Of the three religions discussed above,
Christianity and Islam draw their environmental views from their holy texts which
describe the earth as god’s creation and possession. Both Islam and Christianity consider taking
care of the environment important primarily because this is considered an obligation
under these religions. Christianity does
not discuss or suggest that man is part of a cosmic soul or that all living
beings are connected. The bible lacks direct language addressing environmental
protection unlike the Qur’an that not only suggests mankind, the universe, and
nature are all interconnected but also has hundreds of versus describing care
and interaction with nature. Hinduism is
much older than both Christianity and Islam.
Hinduism stresses the cosmic connection between all life and the universe. Hinduism is the closest to an eco-philosophy
of these three religions. Hinduism’s teachings
regarding achieving balance, harmony, and doing no harm to the earth or other
lifeforms are central themes of this religion.
Christianity and Islam central themes are focused on obeying gods laws
to achieve rewards in the afterlife (heaven) while Hinduism’s ultimate goals
are achieving unity with the universe.
Hinduism believes in many gods and deities
unlike Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (2009, p. 65-67). Hindu’s believe
all living creatures have a soul and the universe is a large web of souls
interconnected. Hindu’s believe in a continuous cycle of birth, death, and
rebirth (karma). Achieving oneness with
the universe’s soul is salvation and breaks you free from the cycle of karma. What we do in this lifetime, good or bad,
affects our next lifetime. Hindu’s also believe
the deities dwell in nature and therefore hold forests, trees, and rivers very
sacred. Hindu’s also believe the earth
is a goddess (devi) and believe it is immoral to harm the earth or its
Islamic teachings are like Judeo-Christian teachings in that
Muslims believe god creates everything for a reason. Within the Qur’an is the ‘Ilm ul Khalq” which
covers the interconnected relationship between man, nature, and the universe (Watling,
2009, pp. 159-160). The Qur’an implies
that god is seen through his creations in nature, and nature should be held
sacred. Watling states that previous
studies have identified over 500 verses in the Qur’an related to “…nature, its
balance, diversity, fecundity and value, giving guidance on its appreciation
and use.”. Islamic law provides specific
legal rights and protections for animals.
The Islamic laws are derived directly from the Qur’an and its teachings (2009,
p. 162). Ultimately the Qur’an describes
nature as a sacred gift from god and directs proper ways to interact with nature
to achieve balance, peace, and unity (2009, p. 171).
The Judeo-Christian religions have adapted
their interpretations of their religious texts and morals to meet the needs of Eco-ethics
for a modern society. Dr. Dobel discusses
his interpretations of biblical instructions pertaining to environmental
stewardship using Genesis 1:30 “This is a sign of the covenant which I make
between me and you and every living creature that is with you…” (Dobel, 1977). Dr. Dobel states that it is Christianity’s
ethical responsibility to be “a good steward” of the environment because everything
on the earth belongs to god.
Religion has existed since before
mankind was able to write. These beliefs
have evolved over the centuries from animalism and paganism to organized
monotheistic religions that dominate the religious belief systems today. Values and morals taught by religions have far
reaching implication on their followers and the world around them.