Religious perspectives on the natural world

A Unitarian view
The message that creation is sacred and that we must be its good stewards should be incorporated into our worship, our politics, our economics and our individual lifestyles.
In the Judaeo-Christian tradition the true relationship of humanity with the earth is best stated in the Genesis creation myth, where Adam - created out of the same 'dust of the ground' as all the plants and animals - is given a specific task: "The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to till it and to care for it." Thus humanity's role is to be the earth's gardener and curator, with the responsibility for looking after those who share this garden-planet with us.
The theme of our intimate relationship with a sacred creation recurs throughout the Bible from God's coventant with Noah "and with all living creatures" (Gen. 9: 12-17), through Psalm 104's hymn of praise for God's handiwork, and the prophet's vision of cosmic harmony in the Messianic age (Is. 11: 6-9) to Jesus's lyrical invocation of "the birds of the air...the lilies of the field" (Matt. 6: 26-30).
Reverend Cliff Reed, President of the General
Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches
For the Hindus, God is not outside nature. The Universe is a dance of Shiva. As the dance and the dancer cannot be separated, the creator cannot be separated from the creation. Every blade of grass, every drop of water, every breath of wind and every flame of fire is imbued with God. Everything is sacred. Earth is sacred, water is sacred, air and fire are sacred, space and time are sacred. Because nature is sacred, it is good in itself. We may not manipulate it or pollute it, exploit it or deplete it.
Satish Kumar, in Keeping the Faiths, Demos Issue 11

The Catholic View

Our visible world and every living and inanimate being has been called into existence through the goodness of God the Creator.
The whole of creation therefore shares in that goodness and its beauty reflects the infinite beauty of the Creator.
God has entrusted man, whom He created in His own image, with this precious gift for the benefit of all generations, past, present and future.
Therefore every individual has a moral obligation to respect and care for all earthly goods and to ensure that its resources are enjoyed by all. Furthermore, the interdependence of all creatures underlines God's will that we live to serve each other and in doing so give glory to Him.

The Church of England View

Christians and the Environment Christians believe that the world was created by God and continues to be sustained by God
Human beings have been given responsibility to care for the world and to manage it in a way which safeguards present and future human life, and the interests of the non-human world. Abuse of the natural world is disobedience to God and not just an error of judgment. Some Christians, particularly in the past, have used the idea of 'humans being in charge' as an excuse for reckless exploitation of resources. The more dominant theme in the Christian tradition however has been that of careful 'stewardship' of the whole of creation. The Church of England's General Synod held debates on the environment in 1970, 1985, 1990 and 1992. Publications include Christians and the Engvironment (1991) and Conservation and the Environment: A Leaflet for Parishes (1993).
Many dioceses have undertaken their own projects, for example working with local authorities on Local Agenda 21, setting up 'Prayer and Nature' trails, and providing study material for parishes. An increasing number of churches are trying to behave in a more 'environmentally friendly' way by looking at the ways in which buildings are heated, using fairly traded goods, and setting up re-cycling schemes. The Church and Conservation Project offers advice to churches about how churchyards can be managed in ways which will protect rare plants and lichens and provide a habitat for wildlife.
More information can be obtained from
The Church and Conservation Project Officer, Arthur Rank Centre, National Agricultural Centre, Stoneleigh, Warwickshire. CV8 2LZ.
Christian Ecology Link is an organisation which brings together Christians who are deeply concerned about the environment. More details are available from
CEL, 20 Carlton Road, Harrogate, North Yorkshire. HG2 8DD. Tel. 01423-871616.

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