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Religion and Nature (Baltutis)

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Course Title

Religion and Nature


Michael Baltutis
University of Wisconsin Oshkosh


Religious Studies

Subject(s) Religion, Nature

This course is ultimately based on two simple questions: “What is nature?” and “How do people live in space?”.  Based on the difficulty of defining “nature”, we will observe how people live in cities – the opposite of nature – and the social, political, environmental, economic, artistic, and religious conditions that are both required for and that result from urban life.  Since this is a Religious Studies course, we will focus on those religious elements – myths, rituals, texts, worldviews, etc. – that provide us insight into the interplay between urban life and nature.

Observing these two types of space from an Environmental Studies perspective, we will be interested in the environmental impact of cities on the people who live there – either by choice or of necessity – and the religious impact of the inevitable environmental degredation that results from the construction of cities.

To handle these related topics, our reading list will be rather diverse and will include: (1) translations from primary sources that describe, glorify, and problematize cities; (2) theoretical material on the sacred-ness of cities; (3) ethnographies on the lives of immigrants and their religious lives in urban America; (4) films and music that are products of and reflections on urban life; and (5) print and on-line readings dealing with the (sometimes awkward) relationships between world religions and environmental issues.


See PDF here.