I spent about an hour today on the snow shovel after fifteen inches fell yesterday, laughing a bitter and sardonic laugh at people who associate flowers and bunny wabbits with the spring equinox. (At least the Sun is stronger now than in midwinter.)
Today’s preoccupation is the talk that I have to give tomorrow on nature religion to some Unitarians.
First off, it’s not an easy term to define. I can think of at least three definitions for “nature religion.”
To Albanese, the term was a “scholarly construct” that made it possible to talk about various attitudes and activities under one heading, everything from “natural healing” to national parks to New Agey dietary fads.
I was present at an American Academy of Religion panel c. 1998 when Professor Albanese learned to her surprise that “nature religion” was also a term self-applied by many contemporary Pagans. Pagans had simply not been on her mental radar.
2. My own research, however, showed various Pagans using “earth religion” and “nature religion” to describe themselves (and to avoid loaded terms like Witch and Pagan) at least as long ago as 1970. And 1970 happens to be the year when the first Earth Day was observed.
3. Somewhat similar to Albanese, another religious studies professor, Bron Taylor, has a recent book called Dark Green Religion: Nature Spirituality and the Planetary Future.
Not particularly theistic, Taylor defines “dark green religion” as “religion that considers nature to be sacred, imbued with intrinsic value, and worthy of reverent care.” The “dark” suggests not just intensity but also nature religion’s propensity to “precipitate or exacerbate violence” (ix).
Once jokingly described to me as “the house intellectual of Earth First!” Taylor has had a long interest in studying ecotage and other environmental violence, along with more peaceful manifestations of nature religion as surfing culture.
Consequently, where Albanese tends to be more interested in the nineteenth century, Taylor is more focused on contemporary environmentalism and politics.