Hinduism (similar to Buddhism), the religion in India, where the monsoon and drought starkly present the changes of existence and disappearance, is more a way of life than a theory. Man experiences himself as part of the world. Between him and the rest of life there is no perceived basic difference as between animate and inanimate nature. The environment means "the entire surroundings consisting of the relationships among spiritual, small and large materials" (Klocker and Tworuschka, 1986). Each and every thing is spun into the order of the world (Dharma), which on its part ensures itself through ritual acts, which also signify Dharma. Everything in nature then has multiple values: trees represent the power of vegetation and are worshipped and rivers are not only experienced as a water supply but also as holy, especially the Mother Ganges (mata ganga).

Traditional asceticism has brought man closer to the ideal self-restraint. Many have tried to occasionally learn from the ecology movement and practice frugality within certain lifestyles.


Chinese religion has anticipated many of the ecological ideas of our time with its varieties of universal thinking that sense the dynamics of interdependence and aspires to balance and harmony. In Taoism, the self-worth of the world and nature are qualified if a rigorous asceticism is applied at the same time.


In modern Japanese Shintoism, as in Hinduism, there are traits of ancient nature religions. To experience a small piece of this mindset nearby, one can visit the parts of the Japanese Gardens in Leverkusen or the architecture exhibit in the East Asian Museum in Cologne. The intuition of how important nature can be as a religious symbol emerges. Only because of the proximity of these examples, which show us an otherwise strange religion, can this information be confirmed.


Recently, the Native American tribal religions have gained popularity among the nature religions. The speech attributed to the Chief Seattle (1855) has become a cult text of the alternative, although it appears not to be authentic. He also used nature and hunted the buffalo, but only "to stay alive." And Archie Fire Lame Deer professed: "We never took more than we needed." Every time that man harvested plants or animals, the Native Americans begged forgiveness of the sacrificed life form and thanked Mother Earth who bestows all life (Klocker and Tworuschka, 1986).


In strong contrast to all of those just mentioned are the "Biblical Religions" Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. But as these above-mentioned belief systems weakened their ideals throughout history and negated their principles, this historical change has also affected our culture. Century-long language difficulties and ideological intentions have brought about the misinterpretation of the (Hebrew) Bible and disseminated the translations, which sometimes were totally contrary to the original ideas.

Not only maintenance is implied, but also active management. The ecologically meaningful use of the earth for livelihood remained implicit, but the mandate was increased. For example, the Bible promotes preventative action against drought and erosion. Moreover, Jewish law (Torah) promotes many specific actions (Mitzvot), which have retained great significance until now and include steps relating to ecology (Num 2; Ex 22, 4), animals (Ex 23, 5; Lev 19, 26, and 22, 24; Dtn 25, 4), and nature conservation (Dtn 20, 19 and 22, 7), even as far as the modern topic of genetic modification (Lev 19, 19), in that it forbids the inappropriate use of animals and plants.

The Koran has clearly adopted the esteem for nature created by Allah. Man must never forget the power of control over creation bestowed upon him, that his authority is limited, and that he is constantly accountable to Allah. Islam is typical in that it clearly emphasizes man's responsibility. The appropriate behavior toward nature is not determined by one's own will but out of deference to Allah as the lord of heaven and earth. As in biblical thought, in Islam too "man is the decisive problem for existence, form, and use of Creation" (Steck, 1978). Both religions recognize the right to life of nonhuman life forms. One should ask at this point: Can nature conservation be more strongly justified than by God's ownership of nature?

Christianity goes one step further in the recognition that "in Jesus Christ, the creator himself becomes the created and goes into his creation" (Klocker and Tworuschka, 1986). In so doing, the creator sanctified his work with his presence. It is tragic that the contradictory history of Christianity provokes critics to speak of its "merciless consequences." The author of this wording (Amery, 1973) blames Christianity in assisting the over-exploitation of nature and assigns it decisive culpability for the ecology crisis.

The eastern churches have remained especially true to the approach of early theologians. That approach tries to overcome the Greek creation myth in that it interprets the creature as God's self-revelation and as proof of his love for man. The function of the creature "consists of its usefulness to man's salvation. Because the creature is contained in man, it shares his identification to take part in holy life and may be deified through the same grace as man" (Panagopulos, 1987).

It was brought up earlier that life and doctrine often diverge in historical reality (and not only in Christianity). This led to the creation of doctrines that included contradictory ideas about the behavior toward nature. It is how deism clarified the absence of a relationship between god and the world. Straight materialism was, at times, able to fascinate, but apparently not satisfy, minds. Marxism-Leninism, among others, asked as a basic tenet of its philosophy the question about the relationship between awareness and nature and matter. Man is part of nature but puts himself above it by means of work. Through it he realizes his goals, changes nature, and molds it to his ends. He must not separate himself from nature, even as its master, but must help people practice "an ever-deeper understanding and application of its laws for his goals" (Klaus and Buhr, 1972).

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