Religion, Nature and the Environment

Professor: Norris Brock Johnson
Institution: University of North Carolina
Course Number: Anthropology 138

syllabus Copyright © 1998 by the author. All rights reserved.

3:30-6:30, Tuesday, 308 Alumni Building Office: 305-B Alumni Building
E-Mail: [email protected]
Hours: Wednesday 2:00-3:00; Thursday 2:30-4:00, and by appointment


The concept of nature is implicated, fundamentally, in the conception of the human.  Interestingly, the study of nature is the study of the human. In many societies still, not all, nature is assumed to be that which exists in distinction to culture.  Culture is conceptualized conventionally in several ways: as an attribute of the human [Homo sapiens sapiens] species; as the “way of life and thought” of people comprising a society; as synonyms with the idea of\ “civilization” – “civilized” is synonymous with culture, in polar opposition to. . . nature. The concept of nature, as well, exhibits manifold denotations and connotations. Nature conventionally is that which is distinct from the human. Nature is a constellation or cluster of qualities and attributes – the nature of a thing, or person. Nature is primal, the “natural.” Nature invariably implies ontology and, as such, consideration of the nature of nature remains a vital concern of systems of belief and religious traditions of the world. Indeed, our conceptions of nature are influenced substantively by theological and religious orientation.

This course studies ideas of nature, landscape, and environment extant in influential world religions: Hinduism; Buddhism; Taoism and Confucianism; Judaism; Christianity. We study the concept of the sacred, applied to nature and landscape. The phenomenon of pilgrimage is explored, as an archaic instance of the fusion of land, religion, and sacralized human behavior. We will discern the manner in which conceptualizations of nature are implicated in social and cultural stances and behaviors toward nature and the human-created landscape and environment. Conceptualizations of and stances toward it environmental issues” often embody theological presuppositions, either explicitly or implicitly. Religion, then, is a “natural” approach to the study of nature.

The primary goals of the course are several:

(1) to impart factual knowledge of influential world religious traditions, and their concepts of nature as well as the human.
(2) to discern principle similarities and differences between concepts of nature in world religions.
(3) to inductively identify the basic features, diachronically and synchronically, of concepts of nature, landscape, and environment.

For each section of the course, you ought to be able to:
(1) read the assigned materials critically, identifying in each case various conceptions of and methods for the study of the religious aspects of nature, landscape, and the environment.  Demonstrate mastery of relevant vocabulary and concepts.
(2) demonstrate ability to express your understanding of assigned materials, verbally as well as in writing.
(3) participate constructively in seminar discussions.

This course is a seminar. A seminar places emphasis on the guided discussion of, and your writing about, carefully-selected readings on a specific topic or subject. As such, much of our classroom time is on discussion of readings and group and individual reports. The Instructor lectures occasionally, but this course should not be approached as a lecture course. Participation via class discussion will be a substantial component of your final seminar grade.

This course is oriented toward upper-division students, though any interested student is welcome. The course is oriented toward the intersection of anthropology, geography, and religion in the belief that this intersection aids our understanding of and respect for both the natural and the human-constructed environment.


TEXTS AND READINGS

The following materials are required and are available at Student Stores and at the Reserve Reading Desk, House Undergraduate Library:

Sandars, N.K., trans., 1960. The Epic of Gilgamesh.  Middlesex and New York: Penguin Books.

Tucker, Mary Ellen, and John A. Grim, eds., 1994. Worldviews and Ecology: Religion, Philosophy, and the Environment. Maryknoll: Orbis Books.

Coursepak . You will read xeroxed articles available at Copytron (Columbia and Franklin Streets, 933-2679) under Anthropology 138. Course pack articles are also available for you to read or copy in the undergraduate library, Reserve Reading Desk.


EXAMINATIONS

Four essays are required, the final essay to be written in class as a final examination. In addition, class participation is a vital component of your final grade.

Seminar Essays:
You are required to write three seminar essays, written out of class, of @ five pages each (or more, is so possessed). The essays ought to demonstrate your understanding of our readings as well as your ability to synthesize material from several sources. As the essays are written out of class, it is important to use specific references from your readings (quotes; allusions; citations) to illustrate your essay.

