Ecotheology: Western Christian and Eastern Buddhist Ecological Spirituality and Environmental Ethics

Various religious sects have made a change towards their view of animals. They have recognized that human’s treatment of animals does not correlate with the original teachings that God disposed upon us. In Lynn White’s essay, The Historical Roots of Our Ecological Crisis, she discusses how ecological change and environmental degradation has gone far back for thousands of years. What she believes is our greatest downfall is introduction of Western technology. We previously used simple farming methods and lived in harmony with the natural world, but as technology and science grew, so did our urge to dominant the world. She believes that “what people do about their ecology depends on what they think about themselves in relation to things around them” (55). Therefore, our relation to the environment was greatly shaped by Christian views. Christianity is the most anthropocentric of all religions. Buddhist Environmentalists “see their worldview as a rejection of hierarchical dominance of one human over another or humans over nature, and as the basis of an ethic of empathetic compassion that respects biodiversity” Yet Christianity still views humans as the dominating force of the world, and other beings simply as human resources. Although religion relates saints to natural objects, these saints till take human form. White believes that these Christian viewpoints such as mastering and dominating the environment, will lead to our downfall. In The Reverend Dr. Andrew Linzey’s essay, For God So Loved the World, it was interesting to hear from the perspective on the treatment of animals from someone who we can assume is a religious man. Linzey states that due to Christian doctrine, animals have always been viewed as property. The term animal in Imageitself holds a negative connotation to this day. He states that, “this low, negative, even hating, attitude towards animals, regarding them as a source of evil, or as instruments of the devil, or regarding them as beings without moral status, has, sad to say, been the dominant view within Christendom for the largest part of its history” (59). They are still creatures of God but we do not treat them as so. Linzey believes that Christians have a hypocritical mentality and easily forget how truly horrible they have been. In order to change the way we treat animals, Linzey suggest three steps. The first states that we must not hate those who hate animals. As frustrating as it is, he believes we will only push them further into their darkness. The second states that we must not hate, even the Church. Linzey discusses how the Church may have influenced much hateful behavior, however it has also been the leading force behind liberating many. The third states that we must not hate one another. We cannot complain about animal abusers if we are to be compassionate to towards each other. Ultimately, Linzey knows that animals are still being treated as things, but people are beginning to have a conscience. Christianity is very influential and has the power to persuade people to act in a certain way. Therefore, if the church advocated the humane treatment of animals, I’m sure some radical Christians out there would even listen. The Church needs to use its power for the equal treatment of animals, just as it provided help for the slaves. It is very easy to hate the Church for its backward methods, but if it does have the power we should use this power the animals’ advantage.

Question: Why do Christians see fit to dominant and abuse animals that are in fact creatures of their beloved God? If religion did not exist, would we still treat animals as things? Does Christianity provide more disservice to animals or has it helped in human’s recognition of their immoral practices towards them?

About dripley91

Senior at Fordham University. Environmental Policy Major and Sustainable Business Minor
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