Nature is good

The Reformed Druids of North America have two simple tenets of their druidry: ‘Nature is good’ and ‘Likewise, nature is good’. John Beckett recently posted a thoughtful article on the role of ‘nature religion’ within paganism and druidry, which I recommend checking out.

There has been a lot of debate about whether paganism/druidry can be classed as nature-centred paths or not, and I suppose that is up to each individual to decide for themselves. I have written a bit about my experiences of nature-worship here before. However, I completely agree with John when he writes that, whatever your religious beliefs (or lack thereof I would add), nature should play an important role:

If your religion does not include reverence for Nature then I propose your religion is at best inadequate and may be detrimental to your life and to all life on this planet.

Without this reverence for nature, we are left with a disenchanted world, a world that we can use and abuse as we see fit and ultimately destroy in the end. The ongoing litany of environmental crises attest to the results of a worldview based on profit and ‘progress’ without concern for the bigger picture.

I initially came to study druidry because it seemed to provide a middle way between the Hobson’s choice of dogmatic religion on the one hand and nihilistic materialism on the other. Whether it does this successfully or not is a matter for another post, but that’s the theory anyway.

We live in a world of diminishing resources and increasing human population. As westerners, we also live in a society where the dominant religion teaches that the earth was made for humans to:

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.(Gen.1 KJV)

This theology, combined with the apocalyptic torture-porn of the Book of Revelation, is what leads to politicians decrying environmentalism and denying the scientific consensus on global climate change.

It also leads to preachers like Mark Driscoll, who leads a network of mega-churches in the US, saying things like this:

“I know who made the environment and he’s coming back and going to burn it all up. So yes, I drive an SUV.”

We desperately need an alternative approach. Atheism makes the point clear that this world is all there is, but even Humanism often implies that the environment should only be protected for future generations of humanity to enjoy and to further the cause of human progress. This is a step forward, but not enough. Surely nature is valuable for its own sake, not just for what it can do for humans? I wonder if a non-religious approach can ever fully emphasise nature as sacred?

I don’t know if I really fit within druidry or not at the moment, but I fully support any approach, be it religious, philosophical or political, that aims to grow a real and meaningful relationship between humans and nature. I don’t believe in gods and goddesses, spirits and souls. I don’t think the world will end in a rapture and I don’t believe in a happy-ever-afterlife. This world, this beautiful natural world, is all there is and for me it is enough.

The sheer wonder of existence demands reverence and calls out to us to respond with awe, wonder and love (even perhaps with worship). As individuals, we may not think we can make a difference, but I think that a difference in attitude can make all the difference in society.

4 responses to “Nature is good

  1. It’s funny, I definitely agree with what you’re saying here and I’ve always had a fierce emotional response to the damage that we’re doing to Earth. But I can never quite figure out where I come down on this being related to my spirituality or not.

    My spirituality is nature-based in that it is firmly placed within the context of the Earth and our movement around the sun and our place in the universe. But I’m not sure that it necessarily inspires environmentalism. I think it’s because, at its core, the universe is divine to me simply in its existence. And I don’t see a divide between humans and nature – it’s all nature, to me. So as much as I feel disgust at a lack of respect for certain aspects of the world, it is still all divine to me, and worthy of reverence, whether it is eco-friendly or not.

    But I suppose it does come down to respect. I think we should respect the advances we have made as a civilisation, respect the decisions and changes that have been made even if they have been destructive. But equally, as you point out, we need to respect the rest of nature too – those parts that are not human-made.

    I’m going to stop rambling now… I think I should just take this to a blog post! :)

    • I would love to read your thoughts on this if you did make it into a blog post!

      I get your point and I’m not a massive fan of the idea of dividing nature and human activity, but I wouldn’t say that I see everything as equally sacred. For instance, I can’t see a landfill or a polluted industrial district as sacred as a forest or wildlife reserve. I respect the advances industrial civilisation has given us, I like having modern medicine and technology, but I don’t respect the attitude of ‘the earth is our property to do whatever we want with’. It is home to other species than us humans, after all!

      I’m also not sure where/if spirituality fits in. I sometimes wonder if pagans, druids and the like are not doing environmentalism a disservice by ‘claiming’ it spiritually, it makes it easier for mainstream society to lump green issues in with those weird hippy types who worship stones. I’d like the pagan voice to be a more prominent witness to the sacredness of nature, but not at the expense of alienating other envrionmentalists from the Christian or atheist communities.

      • Yes, emotional response really does come into it… Even though I hold a monistic or pantheistic world-view, those moments of reverence or awe are always connected to the beautiful, to the “natural”, and not the the landfill or the polluted, as you point out. Beauty is a strange thing, and I think it might be our response to it that determines this sense of division between “natural” and “unnatural”.

        It’s a tricky subject all round, really, and hard to know whether it’s more or less useful to combine the two. But I suppose it comes down to individual feeling on the subject. If one feels that environmentalism is a part of their spirituality, then it is. For me, I think they’re mostly just related but not completely integrated.

        I’ll definitely have to consider a blog post on the topic! There’s a lot to untangle. :)

  2. Pingback: We’re not all Amy B.: Meet some other non-theistic Pagans | The Allergic Pagan

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