Pantheism is actually a religion that is metaphysical as well; Pantheism focuses on the idea that God and nature are one entity.
A few of their basic concepts are:
– Reverence for Nature and the Universe
– Respect for the rights of all living things
– Celebration of life and the beauty of the earth
– Realism – external world and human consciousness are separate
– The scientific method
Well, I can think of two kinds of emphasis, one on nature worship, and one on respect for nature. There are Nature Worshipers, which can consist of many different aspects of Nature and worshiping these elements of it (Sun Worshipers, Fire worshipers, etc), and then there is Druidism or Shamanism, which respect and feel gratitude for all that nature provides. Many atheists emphasize nature in that they will take their truths only from examples found in nature, or you might reword as ‘science’. Then of course, there is pantheism, which equates God with nature. I wonder if it is hard to quantify which one emphasizes nature more!
Beyond pantheism, which in my opinion is really a metaphysical philosophy rather than a true religion with temples, holy sites and the like, an extreme example of respect for nature in religion can be found in Jainism. Partly influenced by Hinduism and Buddhism, Jainism promotes an extreme nonviolent philosophy centered around the belief that everything has a soul. Observant Jaines take great pains not to harm or even disturb other living things. Men and women alike wear burka like veils to avoid inhaling insects or other small organisms, and use broom like items to sweep the ground in front of them to avoid stepping on any living things that might be in their path. They are strict vegetarians and generally avoid root vegetables, as these are often home to a multitude of microorganisms. They also take great pains to filter their water of any organisms that might be present.
Paganism is another religion with a heavy emphasis on nature. Paganism comes from the word “paganus” which means villager or peasant, an agrarian village person. There are many views taken on the loosely structured religion of Paganism but the overwhelming majority has a great reverence for nature. Pagans were often subject to persecution and even feared for their iconoclastic way of life. This was primarily because of their being perceived as taking part in hedonistic rituals and idolatry of elements or nature.
Though I can’t definitively say which religion places the most importance on the environment, as that is a personal question, I can say that Hinduism in general does place significant value on nature. A number of the deities are affiliated with animal companions or avatars. For example Shiva is always depicted with a snake and Krishna with a cow. In fact, many Hindus refrain from eating meat out of reverence. Similarly, there is religious value placed on natural inanimate objects as well. Rivers like the Ganges, for example, are considered sacred and therefore harming them as such would be considered taboo. Please note that though this is the general mentality of Hinduism, it is often not the case in practice. Many of India’s most sacred places are also some of the most polluted. The ideas still persist but are hard to implement when other factors, such as economic welfare, come into play.
Based on my (very rudimentary) understanding, Japanese Shinto has a strong natural emphasis. Within Shinto there are four key affirmations, of which love and respect for nature comprises one. Amongst the myriad of forms Shinto’s deities, or Kami, take are object in the natural world, ranging from rocks to trees to rivers. Many sacred places are natural places – lakes, mountains or springs, for instance.
When discussing religious philosophies, the word “nature” requires concise analysis. Are we referencing human nature, as in the humanistic response to every type of external circumstance which may or may not include the wilderness and the Earth; or are we discussing the idea of the environment, as in the Earth that feeds and nurtures us, as well as destroys us; or are we in fact talking about nature as in the order of things, the natural cycles that expand and contract around us to carry us as human beings upon a pendulum between joy and sorrow? Let’s think about the third meaning of “nature.” Nature in this sense is seen as the cycles of change in which the human is a part. This change, this nature, encompasses the Earth, the government, biology, and every system through which human life moves. In this case, Taoism is very closely connected to nature, for the way of the Tao is the way of nature.
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