Caring for what we have

Hello everyone who might read this,

I’m currently writing a novel on excessive consumption and the overall earth-carnivorous/exploitative behavior on humanity’s behalf. I feel extremely sad about the way we treat nature and animals. Who do we think we are to put ourselves in the high seat? I’m not a religious believer, and sometimes wonder if we would care/fight for this world in a different way if we didn’t count on passing on to another place, post-life. I wonder if the fact that a major part of the world believes that they’ll end up somewhere else after death, puts some of the focus of here and now in the backseat? Like if earth was just a stop on the way. If this world was all there is - wouldn’t we be better caring for it?

Sweden is one of the least religious countries in the world (we’re considered spiritual, but not very religious) and we’re at the very frontline of climate-friendly solutions. I wonder if there is a connection?
/CiaE

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Hi, Cecilia - and welcome to the forum.

You ask a fair question, and sadly - it remains a highly relevant one in every corner of the world among believers and nonbelievers too of every stripe. So I am a bit of a skeptic of your belief that religions (or perhaps certain theisms like Christianity) are the only culprits in our formation of such exploitational attitudes. But that said, I can see how history would lead a person to that conclusion! We do have a powerful drive to use any religion we have at hand to justify post-hoc our pursuit of what we had already decided we wanted - desires that I would argue existed quite prior to our religious convictions. So I would certainly go so far as to agree that what we tragically observe with most religion (Christianity included) is a failure to keep these impulses in check, though I would also add that is isn’t for lack of trying (and some all-too-rare success?) that can grow out of some religious principles that are there, after all, even if adherents spend too much of our time not living up to those.

You won’t get much traction around here pushing for non-belief since Biologos is a faith-based organization, but that said, we do value input and criticism from everybody here, including nonbelievers. And we’ve had much benefit and wisdom shared here from those who might consider themselves “outsiders” to the world of faith, since we consider all truth as being sacred.

And by the way, I do agree with you that many believers have taken some of Paul’s “we’re just passing through here” passages and run with that as an excuse to adopt a “slash-and-burn” attitude toward God’s creation; an attitude that I maintain is not faithful to scriptures overall - and not even faithful to Paul, I argue, beyond a few proof-texted verses.

I don’t know much about Sweden, but in general it sounds like the Scandinavian nations have much to admire in how they approach climate care. Perhaps you can help us learn from that, and share more.

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We live in a society where people are so focused on their goals and achieving them, that they forget to appreciate what they have.

It’s not just about taking care of our planet and loving every creature that lives on it, it’s also about being happy with what we have right now and being grateful for the little things that make us happy.

I’ve always been an animal lover and I’ve always loved nature too. In my opinion, if we don’t take care of our planet and the environment now, then what will happen when our children grow up?

I feel extremely sad about the way we treat nature and animals because I think if we continue this way, we will lose everything that makes us who we are today.

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I think there are many factors involved in this. Such as Sweden is roughly the size of California I believe but only has 10,000,000 people while the state of California has 39,000,000. Then we have another 300,000,000 people scared across 49 states. These states all come with very different cultural leanings, political views and ect…

I believe we export far more food than Sweden.

There is also the issue that it’s not just Christianity that affects the mindset of American Christians. The political leaning of many affects it probably even more than their actual faith. Sweden I believe is far more liberal than america is. As a smaller nation with less cultural differences with more liberal leanings y’all are simply going to have a far easier time doing more to take care of your nation. I don’t think it’s simply atheism making Sweden more environmentally conscious as a nation.

China for example is very atheistic. I think it’s even less religious than y’all. It’s also another big nation with way more people and has a lot more cultural divide because of that as well. They are also not the most environmentally sound nation out there.

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Hi Mervin,
Thank you for responding. I don’t mean to say that religion is to blame. On the contrary I believe that religion summarizes and emphasizes what’s good in human nature, and as such is a valuable force in our quest of becoming better people. What I’m saying though, is that it could be contributing to our subconscious ability to withstand the damage we’re causing. If we count on ending up somewhere better after this life, perhaps the anxiety about the present situation is mildred? The idea of ruining this world if it was all there is, gives me a major increase in anxiety. To me, earth is what will prevail when I’m gone. That’s the comfort when I’m old enough to let go. I see earth as heaven and I’m infinitely grateful to be here for a while.

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Did you mean “scattered” across 49 states? Or … ‘scared’ might not be far from the truth either these days. :face_with_peeking_eye:

I’m having trouble with your final word in that sentence - was that a typo, or a Swedish expression that I’m just unfamiliar with?

Fair point there.

I share in your anxiety about what we’re doing to this world. Gratitude for what we have here is never misplaced. Thanks for sharing that.

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Thank you for your comments. Here in Sweden, we’re told we worship nature. That’s our religion, that’s where we find peace. Perhaps you’re right it’s not atheism but a different type of religion propelling part of our development in this area. I also agree with your other comments, we have a lot of conditions in our country making these developments easier than many other countries might have.

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Perhaps the idea that we just die also contributes towards maximizing the fullness of selfish desire.