The intent of this essay assignment is to provide the Instructor with on-going evidence that you have thoughtfully read assigned materials and attended class meetings and discussions. Evaluation of your essay is with respect to: (1) whether or not the issue/question is addressed; (2) degree of relevant use of specific readings and references, illustrating your points (3) sophistication of response (degree of comparison/contrast; original thinking and drawing of conclusions rather than mere summary and regurgitation); (4) the organization and presentation of your essay, clarity of writing (proof read!), and carefulness of presentation (proof read!). Essays are to be typed, and printed clearly.

Final Examination:
The final exam examination will be held on the day assigned by the Office of the Provost. The final examination is essay, and will be written in-class. Well before the end of class, a question/statement will be given to you. You will have time to think about your response, develop an outline, and note relevant passages/aspects of your readings that support/illustrate your response. Then, you will write your final essay, in class. You are not to bring any books or notes. The final essay is not “cumulative,” but is simply a final examination of the degree of your understanding and incorporation of basic information in the course, and your ability to write on what you have been studying without notes or queries.

Participation:
You are expected to use your study sheet/reading guide to read each assignment, in preparation for class. This activity occupies most of our class time. You are expected to share your understanding of our readings, as your (graded) contribution to the seminar. There will be (graded) periodic individual reports on the readings, as well as (graded) periodic group debates on issues. Regular attendance is assumed.


GRADING POLICY

Final grades are based on:
(1) seminar essays = 50% of final grade. The Instructor will note and reward improvement in your essays, over time.
(2) degree of preparation for, contribution to, and overall participation in seminar meetings and activities = 30% of final grade. The Instructor will note and reward improvement in your degree of participation, over time.
(3) final essay = 20% of final grade.

Grading Guidelines
The Instructor follows guidelines for grading established by the College of Arts and Sciences. The guidelines assume the following, for assignment of letter grades:

A. “Highest level of attainment.” All of the attributes of B work, with demonstration of significant original thought in written and spoken work. Demonstrated ability to synthesize as well as analyze.

B. “High level of attainment.” A grade of B will not be given for “average” work . Here, the student demonstrates some originality in writing and speaking, near errorless command of factual material, exhibits the ability to frame comparisons across cultures, exhibits interest in and responsibility toward the material studied as evidenced by attendance and performance on examinations, and contributions regularly to the class. High ability to relate class material to other
subject areas and to prior knowledge.

C. “Adequate level of attainment.” Interpreted as the completion of all course material, done reasonably well. Command of factual material, yet does not exhibit effort toward original thought.

D. “Minimal passing level of attainment.” Some apparent, obvious deficiencies in the above.

F. “Unacceptable performance.” Obvious deficiencies in the above.

Graduate Students
H – “Clear excellence”
P – “Entirely satisfactory”
L – “Low passing”
F – “Failed”

Honor Code
“The Honor Code prohibits lying, cheating or stealing when these actions involve academic processes or University student or academic personnel acting in an official capacity. The Campus Code requires students to conduct themselves so as not to impair significantly the welfare or the educational opportunities of others in the University Community. As a student at UNC-CH, you have accepted a commitment to the Honor Code and the Campus Code, and the principles of academic integrity, personal honesty, and responsible citizenship on which they were founded more than 100 years ago. Academic dishonesty in any form is unacceptable, because it circumvents the purpose of the University. As a faculty member, I have a responsibility to report any possible Honor Code violations to the Student Attorney General. I hope that you will join me in supporting the Honor Code by signing the Honor Pledge on all written work, and consulting with me if you are uncertain about your responsibilities within this specific course.”


Course Outline

8/27 Introduction:
Concepts and Terms: Culture and Society; Ecology; Environment; Land;
Landscape; Nature; Place; Space; Wilderness Issues and problems in the study of nature and landscape

I. The approach: Religion

9/3 * Wei-ming , “Beyond the Enlightenment Mentality”
* Rasmussen, “Cosmology and Ethics”
McKibben, “A Promise Broken”

Metaphysics and the Sacred: Religion and Nature

9/10 Callicott, “The Metaphysical Implications of Ecology”
Eliade, “The Sacredness of Nature and Cosmic Religion”

