This Sacred Earth, 297–300.
  • Arthur Green, “Vegetarianism: A Kashrut for our Age,” in This Sacred Earth, 301–302.
  • Steven S. Schwartzchild, “The Unnatural Jew,” Environmental Ethics 6, no. 4 (1984): 347–62 (coursepack).
Sept 27

Assigned Reading

  • Mawil Y. Izzi Deen (Samarrai), “Islamic Environmental Ethics: Law and Society,” in This Sacred Earth, 164–73.
  • Richard Foltz, “Is There an Islamic Environmentalism?” Environmental Ethics 22, no.1 (2000): 63–72 (coursepack).
  • K. L. Afrasiabi, “Toward an Islamic Ecotheology,” Hamdard Islamicus 18 (1995): 33–50 (coursepack).
  • Nawal H. Ammar, “An Islamic Response to the Manifest Ecological Crisis: Issues of Justice,” in Visions of a New Earth, 131–46.
Oct 4

Assigned Reading

  • Kinsley, Ecology and Religion, 54–67.
  • O. P. Dwivedi, “Satyagraha for Conservation: Awakening the Spirit of Hinduism,” in This Sacred Earth, 151–63.
  • Vasudha Narayanan, “‘One Tree is Worth Ten Sons’: Hindu Responses to the Problems of Ecology, Population, and Consumption,” in Visions of a New Earth, 111–29.
  • Bruce M. Sullivan, “Paradise Polluted: Religious Dimensions of the Vrindavana Ecology Movement,” in This Sacred Earth, 565–71.
Oct 11

Assigned Reading

  • Kinsley, Ecology and Religion, 84–98.
  • Chatsumarn Kabilsingh, “Early Buddhist Views of Nature,” in This Sacred Earth, 147–50.
  • Rita M. Gross, “Toward a Buddhist Environmental Ethics,” in Visions of a New Earth, 147–60.
  • Kenneth Kraft, “The Greening of Buddhist Practice,” in This Sacred Earth, 484–98.
  • Ken Jones, “Getting Out of Our Own Light,” in This Sacred Earth, 303–308.
Assignments Due
  • Paper Proposal Due (in class)
Oct 18

Chinese Traditions
Assigned Reading

  • “Selections from the Tao Te Ching,” in This Sacred Earth, 67–70.
  • Kinsley, Ecology and Religion, 68–83.
  • Chün-fang Yü, “Chinese Religions on Population, Consumption, and Ecology,” in Visions of a New Earth, 161–74.
  • Tu Wei-ming, “The Continuity of Being: Chinese Visions of Nature,” in On Nature, ed. Leroy S. Rouner (South Bend, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1984) 113–29 (coursepack).
  • Ole Bruun, “Fengshui and the Chinese Perception of Nature,” in Asian Perceptions of Nature: A Critical Approach, eds. Ole Bruun and Arne Kalland (Surrey: Curzon, 1995) 173–88 (coursepack).
Oct 25

Japanese Traditions
Assigned Reading

  • Brian Bocking, “Japanese Religions,” in Attitudes to Nature, eds. Jean Holm and John Bowker (London: Pinter, 1994) 160–69 (coursepack).
  • Arne Kalland, “Culture in Japanese Nature,” in Asian Perceptions of Nature, eds. Bruun and Kalland, 243–57 (coursepack).
Film: Shinto: The Way of the Kami
Nov 1

Contemporary Christian Ecotheology
Assigned Reading

  • Kinsley, Ecology and Religion, 115–24, 164–77.
  • John F. Haught, “Christianity and Ecology,” in This Sacred Earth, 270–85.
  • Sallie McFague, “The Scope of the Body: The Cosmic Christ,” in This Sacred Earth, 286–96.
  • Catherine Keller, “The Lost Fragrance: Protestantism and the Nature of What Matters,” in Visions of a New Earth, 79–93.
  • Theodore Walker, Jr., “African-American Resources for a More Inclusive Liberation Theology,” in This Sacred Earth, 309–16.
Nov 8

