Changing attitudes to religion, marriage and the environment

Sunrise on the solstice is celebrated at Stonehenge. Archaeologists now think sunset was the significant occasion.

In the 1950s, people felt shame-faced about being athiest and/or ‘living in sin’, while the Ministry of Agriculture gave special grants for removing hedges, draining wetlands and planting conifers. These attitudes have been reversed. Europeans want to conserve everything and speak confidently about religion being ‘a load of rubbish’. But their attitude to religions is peculiar. Adherents of older religions are seen as minions worshiping graven images in hopes of being given baubles. Christianity is associated with mumbo-jumbo (and child abuse). These attitudes put a 7th generation agnostic (me) in the unexpected position of explaining the good aspects of faiths: the value of spiritual matters, ethics, virtues, peace, hard work and simple living.

Image courtesy tarotastic

12 thoughts on “Changing attitudes to religion, marriage and the environment

  1. christine

    It gives me pause to wonder whether there are emerging different sets of flow-on beliefs depending on whether a person is religious in orientation or not. One particular attitude which may or may not be influenced by religious belief is the acceptance of climate change.

    For example, 1)Is the rainbow covenant with Noah an assurance that life on earth will not end due to rising sea levels or storms, floods etc? Or 2) Are Christians who are looking for the definitive end of the world, [ ] going to welcome catasthropic climate change as bringing about the final victory and reign of Christ? Or 3) will the threat of climate change be seen as an imperative for the type of environmental stewardship and sensitivity typified by St Francis of Assisi?

    “My hero is St. Francis of Assisi because he understood the connection between spirituality and the environment. He understood the way God communicates to us most forcefully is through the fishes and the birds and the trees and that it is a sin to destroy those things.” – Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

    1. Tom Turner Post author

      St Francis has a storied past and, I guess, is destined for an even more storied future. He offers a way out of the problem Christian environmentalists with Genesis: ‘And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat. And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so’. This passage can be read to mean that what we call ‘nature’ was created to assist in the task of avoiding birth control and being fruitful and multiplying at the expense of ‘ the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth’.

  2. Christine

    The story you relate of the Bereishit (in the Beginning)is on Day Six:

    Sixth day: God had the earth bring forth living creatures, and made man in God’s image, male and female, giving man dominion over the animals and the earth, and blessed man to be fruitful and multiply. (Genesis 1:24–28) God gave vegetation to man and to the animals for food. (Genesis 1:29–30)

    Yet God also gave the command on Day Five to the “great sea-monsters, and every living creature that creepeth, wherewith the waters swarmed, after its kind, and every winged fowl after its kind” (at 22)[ ]to ‘Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth.’

    Luckily He didn’t also give them dominion or they too would have had to resist the temptation to eat the apple and worry about whether or not to use birth control!

    1. Tom Turner Post author

      Some of those who worry about the lack of information about dinosaurs in the Bible argue that the above reference to ‘sea-monsters’ shows that they ARE mentioned, though the Hebrew word can also mean dragons. In the east, which has more enthusiasm for dragons than the west, it is pretty well agreed that the idea of dragons comes from crocodiles. How they became a symbol of love and good luck in Chinese culture is problematic. Most people think of crocs as harmful to humans and therefore, presumably, meriting extinction like the mosquito and the tetse fly – if humans are to have dominion over the earth. But if we could teach mosquitos to occupy a limited territory and practice birth control and not become illegal immigrants then we could have a World Mosquito Reserve. Once it has eliminated malaria the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation would, presumably, be willing to provide the funding.

  3. Christine

    Quite right, in our dominion over the animals we do commonly require some of them which we percieve as being harmful or risky to humans to be sterilized without the same ethical concerns that would accompany a Eugenics program.

    It is interesting that in indigenous society the notion of increase and decrease ceremonies and strict kinship relationships managed the size of the population of both humans and animals who occupied strict territorial boundaries.
    [ ]

    1. Tom Turner Post author

      If man is ‘just another animal’, rather than a special species which has dominion over ‘every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth’ then ethical principles should be extended to the animal kingdom. The problem is that this would make war on mosquitos etc a crime on a par with genocide.
      The trend in Japan’s population indicates that the animal kingdoms may fare better in future than they have done in the past century. If present trends continue, for example, Japan’s population will fall back to 40m And there are many indications of similar falls elsewhere (except in Africa). So maybe the animals will once again have dominion over humans.

  4. christine

    It is difficult to understand exactly what dominion means. For example, could it be somewhat equivalent to being endowed with freewill? Or is it a strictly governance term linked to a theocractic society? [ ] Is the dominion responsibility restricted to the animal kingdom?

    It seems to eliminate mosquitos rather than just the diseases they carry would be a major ecological mistake. [ ]

    Are Japanese young people averse to marriage and children? Is this effecting the rate of population replacement? [ ]

    1. Tom Turner Post author

      Yes. As one might say, the meaning of ‘dominion’ opens up a can of worms. First one would have to know how it was used in the Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament) then one would have to know if its meaning changed with the advent of Christianity (the New Testament). I have heard it argued that the Hebrew word was closer to ‘a duty of care’ than a ‘right to exploit’. But one can set against this the historical fact that Christianity is associated with much human expansion, population growth, colonisation, pollution etc.
      Good to hear that the detested mosquito (which, thankfully, does not like me very much) has a useful role in the planetry ecosystem.
      I think it is Japanese women, rather than Japanese men, who are reluctant to marry. Men, it is said, treat them as unpaid servants and goodness knows what else (Japanese porn has a reputation for being weirdly bizarre). Women are coming to prefer dogs to children

  5. Christine

    I wonder if the government in Japan is serious about population policy or whether cultural change in gender relationships is just too difficult? [ ] It is interesting that factors attributed to this phenomenon globally include 1) education levels 2) job insecurity 3) high cost of living 4) lifestyle change and expectations 5) the use of contraception 6) female participation in the workforce 7) religion 8) unstable relationships.

    The linking of education, employment and female fertility is quite dangerous as a policy issue.[ ]

    Do men seriously think the only reason that females should want to marry them is for economic support? If so the socio-cultural problem and its consequences in the flow on policy conext is large indeed!

    1. Tom Turner Post author

      Here is a hard question for governments ‘Is population growth a good thing?’ Without an answer ‘population policy’ becomes too-difficult. Politicians tend to get elected if they can do well for the economy and there is good evidence that more youthful populations are more econcomically active than aging populations. But environmentalists worry that over-population will result in the near-extinction of Homo sapiens – the Easter Island effect. Talk about ‘saving the planet’ is really talk about saving our species. The planet is pretty good at looking after itself and has ALWAYS been in flux with all species becoming extinct, in time.
      The most telling statistic, for me, in the article on New Zealand is the linking of education to fertility.
      As an environmentalist, I am alarmed by excess population growth.

  6. Christine

    Yes, hopefully there wont be a European crisis similar to the one occasioned by black death which was a bit like a near extinction? [ ] Gosh, the poor Jewsih population, history says they should be very worried when things aren’t going so well in Europe. A little less Christian religious fevour is most probably very good for them!

    If the roots of Capitalism are arguably traced back to this phenomenon, what will be the economic outcome of widespread population decline in Europe?

    It must be necessary to consider population according to its effects on the society, the environment and the economy in order to ensure sustainable development.


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