Symbol, and the Symbolization of Nature and Landscape
Eliade, “Observations on Religious Symbolism”
Meinig, “The Beholding Eye: Ten Versions of the Same Scene”
{Essay writing assignment due}

Case Study: Nature / Culture – Gilgamesh
9/17 Antoniades, “The Epic of Gilgamesh”

9/24 Harrison, “Forests: The Shadow of Civilization”
Plumwood, “Dualism: The Logic of Colonization”

II. Religion and Nature, Culture and Environment

10/1 Oelschlaeger , “Caring for Creation: The Spectrum of Belief”

10/8 Oelschlaeger , “Contemporary Wilderness Philosophy”

Case Study: Pilgrimage
Park, “Sacred Places and Pilgrimage”
Turner , “Pilgrimage as Liminoid Phenomenon”
{Essay writing assignment due}

Hinduism:
10/15   Sinha, “Nature in Hindu Mythology, Art, and Architecture”
* Chappel , “Hindu Environmentalism”
Singh , “The Sacred Geometry of India’s Holy City, Varanasi: Kashi as Cosmogram”

Buddhism:
10/22 Tripathi , “Buddhism and the Ecological Crisis”
* Brown, “Toward a Buddhist Ecological Cosmology”
Johnson, “Muso Kokushi and the Cave in Zuisen Temple, Kamakura,  Japan: Buddhist Ethics, Environment, and Behavior”

Taoism:
10/29   Ames , “Taoism and the Nature of Nature”
Cheng , “On the Environmental Ethics of the Tao and Ch’i”
*Tucker, “Ecological Themes in Taoism and Confucianism”

Islam :
11/5   Nasr, “Islam and the Environmental Crisis”
* Timm, “The Ecological Fallout of Islamic Creation Theology”

Judaism :
11/12  Schwartz, “Jews, Jewish Texts, and Nature: A Brief History”
Kay , “Concepts of Nature in the Hebrew Bible”
* Katz , “Judaism and the Ecological Crisis”

Christianity :
11/19 McDaniel, “The Garden of Eden, The Fall, and Life in Christ: A Christian Approach to Ecology”
Haught , “Christianity and Ecology”
Kinsley , “Christianity as Ecologically Harmful and Christianity as Ecologically Responsible”
Turner, “St. Patrick’s Purgatory: Religion and Nationalism in an Archaic
Pilgrimage”
{Essay Writing assignment due}
I

II. Religion, “Nature,” and Postmodernism
11/26  Oelschlaeger , “Cosmos and Wilderness: A postmodern Wilderness Philosophy”

12/3    * Sessions , “Deep Ecology as Worldview”
Guha, “Radical American Environmentalism and Wilderness Preservation: A Third World Critique”
Rockefeller , “Faith and Community in An Ecological Age”

Final exam


Bibliography

Ames, Roger T.  1986 “Taoism and the Nature of Nature.” Environmental Ethics 8:317-350.

Antoniades, Anthony. 1992 “The Epic of Gilgamesh: Utility to Metaphor Through the Dawn of Architecture.” IN Epic Space: Towards the Roots of Western Architecture. Pp. 3-18. New York: Van Nostrand.

Callicott, J. Baird. 1989 “The Metaphysical Implications of Ecology.” INNature in Asian Traditions of Thought: Essays in Environmental Philosophy. J. Baird Callicott and Roger T. Ames, eds. Pp.51-64. Albany: State University of New York Press.

Cheng, C.  1986  “On the Environmental Ethics of the Tao and Ch’i.”Environmental Ethics 8:351-370.

Eliade, Mircea.  1965 “Observations on Religious Symbolism.” IN The Two and the One, by Mircea Eliade. Pp. 189-211. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Eliade, Mircea.  1959 “Sacredness of Nature and Cosmic Religion.” INThe Sacred and the Profane: The Nature of Religion. Pp. 116-159. New York: Harcourt Brace.

Guha, Ramachandra.  1989 “Radical American Environmentalism and Wilderness Preservation: A Third World Critique.” Environmental Ethics11:71-83.

Harrison, Robert Pogue.  1996 “Forests: The Shadow of Civilization” INThis Sacred Earth: Religion, Nature, Environment. Roger S. Gottlieb, ed. Pp. 63-66.
New York and London: Routledge.