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mildred; I meant to say mitigated/softened. Apparently I used a swenglish word…

True. I hope/trust that social pressure will regulate such undesirable selfishness. And consideration for our children. But I come from a social democracy society where individualism isn’t very appreciated, so there could be a difference.

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Hi Cecilia!

You might like some recent podcast episodes we have done about this topic.

This one is specifically about colonialism, but I think it lends itself easily to the extension of individualism.

and this one talks through some of what the Bible says about the “end times” and why some Christians’ poor interpretations have led to negative opinions about caring for the earth.

Hope you can get some interesting feedback here!

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Right there with you! I imagine your successful culture better disposes you to accepting a role that places the good of the whole above individual exceptionalism. I envy you that as such a culture has to evolve naturally and here in the US both ends of the political spectrum think the best way forward is with directed force.

Neither am I one, but I’m less convinced that a Christian WV is at the heart of the problem. Many Christians in the US do show the disregard toward long term effects you point to. This disposable-world outlook is a problem for sure. But here you find similar environmental indifference from seculars who are convinced it is always possible fix it through better science leading to better farming and some day to greener pastures on other worlds. There just is a dark side to human nature that can be justified in a number of ways, none of them noble or helpful. In the absence of a caring cultural milieu this darker side runs rampant. You might think, in a truly Christian nation, Jesus’ pro social message would dominate but here anything that smells like socialism makes people fear for their freedom, the freedom to rape and plunder the web of life included.

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That’s a good thing. What percentage of Swedish people believe there is no afterlife? Or are undecided?

I suspect that cultural inertia and greed play a much larger role in how we treat nature than religion. The US went through a massive growing phase starting in the 1800’s which saw the expansion westward and industrialization on a large scale. The US still accounts for 10% of all food exports worldwide which makes the US the largest food exporter. WWII also had a massive impact on the US economy and industry. That is a lot of inertia and a lot of money. It’s hard to make people change especially when it may come with economic sacrifices.

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5% of the population visit church regularly and that percentage has been fairly steady since measuring started about 100 years ago, according to church statistics. A recent survey showed that 25% believe in an afterlife of some sort, 25% are undecided, 50% don’t believe.

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And Madison Avenue engendered “need”.

I don’t blame religion, I was just wondering if the idea of an afterlife - an idea of being part of a bigger existence, post earth - allows for a subconscious ability to withstand the damage we’re causing. I could be wrong, but I’m searching for tools to change people´s mindset towards nature - tools that will keep our exploitative behavior in check. We’ve built a system where we’re – temporarily - independent of nature and each other. The variables controlling our exploitative behavior has been set aside. Living off the land used to be about balance, today it’s about extraction. This must change. With too many middle hands between consumer choice and climate impact, we’re disconnected from cause and effect. In order to restore balance, we need to find a way to re-install these control mechanisms. A way back to seeing our individual foot print.

You may find this lecture series to be valuable in your research.

It’ll be available on Scribd the beginning of next month or now through Zondervan’s website.

It comes from a highly respected evangelical NT scholar, and he does it with his son, so the generational effect of our environmental concerns may be a central feature. I haven’t listened to it, but if I was working with this subject, I’d pay attention to what Moo has to say about it.

Creation Care Video Lectures: A Biblical Theology of the Natural World https://www.amazon.com/dp/0310599636/ref=cm_sw_r_apan_i_X270596PYT21AGRV2Q98

Y’all are still doing a great job. There are other similar European countries that y’all are doing better than. I’ve never been there and so I know very little about it. My great grandmother spent time there and throughout Scandinavian countries. She especially spent time in Denmark and lived a lot of her life there. She said when she was a little girl her and all her friends would make biscuits as kids for wildlife in winter. They would make the and leave them in the forest for animals or fairies. Which is actually where my name came from.

Caring about nature and recognizing all of us are earthlings is a significant aspect of my life.

@CiaE,
You may find data and articles useful for your research from Pew Research Center, rather than relying on your own observations and interpretations. They are a well-respected non-partisan organization that collects and reports on data regarding many areas of American attitudes, including religious adherence and the environment. I searched a bit and found these results to give you a start:

You can learn more about Pew Research Center and follow your own inclinations here:
About Pew Research Center | Pew Research Center.

In spite of the many flaws in U.S. society, there are complexities that are not reflected at all in your assertions so far. Christianity has been perverted throughout its history to “justify” all kinds of abominations, and the resulting “religion” may use Christian-sounding vocabulary, but is not the same faith. Additionally, there are other factors involved in the U.S. including capitalism, national myths/nationalism, individualistic culture, and a general ignorance of environmental care resulting from the rest.

An honest understanding and assessment of the situation and its roots requires serious background research not reflected in your original post here. If you would like to seek libraries in the U.S. that can help you pursue the information you need, you might start with the Library of Congress through their Ask-A-Librarian page: https://ask.loc.gov/. Some university libraries in the U.S. may also be able help you find resources as well. You are welcome to contact me, if you need help finding contact information for them.
Kendel

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“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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