Non-Anthropocentrism and Radical Environmentalism
Assigned Reading

  • Kinsley, Ecology and Religion, 178–202.
  • John Muir, “Excerpt from Thousand Mile Walk to the Gulf,” in This Sacred Earth, 27–28.
  • Albert Schweitzer, “Man and Creature,” in This Sacred Earth, 408–409.
  • Aldo Leopold, “Excerpts from A Sand County Almanac,” in This Sacred Earth, 29–31.
  • Bill Devall and George Sessions, Deep Ecology (Salt Lake City: Peregrine Smith, 1985) 65–76 (coursepack).
  • Warwick Fox, “Transpersonal Ecology and the Varieties of Identification,” in This Sacred Earth, 436–44.
  • Dave Foreman, Confessions of an Eco-Warrior (New York: Harmony, 1991) 1–23, 138–47 (coursepack).
  • Bron Taylor, “Earth First!: From Primal Spirituality to Ecological Resistance,” in This Sacred Earth, 545–57.
Nov 15

Assigned Reading

  • Kinsley, Ecology and Religion, 203–209.
  • Rosemary Radford Ruether, “Ecofeminism: Symbolic and Social Connections of the Oppression of Women and the Domination of Nature,” in This Sacred Earth, 322–33.
  • Shamana Shantu Riley, “Ecology is a Sistah’s Issue Too: The Politics of Afrocentric Ecowomanism,” in This Sacred Earth, 346–60.
  • Susan Griffin, “Excerpt from Woman and Nature: The Roaring Inside Her,” in This Sacred Earth, 361–63.
  • Paula Gunn Allen, “The Woman I Love is a Planet, The Planet I Love is a Tree,” in This Sacred Earth, 364–68.
  • Riane Eisler, “Messages From the Past: The World of the Goddess,” in This Sacred Earth, 369–81.
  • Vandana Shiva, “Nature as the Feminine Principle,” in This Sacred Earth, 382–85.
  • Carol Adams, “Destabilizing Patriarchal Consumption,” in This Sacred Earth, 397–401.
Nov 22

No Class Session Today

Nov 29

Voices from the Global South
Assigned Reading

  • Ramachandra Guha, “Radical Environmentalism: A Third World Critique,” Environmental Ethics 11, no. 1 (1989): 71–83 (coursepack).
  • B. D. Sharma, “On Sustainability,” in This Sacred Earth, 558–64.
  • Jacob K. Olupona, “African Religions and the Global Issues of Population, Consumption and Ecology,” in Visions of a New Earth, 175–99.
  • M. L. Daneel, “African Independent Churches Face the Challenge of Environmental Ethics,” in This Sacred Earth, 572–85.
  • Alberto Munera, “New Theology on Population, Ecology, and Overconsumption from the Catholic Perspective,” in Visions of a New Earth, 65–78.
Dec 6

The Ethics (?) of Globalization
Assigned Reading

  • David C. Korten, “Sustainability and the Global Economy,” in Visions of a New Earth, 29–42.
  • Helena Norberg-Hodge, “The Pressure to Modernize and Globalize,” in The Case Against the Global Economy, eds. Jerry Mander and Edward Goldsmith (San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1996) 33–46 (coursepack).
  • Wendell Berry, “Does Community Have a Value?,” in Home Economics (New York: North Point Press, 1987) 179–92 (coursepack).
  • Larry Rasmussen, “Global Eco-Justice: The Church’s Mission in Urban Society,” in Christianity and Ecology, eds. Ruether and Hessel, 515–29 (coursepack).
Dec 11

Final Class
Assignments Due

  • Final Paper Due (by 5:00 pm)


Copyright © 2000 Richard Foltz.
Reprinted with permission.
The author retains all copyrights for all syllabi materials.
Please contact each author individually for reprint rights.