Haught, John F. 1966 “Christianity and Ecology” IN This Sacred Earth: Religion, Nature, Environment. Roger S. Gottlieb, ed. Pp. 270-285. New York and London: Routledge.

Johnson, Norris Brock. 1993 “Muso Kokushi and the Cave in Zuisen Temple, Kamakura, Japan: Buddhist Ethics, Environment, and Behavior.”National Geographical Review of India 40:161-170.

Kay, Jeanne. 1988 “Concepts of Nature in the Hebrew Bible.”Environmental Ethics 10:309-327.

Kinsley, David. 1996 “Christianity as Ecologically Harmful and Christianity as
Ecologically Responsible.” IN This Sacred Earth: Religion, Nature, Environment. Roger S. Gottlieb, ed. Pp. 104-124. New York and London: Routledge.

McKibben, Bill.  1989 “A Broken Promise.” IN The End of Nature. Pp. 95-138. New York: Random House.

Meinig, D.W. 1979 “The Beholding Eye: Ten Versions of the Same Scene.” IN The Interpretation of Ordinary Landscapes: Geographical Essays. New York: Oxford University Press. Pp. 33-48.

Nasr, Seyyed Hossein.  1992 “Islam and the Environmental Crisis.” INSpirit and Nature: Why the Earth is a Religious Issue. Pp. 83-108.  Steven C. Rockefeller and John C. Elder, eds. Boston: Beacon Press.

Oelschlaeger, Max.  1994 “Caring for Creation: The Spectrum of Belief.” IN Caring for Creation: An Ecumenical Approach to the Environmental Crisis. Pp. 118-183; 255-273. New Haven and London: Yale University Press.

Oelschlaeger, Max.  1991 “Contemporary Wilderness Philosophy: From Resourcism to Deep Ecology.” IN The Idea of Wilderness: From Prehistory to the Age of Ecology.  Pp. 281-319. New Haven and London: Yale University Press.

Oelschlaeger, Max.  1991 “Cosmos and Wilderness: A Postmodern Wilderness Philosophy.” IN The Idea of Wilderness: From Prehistory to the Age of Ecology.
Pp. 320-353. New Haven and London: Yale University Press.

Park, Chris C.  1994 “Sacred Places and Pilgrimage.” IN Sacred Worlds: An Introduction to Geography and Religion. Pp. 245-312.

Plumwood, Val. 1993. Feminism and the Mastery of Nature. London and New York: Routledge. Pp. 41-68.

Rockefeller, Steven C. 1992 “Faith and Community in an Ecological Age.” IN Spirit and Nature: Why the Environment is a Religious Issue. Steven C. Rockefeller and John C. Elder, eds. Pp. 139-171. Boston: Beacon Press

Schwartz, Daniel.  1996 “Jews, Jewish Texts, and Nature: A Brief History.” IN This Sacred Earth: Religion, Nature, Environment. Roger S. Gottlieb, ed. Pp. 87-103. New York and London: Routledge.

Singh, Rana P.B. 1994 “The Sacred Geometry of India’s Holy City, Varanasi: Kashi as Cosmogram.” National Geographical Journal of India40:189-216.

Sinha, “Nature in Hindu Mythology, Art, and Architecture.” 1993 National Geographical Journal of India 39:131-140.

Tellenbach, Hubertus, and Bin Kimura. 1989 “The Japanese Concept of Nature.” IN Nature in Asian Traditions of Thought: Essays in Environmental Philosophy. J. Baird Callicott and Roger T. Ames, eds. Pp.153-162. Albany: State University of New York Press.

Tripathi, Shiva Shankar. 1989 “Buddhism and the Ecological Crisis.” INWorld Religions and the Environment. O.P. Dwivedi, ed. Pp. 187-208. New Delhi: Gitanjali.

Turner, Victor. 1978 “St. Patrick’s Purgatory: Religion and Nationalism in an Archaic Pilgrimage.” IN Image and Pilgrimage in Christian Culture: Anthropological Perspectives.  Pp. 104-139. New York: Columbia University Press.

Turner, Victor.  1978 “Pilgrimage as Liminoid Phenomenon” IN Image and Pilgrimage in Christian Culture: Anthropological Perspectives. Pp. 1-39. New York: Columbia University Press.